I have been designing web sites for clients for over 10 years now and I have developed an outline of items to go through with each and every client. These are five items I believe are essential to assist the client with their web site from start to finish and beyond.
1) Check Your Info: Gathering Information From Client
Obviously before you can start working on a web site for a client or even working for top web development companies, you need to do some information gathering. This should include the information you will be placing on the web site for the client: photos, text, etc. Additionally, if I am designing for a client and I know very little about their company or even the industry the company is in, I make it a habit to ask questions about the company itself. This is additional to any research I have gathered before meeting with the client. Getting as full a picture of the company as possible is as important as gathering the particulars for the web site itself.
Creating a list of questions to ask the client can assist in gathering information. Gather information such as the company’s mission statement and vision statement. Work to collect the target audience for the company as this will give you some guidance for the layout of the web site.
2) Get It In Writing: Working with a Contract
Now that you have as much information as you feel you need to take the company on as a client, make sure you have in writing the expectations of what you plan to provide the company with and what they will provide you with. This can including the number of expected billable hours if billing hourly, the number of pages if billing flat rate, as well as other services you are providing the client. Additionally, the contract should spell out what the client is expected to do, with the biggest being paying you for work completed.
3) Roadmap: Create a Site Outline
Now that you have the information needed for the web site and a signed contract, you will want to dive right in and create the web site so you can get paid. However, taking a little time and creating a site outline can save you time and money, as well as the client. Understanding what the client, put together a basic “picture” of what the organization of the web site will look like. For instance you might have a client with several locations, so an about us section with a main page about the company and a second page listing the locations might be desired.
Creating a site outline can give you a clear image of the structure of the website. Additionally, you will know what information goes where. This can also assist when creating the navigation for a web site as well as the creation of a sitemap page, which will assist visitors if they are unsure of where something is located within a web site.
4) Are We There Yet?: Communicating with the Client
A communication schedule can be included with your contract, which will outline your communication with the client. For instance, you might create a time line as to when expect certain item of a web site to be completed. You would then communicate these steps are completed to the client. Each client will be different and so will their desired method of communication. You might find some that want a progress report weekly, some at various stages of the time line. Some will prefer to talk to you over the phone, others through email or on line chat, while others desire an in-person meeting. These can be outlined in your contract along with any fees you desire to charge.
5) I’m Lost: Follow Up Services
Some clients simply want a web site designed for them and that’s it. Once the site is completed, your job is done. Some might want assistance in maintaining their own web site. Others might desire your services long term. Regardless of the type of client you get, you might wish to drop them a line from time to time to check in with them or offer additional services. Provided you are not doing this daily, weekly, or monthly, most clients I have designed for appreciate knowing that I do not simply forget them when their web site is done being designed.
Keeping this five simple items in mind can help give you a better picture of what the client wants. Using the five items will also assist you in completing the task the client has hired you for in a more professional appearing manner.