Why web designers need so much information

Web Designer's Office

The simple answer is to be able to deliver what our clients really want.

For any freelance web design project to be successful and enjoyable good communication on both sides is essential. There will be lots of questions and you might not know the answer straight off but the research will be worth it.

I can never know my client’s business as well as my clients do, or indeed know what they are trying to achieve as well as they do, so it is going to take some serious investment of time on their part to ensure that I can deliver what they require.

The only way to get a holistic view of the client’s goals and desires is to ask a host of questions. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it would be more worrying if you were going to embark on a project with a freelance web designer and there was no structured questionnaire.

You will see that the questionnaire on my website is quite extensive.  That is because I need to know lots about your business and to know that you have a solid direction and plan. Otherwise, you could spend a fortune and end up with a solution that doesn’t work for you or your business, not what we want at all.

Tailoring to your audience

The information I gather helps me to build a picture of your existing customers, what they like about your product or service and why they buy it. This knowledge can be used to market to new customers. Also knowing the current customer base and the ideal customer base means that the product and the marketing can be tailored to appeal to the right audience.

Colours, fonts and images are very important in website design and need to enforce your brand to appeal to your customers.

At the very least you should be able to give me:

  • A brief history of your company
  • A summary of your products and services
  • Your target market
  • Your goals
  • Examples of current branding and logos
  • At least three examples of websites that you like, which tells me more about where you want to be

Budgets and Deadlines

It is best if you can be clear on some specific elements in advance of the project.  Budget is so important; I provide a minimum design cost guide on my website but if you are looking for a large amount of functionality, that is going to increase the cost.  I need to understand what you are expecting to spend, so that I can advise you best.  My charges are calculated in the same way for each project, you might not need to use your whole budget.

So you will also need to give me:

  • Your total project budget
  • Your deadline for project completion

Other elements that you should have ready include:

  • Text content
  • Images, are you using stock images or do you need some custom designed graphics?
  • Site structure, what pages will you want?
  • The required functionality, e.g. blog, e-commerce, member login, galleries, events, business listings, job listings, classified.

Things you should look out for

A good freelance web designer is also an excellent business person and communicator.  They should be interested in your company and offer you good ideas.  They should be quick to respond to messages and email requests.  If your designer is bad at responding at the quotation stage, what are they going to be like at the end of the project?

Good commercial experience is very desirable, particularly in marketing.  If they understand your business and targeting your market, this can only bring added value to the project.

There are hundreds of website companies out there with a myriad of price points.  There is of course an element of ‘getting what you pay for’.  A custom design and build takes a lot of time and the price will reflect the quality of work that you will get.

Make sure that you will have rights of ownership to your website and graphics at the end of the project.  All freelance web designers should hand over full Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) upon final payment. It should be in the contract.

Above all make sure that you have a full specification, reviewed and agreed between you and the designer.  Make sure that you have a contract in place that you are both comfortable with. Your designer should provide all of this for you.

Technical Essentials

The web developer should offer the following:

  • Mobile responsive design, a design that adapts to screen sizes to give optimum viewing to all visitors
  • Extensive testing across multiple browsers
  • Extensive testing across multiple devices
  • Standards compliant valid code
  • A theme that passes the WordPress theme check

Choose right

A good freelance web designer should listen well.

Spending time communicating effectively with your web designer will allow you the time to assess whether they are the right fit for you and vice versa.  You will get a good feel for the way they work through these initial communications and should be comfortable enough to proceed with them.

Equally if you give a good brief you will get a great result first time without loads of reviews.

More reading

10 Reasons to Hire a Professional web designer and developer
What I do
The Web Design Process

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© Tracey Rickard. If you want to use any of my content please ask me first, you can't use it without permission that's stealing. You can use an excerpt as long as it is linked back to this article.