How to Find and Work with a Designer
October 21, 2003
Need to build a Web site? Or do you need to have a Web site created for you? Web designer Kim Hughes took us on a journey of her craft of Web design—from inkling of an idea to finished, useful online product. Following her extensive procedural outline, Hughes led us through issues to think about before starting the design process, and she discussed how to hire a competent designer and work effectively with the designer to achieve the results you want.
Before starting her own business, Hughes was the lead designer at Verio Custom Web Development in Napa where she designed and built over 100 Web sites. Earlier, she worked for an Illinois company where she was responsible for publishing projects, including prepress for the quarterly newsletter, and for the design and production of in-house publications. Hughes is a member of the Graphic Artists Guild and the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.
Working through the summer and fall with BAEF Chair Bonnie Britt, Hughes redesigned new Web pages for the Bay Area Editors' Forum. Hughes was hired through a competitive bidding process from entries submitted by Web designers known to BAEF, and also from requests for proposals that came from an ad placed with the Graphics Artists Guild (GAG). The new design reflects all the content elements of the old site, and adds a topic index. All pages within the site are tied together by a Bay Area theme, with photos of local landmarks and critters. When time allows, BAEF's Web pages will have an interactive aspect allowing members to modify and update their contact information and tell more about their services. This work will be completed by a programmer.
Purpose and Scope
Hughes emphasized the value of pre-planning—really thinking about what you want in a Web site before contacting a designer. Why do you need a Web site? What are you trying to do or show or sell? She suggested making a comprehensive outline in your word processing program to list all of your potential categories, subpages, links, and number of tiers. Nobody likes to drill down deep for information. Hughes defined Web designer versus Web programmer, and explained that programmers can cost a great deal more than designers, and that perhaps you need to consider budgeting for both.
Articulate the Look and Feel
As a client, you know your business better than anyone. A designer can help you take what is important to your business, shape it in a useful, attractive way, and tie in all the pages thematically. Be open to a designer's advice—some colors won't look good on screen, some won't print well. Will your site grow a lot and need frequent updates in the future? If so, it needs to be designed with that in mind. Since most Web pages are not designed to be printed, tell your designer if you want your site to be printed clearly—a "printer-friendly" page costs extra because each page has to be designed twice.
The best way to get ideas of designs that you like prior to meeting with your designer is to look at many sites in your same field and analyze why you like them. What stands out and works for you? Review designers' sites and look at their portfolios. Check out Kim Hughes' portfolio.
We studied step-by-step details of the entire process of building a Web site, from initial consultation with some preliminary sketches you may have drawn, to maintenance updates and marketing in the future. We also learned a bit about how a Web page is technically created. Macromedia's Dreamweaver was recommended by several members as an excellent tool with which to build a Web site.
Hughes then explained her list of "Do's and Don'ts" in content planning. Simple is better and can definitely be designed attractively and effectively.
The most important message of the evening was that planning ahead really counts when designing a Web site. Collect your thoughts and draw sketches of what is most important to you and your business. Make an outline of all the pages and links you desire. Don't waste the designer's time (and your money) by asking the designer to plan your site. A little homework before your first meeting can make your planning go smoothly and sets up a good relationship with your designer, with whom you may continue to work for the life of your Web site.