Saturday, July 11, 2015

How to be a good web client

Getting positive results from a web designer has almost as much to do with finding a good web designer as it does being a good web client.

The best websites are custom made to be a perfect fit for your business. The key to getting an end product that looks great and works for you is allowing the professionals you hire to get a full understanding of what you want to achieve, and use their skills and knowledge to achieve those goals.

In short, your job is to tell your design team what you want and then let them give it to you.

One of the hardest things for some business owners and managers to do is to loosen the reins a bit and let the web design team do what they do best.  Relinquishing a certain amount of control over the project and trusting in the expertise and experience of the design team is a vital part of getting the results you want from the relationship. Resist the urge to micromanage!

 The designer’s role is two-fold: first, to understand your needs and goals and second, to deliver the results in the best possible fashion. Your role is to help facilitate the first part of the designer’s job: communicating your needs so the designer can get in your head and understand exactly what your business does, how you do it and what you offer to clients. The better the designer understands where your coming from, the more precisely he or she can achieve the results you envisioned. To that end, you can play a more integral role by learning a bit about the web design process – both by allowing yourself to be educated and through independent research – so you can provide the information and concepts that will be useful to the web designer.

Your role should not include heavy involvement in determining and executing the best method for realizing your goals based on your needs. Doing so is counter-intuitive to the notion of hiring a web design team for their expertise and professional insight. The amount you pay a web designer should reflect the value you place on their instincts and experience, meaning the more you pay for their expertise, the more trust you should release into that professional’s hands.

Trust the integrity of the design. Web designers will often present you with three or more conceptual mockups, each composed with its own typeface, color scheming and layout. The aesthetic makeup of a web design is almost always irreducibly complex – meaning there’s limited ability to mix and match aspects between designs. Attempting to do so yields a mixed-up duck-billed platypus of a design.

Pay attention to content and function. With websites, form always follows function. So, instead of focusing on the look and feel of the web design, point out things you like or dislike about the way the content is presented. For example, saying that you preferred how the presentation of the contact information in mockup A rather than in mockup B is more useful than saying, “I wish this was blue.”

Be efficient as possible with changes. Providing a single long list of tweaks and changes for a website is much more productive than submitting many shorter lists of revision requests. This way, the designer can seamlessly integrate all of your requests at once, rather than going back and rearranging, rebuilding and in many cases, starting from scratch in order to accommodate each new change. To prevent this from happening, set aside some time to review the design carefully rather than taking quick glances here and there, noticing something new each time. This will significantly reduce the total time (and cost) required to finalize your web design.

At the end of the day, getting the best results from your web designer is all about establishing a shared vision with the professional you choose to work with. Just like any relationship, communication and trust are key. Trust that your web designer has the skills and experience needed to actualize what you’ve envisioned for your website, but don’t trust him or her to be able to read your mind. Devote your energy towards making your needs as clear as possible to your web designer so you can better achieve your common goal: creating a functional, scalable and beautiful website for your business or organization.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Paying invoices - Don't be the douchbag client from hell

It is unfortunate when one is stiffed by a client for services rendered. Especially unfortunate when that work was praised and accepted, and then when the time came to pay for it, it was suddenly  something they were unhappy with.

Don't be that douchebag client.

If you can't pay for it, don't ask for it. If you have run into financial difficulties, which I suspect is the case here, just admit to it, so arrangements can be made.

But to ignore invoices for months and months, and then suddenly attack your designer out of the blue for work you'd previously praised, just to get out of paying for it, is unprofessional as well as a bit desperate.

We were contracted for work in November of last year for Big rush project for their new website. They provided documents for me to edit and update, changing their minds over and over and over, creating more work than originally planned. Their requests for additional graphics were vague, conflicting, and once explained, were then immediately changed.

They hired a college kid for the programming end, whom we provided with layered documents to use in the development of their CMS. These graphics were distorted and fuzzy by the time he completed his work, and had to be sent repeatedly to manage quality control.

When months passed after the submission of our last invoice, we stepped up our requests for payment, since the graphics requested had been developed in February and had been approved with no issue. Imagine our surprise when the client ignored us for two months and then sent a vicious email attacking the work we had done that had already been approved.

Again, don't be that douchebag client.

I am sorry that their website development hit a snag, and the rush rush project back in November is still not online. I think they might want to ask their developer what the problem is, and why they have been telling everyone that this website is "coming soon" since March. That is obviously not the case.

Attacking the work we have done, which was not only accepted, but praised (we keep all emails to document the workflow and acceptance) is a questionable business practice that I would not recommend.

I know we will never see the money we are owed from this particular company, but I can guarantee that we will never see their new website either.

