Jul 6, 2010

Getting the Most out of your Designer

Starting a new design project can sometimes be a little intimidating.  Here are some tips to help take the mystery out of one of the most important team members on your project and make sure you get the most out of their experience and expertise.

Who’s In Charge?

Before the initial design meeting, your company should appoint one person in charge of all communications with the designer.  Having one gatekeeper to funnel all the opinions of your company’s decision makers saves a lot of time and production hours.

One danger: make sure  you don’t have too many final decision makers! You’re familiar with the term “too many cooks in the kitchen”? The same applies when it comes to websites.  Get everyone’s input during the proposal phase on the major functional components and goals of the website, then assign the handful of people who will approve the design and content.

Be Prepared

While this may seem obvious to you, make sure that your designer has a clear understanding of your business, and what exactly you want the website to accomplish.  The more a designer knows about your business and goals, the better results they can deliver. The following is a list of very common questions that are asked at initial design meetings, and are important to focus a website’s direction:

Business Info

  • What are your main products or services?
  • Are you national or international? Or do you focus locally?
  • How is your company perceived? Is this accurate? Do we need to correct an inaccurate customer perception?
  • How many employees are in your company?
  • What words or phrases best represent your company?

Target Market

  • Who is your target market?
  • What state / country / city is your target market?
  • What is your brand image with your target market?
  • Are you targeting different customers with your website than you traditionally serve offline?

Competition

  • Who are you major competitors?
  • What sets you apart (competitive advantage / unique selling proposition)?
  • Are your offline competitors different than the major online competition?

Marketing Materials

If you have any marketing materials like business cards, brochures or pamphlets, make sure your designer sees them. Having an established visual identity is a great starting place if you want to continue with the same look, or change it completely.

Additionally, does your company have an established brand style sheet with defined colors and usage rules for your logo, tagline and trademarked images?

Designs You Like

Look around at other websites that you feel are well designed or express a company image similar to your own. Having a common visual to discuss and dissect will help the designer understand your thoughts and style. Think of words like clean, minimalist, edgy, grungy, regal, serious, etc… that describe your company or how you want your company to be portrayed online.

Designs You Hate

Is there a color that you cannot stand and should never appear on your website? Are glossy buttons too gimmicky for your company? Let your designer know of anything that should absolutely not be on your website along with websites that you find awful. Having an idea of what you do not like also gives a window into directions that should be avoided. But always remember, your website is not for you, but for your target market.

While this article is not exhaustive in what will be covered in an initial design meeting, it should prepare you to discuss the basics that are needed to effectively brand your company online.

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