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Working with a Web Design Team

Tips for getting the results you want while enjoying a smooth working relationship UI/UX designer

Last updated: May 29, 2012

You've just selected a web design firm to redesign your website, or to build you a new one. You've found a company that you trust, with a highly qualified and talented design team, and you've seen examples of their work and have the utmost confidence in it. Now it's time to get down to business.

The web design team may include a project manager to work as a liaison between you and the graphic designer. Nevertheless, it's almost always advantageous to have direct contact with your designer or design team. Here are some tips for getting the results you want while enjoying a smooth working relationship.

1. Know the process before you start

How many mockups can you expect for your project? How many review cycles are you entitled to? In what format will your mockups be delivered, and when? These kinds of logistics should be clearly laid out in your contract. If there is any part of the design process that you don't understand, be sure to clear this up before the project begins.

2. Communicate about your roles, not just about your website

Different designers can have very different expectations of their customers. Some feel that they can deliver the best results when they have specific input regarding every element on the page, while others work best with more creative leeway. If you have specific ideas about the colors, the style, the fonts, the iconography, or any other design feature of your site, say so up front, before the graphic designer starts creating mockups. If you're more comfortable just communicating a rough idea about the "feel" of the site and leaving it up to the designer to work from there, then let the design team know you'll be working that way. A good designer will tailor their work style to yours.

3. Give specific examples of what you want

If you want your website to look "cool," or "professional," or "conservative," find a few online examples of sites you think embody these attributes. If you want stock photography of people on your site, give an idea of the demographic you'd like to display. Your web team should have asked about the audience by this point, but if they haven't, tell them exactly who your site's audience is before the design phase starts.

4. Give specific examples of what you don't want

Does your CEO hate the color orange? Do you have an international audience who won't identify with certain icons or images? Do you need to visually distinguish your site from a competitor's look and feel? What is it about your current site that isn't working for you? The more your designer knows up front, the better.

5. Open your mind

When the time comes to look at the first round of mockups, it never hurt anyone to temporarily let go of their preconceptions. Be prepared to see at least one mockup that totally surprises you.

6. Give it some time to sink in

A few minutes of letting the designer explain the intent and the alternatives, a few minutes of thinking, even a second opinion from a trusted colleague, can be quite valuable before you start the next round of revisions. In today's "need it yesterday" work environment, it can be counter-intuitive, but taking a little extra time to create a list of well-considered comments can substantially reduce future iterations.

7. Deliver honest criticisms

Any good designer will be able to take less-than-ecstatic feedback in stride, as long as it's delivered straightforwardly and pleasantly. If you tend to be a people pleaser and you doubt your ability to respond honestly to a design in the presence of the designer, alternatively (but not ideally) communicate your revisions to your project manager.

8. Consider technical issues

Your design will be affected by technical issues such as target page-load times. If you are interested in using plug-ins such as Flash, or if you need to ensure that users with very old browsers or very slow connections are able to view your site easily, be sure to discuss this before the design phase begins.

Great things can happen, and great sites are built, when you and your designer are in sync. If at any time you aren't comfortable with the way things are progressing, talk to your Project Manager, whose job is to make sure you're satisfied with the site and the development process.

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