Have fun talking with our collection guys. They aren't very pleasant. But why should they be when you are indeed one of "those" douchrbag clients.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reasons Why Not to ReDesign Your Website and Reasons Why You Should

Most companies undergo a redesign every 6 months to 2 years. However, according to studies, pproximately 1/3 of marketers were not happy with their last website redesign. Even worse, 38% of companies' website performance did not improve after a redesign. So, why go through all the pain with so little gain?

With an average cost of $43,000 for a large company redesign, this should only be undertaken for the right reasons.

Here are 10 really bad reasons to redesign your website.

1) "It's Been 8 Months Since My Last Redesign. I'm Bored With It."

Just because you see your website a hundred times or more a day doesn't mean your visitors do. When you see your own website so often, it's easy to get sick and tired of seeing it. You start to notice little things, which turns into a lot of little things, which makes you believe that you need to get rid of it all and start over. While it's not a bad idea to have your designers and developers work on improving the visitor's experience or your site's performance, doing it for the sake of boredom will eat resources very quickly.

2) "Because the CEO Said So"

While the majority of the responsibility of a redesign is on the marketing team or agency, many companies have an executive team that has the final say.

Sadly, very few CEOs have a strong internet marketing background or in-depth knowledge of what really makes a website tick. Many times they look at it primarily from a branding point of view. This isn't all bad -- branding is an important part of any website. But so is actually generating revenue from it. After all, pretty pictures and brand statements don't always bring in the cash.

Be sure to test different designs, then present those to the  higher ups so only the best designs are implemented.

3) "My Website Lacks Flare"

There are times when web designers are asked to add fancy elements, such as sliders, rotating images, scrolling logos, etc. -- just because it looks better. Or, a redesign is requested because the current site isn't using the latest and greatest technology like HTML5.

Flashier isn't always better. Especially when it doesn't add any actual value to the visitor.  Media elements and complex graphics, as cool as they may seem, can actually get in the way.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen website redesigns get stuck because the homepage "slider" isn't sexy enough. Your visitors aren't coming to your website to see what's inside that slider, trust me.

4) "It's Not Pixel-Perfect"

It's important to care about quality. But I've seen many owners and marketing teams obsess over every square pixel of their site (or email, or banner ad, etc.). They think that by making it pixel-perfect, it's suddenly better.

Steve Jobs once said, "Great design is not how it looks, but how it works." Instead of obsessiong over whether the coded site is a pixel perfect match to a mockup designed for print, by someone not familiar with how a website really works, obsess over how your redesign is going to make your website effective at attracting traffic, converting leads, and closing customers.

5) "I Want It to Look Like Apple"

Ever see a great website that you just had to make your web designer copy? Getting inspiration is a great thing, but redesigning your site "just because it needs to look more like Company Y's"? Ummm ... not so much.

Just because a certain design worked for one company doesn't mean it will work for you. While it is a great idea to pull inspiration from other sources, especially as you do research before a redesign, implementing those same design factors because they are liked (without serving a real purpose) will only deliver failed results.

6) "The Competition Just Updated Theirs"

You probably visit your competitors' websites more often than you care to admit, right? Instead of caring about their website, go do something they are not doing. Let them redesign their website while you instead build resources of highly valuable content that attracts leads and fans. Do it ... I dare you.

7) "We Need to Improve Our SEO"

One of the top reasons for a redesign is to increase web traffic. Traffic is, after all, important to a site's performance because without visitors, you can't generate leads and sales. But redesigning a site primarily around search engine optimization is just silly.

Sure, if you launch a more search-optimized website, you may see a pop in rankings and results. But it won't last unless you build a regular content foundation. Search engines love websites that utilize blogging, fresh offers, and valuable content that is written for people and not robots.

8) "My Site Needs More Product Information"

Are the products on your website not selling themselves? Perhaps better product pages is all you need. Or maybe your website isn't highlighting your core strengths and unique advantages enough? I know! A redesign is the answer!

Very few marketers launch a redesign to improve its overall user experience. As a result, most websites tend to be product-centric instead of customer-centric. The goal of a website is to answer questions or solve problems by giving visitors the information they need for where they are in the buying cycle. You see, people don't remember the pitch. They remember the experience. Why not surprise them?

9) "I Want to Look 'Bigger'"

If you're a smaller company that competes against the "big guys," then the only solution is to look big, too. Right? Or maybe the opposite is true, maybe you want to "look smaller" to attract those niche buyers for what will be seen as your "boutique" products.

