5 ways to keep your web designer happy (and productive)

Harmony in Design: Five Ways to a Happier and Productive Web Designer

Blog Audio: Read/listen time: 15 minutes


My name is Paul Edwards, I am a Web Consultant and Frontend Developer and I’ve been working in the web industry since 2005. Every day somewhere in the web industry projects fail, clients get unhappy and web designers get mistreated. So, lets have a look at 5 ways you can keep your web designer happy (and productive).


While it is anecdotally reported that an unhappy workforce is a productive workforce this is most definitely not the case when you are working in creative industries.

The joy with working with creatives is that they genuinely want to do the best for you. They are heavily invested in providing a product or service for you that not only helps you reach and surpass your goals but because their future income depends upon your happiness.

Creatives tend to use their recent work as evidence for gaining new work. This shared goal sets you up for a situation that is geared from day one to be focused upon your project’s success.

So, why then, if all parties want to succeed do so many web design projects fail to meet their potential? Why do so many business/creative relationships flounder and fail?

Sometimes poor matching of a client to creative can contribute towards a breakdown in the relationship. Sometimes management by committee or scope creep can cause irreconcilable issues.

So, with the happiness of your chosen creative established as a priority in helping you achieve your goals, let’s take a look at the top ways that you can keep your web designer on-side. Or conversely, if you wish to look at the negative, this will also explain how to alienate and stress your creative to breaking point.

1. Pay. On. Time.

Despite the fact that your chosen creative is selling their skills and/or the reaching of a specific goal, the relationship you have built is so very important.

More than in some industries, creatives are often very personally invested in their work. Whilst being personally invested in a project is in many ways a very positive thing and should not diminish the level of service you receive from a creative worker sometimes the creative process can be derailed.

Nothing derails a creative like not being paid on time. If you respect the team you have chosen to work with and you want then to respect you, please pay them on time.

If you fail to pay your creative on time you are directly expressing your lack of respect for them. As much as creativity is a process or system and not magic, nothing stifles creativity as much as feeling as though their work and time isn’t respected. Clients that respect their freelancers will find that more often than not they will get better service, prompter service and that the person being employed will go the extra mile for them.

Being a freelancer is a financially precarious job at times and if you look after your chosen web designer you will reap the rewards of that. Also, let’s not forget that if you don’t pay promptly you may find that you not only lose the goodwill of that person but that shortly after the conclusion of your project you may find that the person you didn’t pay promptly will not want to work for you again, so who is going to support your website in the future?

2. Provide a single point of contact with a decision-maker

I have been freelancing since 2005 and in that time I have found that where a project has run into issues there have been a few common causes. One of the most significant reasons for a project stalling or spiralling out of control from scope creep is when the project is being ‘managed by committee’.

Freelancers and agencies alike will fall over themselves to tell you stories about this situation and more often than not, they will go a little something like this:

The web designer is initially contacted by one person who discusses the job, provides a project brief and asks the designer for a quote for carrying out the required works. At this point we are at the point of maximum potential, the designer is fired up and excited for the potential of a new challenge and the client is happy to have found someone that they get on with.

The quote is agreed and the project start date comes around and the designer eagerly puts some questions to the client and gets some rapid feedback. Mockups get worked on and signed off by the same person who as originally contacted the designer who dutifully produces an initial concept site which the client has a look at.

Things go a little quite. The normal pace of response has changed and the designer feels a bit confused so contacts the client asking for feedback and gets a response a little like this:

“Thanks for the work you carried out on the site, I’ve run it past (insert name of person or persons here) and they don’t like (insert arbitrary point here that has no impact upon the effectiveness of the page in reaching its goals)”

Suddenly you realise that the person you have been talking to all along isn’t the decision-maker or lacks the confidence or skills to make a decision on their own without some form of validation from another person or a committee. Your project is now doomed.

Doomed may be a bit of an exaggeration but the project has certainly hit a major obstacle that will require rapid and firm intervention to correct and to keep the project on track.

Management by committee encourages the following:

  • causes every decision to take longer be a significant margin
  • increase the chance of having to make multiple changes to the same ‘thing’ often
  • makes every decision subjective based upon personal tastes rather than the performance against an agreed goal
  • makes it difficult to get sign-off on a project as any personal disagreements in the committee cause cyclical arguing
  • almost guarantees that someone at the client company will be unhappy with whatever solution is finally implemented because they were overruled and they didn’t like that solution

Management by committee guarantees unhappiness missed targets and goals not fulfilled. It can very negatively impact relationships and often leads to a company or designer deciding not to maintain the relationship past the final payment being made.

So how do you avoid management by committee?

Both sides are responsible for this. A designer can point out before starting a contract that a single point of contact with a decision-maker is a requirement of the contract. Secondly, the client can work out its internal politics and procurement procedures before contacting a web designer.

If you find that the longer you work with someone the more thier prices go up, you may be trying to manage them by committee and they are taxing you for being difficult to work with.

Adherence to the above will make for a more successful project and a happier client/designer relationship.

3. Keep to one round of snagging

Snagging is a term that is used to describe the process of finding and raising for resolution, errors on the website.

I give my clients access to a full version of their new website prior to it going live to allow them to ensure that there are no errors that have crept in either copied and pasted from their own copy or that may have been introduced by myself.

While it is very important to carry out snagging not only to squash any errors that have been found it also gives a client an opportunity to make any changes to copy that may be required to match the time and date of release.

