How To Work With a Designer During the Website Redesign Process

We have revamped numerous websites for small businesses. Some went really well and some had plenty of bumps. While I will be writing this to companies which are currently seeking a web design agency for their needs, the content included is also applicable to agencies looking to better their customer relations. When there is conflict or confusion between an agency and a client, it is rarely the fault of just one of the parties.

Since I am talking about updating a current site, I am assuming that you currently have an existing website in some fashion. While redesigning a website and building one from the ground up aren’t completely different in a lot of respects, they do differ in a lot of key points. Also, I will assume the traditional design process will be used. If your site receives around 100 visitors a day and you are looking to refresh it, Growth Driven Design might be a better option for you.

But let’s start at the beginning –

The Website Redesign Process Begins with Preparation

So you have a website and for one reason or another, it needs to change. It could be for technical reasons, maybe the aesthetics have worn out their welcome, or maybe there was just something about it that bugged you and finally, you can’t stand it any longer.

Whatever the reason may be, before you start talking to agencies, try to nail down the specifics about what you want to be changed. Now, this doesn’t really mean which colours you want the new site to have or finding another website that you want it to look like. You need to prepare information that will help the designer during the process. Those are:

What absolutely needs to change?

This is the new functionality you want to add, the new branding, or the thing that visitors always complain about. This is the driving force behind the desire to change your website and the reasoning behind it. This quick question might also reveal how important (or not!) your desired website redesign is.

What is the main purpose of the website?

Is it to get leads, be a place of information for your customers, or is it a portfolio of work? No matter the size, each business website has a single, main purpose even if the website achieves many things.

With these two questions prepared, you can get your designer off to the right start. They most likely have had experience with what works and what doesn’t for the type of website you have. The designer can then take that experience and make it fit around your desire to change to create a better end product.

Trust your Designer. Trust your Client.

Which brings me to the second point. A good designer’s experience is important and valuable so don’t be dismissive of their feedback or suggestions – which are things you should be asking for and considering. This isn’t to say that you should accept any suggestions as ‘must have’ changes but do take the time and try to see it from your designer’s point of view. After all, their expertise is why you hired them in the first place.

It is also important to listen to their time estimates, and then add some extra time to that. There are always things that come up and the designer might even go a bit lower in their estimate to help them get your business. Websites take time, and they almost always take more time than either party anticipates. Even though you already have a base website, this will probably not cut down on time.

Likewise, a good designer will have the patience and care to work with a client that might not know a lot about how websites work. As a website designer, you have spent the better part of your professional life studying and working in the field and you can’t expect someone who hasn’t to know everything you do. It is your job to be realistic and supportive of your client’s wishes and be able to steer them away from certain decisions – but only if you honestly believe in them.

The goal here is to work towards a truly collaborative relationship where the expertise of both parties come together and create a wonderful website! It isn’t always easy and often times both parties get frustrated for one reason or another, but that shouldn’t prevent you from trying. The  entire process works best when both parties are happy, of course.

In the end, if you do not trust your designer, then you need to look at how you chose them to work with. 

Have Designs Ready Before Starting

Chances are you are doing a lot of visual changes to the website and it is very helpful for the designer to be as clear on these as possible before they start work. You might want to add a carousel here, a contact form there, and have a rainbow run down the side so tell your designer that. Better yet, prepare some sketches or find visual examples of how you want the website to look.

One of the worst things that a client can do is be very vague with what they want changed. It makes it really hard to quote because we don’t know what work will be involved. It also makes the project take longer because if the client does not have a clear idea in their head of what they expect. It means there will be a lot of going back and forth as we try to accommodate their wishes.

Now, if you are honestly not sure what you want but you know you want a change, you can leave it in the designer’s hands. No matter how good the designer is though, they will never be able to match the product to the vague image you have in your head unless there is some direction.

Try to Limit Your Feedback In Chunks

When you give feedback to the designer or agency during the redesign process, try to do so in sizeable chunks and try to limit the amount of feedback emails and communication. I say this not because you should trust the designer or agency you hire blindly and just let them do their job, but because there is nothing worse than a steady uninterrupted stream of feedback. If things are constantly changing from the agreed upon plan, it will take more time than planned to finish. If the designer is constantly receiving changes and updates, it will distract them from their work. It is better to do feedback in rounds. Doing so might seem to take longer, but in reality it will save time and sanity from both parties.

It is better to be mindful of the feedback so things on the site don’t constantly change. Also, websites often have parts that are dependent on each other, so by grouping your feedback into chunks the agency can best manage their time and move forward. If feedback comes piecemeal, they might have to retroactively change elements on the site to accommodate your wishes.

Sometimes your designer might push back on your suggestions because they might be impractical, go against best practices, or are not good for the UI (User interface – how visitors work with your website). In such cases, it is important to consider what the designer is saying and use their experience as a resource.

Keeping your feedback in chunks will also be less distracting for the developers. And remember to be as clear as possible. The less time you two have to explain things the more time you have to work on your business and the more time the developer has to make your website redesign great.

Flipping the Switch

Before you take the site live, make sure everything is as it should be. A good agency would have set up a staging server, a kind of test server, to create your the new website on. Now they will need to replace the old one with the new one.

For a smooth process, ensure that your agency has all the necessary data about your domain and server before you proceed. Be on hand during the switch to help provide any support and testing required. It might be a good idea to brush up on some of the more technical aspects of hosting to be able to respond quickly in case there is an issue.

After this, your new site should be ready to go.

Hiring an agency for a website redesign project can be daunting if you don’t already know and trust someone to do the job. Even so, these projects can be potential land mines for complications and tension. To help reduce both of these factors, treat your agency more like a partner and less like an employee. Bringing them into the fold will give the designers more freedom to make a superior product and you will get more out of their experience and expertise.