Looking bigger or smaller isn't suddenly going to make your website more effective. Looking professional is what is important.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Web Design Trends for Your Small Business

A well-designed, concise website is an extremely important tool for attracting potential customers for your small business.

With constantly changing web design trends, it is important to understand what items are essential, as well as being within your small business budget.

The following are the some of the top web design trends for 2013, as chosen by Website Magazine:

Responsive Web Design

Responsive Web Design has become increasingly important, due to the rising importance of tablets and mobile phones and their use by potential customers to access your website.

When transitioning your current website over to a responsive site, you need to consider how it will look for both a wide screen laptop, a handheld tables of multiple sizes and mobile phones of different types and platforms. While you may have many pictures, text and videos on your full website, you might also want to think about the importance of a mobile experience with easy navigation and fast loading times. A responsive website should also include a clear call-to-action button or link at the top of every page, as well as any social media links to allow potential customers to become a fan or follow your company.

Your small business responsive website will look picture-perfect on any device if you keep these cost effective things in mind:

Image Tiles

The image tile display, made popular by Pinterest, has spread to many other websites, including Ebay and even Facebook. Its visually-appealing layout and ease of use reflect the way people digest content: in the 'now', with the ability to discover and share, and is something people are accustomed to seeing on the screens of their tablerts and smart phones.

An image tile layout may not be the easiest technology to implement onto your new or existing site, but the principles are simple:

    Aesthetically pleasing colors
    Organized Layout
    Reduced text
    Familiar Icons
    Everything "above the fold"

Social Feeds

Social media has revolutionized the way people make purchases, and the way companies influence that decision. Most websites today have links to their various social media channels, and the latest design trends are including this social interaction directly on company websites through the use of live feeds.

An active social feed from your business social media outlets will allow you to display credibility. This is a great first-impression with communicating the benefits of your services or product offerings.

Publishing social links on your website is a transparent way to gain trust. Users can scan your posts, evaluate your offers, and potentially become a long-term fan with one click.

By building followers, likes, and fans, and adding value to the conversation with quality content and responsive dialogue, you will open up opportunities for the occasional promotional post to display your services, specials and products, ultimately increasing sales.


A website is a long-term investment, so it is important to get it right.

There are many design trends you can spend your money on, but it is important to understand the difference between the essential and unessential, the cost effective and the impracticle expense. As a whole, trends are moving in the direction of simplicity and ease of use.

What can you take away from all these trends for your own website?

    Concise pages for fast loading times, easy navigation      
    Organized layout
    Focus on images and icons over text
    Strategic use of text size for info hierarchy
    Social Badges to engage long-term customers

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Are you forcing your designer to be guilty of any of these web sins?

While your web developer will try his or her very best to provide you with the design and functionality that you desire for your website, don't be guilty of insisting that your designer commit one of these web design sins in the name of good customer service.

1. Does your website need a Search Box?

The web is like a big store of information. Whether it’s a business website or merely a blog, a search box might be necessary. The visitor might be in need of some information that is hidden within the website that is not easily found on the navigation bar. If a search box is included with the website, visitors will be able to access the information they want by typing in keywords in the search box.

2. Is your website cross browser compatible?

Having a website that can be browsed only with Internet Explorer is not a good business decision. Today, users are switching to different web browsers like Firefox and Chrome. And if your website design limits your pages to work only with IE, you’re more likely to lose your market share. It is also a bad idea to place a banner at the top of your page that carries the message that the page is best viewed with a specific browser. Visitors would like to choose from a set of options and don’t like to be restricted.

3. No meaningful or recognizable URLs

If your website has pages with meaningless URLs, it is difficult for users to understand what the page is about. The same holds true for Google, Bing and Yahoo. They too find it difficult to understand, and make your website SEO UNfriendly. Each page should contain an URL that is relevant to the keywords or titles of the page. For example instead of having a url like http:// you can use best-sports-equipment, which is more meaningful and SEO friendly.

4. Using latest technology for no good reason

Any website owner would like their designer to implement the latest technology. But if you are using advanced technology on your website that doesn’t work well with all the browsers that are used to visit your site, you’re likely to lose your potential customers rather than attract them. If you want to use the newest technology, it should only be applied to those elements that are not vital to the page as a whole.

5. Sound or video that starts automatically

Although people appreciate the use of sound on websites, they don’t want it to run automatically. They may be engaged with their own music or may be in a place where the sound from their computer is disturbing others. If your website puts someone in trouble with their higher authorities, they will never come back to your site.

6. Poor readability and legibility

Readability and legibility are crucial elements of web design. Easy readability will draw the visitor’s attention to your content; visitors should be able to read the text in order to access the required information. Some owners request that their designers use strange fonts styles and sizes in their websites which make reading very difficult and frustrate visitors.

