Communicate Cooperate

Isn’t it natural for a professional web designer to think that you’ve hired us because you want a professional job for your money? In order for things to go as smoothly and quickly as possible, we need your best effort when it comes to communication and cooperation. Read on for ways in which you can help make this happen and how to actively participate in helping to keep your costs down.

An Open Mind Goes a Long Way

Try to keep an open mind. As much as you might want what you’re asking for, it may not be what’s best for your web site. Your designer can help you make informed decisions by giving you input on your site ideas. It’s part of our job to discuss with you what is best for the site and what’s potentially or definitely not so good. We’re not here to tell you what to do, we don’t expect you to blindly follow the leader.

You make the final decision, but don’t shut your designer out when they’re trying to explain something to you. If you need to take some time to think about it, by all means do so! But tell your designer you need to do this and keep them informed of where things are at. Don’t leave them in Limbo-Land.

Your Cooperation Counts Big Time!

If you want your project to go smoothly and for your website designer to get your site up as quickly as possible, he or she needs your cooperation during all phases and in every aspect of its development. Many web sites are delayed because the client isn’t cooperating. A good web designer strives to put your site up within the most reasonable time possible. We’re not going to send Uncle Veto to break your knee caps if you don’t provide your content in a timely fashion, but we can develop your site more quickly with your cooperation. Your web site is a priority to us – it needs to be a priority for you, too. If we don’t get your best cooperation, please don’t ask us “when will it be done?” or tell us “but I need it done now!” How can you possibly expect us to complete your site if you’re not doing your part to help make it happen?

Give Me Some Examples

When a site is planned for development, most designers work on some kind of schedule. If we don’t have your content at the time we were expecting it – we can’t work on your site. The time-line for submission of content is normally spelled out in either the original proposal or your contract. Some designers will charge an additional fee for late content.

What? Charge me if I don’t get you my content on time? There are a multitude of designers out there who’s website work is their livelihood, their sole means of support. Their job is no different than your own which supports you and your family. It’s what pays their bills, feeds their kids and puts a roof over their head. Just because they may work out of their home doesn’t mean they don’t consider this a real job! Some of us work harder at home than people who work outside the home and are on just as tight a budget as you if not more-so. If you delay your own site development in any way, you’re delaying your designer’s paycheck. Like many of us, without a paycheck they’re not able to meet their financial responsibilities and obligations.

At times designers must turn down jobs or refer potential clients to other designers because their schedule is full. If your site is on that schedule and you aren’t pulling your end of things, you’re not only delaying the designer’s paycheck, but you’ve also caused them to lose new business. It’s only right they should be compensated for the financial loss your delay has cost them.

What if your paycheck were delayed? If you signed a contract that includes a clause for paying an additional fee for late content, it’s your responsibility to either see that the content arrives on time, or pay the additional fee. It really is your own choice, and we are all responsible for our choices.

To help you to be as ready as possible for your web site adventure, we urge you to visit our Preparing for Your Website page for tips and hints on client preparation. Following these simple steps will help you keep your costs down.

I paid a professional web designer to create my site, of course I own it!

This is probably the belief that most every web site client holds. It makes perfect common sense … you paid someone to develop a web site for you. Why then would you not own what you paid for? This is one of those instances where common sense doesn’t apply. It’s not like going into a store and purchasing a pair of shoes. Unless the contract you signed specifically states that you own the web site, you don’t.

How Can I Not Own Something I Paid For?

Copyright law states that the creator of the design and content on a web site automatically becomes the legal owner of said design or content the moment it’s designed or written. Nobody has to do anything special to make this happen, it just does. What this means is that your web designer owns the design they created for your web site. You do not. You own the text content and any images you provided to the website designer for inclusion on your site and that is only if you yourself wrote the content, took the photographs or created the design and had your designer develop your website using your graphic design. If you got the photos from say a stock photography web site, even if you purchased them, they are not yours. You purchased a license to use them.

