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Web Design Basics Part 1: Understanding the Brief

Introduction

How you interpret the needs of your client will affect the end result you produce for their approval so it is important you and your client understand each other. It is also important that you don’t just roll out a design idea you had way back when to make another satisfied customer. Take time to get to know your design clients and treat them like individuals – because they are. They have their own ideas they want to have included in their design.

It might be common sense but trying to be as responsive to their initial ideas will lead to you having a fruitful relationship. It is their project after all.

Your responsibility at this stage is to get as much information from your client as you can. Your initial ideas should reflect your client and their company so maintaining your focus and not becoming overwhelmed by your initial ideas is a good start. Remember, your client has chosen you for this project because you are professional and you know your stuff so you should know the right questions to ask. An initial questionnaire for your client is your only tool at this stage. You can conduct this questionnaire in person, over the telephone or you can send your client a copy which they will return with all the right information (hopefully).

Keeping the light on, however dim

Maintain Your Focus

When designing for the web it is important you keep focussed on your current project. The web is a wonderfully dynamic place and is constantly changing, allowing you more and more creativity for user experience.

If your client is in the automotive repair industry it may not sit well with them that you have included a flowery meadow landscape in their home page with pretty butterflies going to where your cursor is to create a unique user experience. Focus is key to staying on track and keeping your customer happy. Keep things related to what your client is about. An effective way to guide your client to the content they want in their site is to design a questionnaire (more on this in a later post).

Similarly, if your client is a jewellery store looking to expand their business with an eCommerce site, a grunge-inspired site will have the opposite effect of what they want to achieve (unless they sell alternative jewellery – but again, your clients are individual).

 

What is the hidden meaning of your client's speech

What is the hidden meaning of your client's speech

Lost Among Words

Your client will undoubtedly have input in their project unless they give you the double-edged sword of absolute design and content freedom. It is important to look in the spaces between words for what your client wants. Get lost in your own thoughts when you’re reading the email from your client. It will help you when it comes to asking questions. The experience in designing for the web the better you will become at asking important questions at this stage. One instance could be this:

Client: I want a website that looks like urldoesnotexist.com
You: I haven’t seen it. Could you describe it?
Client: It is red and uses black lines a lot.
You: What else do you like about it? Are there any features you would like included in your site?
Client: Emm…I like the layout and stuff.
(And so on)

The more you ask questions of your client the better your understanding will be of their needs and you will meet their specifications.

The Initial Design Client Questionnaire

A questionnaire is an effective method for generating content for your client’s site. If crafted properly it can be a great help in saving time from writing content yourself. Be careful of asking the same question in the same way too many times. It is generally good practice to ask questions in different ways to get more information from your client. An example of this that you will see in our template questionnaire is asking your client “What content do you want on your site?” then asking later “What content do you NOT want to appear in your site?”. If anything, this type of questioning makes your client think seriously about their content and appreciate the difficulty in writing sound content.

At this initial stage it saves you doing extra work later down the line when your client grinds your design process to a halt because they cannot provide images. Sadly, this happens too often in the industry and either stock photography is used or, if you’re the extra-mile sort, you take pictures yourself. I haven’t done the latter personally but designers are just crazy sometimes.

Here is our template Web Design Client Questionnaire for your inspiration. We change this to suit our clients’ businesses (again, we specialise in unique experiences for our customers).

Think about how your client will complete the questionnaire. Are they old enough to not know how to work an email and text editor? If so, will they need to be sent a hard copy to write on? Be sure to think about these seemingly little details because they can make a large difference and consume time in your design process.

I Understand the Brief Now. What Next?

You should now have a understanding of the hardest part of the design process – the design brief. If you listen to what the specifications they give you and ask the wight questions at the right time you will have a healthy and  functional relationship with your client.

The next phase is drafting an initial specification that outlines what your client expects of you and shows your client that you understand their needs.
Getting your initial client specification is difficult because it involves a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between you and your client with questionnaires and impromptu telephone calls. The difficulties you encounter here will pay off in the long run as you refine your design solution (more on the initial specifications in our next post – Part 2: Drafting Your Initial Specifications).

August 31st, 2011 by | Leave a comment

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