Tips for Working with a Web Designer - article

You've landed the perfect designer. You've negotiated a price for services. Now what? Here are some tips for working with the person who will help you create a killer website that should be a cornerstone in your efforts to market and sell your book and your brand.

1. Define the project scope and deadlines before getting started. A good rule of thumb is to tie payment to various deliverables or completed phases of work throughout the project. This ensures timely delivery of your project but it also allows for you and the designer to be on the same page in terms of what will be delivered. Clear expectations are critical to working well together.

2. Put the details in a contract. The scope, deadlines, deliverables, costs, obligations, exit options, and after project support services should all be enumerated in a contract. As always makes sense, have your legal counsel review the contract before you sign it. This is a business relationship. Things can and do go wrong all the time in these complicated relationships. So if you are paying for the service, whether it’s being delivered by a student, a professional, a friend, or a family member… be sure you have a contract to guide the professional relationship you are entering.

3. Have an idea of what you want before you start. This doesn’t mean doing the design yourself or dictating it ahead of time. Quite the opposite. When working with a designer it’s a good idea to know WHAT you want but not to dictate HOW to achieve it. For instance, know what your goals are for the website and what that involves. If you want to sell your book, actually process the transaction from your website… you’ll need an ecommerce solution. If you blog, you’ll want to tie that into the site. If you plan to market to your audience (you should!), you’ll need a means of gathering contacts and managing an email database. You can also have an idea of the kind of pages you want. For instance, you’ll likely need a home page (of course), an “about the author” biography page, a “contact me” page (a must), a “sign up for our newsletter” option (a great way to gather those contacts!), a “book excerpts” page, a way to share reviews and comments about your book (may not necessarily be a separate page), perhaps a “news” or “events” page, and so forth. But don’t worry yet about how those pages relate to one another, what images will be used on each page, whether there is a space for a banner at the top if every page, or if the menu links will be horizontal or vertical. The designer can make recommendations for all that and tons more based on his or her expertise and an understanding of your goals.

4. Take the designer’s Advice to Heart. Remember to listen to your designer. They are professionals and often have a sense of what works and why in the world of web design. That’s not to say your opinion doesn’t count. It does, very much. But be open to their ideas and input and to their guidance. Look to your designer to help you identify the questions to be asked and answered and they should be able to provide options and pros and cons between the choices. Remember the point made above.. it’s important. When working with any kind of designer (for websites, software, wedding dresses, even!) it’s a good idea to share with them WHAT you want… and let them focus on HOW to build it. Also,

5. Make sure the designer understands the tone of your work overall and the brand image you are trying to project. These should both be a big factor in the design of your site. Having a corporate look and feel to the website for your humorous book will feel like a misalignment to your readers… because it is a misalignment. Look for a designer who is willing to take the time to listen to you, to hear your vision and your brand goals for this book and others. They should be willing to read some of your book, at least a chapter so they get a feel for your work and your writing style. You’ll want the site to be a good reflection of your style, your brand, and the tone of your book(s).

6. Find out who will manage the purchase of the web domain: You, or the Designer. And be sure that whoever that is, YOU actually own the domain. You do not want to chance losing your site if the designer forgets to renew the domain registration or if they go out of business, for example. Also, the hosting services are often separate from the design services. So your designer may not be the one to host your site. Clarify those details. If you already have a domain and know what platform you want your designer to use, great. If you don't, make sure the designer shows you what hosting service and domain sale service they use before passing out your credit card. Also, determine ahead of time which add on services you want, such as daily back ups or domain privacy. These things cost extra and you should be the one driving those purchasing decisions, with input from the designer. Additionally, you’ll want to be able to contact the hosting and registration services independently should any problems arise. Don’t forget to take a minute to check domain copyrights and understand your domain service, you should always know what you’re signing up for.

7. Start working on some of the content. You don’t have to get it all in place for the design phase. But having sample content for the pages you know you’ll want (see item 3 above) will put you ahead of the game. It will also help you convey your ideas to the designer and give him or her some sample materials to work with as they design the site. So go ahead, organize any pictures you want on the site, pull some old articles or newsletters, gather those reviews, and create a spreadsheet of the contacts you currently have on file, the ones that will be the basis of your new contacts database.

8. Come prepared to get social. Bring a list of the social networks you participate in so you can discuss which to incorporate into your new website. If you use Twitter and Facebook, these feeds should show up on your site. Also, be sure to discuss other ways to include the “social” world into your website. This doesn’t just mean Twitter. It can also mean allowing visitors of your site to comment on blog posts, leave reviews of book excerpts, or share photos of themselves with you at the latest book event. Ask about ways to support contests on your site as well. The more unified your Internet-presence, the more likely people are to engage with you. This is all part of building a community and a following.

Check out other articles here on the Author Learning Center for tips on what a web designer does and how to find one.

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