Permissions and Licensing

It’s imperative that whatever content you provide to your designer for your web site must be legally owned by you … OR … if you did not create it yourself, you must provide proof that you purchased it and that you have permission to use it in the way it’s being used on your web site. Purchasing a license to use the materials does not give you free reign to use it in any way you want either. Read the licensing agreements before you buy. These agreements are usually very specific as to how the images can be used.

In most cases, what you actually have when your web site is completed, is a license to use it. Now, that’s not set in stone either. Some web designers will automatically turn ownership over to you when your site goes live, others will do so if you pay a purchase fee. There are a number of perfectly legal ways to handle this and it’s generally at the designer’s discretion as to which way they deal with it.

The first question web designers generally get from a potential client is “How much will my website cost?” The fact that people ask doesn’t surprise us. What is surprising is that just about everyone wants to know what a website costs before they tell us what they want. That would pretty much require all web designers to have a crystal ball sitting on their desks. The closest thing to a crystal ball that I have is the snow globe my kids gave me.

Do you ask the clerk what your groceries are going to cost before you go through the checkout line? Do you ask the car sales person how much your new car is going to cost before you select all your options? I didn’t think so. So then why do you ask a web designer how much your website is going to cost before you tell us what features you want?

The Website Planner

Many designers have website planners on their web sites. Yet, even with specific instructions and numerous obvious links to visit their planner, people instead click over to the designer’s general contact form and type in a “How much does a web site cost?” message, click the SEND button and expect a designer will spit out an estimate based on very little or no information as to what that person wants for their site. I still haven’t figured that out and the only possible conclusions I’ve been able to come to are that:

People don’t actually read what’s on the page?
They think they’ll get a quicker? better? different? answer by bypassing the planner?
They can’t find the website planner? Ummmm, doesn’t that link to it on the general contact page get you there?

If you take a look at my contact page, I’ve tried to make it very clear that my general contact form is not for asking the cost of a website. I really don’t know how much more I can do to help people understand that bypassing the planner will only delay the process. Even with all of these warnings on the contact page, sigh … at least half of my website inquiries come from my contact form. When I receive an inquiry from my general contact form it doesn’t include the information I need to estimate the cost. By just asking “How much?” I then have to reply asking them to please submit the planner so I know what they want.  Asking a web designer what your web site will cost before telling us what you want, is putting the cart before the horse. If there was a way to do this, I’d patent it, bottle it, sell it and make a few million!

How Not to Put the Cart Before the Horse

When you contract for a new house or remodeling job, your contractor will discuss your needs and wants with you before they can give you the projected cost. Estimating web site costs works in pretty much the same way. Like a custom made home, each and every web site has it’s own needs and an owner that has options or features in mind. Many factors go into determining what a web site will cost and your cost is totally dependent on what you want your site to have. I could shake my snow globe until it hits winter blizzard season and it’s just not going to snow your Wish List for me.

I once had a lady who wanted to know “how much” tell me that she was offended because I’d requested that she complete my website planner. She not so nicely told me this was nothing more than me trying to make my job easier. What she seemed to not understand no matter how I explained it was that estimates are based on what the client wants and if she didn’t tell me what she wanted, how could I give her an estimate? Telling a website designer something like “I want 10 pages with a shopping cart.” is not nearly enough information on which to base an estimate. I guess I could have dusted off that snow globe …

The planner does take a bit of time to complete, but in order for us to help you we need to ask the questions at some time or another. Sometimes people shopping for a web designer don’t know themselves what they want or what’s available. The planner helps you figure this out, it makes you think and then helps you tell us so that we have the necessary information to develop your estimate.

Planning Your Website is Like Going Shopping

I’ve found throughout the years that on the average, people are notoriously unprepared to enter the world of web site development. They somehow get it in their heads that all they have to do is contact a web designer, ask them how much, write the check and a few weeks down the road they have a brand new web site. Some clients are literally overwhelmed when they learn that they need to participate and what they need to do to participate. The planner helps you to learn more about your web site needs and to start the web site preparation process. Think of it as cruising the aisles at a 24 hour store where you can shop at your leisure and you don’t have to talk to a sales person until you’re ready. I don’t know about you, but I check the cupboards and the fridge and make a list of my needs before I hit the store. The planner helps you write the website shopping list that’s going to fill Mother Hubbard’s (website) Cupboard and the fridge, too!

