Ten Ways to Stop Scope Creep in Your Web Design Project

scope-creepLet’s face it, web design is not a very predictable service. Sure, the extent of the service is to furnish a working web site (one would hope) along with any hosting and maintenance needed to keep it going. The issue is that the specifics of the project change with almost every client interaction.

Keep in mind this isn’t a problem. Web design must be a flexible and fluid service that changes to the varying needs of the client as well as the quick pace of the internet. What is a problem is scope creep.

Scope creep occurs when a client keeps piling on requests for additions or changes to their project that are outside the scope of the project. Some clients are mindful of this and will explicitly ask if it will cost more. Others, unfortunately, are not this considerate or knowledgeable enough to know when they’re pushing it.

How can you combat scope creep? I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of it completely, but there are some ways to prevent and reduce it.Keep Reading

Why You Should Use Facebook to Connect with Clients

The best part about being a web designer is that I get to keep up with all of the new online tools. It also means I can check Facebook during the day without feeling guilty (right?).

Facebook is a powerful tool. No other tool in the history of human social behavior has been able to give people the mass level of connectedness that Facebook has. You can locate pretty much anyone on the network these days. Hell, both my mom and dad are on Facebook.

You can also find clients on Facebook.

Many people, especially those who lead a nightlife of questionable character, might find this concerning. Facebook is a tool for connecting with friends, not clients, right?Keep Reading

How Far Will You Go for a Client?

The web design client is an interesting being. They are cut from many different clothes, and they come from all walks of life. Some are tech savvy and others seem like they’re stuck in the Stone Age. There are clients who need their hands held during every step of the web design process while there are others who are on top of everything.

No client is ever the same. And each client presents different situations and exercises that can really test your will.

How far will you go for a certain client? What level of service will you provide even if it falls outside the scope of your agreement?Keep Reading

Speeding Up Web Design Projects Before They Begin

Sometimes it seems like a web design project can drag on forever. How often are these delays caused by clients? It could be content, authorization, input or a slew of other things that you’re waiting on from the client. The unfortunate fact is that delays are inevitable.

That’s why you need to prepare.

Preparing before even taking on a project can shave off loads of time. Remember, most web design clients don’t know the ins and outs of the web design process as well as we do. They need guidance and they need to be pushed along.

I’ve compiled my own set of guidelines that I’d like to share for sending web projects down the right path.Keep Reading

Control Your Client Communication

Control Client CommunicationOne of the biggest shortcomings to web design is communication, or lack of it. Most web designers just plain suck at it most of the time (I know I’ve been there).

We’ve all seen it before. Nothing gets done. Milestones are missed, projects aren’t finished and clients aren’t happy. These are the telltale signs of poor communication. Communication is perhaps the most significant part of the web design process, too. You can be the best CSS coder or the most talented graphic illustrator, but if you can’t hone in on your communication skills, you’re at a loss.

How can we be better communicators? These are some of the things I’ve done to improve my own communication abilities.Keep Reading

15 Ways to Make Your Contact Form More Effective

Contact forms are the lifeblood of the internet. They offer the most basic way to communicate with an organization and they’re pretty much here to stay.

While contact forms may be a clumsy way of communicating, they can get the job done. The problem: are they getting the job done effectively?

There are three common problems with contact forms. The first problem occurs when a form is too daunting for a user to complete. Usually, the form is either too long, confusing or asking for information deemed too personal. The second problem occurs when the user does fill out the form but the information provided is not useful. This is typically the result of an ill-prepared form that asks all the wrong questions. The third and final problem is technical in nature. If there’s a problem with the server and the form doesn’t submit correctly, not only could you lose the form data, but you’ll also have one annoyed user to deal with.

How can we improve the effectiveness of our forms? Here are a few guidelines that I try to follow whenever I create a form.Keep Reading

Death and transformation in web design

About 16 days ago I prophesized the death of web design in my oh-so verbose post. In hindsight, I do think many elements of web design are going to die, but I also think in death will be a transformation.

In many regards, web design has not changed significantly since its founding days in the ’90s. Most sites are created as static presences with text that users can consume and perhaps a contact form that can be used to transmit a simple message. This method of communication has become so branded on the internet that it seems almost routine to set it up for any organization.

That’s not a bad thing. Organizations should communicate with people online. The internet offers the ability to communicate with the most people at the cheapest rates.