7. Poor Navigation

Navigation within a website should be smooth and easy. Users should be able to explore your website easily. If text is used for navigation, it should be short and to the point. If hyperlinks are used, they should be differentiated from the other elements of the content and in standard "link" colors. Visitors will be frustrated by links they can only find by mouseover. Dead links should never remain on any web page. This makes the user confused and wastes their time.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Are You a Bad Web Design Client?

We appreciate every web client we have the opportunity to work with. Once in awhile, unfortunately, we do get that client that makes us reconsider the relationship we have with them. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of a bad web design client:
  • Expecting more design services than you have paid for, or are included in your contract
  • Expecting every design task to be turned around immediately, regardless of time of day or night
  • Last minute requests always needed ASAP
  • Extremely vague about design preferences or requested feedback
  • Asking your designer to copy someone else’s web design exactly as is
  • Threaten to take your project overseas to someone cheaper
  • Disappear for weeks or months without notice when design feedback is required
  • Offer a payment that is far less than what you’ve been quoted or that you are contracted for
  • Try  to each web design best practices to your web designer
  • Completely switch design direction after approving design compositions, and want those changes made for free
  • Treat your web designer like a low skill, replaceable employee
You probably get the point by now. Don’t get us wrong, more often than not bad web design clients don’t start that way. They become bad clients as a result of the web design companies they have dealt with not properly doing their jobs and communicating the right expectations upfront. Most bad web clients we have come across we have inherited, and have been created from their experiences with past designers.

To help everyone, clients and designers alike, from avoiding these kinds of situations,  we are providing following checklist to produce positive web design project experiences.

Before a project starts, clients should always:
  • Request to see the designer’s work that is similar to the kind of project they require
  • Clearly understand, and agree to, all design costs and prices, and review all contract documents completely
  • Provide at least 5 samples of web design projects you like, with explanations of why you like them
  • Provide any and all logos, photos and content that you would like to be used in the design
Prepared, responsive clients lead to motivated, enthusiastic designers. Motivated, enthusiastic designers are more likely to include some design work for free.

It is our responsibility to properly manage your project expectations and produce a happy client. Whether you think you’re a good or bad web design client, if you are relying on an ineffective, outdated website to grow your business or support your non profit organization,  then we want to help.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Are Photoshop Mock-ups for Custom Designs a Necessary Evil? Or Just Evil?

Photoshop mock-ups for web designs are very common, and are also one of the reasons why businesses complain so often about not getting the results they wanted once their websites have been completed. Mock-ups are commonly used in a custom design situation with the intent to show a graphic version of how the final product will appear, or to give a client a choice between multiple design options in a graphic format.

There are multiple disadvantages in providing Photoshop mock-ups for web design clients. Photoshop mock-ups are expensive and time consuming. They are not made to scale, as the mock-up design may or may not be compatible with the final system being used to implement the design (html5 or one of multiple CMS platforms). A Photoshop mockup shows none of the functionality of a website design; i.e. jquery sliders, RSS feeds, etc. Not enough detail is displayed, and it is difficult for clients to understand the concepts with a flat mockup rather than in interactive html site.

Additionally, a very complicated Photoshop mock-up, while attractive as a static image, may or may not be easily translated into a final functioning coded website.  This issue crops up most ofen when a designer, someone skilled in Photoshop, is not a person skilled in CODING a website; their mock-up design concept in Photoshop  may not translate well to the web, and the final site may not completely duplicate their original design concept. And while we do have those clients that insist that their website duplicate pixel by pixel the Photoshop mockup they present us with, they are made to understand that this kind of time and effort comes with a price. A steep one.

In the same amount of  time that it takes to design and create one mockup in Photoshop, an actual first working draft of a functional HTML site can be designed and developed for a client's review. A "live" site can be tested and reviewed for functionality and cross browser/device compatibility as well as looks. It can be displayed on a development site for edits and changes instead of wasting the client's time and money on flat Photoshop mock-ups. What is the point of editing and re-editing (and re-editing) an image (mockup) when you can review and test an actual website and make any changes there? You are more than one step ahead in the process.

We have many clients that come to us with a PSD that has been provided to them by a graphic designer, and it is our task to take that PSD mock-up and create a functional working website. This can be successful as long as there is communication between the client and the web designer, and the understanding exists that not all mock-up designs will look identical to once coded into HTML or Wordpress or the CMS of choice. Not being involved in the editing and re-editing and re-editing of that image cuts down on our time and our costs, but eliminating that part of the process completely saves everyone time and money.