By John Surdakowski,
Sep 14, 2012
Web Design Process
Most freelance designers and developers take on multiple responsibilities when starting out on their own. From pitching our ideas, to drafting proposals and contracts. We take on the job of a sales person, project manager and account executive, (just to name a few,) before even launching our favorite design application or code editor. And a big part of a freelancer’s job is explaining the benefits of our web design process to a client, in a way that is easy for them to understand. Yet, many of us break our process, too often, at our clients request. Here’s how you can get your clients on board, without compromising your well thought out process.
Create a Web Design Process
Yeah, you’re going to need a web design process before you can explain the benefits to your client. So what is a process? Who needs one? Who benefits? Well, depending on what type of freelancer you are, the process will vary. For arguments sake, let’s say you are a freelance web designer (a similar process will work for developers and writers as well, so just use that creative imagination of yours.)
Start by making a list of the steps you normally take when starting a project. Make sure to type your process out, and keep it handy. Don’t try to memorize or wing it. Your process should be documented and on hand.
Here is an example of a basic web design process.
STEP ONE: PLANNING
Planning is one of the most important steps, because the decisions you make here, set the pace for your project. This is where you create your proposals, contracts, site maps, content decks and conduct your research. It is very important to include your client in every step.
STEP TWO: DESIGN
Wire-framing, prototyping, design mock ups, sketches. This is where things start to get creative. Whether you’re drawing, using photoshop or designing in the browser, this is where the visual elements start to come together. And once again, include the client in this process as well. It’s best to get feedback early. You should consider a creative approval document for your client to sign off on, before moving over to development.
STEP THREE: DEVELOPMENT
After the design is approved, you can start bringing the project to life. Coding, adding content, markup and testing. You may consider moving the website to a production server, before pushing live.
STEP FOUR: LAUNCH
Now it’s time to push all your hard work live. Import data bases, upload front-end files, final tweaks, and browser testing.
Your process may differ, this list is just to get a basic idea of a typical situation.
Explaining your process to a client
As a professional freelancer, you need to be able to clearly explain your web design process to a client. And you need to explain it to them in a language that they can understand. You do not need to get into ALL of the technical details. Although, you want to show your client that you know what you’re talking about, just stick to the basics. Do they need to know exactly what jQuery plugins you’re using? Probably not. Do they care? Most of the time, no. What does (should) a client care about? Serving their users a great experience, and saving money.
Depending on what they are asking for, and their technical knowledge, explain the areas of your process that will benefit their users, help conversion rates, and save them money. In doing so, your client will see why they are paying you, and the benefits of sticking to your well thought out process. Of course, if your client wants to know all the techy details, you should be able to explain to them why you’re using one technology over the other.
Don’t get caught off guard.
If you’re on a phone call with a client for the first time, and they ask you about your process, or next steps. Have a basic list of planned responses. I keep a brief list saved in Evernote, and once on a call, I make sure it’s on the screen and ready to be referenced. You must be ready to explain your process, and know what you’re talking about. If you can’t clearing articulate your process to a client, they may lose faith in your skills and your professionalism. So make sure you’re prepared.
Stick to your guns!
From time to time, you may hear something from a client such as: “Well, we already know what we want, let’s get rid of research” or “Let’s skip the wire frames and jump into the design!” – This is where you need to hold your ground. It is your job as a freelancer to explain to a client your process and why that process is important. Of course, YOU know that sacrificing the research phase will effect the project in a negative way, but your client might be unaware. This is where you need to explain the benefits, and financial repercussions of breaking your process. Most of the time, a client will jump on board once they understand the negative effects of breaking the process.
So what should you do if a client wants to demolish your process? Some freelancers will tell you to run away, fast. And in most cases they are right. Why? Because breaking your process means you’ve lost control of the project. Which can cost you not only money, but also your sanity. Before ditching that client, make sure you did everything in your power to explain your process, and all the benefits that go along with it. Make sure they understand why you’re doing what you do. Perhaps they are confused, and it’s your job to clarify your web design process for them.
So what’s next? Well, if you don’t have a process, get to writing one. Learn it, stick to it, and know how to explain it correctly. Creating a process takes time. Some may vary from project to project. It takes time before you can craft a process you are comfortable with.
What does your web design process look like? How do you convey your process to clients? Let me know in the comments.