However, I think web design is due for some death and transformation. No longer can organizations just idly post content. They must engage. They must reach out to their market and actively communicate with people. They must build a brand online that can be accessed, discussed and followed with ease.

Right now, much of the web is passive. There is little interaction and few ways to connect with most organizations.

Web design as a concept won’t die anytime soon, but the methods that have engulfed it will — they must — and a new breed of communication will emerge. I look forward to it.

The death of web design

Ah, web design, good buddy..you’re about to die. That’s right. Web design is on its deathbed. There are no cures or operations that can save it. Web design is dying.

If you’re a web designer and reading this then you’ve probably put down your coffee and asked yourself what the hell I’m talking about. I’m a designer, too, so let me shed some light on the grim death of web design.

Web design started pretty much around 1995 or whenever companies decided it was a good idea to get online. It was the birth of a new level of communication. It was pretty freaking exciting, too (though, at the time, I was 11 and had more pressing concerns such as the release of Independence Day).

As companies scrambled to get online, web design became a new, uncharted avenue for making money. To know HTML, DHTML and JavaScript in those days was like having a PhD, but you didn’t have to pay gazillions of dollars to acquire those skills! So some smart fool started selling these skills.

When you have one guy raking in boatloads of money for something that’s actually pretty easy to do, it catches on. The next guy opens shop and says, “I can do what that guy’s doing and I can do it better.” Now you have new people with new skills and ideas permeating the new found web design industry. It’s pretty cool, especially during the dot com bubble. Imagine gobs of money. Don’t I wish I had started web design back then? That’s a different story.Keep Reading

Who’s the designer? You or the client?

I experienced two separate incidents this week in which I had a client complain about pretty significant things with my designs. Normally, during the mock-up stage, I’m all ears for critical feedback but these complaints surfaced after the sites had been designed and built. I guess that was just the frosting on the cake.

The more important thing is deciding who the designer is on the project. I’m serious. Is it the designer or the client? The client brought the designer on supposedly because they need a web site created. That’s the purpose of the designer and the job they have been paid to do. I can appreciate client input during the design process — in fact I wholeheartedly welcome it — but there comes a point when I just want to say, “Why did you hire me? You’re obviously a very capable designer.”

But then it strikes. Why are they doing my job?

There are a number of reasons I’ve discovered. Sometimes it’s because they’re a control freak and can’t let any detail escape their approval. Other times they just don’t know better. Actually, I guess those are really the only cases I run into.

There are different solutions I apply to these two situations. For the control freak, I have to stroke their ego. It sucks and I hate it, but if it gets the job done, then I’ll do it. These people are typically overbearing and at times annoying. The best way to deal with them is by reaffirming their status and — unfortunately — by running every little thing by them. I try to keep them in the loop every step of the way so that they feel involved and important. Usually, if I do it this way, I don’t get the major complaints at the end of the project. And if I do, I just explain the decision processes that we both went through.

The other type of client who doesn’t know any better just needs a little hand holding. Typically, strong communication and clear explanations of “how it is” will get them to calm down.

Finally, I find it important to just hold my own at times. If someone’s complaining about a design decision I made, I’ll look at them pointedly and say, “Look. This is my job. I designed it this way because I want to maximize the potential of the site. Here is the methodology behind my approach.. yadda yadda..” Well, I wouldn’t say it as bluntly as that, but you catch my drift.

This isn’t about feeling insecure because a client doesn’t like my work. This is about defending my profession and not letting someone who frankly doesn’t know anything about creating web sites take control of the project and destroy it. This is the cold reality of it.

Besides, would you ever tell your doctor how to do their job?

Forget the Details

I just spent nearly an hour trying to get some little piece of code to work. The strange thing is that the code wasn’t that essential and could definitely wait. Nevertheless, I kept chugging along trying to get the damn thing to work. Needless to say, I didn’t get it to work and before I knew it I had lost a good chunk of important time.

I’m the type of person to get sucked into the nitty gritty details of everything. Whether it’s trying to get the right color or tighten a screw just the right amount, I’m all over it. It might be cool that it comes out perfectly except for the fact that it’s a total waste of time. No one cares that there’s a tiny detail out of place. Nobody even notices. Why should I?

The problem with people like me is that we get in our own way. We know that the finer details can wait but our mind isn’t right until it’s correctly implemented. I don’t know, maybe it’s a bit OCD or something.

I just need to keep reminding myself to forget the details. Is that something you can practice?