After years of working in a company on a team and as a freelancer with clients and their teams, I gained some pretty valuable experience on how to work better with designers, which I share below.
This guide is mainly for business owners and website owners who hire designers, but if you’re a designer maybe you can use some of these points to start a discussion with your own team or as part of an onboarding process for your clients.
My goal is to help you save stress, money, and time, as well as get better results that will benefit your business.
If you feel like your current project has gone sideways, don’t worry. It may not be your fault. The designer’s role is also to guide you, ask the right questions, and help you go through it.
So, here are a few quick tips…
1. Define your goals.
One of the first questions I always ask is, “What’s your goal?” Your designer needs to know what it means for your project to be successful. If you want to redesign your website, is it because you want more sales, you want to educate customers more about your products, or is it to just improve the mobile experience?
Your designer will probably ask you these questions during the initial call so it’s better to be prepared instead of coming up with something off-the-cuff. The rest of the project will be based on this one answer and I’m sure you want to get it right.
2. Prepare your content and materials.
Get prepared to work with a designer. Have your company’s brand assets (if you have that clearly defined) ready to send. This should include your original logo files, colors, typography, illustrations, photos, etc.
If you don’t have any of these, but you want to stick to the current look, contact your previous designer and see if they can help you put it all together. There is a chance your previous designer has a vector format of your logo and high-res versions of your images.
You don’t want to pay another designer to recreate your current logo in vector format and prepare all of your brand assets again.
If you’re going to write your own marketing copy for the website, start gathering that too. It doesn’t have to be final copy, but start putting together some ideas, headlines, product descriptions, etc.
Your designer will help you put that together into pages and give you more suggestions that you can use to write your final copy later.
3. Book the project in your schedule too.
If you’re going to book someone’s time to work on your project, make sure you have a pretty clear schedule too. Try not to book any vacations or conferences during that time. You want to be available to give quick feedback to your designer.
Designers work best when they’re in their flow and the project is fresh and exciting. Don’t let it sit for weeks or your designer will lose their motivation. That’s just the nature of creative people, so if you want your project to be successful, go with the momentum and help the project continue along as smoothly as possible.
Also, if you miss the project window that your designer reserved for you, don’t expect it to be finished anywhere near the estimated timeframe.
4. Don’t say what to do. Say what you want to achieve.
This is one of the most common mistakes that clients make. They try to tell designers exactly what to do. It comes across as instructions and looks like clients want to have input on every single decision.
By doing so, you’re taking away the chance of having someone else’s perspective – the person you are paying – on how to solve your problems and achieve your goals.
Instead of saying, “I want to have the email sign-up box in the sidebar,” say, “I want to get more email subscribers.”
Do you see the difference? With the first sentence, even though it may seem like the right solution to you, you’re giving instructions on what to do. With the second sentence, you’re saying what you want to achieve and giving your designer free rein to be creative and come up with the best solution.
Your designer may come back to you with some ideas and propose a floating email sign-up box in the corner with an incentive to sign up. Perhaps you didn’t even consider that option before.
5. Give constructive feedback.
Try to always give clear feedback in as few words as possible. Get to the point and remember how it’s more important to say what you want to achieve vs. what to do.
If you don’t agree with some of the decisions that your designer made, ask why first instead of just criticizing it. There may be a really good reason why it was designed this way.
I usually leave a lot of notes and comments around bigger ideas in my designs, but there are still certain things that seem natural to me so I fail to explain them. It’s always good to have a chance to defend it before the client makes up their mind and wants to completely change it.
6. Trust your designer.
Don’t hire someone you don’t trust. This is one of the reasons why more experienced designers charge a lot of money for their work. They reduce the risk of your project failing so you can put your faith in them.
Feedback from your team will usually be based on their own taste: “I don’t like blue,” “I like curly fonts,” “I read that the Buy Button should be orange,” etc. This is a recipe for disaster and will turn your design project into a mess.
You can ask for feedback from your team, but don’t let your project turn into a “design by committee.” Ask your team to focus more on the goals than the visual aspects.
Designers are trained to look at your project from your audience’s perspective. They’re trying to put their own subjective opinions aside and look through the eyes of your potential client or user. They make decisions based on research and what worked and didn’t work in their previous projects.