There’s an awesome and extremely informational article on IBN [ itbusinessnet.com ] that talks about common misconceptions that clients have about the process of website design and development. While the article is a 5-pager with very small type, it is one of those pieces that can be referred to again and again. For the benefit of those who don’t like reading long pieces, I have summarized it below [ using text and sentences from the same article ]:
What clients need to know about the process of website design and development :
- Know what you want: While this easier said than done, you need to be clear about what it is that you want your website to do for you or for your company or both depending on who the website is for. It is helpful for the designer if you could give visual clues to what kind of style you want, but that does not mean that you ask them to copy a competitor’s website. And a visual cue doesn’t make it 80% done, there is still information flow involved that needs to be determined depending on your strategy and what you want presented to your web visitors.
- It costs more and takes longer than you think : Just because you can slap up a site in a few minutes with an off-the-shelf package doesn’t mean it’s the right solution for your business. A serious business web site isn’t likely to be cheap. Nor are the experts who have spent years learning both techniques and tools.
One misconception is that designing and programming web sites is easy, and shouldn’t cost very much. “I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, ‘Can you build me something quick — it can’t be that hard!’ Another one is ‘Once you have everything programmed, will I be able to make all the changes to it?’ Sure you can, but you don’t even understand how to use an FTP site, let alone any HTML programming,” says Todd Richards, a freelance web developer in Omaha, Nebraska.
- A Web Site Has Several Pieces. Don’t Cut Corners : There are phases in the development of any web site, no matter its size, and you shouldn’t skimp on any of them. Otherwise you’ll be blaming the designer “Why the hell haven’t we gotten any hits?”
You should understand the distinction between the various pieces of a site. You don’t have to be an expert on each of these, but it will help your blood pressure (not to mention the ability to get the site of your dreams) if you recognize the difference between the site content (that is, the words and images), the management of that content (the tools that manage how information is updated and added), the site infrastructure (which encompasses everything from the hardware and operating system of your server to the quality of its connection to the Internet) — and so on.
- Balance visual appeal and usability :
At the extreme ends of the web design continuum there are two kinds of web sites. Neither of them “work” in the way most companies want their web sites to work.
On one end is the highly graphical, flashy, content poor web site with dancing babies and moving pictures and unbelievable poor navigational design. On the other extreme is the site with no graphics, 50 words of black text per page on a white background, loads of content, and text link navigation.
The graphical site will sell products all day long — if anyone gets to it. But no one will ever visit that site unless you send them there, one at a time, using other promotional mechanisms (such as TV, radio, print, direct mail, pens, cups, hats, blimps, billboards).
On the other hand, the simple text site will get hundreds, thousands, or millions of visitors who arrive there after searching for your product or service. Unfortunately, none of them will buy anything, contact you, or provide their contact information.
You have to shoot for a mix between the site which sells but gets no visitors, and the site which gets lots of visitors and does not compel action.
- If You Build It, They Won’t Necessarily Come : Another common misconception is that, moments after you slap up a web site, millions of visitors will beat a path to your door. The reality is far different, say experienced developers, because building the site is not the same thing as marketing it.
- The Site Needs Maintenance : Any web site that is not developed to be maintained is already outdated. All web sites require at least some degree of maintenance, Campbell points out. “If a visitor comes to a site and sees a 2004 copyright at the bottom, or a class schedule that’s six months outdated, that site and that company tends to lose credibility.
- Please Treat the Web Team as Professionals : The designer says,
I’m a professional. I know my business. And if I don’t personally do that part of the project, I know another professional to subcontract it to. Please don’t go out looking for other people to ‘help’ and try to patch us all together, with you in charge. It does not work. Ever.
A contract is there to record what you and the site developer agreed upon, but too few people pay attention to the details — and that costs money, time, and emotional wear-and-tear. Once a layout or mockup is approved, the designer starts to develop it into a real site. There are clients who approve the site and a few weeks later, want to make huge changes to the design. The contracts generally stipulate that all design changes made after the design was improved will incur additional charges and hold up development time.
This article needs to be read in detail be clients and designers alike. Read the complete thing here.