Clearly Define Your Goals and the Work is Easier

Oct 3rd, 2009 | By | Category: Case Studies

I love the question so many people ask when I tell them what I do.  “So, how much do you charge for a website?”  The question is almost universal, so there must be something to it.  It’s as if everyone is familiar with the concept of tattoo flash on the wall of a parlor.  They pick the piece they want and the tattoo artist gives it to them.  Sadly, web design is not that way.

I believe the problem lies in the tendency for people to want something but not know what it is they want.  When it comes to designing anything, a car, a purse, a building, a website, etc. there needs to be a set of requirements.  Usually, the last one on the list is styling.  When designing a logo or a user interface there is a set of requirements, just like anything else.

Failing to plan is like Homer

Failing to plan is like Homer

Have you ever seen the episode of the Simpsons where Homer’s brother Herb asks him to design a car that’s perfect for families?  Homer jumps in with no plan and Herb is ruined.  Herb defined his audience, the family man with annoying kids, but failed to account for Homer’s stupidity.  I love Homer…

The plan is the important part of the design process.  Everything else grows from the plan.  You wouldn’t build a house then have an architect blueprint it for you, would you?  The same should be true of your website.  If you have a designer give you a price before the project is defined (or your designer has a menu to choose from) odds are they aren’t a real designer.

Gone are the days of assuming the Internet is a passing fad.  No website is as bad for business as no business card or telephone number.  Even if all you want to do is a simple about us page with some contact information, it’s vital that you get this done.  That being the case, I can direct you to some folks who will do it on the cheap (I might even do it if I have the time).  If you want to take full advantage of all the web has to offer, however, you’ll need to develop a strategy and talk to someone who can help you develop it.

Any competent designer is going to ask you questions.  It is vital to the process that you answer those questions as completely as possible.  Some of them may seem strange or irrelevant, but answer them anyway.  I like to ask clients what they’d want their website to do if they could have it do anything in the world.  You’d be surprised by the answers I get (no, not that…).  The reason I ask is, it cuts through the client’s preconceived notions and helps me understand what they’re really after.  I also like to know what they’d like to get from their web presence in the short, medium and long term.

Every question you answer gets a good designer or developer closer to realizing your vision.  Every question you don’t answer is a hole that could result in disappointment for both of you.  I seem to get clients that run the gamut states of preparedness.  It’s my job to get them “completely ready” before starting work.  It’s better for both of us if I do that rapidly.

From your feedback, we build a plan, and from the plan comes a proof.  From the proof comes a finished product.  Everybody is happy if everything is defined.  If nothing is defined, the project is likely to fail.  If you cover as many bases as possible at the outset, you cut the chances of failure by an order of magnitude.

Plan first, then build.  It’s common sense that should apply to everything, including a website.

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