Why Your Web Designer Should Be Your Best Friend

When it comes to something as important as your website, you want nothing but a healthy relationship with your designer. There are already too many ways in which your website can go wrong and being bottom of your designer’s priority list is the last thing you need. In this post I want to outline why it’s important that the client/designer relationship stays healthy and understood.

Worst Case Scenario

I get more than enough emails from people who have been ripped off by supposed web designers. They tend to go something like this:

  • Clients asks ‘web designer’ for a website
  • web designer agrees
  • client pays designer up front
  • web designer has a half arsed go at one page
  • client is not happy and asks for a re-design or a refund
  • ‘Web designer’ has already disappeared off the face of the earth with the money

This is about as bad as it can get. The client is majorly pissed off (understandably) and is left with nothing, or at most, something completely unusable, and the so-called designer has sullied the name of web design once again. This is fairly typical of the worst kind of relationship a client can have with a designer. The one that doesn’t exist. There is no understanding, no agreement and probably no contract involved.

Poor relationships between client and designer don’t always start off like this though. Sometimes they can deteriorate over time. The trouble usually arises when both parties fall out of sync with each other. This can happen for many reasons:

  • The client can outgrow the web design company, asking for things that smaller web companies don’t have the capacity for
  • The web designer can outgrow the client, wanting to move on to ‘bigger and better’ things and feel as though the client is holding them back
  • The web designer can become irritated by the client’s continued requests
  • The client can become irritated by the designer’s reluctance to carry out continued requests

So how can you avoid these situations?

Choose your web designer carefully

Birds on a lampost - all black, one white

“Good designers have good reputations.”

Look for a proven track record and look for evidence of previous work. Then go a step further and check out the work in detail. Do the websites look real? Are they for real companies? Do they function how you would expect them to? Check the designer’s own site for testimonials. Good designers have good reputations. Good reputations result in glowing references. Have you heard of them before? And most importantly, are they a genuine web designer? If they don’t have their own website, I’d be extremely cautious.

Don’t skimp on it

Bars of gold

“Sometimes, you really
do get what what you
pay for.”

I don’t know what it is about web design but everybody seems to think the idea is to get it as cheap as possible. Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable paying a reputable company a little bit more money to ensure a smooth and successful website build, than risk it all on somebody you know nothing about, with the potential for it all to go wrong. I know I would. Unfortunately, everybody seems to know their cousin’s best friend’s one-time GCSE Art student who knows how to work wonders with MS Paint and a free website template. And he can always do it for about £60 or a set of HMV vouchers. Sometimes, you really do get what what you pay for.

Get past the thinking that it’s about how much money you can save and still get a site out of it. Get into the mindset that as long as you’ve done your research, paying that little bit extra will save you a tonne of hassle and money in the future.

Don’t play the big boss man

Lion roaring with caption "You work for me!"

“…your web designer is not your employee.”

Something every client needs to come to terms with now, before they are forced to come to terms with it in the future is that your web designer is not your employee. Yes, they may carry out work for you and yes, you may pay them for their time and work. But ultimately, what they are doing is something you are not capable of or do not have the time to do yourself. They are providing a service and they are helping you out. It only takes one argument, one disagreement or one big mistake, and if your designer decides to drop you as a client, you’re left in the awkward position of having a website and no web designer. Then it’s only a matter of time before things become unstuck.

Playing the big boss man will not get you very far and the “I’ll just fire them and hire someone else” attitude is rarely the right answer either. Websites don’t all run off the same code or use the same systems, so if you’ve already had work done, there is likely to be a legacy trail of work and systems in place to support your site. This makes it very difficult to pick up and move elsewhere. At least not without cost. Sometimes it is plain impossible. That leaves you with one option – bag it and tag it and look for someone else to build you a new website. Lots of hassle. Lots of outlay.

Work together

Ants working together

“Writing polite emails and having some patience doesn’t cost you anything but a bit of thought.”

Your web designer should be more akin to your business partner than your employee. Web designers, as a general rule, are busy, busy people. They have very long to-do lists. How they prioritise those lists can depend on a lot of things. But one thing is certain, the worse the relationship with a client, the lower down the list that client’s requests will fall, no matter how professional the designer may be. Nobody likes to work with or for annoying people and nobody likes to work on things that they consider unreasonable or unnecessary. I’m not saying everyone else doesn’t have a lot to do, but you stand a far better chance of getting your requests completed if you’re on good terms with your designer than if you aren’t. It’s the same in any industry. Writing polite emails and having some patience doesn’t cost you anything but a bit of thought. But it will go a long way to strengthening your relationship with your designer. If you’re both happy and pulling in the right direction, things will run a whole lot smoother.

Be smart

Toy man with mortarboard

“A mutual respect is pivotal to a smooth working relationship.”

Use contracts. And when presented with contracts or proposals – read them. Properly. With regards to payment, here at WHD we take a 30% deposit up front (before any work commences) and the rest on completion of the website before it goes live. We provide the contract in both paper and digital copies so our clients have every opportunity to understand how we work. Working this way has many benefits.

  • The client feels more comfortable not parting with all their cash in one go
  • The web designer has some incentive to finish the project on time and to a good standard
  • The web designer has some insurance against the time he/she puts into the beginning of the project, be it creating mockups, wireframes, storyboards etc
  • There is no air of mystery or potential deceit
  • Both parties understand and accept the situation. Everybody is happy.

We also try our very best to keep up with the client if they are growing rapidly, or to support them if they are finding it hard going. We answer emails as quickly as possible and keep them updated with all work. They in turn listen to us and value our opinion on subjects that fall within our domain. A mutual respect is pivotal to a smooth working relationship.


My advice? Just play nice.

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