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Guest post by Adam Henige, managing partner at Netvantage Marketing.

Netvantage just had its website re-designed by Nicholas Creative. We love it. We've received nothing but positive feedback so far, and we're proud to have it as the face of our internet company. As someone who's worked in, around and on websites for many years, I believe one reason we ended up with such a nice finished product was that we let the web designers do their job.

I've managed the development and marketing of websites for going on ten years now. Before that I worked in film and video production, which had a heavy creative bent. I'd say I have a better handle than most as to what's good design and what isn't on the web. But having worked between clients and designers the one thing that I learned more than anything is to let the designers do their thing, lest your project go down in flames. No matter what you think you know, you're a home cook vs. a professional chef, so let them figure out how to feed your customers once you tell them about your restaurant.

This is not to say you can't give your designer feedback, but there's a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. So, as someone who just went through this process and has been very close to it for a long time, here's some advice for dealing with your web designer.

Perfectly acceptable things to say to your designer

  1. Well thought-out reasons for changing how something looks. If your page has too much text and nothing visual on it, you need to tell your designer something like, "This page is really text-heavy, can we add some design elements that support the text and break it up a little visually?" That works much better than, "It's just too dull. Something's missing."
  2. Potential customer/end user concerns. If you have an audience that isn't tech savvy, and your designer wants to take an unorthodox approach to your site's navigation, it makes sense to tell them that it might make a frustrating experience for your end users.

Don't EVER say these things to your designer

Any of these phrases (or anything similar to these phrases):

    1. "We need it to look more edgy."
    2. "It just needs to pop! Can you make it pop more?"

These are the worst things you can tell a designer, because they don't mean anything. Do you tell a chef you want your food to be edgier? No. You tell them that you like things salty, or sweet, or to have different textures – things that are quantifiable. The same holds true for design. Asking for a design with more "pop" is the equivalent of saying, "I don't like it, and I'm not going to give you any direction because I actually don't know what I want."

If you want an "edgier design" you'd better have some examples or some specific elements that you feel make a website "edgy," or you're going to be paying through the nose if your designer works hourly... or your website won't be finished until 2035.

  1. "I want it to look like our old website." This one always blows my mind. I've been on projects where we diligently interviewed members of an organization, pored over years' worth of user data and came up with a working plan of what the website needed to do, and then handed it to a designer who brought it to life exactly as it should have been – only to hear this dreaded phrase. If you're averse to change, why are you paying someone to build a "new" website? You can always go buy some billboards...
  2. "I just don't like it." Another meaningless phrase that helps no one. Look, we all have our own personal preferences, but designers design for a living. If you did some due diligence the company/designer you're working with has a track record of making websites that work. Just because you personally don't like it doesn't mean the site won't work exceptionally well for you customers and your business. Unless you're your own target market, it's best to get some objective, outside opinions from your target market before throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

I've wanted to write this blog post for years, and I'm glad Nicholas Creative gave me the forum to do so. What I want web design customers to realize is a few basic points I suppose: First, make sure your feedback and criticisms are customer focused and actionable. Secondly, separate your personal feelings from the aesthetics – they're the expert, that's why you're paying them! Keep these simple tips in mind as you go through your next web design project and I bet you'll have a much smoother process and a better end result.

About the author

Adam Henige is a managing partner at Netvantage Marketing and manages their office in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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