Adult Webmastering Basics: Part 9: Pro Design

Domenic R. Merenda
Perhaps you don’t feel comfortable diving into design work, or maybe you just don’t have the time. Either way, if you’ve decided to hire a professional designer, you’d better make sure they’re looking out (at least partially) for your interests. Good communication throughout and a few simple clarifications before the project begins will go a long way towards getting the job done right.

The Mark of a Professional
There’s no question as to the value of maintaining a good relationship with a designer than has delivered quality work on time. How do you find a designer, though, if you’re starting from scratch? A professional attitude, satisfied customers, and a solid body of work are all clearly attributes you should seek out in a design candidate. If, on the other hand, they end every sentence with mid-air finger quotes and leave a trail of dissatisfied customers in their wake, you might do well to look elsewhere.

Good designers will clearly lay out the payment they expect to receive and the work the intend to complete in exchange for that compensation. It is ultimately your responsibility, however, to lay out these conditions in a document that binds both parties to specific terms and due dates. The road to success is littered with entrepreneurs who rued the day they ignored this warning. “It won’t happen to me” is never an excuse for not setting proper expectations up front, especially if you’re building a relationship that will stand the test of time.

Some of the terms you should think about including are: duration of project, number of pages, design elements (palettes, fonts, graphics formats), and whether or not you will be provided with the source materials at the conclusion of the work.

Can You Hear Me Now?
Just as good up-front communication is necessary for success, keeping an eye on the ongoing process is critical as well. It is difficult to transfer the grand vision in your head into an email or phone conversation, and variations are bound to crop up. Keeping these minor deviances on a short leash will prevent a major (and costly) rehashing of previous work.

Many professional designers will provide a semi-frequent update in a password protected “work area” on their website. If this isn’t the case, you should ask for daily or semi-daily updates to be emailed to you. How can you monitor changes without actually seeing the work product?

Add-On Services
When the job is completed, your designer may offer other services, such as hosting, uploading the design for you, or custom programming. Make sure you evaluate each of these services as you would any other vendor’s offerings. Just because an artist can whip up a great looking site does not mean they are reliable web hosts.

Keeping the Pipeline Full
If you intend to contract the designer to complete other projects, make sure you are an important customer in their eyes. First of all, pay your bills on time. Establishing a pattern of paying promptly will earn you the respect and high regard of any designer. Keep them abreast of your current plans by dropping regular emails regarding upcoming sites you might require their services on. Be a good referral as well. If you are satisfied with the work performed on your behalf, don’t be afraid to mention the designer’s name when someone asks for such services. If you take care of the relationship, your work may be given a preference in the queue, or perhaps a little extra unbilled time in the future. It never hurts to go the extra mile for those who help your enterprise succeed.

Hosts, Servers, and Bandwidth, Oh My!
Your site should now be ready for its unveiling to potential customers. Without selecting a reliable host for your site to reside on, however, no one is going to see all of your hard work. Our next installment will focus on finding this important partner, and on getting your account set up correctly from the beginning.

Stay tuned for more!