When snagging goes bad

In itself snagging isn’t a problem at all, it is actually a really important part of the project and it ultimately leads to the finalisation of the project and that magical moment of sign off, payment and putting the project live.

An exciting time, so why can it be bad?

Snagging can go bad when it isn’t confined to a single round of edits. Most often this is caused by a lack of thorough examination by the client and errors keep being added to the list drip by drip. This elongates the process and gives the effect of multiple rounds of snagging. Not only does this take considerably more time, it’s not likely to have been included in your original quotation for the work. This then makes the designer unhappy and causes project delays.

If you combine this failure with management by committee you can create a never-ending cycle of edits, updates and changes which will ultimately lead to someone saying ‘no’. Or enforcing some kind of cut off or severing of the changes from the contract leading to additional costs.

Although reasonable, additional costs then cause negative feelings with the client and can sour the relationship.

Remember, a website is organic, changes can be made at any time and very minor errors and content changes are not always a reason not to progress with sending a site live. Websites can be updated at any time.

4. Be timely in providing content and images

It may have been written into the contract between the client and the web designer that all written content and images would be provided by the client to the designer in a timely manner.

Although it is possible to build a website using placeholder text and placeholder images this is far from ideal and if you have employed the services of a solid web designer they will refuse to do this.

Why? because if you want pages which are designed to work well, designed to be easy to digest and which improve the chance of conversions a web designer will need to design the page to the content.

It is surprising to me that still, some people think that web designers build pretty boxes to put content into. They don’t, or at least they shouldn’t.

To allow your web designer to do a good job they need your content first. Before they start work. If you don’t provide content in a timely fashion you start to introduce delays to the project. If you are delaying by a considerable period you may find that you start to trigger additional charges, pausing of the contract (meaning changes to the projected ‘go live’ date or in worse case scenarios, cancellation of the contract.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of success

Remember that we discussed that web designers future work and success is dependent upon doing a good job for you? If you don’t provide your designer with what they need to deliver on the agreed goals of the project, you are setting them up to fail in their task. The sad reality is that if they fail in their task, you fail in yours and as the last completed job by that designer, you affect their ability to attract that next job.

A web designer’s success is so tightly aligned with yours that if you don’t give them what they need they will get frustrated and cranky because they really do want to help you reach your goals. It is more than that though. Delivering content on time will allow the momentum the project has gathered to be retained and harnessed. Pauses in projects lose this momentum, people forget what they were doing and it takes time to get back into a project after it has been shelved for a while.

5. Don’t ask them to make the logo bigger

OK, this last point is both something to have a laugh about but to also take seriously. ‘Making the logo bigger’ is something that people in the web industry laugh about. A lot. They also talk about it with despair, disbelief and confusion. The reasons for this are many and I hope this short explanation will help you understand why unless your designer has done something silly or damaging to your brand, you shouldn’t ask them to “make the logo bigger”.

So why shouldn’t you make your logo bigger?

The answer to this question is in the majority of cases an answer that a client really doesn’t want to hear. So, here we go. Customers don’t care who you are…

There, I said it. In the majority of situations, a visitor is attempting to complete some kind of task efficiently, purchase something or gain some kind of knowledge. Have a super large logo on the page does the following things:

  • Pushes all content down the page and potentially past ‘the fold’. This reduces the visibility of content and reduces the chances of visitors engaging with the website and then going on to purchase something or complete some kind of call to action.
  • Competes for attention over and above the content on the page. Suggesting that your company is more important than the visitor. The visitor and the task they are trying to complete should be a bigger priority than ramming your branding down their throat.
  • Implies stupidity on the part of the visitor. They found your company in the search results, listen to an advert or read about you somewhere. Then they either typed in your website address (URL) or clicked on the link which let’s be honest, likely is the name of your company. There is no need to let the visitor know yet again where they are. It’s kind of patronising

If you feel that you really should have a huge logo on a page, why not write down the names of the companies you most admire, direct competitors in your industry. Go to their website and have a look at the size of their logo and branding. The likelihood is that these companies have done the research, made the mistakes, studied analytics and come to the conclusion to minimise branding for a very good reason. I see no reason not to copy them.

Let’s not forget the biggest reason (in the context of this blog posts title) for not making your logo bigger.

Your chosen web designer has made the logo the size that it is for good reason. The size of your logo has not been decided randomly on the spur of the moment, it has been worked out to ensure that it balances well with your page content, that it is obvious and readable without interfering or dragging visitors eyes away from more important things like calls to action.

The reason that your logo shouldn’t be made bigger is that then you are overstepping the boundaries of your part in the relationship. You are the client, they are the designer. They are trained, knowledgeable and practised in optimising page layouts to help you reach your goals. If you impose such changes on your designer you ignore their experience, their qualifications and all the good reasons that they may struggle sometimes to explain to you. You become the designer and you reduce them to being an assembly line. This doesn’t mean that you can’t make suggestions or discuss goals or problems. Talking about these things is really important to your designer, but please let your designer do what they are best at, helping you succeed.

If you really insist, your designer will likely carry out your wishes. After all, they do want to get paid, but you may find them less willing to work with you in the future.

So there we are. 2,524 words about how to keep your web designer happy and productive. If you would like a bit more help, feel free to call me on 01903 527927 and I would be happy to help.