How to Work with Web Designers: a Guide for Business Clients

We here present a brief checklist of guidelines worth bearing in mind when you liaise with web designers, although the same principles are equally applicable when you approach print designers, and in fact similar ones apply to any relationship with professional consultants whom you hire for their expertise.


1. Be clear on your purposes

What is it that you are trying to gain from hiring a professional web designer? What is your overall business concept, and how can hiring a web designer help you?

  • If you are an independent professional answerable only to yourself, you are the one who is going to be calling all the shots in this regard. Make sure you know what you want before you make first contact with a designer. If your business vision is still developing, you may be best advised to seek professional business advice before proceeding to the design stage.
  • If you are a professional working as part of a team for a business or other organisation, then it is incumbent on you to ensure that you have internal agreement with your directors and / or other responsible colleagues on considerations such as your collective budget and business goals in hiring a designer before you proceed further. It may also be wise to plan to take at least one responsible member of the team along with you to any meetings so as to ensure that you have a cross-section of points of view from your organisation represented. This can also lead to more effective brainstorming on any issues arising in consultation.


2. Choose wisely

Whether you are hiring a freelancer or an agency, you will want to know that they have a good reputation for professional, high-quality work and excellent customer service before you begin.

It’s well worth booking an initial consultation and asking to meet the designers you’d be working with, so you can get a clear feel for how you would work with them, what their aesthetic tastes are, and whether their abilities are suited to your needs, before you commit to a choice.

Word-of-mouth recommendations from other people whose judgement you trust may also be a helpful preliminary guide on whom to approach and consider hiring.

Agencies and well-established freelancers should also have enough of a track record for you to ask to see a portfolio of similar work to that they would be undertaking for you.


3. Communicate your design vision, likes and dislikes

Once you have chosen the web designer to whom you will entrust your design job, and have a clear notion of what you want this designer to do for you, the next step is to communicate those needs.

When you set up a meeting with the designer or agency of your choice, you should tell the designer what you want, what you expect to see, and what you would prefer not to see. This may include issues such as font selection, colour and size; image selection; page layout; and site navigation.

  • Perhaps you have such a clear visual and structural concept in mind for your web design that you want someone to implement it to your exact specification. In this case, clear communication and feedback will be essential so that your vision is conveyed and implemented; and you may need to be prepared to enforce this vision, as the designer will probably have some different ideas.
  • Or perhaps you have no firmly established visual concept, but definite likes and dislikes when it comes to elements, styles and structures in web design generally. In this case, you should allow your designer considerable creative input but within agreed parameters. In order to work efficiently with your web designer, you should try to communicate your likes and dislikes as clearly as possible at the outset.
  • If neither of these applies, and you simply have an open-ended goal of creating a successful website, you will be giving your designer carte blanche to come up with creative design ideas. This can work extremely well, as most designers love to be given a free hand. However, you may still decide that there are elements in the design presented to you that you want to change once your designer gets back to you. Your designer can only work within the parameters you have established, so you may find that you need to provide more direction when the first version of the design is presented to you.


4. Be mindful of your budget

Every time a design needs changing or revising, more of your designer’s time and more of your time will be spent on modifying or fixing it.

  • If you have set up a fixed-price contract for a piece of design work, then the agency or designer you have hired is likely to have arrived at the costing on the basis of a reasonable estimate of the amount of time it will take to produce this work with a moderate number of revisions in response to feedback. So try to avoid constant changes of mind, because at some stage in this process, when your time budget has already been exceeded, it is likely that the designer or agency may seek to charge you for any further revisions beyond those that have already been undertaken.
  • If on the other hand the work is not being done a fixed price basis, and is simply charged by the hour, then so long as you don’t mind paying for more revisions, you may go on requesting changes for as long as the professional relationship continues. But given that you are the one that has to pay for this, it makes sense to make optimal, efficient use of your designer’s time. Again, clear communication goes the furthest way to achieving this.


5. Be prepared to discuss details clearly

Design work is exacting and calls for clear, precise communication over small details. Your designer will meet you half-way in this, so long as you make the same effort. This will help you to work together smoothly and efficiently.


6. Stay co-operative and friendly

You are paying your designer to help you. So long as you remain co-operative and friendly, any designer worth his or her salt will be more than willing to co-operate in return.

It is worth remembering that a personal visit to the designer's office should help to resolve any difficulties that may occur.

Co-operation and positive, constructive communication is essential to the success of your working relationship with your designer.