Challenges abound in the website creation process, and those challenges don’t end when you pick a custom web design and development agency to get the project underway
The next big challenge is to engage in a creatively productive process with your design and development team, so that the end product is a website you can all be proud of and one that will advance your business goals.
Let’s look at seven ways you can build a cooperative and productive relationship with your custom web design and development agency.
Table of contents
- #1: Understand the basic process
- #2: Pay attention to creating a good working relationship.
- #3: Know what’s in your scope.
- #4: Collect several examples of sites you like—and don’t like.
- #5: Think about the path you want your prospects and users to take.
- #6: Commit to being responsive.
- #7: Give honest and clear feedback.
- For Best Results, Hire an Agency You Can Trust
#1: Understand the basic process
There’s a lot that goes into creating a site from scratch. You don’t need to know how to code, but it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the basic process or flow.
It’s also a good idea to get an idea of any custom workflows the agency has adopted. From conceptualisation to wireframes to mockups to live sites, website design and development tends to follow a general path, although the details can and do differ.
Don’t neglect those details, either. It’s perfectly permissible to ask your point of contact at the agency “Can you describe for me your basic workflow and process, with an estimated timeframe for each stage or phase?” Knowing what to expect will help manage expectations on both sides of the relationship.
#2: Pay attention to creating a good working relationship.
Take a proactive stance toward developing a relationship with your design agency. This doesn’t mean you have to become best friends with every single person on your team. However, it’s to your benefit to forge strong pathways for communication and a general “vibe” of teamwork.
After all, you all (should) share a common goal: A finished site that’s dynamic, aesthetically pleasing, optimised and highly functional, which evokes your brand and its value and which is full of content that speaks deeply to your targeted audience.
#3: Know what’s in your scope.
Make sure both you and your agency are in perfect alignment as to the actual scope of work for their services.
This might seem obvious, but in our experience, most breakdowns in agency/client relationships revolve around a disconnect as to scope. What’s included, what’s not included, and when the job is “complete” are all key questions to answer, preferably in writing.
One of the most crucial parts of the contract that’s connected to the scope has to do with additional costs. If you’re not clear on the scope, it’s easy to slip into a scenario where the scope has been expanded considerably and the agency invoices for additional fees that you hadn’t anticipated.
The fix for this is simple: Make sure you have specified terms in your agreement both for the agency’s base fees as well as the circumstances where you might be charged additional fees and what those might be.
#4: Collect several examples of sites you like—and don’t like.
One of the most constructive things you can do to improve the creative experience and get the best possible site out of your design agency is to know what you want, and what you don’t want. That’s often easier said than done for many people, who haven’t really spent a lot of time thinking about websites in this kind of detail.
A great way to start is to look at the sites for your major competitors. Try to evaluate these sites in terms of your immediate, automatic reaction to the sites, then try to break down that reaction by focusing on specific site elements.
It’s rare to encounter a site that hits every single mark that’s important to you. Focus on individual aspects, such as colours, layout, specific features, the typography, or site architecture. Make a list of what’s there that appeals to you, then share that information with your designer.
While you’re evaluating other sites, make note of sites that you don’t like, too. Sometimes it’s easier to pinpoint what we don’t want initially than to verbalise what we do want. If you find a site or a specific element on a site that rubs you the wrong way, make a note of that, too.
#5: Think about the path you want your prospects and users to take.
This falls under the same “know what you want and what you don’t” category as tip #4 above. However, charting your user’s path through your site is really all about the prospect and site user. You need to know who you’re trying to reach and what you want them to do on your site. Then you can work backward to illuminate how these people will interact with your site.
Think of the following questions:
- Who are your users? What do you know about them? (Hint: It’s a really good idea to create “user avatars” to represent different segments of your targeted audience.)
- How will they enter your site? From what other sites will they come, and what will be the first page they see?
- What will they do on that page?
- Where will they go next, and how will you lead them to that next page?
- What will they do on page #2? And so forth.
One of the best ways to clarify your thinking on this issue is to sketch out informal wireframe drawings of each page with arrows showing directions (home page to the services page, for example, or blog post to contact information page).
#6: Commit to being responsive.
Agencies understand that a lot of the information and iterative deliverables they send to clients might seem overwhelming. Most agencies take steps to break things down simply so as to help the client focus on the right thing at the right time. This helps keep the project on track and on schedule.
One thing you can do as the client to help maintain that rate of progress is to respond promptly to your agency’s messages, emails and inquiries. Often, the agency won’t be able to proceed further until you sign off on a specific development or answer a series of questions.
It’s not uncommon for clients to sometimes feel annoyed by those communications, but remember, design agencies are not staffed with mind readers. They’ll need your input to create the site that will thrill you. It’s in your best interest to respond promptly and keep that exchange of information flowing in a timely manner.
#7: Give honest and clear feedback.
Feedback is the lifeblood of any creative services experience. Whether someone is decorating your living room or designing a website for your company, you as the end user and client must feel confident in expressing your honest reactions and know how to communicate those reactions in a clear, cogent way.
There’s a bit of an art to giving great feedback to web design agencies, but it’s definitely a skill that can be learned. Follow these tips:
- Focus on the questions asked. Whatever else you say later, make sure you answer those questions first.
- Organize your feedback. Text formatting helps the other party focus on each specific aspect of the site that’s being reviewed.
- Express your opinions by referring to observable details. “That sucks” isn’t helpful. What do you think sucks specifically? A better comment is “this typeface seems too casual. We want our branding to evoke a more conservative, formal feel.”
- Be respectful. Again, “that sucks” isn’t helpful, and it isn’t likely to engender understanding in the other party. “This doesn’t quite reflect the level of formality we’re striving for” is equally clear and doesn’t run the same risk of offending the reader.
For Best Results, Hire an Agency You Can Trust
It’s always a risk to trust a company you’ve never worked with before with your business website. While the seven tips above can help you achieve great results no matter what agency you choose, it’s also true that you can alleviate a lot of the inherent stress in site projects by hiring the right agency in the first place.
If you’re ready to get your site project underway, why not reach out to Keen to Design? We have the skill and experience to help you realize your vision, even if you’re not sure what that vision is just yet.