The importance of a good brief
A good written brief will help you distill your own thoughts and is a fair starting point – it’s pretty hard to expect the developer to understand your needs if you haven’t got them straight in your own mind first. If a long written brief isn’t your thing, consider sketching out some pages to help guide the briefing session and the required functionality of your site – a good designer will ask you about the desired User Experience (UX) of your site, and this will come from a thorough understanding of your audience. This process will also help you quantify the number of pages, functions needed by each user group to ensure you get an accurate quote which contributes to overall ‘expectations management.’ Be aware that your idea of ‘clean and simple design’ is open to a lot of interpretation. Instead, gather some examples for the kick off meeting and point out what you like and dislike about them to ensure everyone is on the same page. During the kick off meeting, try to provide as much information as you can on your business goals, audiences, services, products and brand guidelines if you have them. Starting out this way will allow you to fairly address project issues ahead of time.
For some organizations, there are no brand guidelines, just a logo, or there are brand guidelines that are somewhat out-of-date. If you are using a new website as an opportunity to evolve your brand, try to get a good understanding of what is considered acceptable in your sector and your brand personality. Again, briefing your designer with examples is a good start. If you don’t have the time or budget to embark on a branding exercise, but want to communicate the organizations personality through your new site, take an hour to describe your organization as if it were a person. Is this person playful? Serious? Sophisticated?
Budget and timeline
It’s a real challenge for a developer to work with a client who doesn't own up to their budget and timeline – and let’s face it, you do know what that is! Be upfront about this and your expectations. Remember you really do get what you pay for, if you can’t afford your dream website or app now, start simple and scale up as your business grows. Map out the important dates and communicate these to your designer to guide the project milestones.
I’ve just had this great idea (aka ‘out of scope’)
Once you have agreed on a budget, timeline etc, and design has begun, you may have some great ideas for additions to your site or app. Developers aren’t fond of doing work for free (the difference between added value and taking advantage is slim), so anticipate that you may have some new ideas you want to implement and allocate some money in the project for contingencies. If it makes you more comfortable, set aside this money but keep this to yourself.
The benefit of a good brief is that it provides the foundation for a creative relationship, but it also allows you to address issues fairly as they occur. I’ve worked with suppliers who do amazing work, yet sometimes, a design just misses the mark. Design is a very personal thing, so be honest, but provide as much information as possible. What didn’t you like specifically? Be as descriptive as possible. This is more useful than an email which says “we are not keen on the design, please come up with another option.” Hopefully many of you reading this are thinking that you would never give such vague feedback!
Trust the experts (sometimes)
Keep an open mind and benefit from the designers previous experience. Obviously you know your own business best, but innovation happens through the diversity of thinking.
Overall, invest time in the process and enjoy it; a new website is a great way to bring your team together through idea-sharing, better communicating your business values and ultimately attracting more clients.