If by chance the planner doesn’t do the trick for you, you can get more help from my Where Do I Start page.

What Happens After I Receive Your Website Planner?

I’ll generally have a few additional questions as follow-up to and clarification of the information you provided. I try to nail things down as much as possible in the beginning stages in order to provide you with the most accurate estimate that I can. The bigger and more detailed the initial picture is, the better it is for you. Why? Many times the estimate results in discount pricing because instead of charging you for each and every feature, I’m able to package some things. This enables me to cut development time and in turn reduces your cost. By planning ahead you may avoid costly add-on features that I may have been able to be include in the initial design process.

You may be amazed to learn that you as the client, have more to do with the final cost projection than you realize!

Your designer’s clock is not the only one to watch during the site development phase. I won’t kid you, sometimes long site development time is the fault of the designer. He or she could just be a slow worker, perhaps over-booked their work, gotten sick or (sigh …) doesn’t have good business, timing or customer service skills. The possibilities are endless with some reasons being totally warranted and understandable while other reasons not.

Can the Client be Blamed for Slow Development?

Actually … yes. Much depends on the client as well. One thing designers can’t stress enough is that in order to have your site completed in the shortest possible time frame,  have your content ready before contacting a designer.

Once the initial layout is approved, and the content is received, in most cases things can move along rather quickly. Other than the usual steps to completion which at times can be delayed for one reason or another, one of the most common issues web designers run into is not receiving the site content in a timely fashion. Your content is your most important asset and site development can come to a screeching halt without it. Your accountant can’t do your taxes without your documents, your website designer can’t complete your web site without your content.

Another common problem is not receiving prompt responses from the client when we contact you with questions or needs. You may have hired us to create your website, but we can’t do it alone. Your timely cooperation is without a doubt, one of a web designers most essential tools to success!

How Can it be My Fault?

Keep in mind, this is your site being developed. If it isn’t going up fast enough to suit you, definitely and politely inquire of your designer, but before you do, consider the entire picture. Your designer isn’t doing this site totally on their own. We need you, your input and your consistent cooperation! With good client cooperation a rough estimate to live date averages 8-12 weeks depending on the site. The time frame to completion is dependent upon the size of the site, what features you’ve requested, how involved it may be and any number of other factors including circumstances the designer has absolutely no control over.

This time frame most often includes the proposal and contract preparation phase, client review (which sometimes involves consulting with committees) and signatures. This is another area that we run into difficulties with. Many people are understandably, in a big hurry to get started. Why when we send them their contract, does it take several weeks or even months to get it back, signed and ready to go? I honestly have no idea. Giving us what we need to do your job in a timely fashion will absolutely speed up the process. The timing in which your designer receives your signed contract and when he or she can begin your site is in most cases, directly related to the workload the designer has at the time of receipt. Many designers schedule projects on a “first come first served” basis. At the time of your initial contact your designer may not be as busy as they are when they receive your contract or vice-versa.

Most web designers want to complete your site just as quickly (if not faster) as you! Some of us juggle several sites at one time. Since no two sites are alike this is not an easy task sometimes. Different coding, different scripts, different needs all can potentially work against us and the clock can be our worst enemy. It’s absolutely helpful if your cooperation allows us to move through your site work in a way that we don’t have to stop your work because we can’t go any further and jump in and out of another client’s work like a yo-yo.

We are serious about our work and about pleasing you. We do realize you’re paying us your hard earned money, which by the way we appreciate more than we can ever tell you! The last thing we want is to disappoint you. For more information on how you can help move your site work along efficiently, please read Preparing for Your Website and The Client’s Learning Curve.