As I disclosed last week, I’ve shared almost the full extent of my own knowledge about creating a new website, so I asked my techie geniuses to share a little advice with you. This week you’ll hear from Carol Poortvliet, graphic artist and website designer extraordinaire. Welcome, Carol, and thank you for your beautiful work on my website!
1. When you begin to work with a new client, what kind of information do you need from them? How do you get that information?
I need a clear vision of their ministry and what purpose their site serves, whether to provide an ongoing avenue of communication with their readers, generate a response from potential clients or to simply provide valuable information.
It’s also helpful to know the site’s target audience. Catering to women is obviously different than catering to men, and appealing to both requires a fine balance of visual elements. The same goes for an audience of varying age groups.
Next I like to get a feel for the atmosphere my client is trying to establish on their site. If the site represents their personal ministry, it should be like opening up their home and inviting their readers/followers in for a cup of coffee. How would they decorative their home (site) to reflect their personality and passion?
And of course, I would need some technical information such as whether or not they have acquired a domain name and hosting service for their site. If not, I can offer suggestions for providers. And I need to know which platform they want to use for the site. I currently design and set up sites for WordPress and Blogger.
These are the main points of information needed to get started. Other information comes as we work through the process. I usually send potential clients a questionnaire that walks them through elements of a site design. This helps them think through their purpose, which content/graphics they have for the site, and what they need to acquire or address in order for the site to be completed.
2. Do you start with a contract or agreement? How do you outline your services with a new client?
Though I own my own design business, I work very informally. I do not use contracts on a regular basis. I’ve been fortunate with my clientele. They are guided by the same moral compass and I haven’t run into any issues. But I will provide a contract for any client that feels more comfortable having my services in writing. I communicate mostly by email, though sometimes a client will request a phone call to relay their vision. In my initial email I outline my services and set fees. Sometimes I’ll ask for more information from a client in order to provide them with a more exact estimate. I’ll also give my client an estimated timeline and outline my design process so they will know what to expect along the way. I try to keep an open line of communication going with my clients so they will be aware of any roadblocks or concerns that may affect the schedule or outcome of the final product. After all, I work out of my home and around my family’s schedule.
After giving a client a projected start date, I ask them to return their completed questionnaire to secure they spot on my schedule. I then request they provide me with any graphics or content that needs to be incorporated into the site design prior to our start date. This doesn’t mean all site content such as text for every page, but more of an outline of elements that need to be included in the site and where. Obviously if the client wants to include their photo in their site, especially the header, I’ll need that up front. The same goes for any existing logo or imagery that is used in their ministry. Specific page content for support pages (about, speaking topics, resources, etc.) can be provided after the design has been approved.
3. How can a client best help you to realize their vision?
Communicate, communicate, communicate. If they have something in mind, I want to know, no matter how unsure of it they are. I would rather know that a client really wants to incorporate swirls and strongly dislikes the color pink before providing them with a design full of polka dots and hot pink hearts. I understand that some clients really have no idea what they want and are hoping I will come up with something that will knock their socks off. But it’s really helpful to have some point of reference. Clients can peruse other websites and point me to elements or layouts that grab their attention and draw them in. Or they can point out sites that don’t appeal to them at all. This at least gives me a starting point to work toward or away from.
As I said before, it’s important for clients to know their product (ministry) and their target audience. The best clients to work with are the ones who have thought through these concepts and worked out any inconsistencies on their own.
4. How do you work with a client when they have a difference of opinion about direction? A question or a concern?
First I will weigh the significance of the opinion or request when it comes to the overall site. Some small things aren’t as significant in the big picture. But if a client feels strongly about incorporating things that go against basic design principles, I’ll gently explain how I do not think it’s in their best interest to use those elements and redirect them to alternatives. There are rules of design just as there are rules of nature. The client may not have thought through the impact of their choice. If they are not deterred or are hesitant, I’ll provide visual examples because often seeing is believing. In the end, if we can’t come to an agreement, my belief is that the client is always right. After all, it is their site and a reflection of them or their ministry, not me. So I will give them what they want with my blessing.
Carol Poortvliet lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with her husband and two daughters. She has owned her own graphic design business for 15 years. Carol works out of her home while juggling school schedules, dirty clothes and three pets. Fortunately she doesn’t have to do the cooking! She is passionate about spreading the Gospel by helping others to promote their ministries. When she’s not working she enjoys reading, jigsaw puzzles and playing games with her family. And she is always happy with a cup of Starbucks hot chocolate in her hand. You can find Carol online atwww.thedesigndiva.org. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.