The web design process is an interaction between client and designer and includes a lot of questions from each party. Clients often start with costs and how long it will take to get the site online, but it’s hard to answer those questions with any specificity without me asking them other questions.
There is some information I like to get in an early contact – maybe from a contact page on my site. For example:
- Do you want to improve an existing website or create a brand new one?
- What is the URL of your existing site (if any)? and it already exists
- Who is hosting your site?
- Have you purchased a domain name or signed up for a hosting plan? If not, what is your ideal domain name?
Once we are starting the design process, I will send them a link to my portfolio and to some other sites similar to what they want and ask which websites they like and why. They will often pick a very nice site that is way beyond their budget. Sometimes simple looking sites are not so simple/inexpensive because they use customer designs or include stores.
Not all my web design work is with businesses (I do a lot of artists and writers sites) but it is good to know which websites their competitors or peers are using and what they like or dislike about them. What makes your personal brand stand out from similar sites?
I do a lot of this process, especially this past year, via email and phone (preferable to email), but the face-to-face meeting is still the best for me when that is possible.
You can find a lot more questions to consider asking at business2community.com
I saw a topic on the Squarespace Circle Forum titled “How do you work with clients who are lacking content?” Squarespace is a popular website creation website and I use them with several clients. (Note: the forum is open to registered users) Though the posts are focused on web design clients, the question applies to other design situations.
I design courses online and faculty are my “clients” in that instructional design role. An ID designs a course but the content is almost totally provided by faculty.
I’m currently working with faculty at a community college and the biggest problem encountered is getting faculty to provide their course content in a timely fashion.
I also design social media strategies. In that role, I often am the content creator to a degree. I often write posts, add images and repost/retweet relevant content. But that can only be done from the raw content (text and images) from the client.
In all three situations, we design based on the content. It doesn’t work very well the other way around.
So what do users on the forum suggest? Most of their suggestions are aligned with my own practices. Here are some suggestions for working with clients that don’t provide content – or even better, for trying to avoid the no-content situation.
- Talk to the client about content and imagery before beginning. Be clear about what is ready to use, what needs to be created and who will create it. I have for some projects created copy, images and media.
- Have a timeline with milestones that need to be met by the client (I like weekly ones) in order to trigger your own design work.
- Many designers use a questionnaire of some kind. For example, in designing courses, we ask faculty to fill in a worksheet with course goals and objectives (they are not the same thing!) and a syllabus.
- You may need to create video how-to’s for the client on how to create content for their site.
- Stay in touch. You need to contact them when they are behind on delivering their content. Their prep work determines your ability as a designer – some hand holding/teaching how to write copy for websites, etc. Email is the least effective way to stay in touch. Phone conversations are better. Web conferencing and screen sharing is better. Face to face meetings are still the best way.
- I like having a place for sharing files and collaborative space. Google Drive works, but I prefer Dropbox which has features for collaboration. Both are free for basic cloud space and can be expanded for multiple projects.
- You might use temporary filler text and images on a website so that you can continue designing.
- The “client” may actually be many individuals such as writers, photographers, graphic designers, media creators, librarians etc.
In some unfortunate cases, a client not providing content will not only delay a project but could end your relationship with the client.