Few lives must be more satisfying than the life of a Web Designer. You live the life of a god/goddess as you create something amazing from nothing all day long and the colors, movement and sound fill you with delights you’d never imagined. Nothing you do is ever boring and the diversity of work is never ending.
In my work I’m exposed to every imaginable business, product, target market, culture and working environment. Within the last few years I’ve worked with:
- a company that manufactures software for video and VoIP usage on the web
- a tree removal service
- a mediation organization
- an investment capital organization
- a society to help recovering alcoholics
- a company that cremates dead people and sends them to Israel (I swear!)
- an internationally based Montessori school
- a dog trainer
- a floral designer an interior designer a whole bunch of attorneys
- a neuropsychologist
- a trucking company
- a sound studio
- a synagogue
- a professional story teller
- a meditation CD based upon Kabballah
- a book on the tarot and Kabballah
- a book on enhancing the soul
- a software product for the management of psychiatric institutions
- a sports optimization company
- a romance novella
- a product development consultant
The friends I’ve made have been from Indonesia, India, Russia, Israel, South Africa, Columbia, Equador, Peru and of course all over the United States. I’ve learned all about different cultures and ways of doing business and I’ve had the pleasure of being a business ambassador from my own country as well – even when I haven’t won the bid.
While I might be making something simple in terms of the presentation of various products and services, I’m also helping many people realize their dreams and ambitions and that is a very rewarding process. Figuring how best to convey the importance of what they are doing, and why they are doing it means I use color, texture, sound, video, interaction, and text to convey their message. Frequently I learn things I later need in order to develop my own ideas, and it’s amazing how I find just the right person, idea or solution exactly when I need it.
How we are all connected on many levels has become incredibly apparent over the years and I’m constantly amazed at the difference others make in my life, and the opportunity I have to make a difference in other people’s lives.
So what, would you do, if you were doing a job like mine? I can only share how I go about the process for my customers and myself.
First, there is a story behind every person and every business. It takes a lot of energy, drive and ambition to make a business successful. Find out WHO your customer is as an individual. What matters to them most?
Once you have an idea of Who they are, then you find out WHY your customer is doing what they are doing. Listen carefully to their story; what made it worth all the trouble?
Then you want to know WHAT they want to convey to the world. Are they just interested in a simple site that lets people find out how to contact them, how to get to their business, and access to forms their assistant might otherwise have to fax? Or maybe they have a vision or a philosophy of life they want to share and heal the world with. WHAT is your mission and why is it important enough to pay you to make it happen?
In addition to what they want to share, you want to know what their resources are in terms of providing you with text, imagery, logos, fonts and pictures. How closely do they want and need to monitor your progress. It’s very important to keep them engaged during the process so you don’t end up creating three websites to get the one they wanted in the first place.
You need to understand what their assumptions and expectations about you are. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they expect from you, or to share what your expectations of them are. If you guarantee a time frame, under what conditions can you deliver on time? Tell them. If you aren’t meeting your deadline because they aren’t responding, say so.
Once you know the Who, Why and the What, and the When, you can go about determining the How. Come up with several different concepts that will convey what they want to do. Interestingly, you will find that the visuals you provide do indeed say “a thousand words” and the first round of this will reveal many things that the initial conversation will not. Give them three to five conceptual choices but be careful not to overdevelop any one. It’s disappointing to spend ten hours on a concept only to have it blown out of the water because you missed the mark.
Once the concept is finished you want to make sure you design your customer’s site around the promotional methodologies they’ll be using (Paid Search Marketing, offline advertising, SEO, etc). Be sure you’re aware of these requirements in advance of your suggestions too, as you need to stay within the algorithm requirements as you design. One site I designed used a series of hand gestures to convey a certain idea. Four months after I finished one site, someone within the organization complained that all the gestures were of a Caucasian, and not a diverse set of people. The model used happened to be white/male, and I had not been aware of the “politically correct” agenda of the organization, and it had never occurred to me it was anything more than hands conveying certain messages. The underlying message had escaped me, and then the customer wanted me to redo the site. Another time, my preconceived notions about someone’s religiousness meant that I was too conservative in the ideas I offered, but she didn’t see herself as conservative, she saw herself as BOLD, and I had to adjust the way I presented her based on her vision, and not my limiting one.
It’s a good idea to send your customer a link to your progress early on as a result of these issues. I wouldn’t say it was going too far to have them sign a document saying it’s ok for you to proceed with the concept you’ve presented to them. Some people adamantly disagree with this as it could create more work, but if you are off target, better to know earlier than later. The most important thing is that your customer is happy, as referral business is what keeps you and your own business alive.
Most importantly, enjoy what you are doing and share your joy in your day to day life and the process of sharing with and empowering your client base. Create relationships that last and that enhance one another.