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Are you a client for any web designer? - This section is for you.

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6. Be prepared to learn about what can and cannot be accomplished with the web. Don't blame your designer for the limitations of the web medium. When your designer explains the differences between print and web design, listen to them!

7. Understand the various features the development team may need to implement in order to build your site appropriately. For instance, creating a form is much more complex than simply pasting a “Submit” button on the page—it needs careful planning and often a specialized programmer. Building an online catalog is not as easy as creating a print catalog—it needs database integration, special design, and also a specialized programmer. Developing an automatic response form that puts a visitor on your mailing list and sends them a newsletter takes time and programming. (Programmers are often more expensive than designers!)

8. Be frank about what you like and don't like about the development plan, site architecture, or design ideas your designer has created for your review. Don’t half-heartedly approve of something you don’t like, thinking you will have your designer change it later. After you sign-off on the plan and the actual development work begins, you will most likely be charged for any changes and additions you want to make. Your designer needs to hear your honest feedback right away so they can make changes that will satisfy your concerns. It’s also possible that the creative ideas your designer recommends have merit and will make sense to you once they've explained their rationale.

9. Get it in writing. As we mentioned in #2 above, you should get a development plan and schedule in writing. This is very important! The written document is for your benefit as well as the design team’s benefit. The only way both you and the design team can work together is with clear documentation about what each party expects. The development plan should include exactly how many pages are to be created; any features that will need programming; specialty services such as original illustrations, video, music, or professional photography; any automated features; interactivity; etc. Do not expect to add pages or features later without extra cost!

10. Put it in writing. There are so many variables and possibilities and there are often so many additions and changes along the way that the only chance of maintaining clear communication is in writing. If you have design changes, editing changes, conceptual changes, etc., do not rely on a phone conversation! Both you and the design team must have something in writing so if it ever becomes necessary to mediate an issue, you won't have to argue about what you said and what she said and what everyone thought everyone else actually meant.

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Whew. So we make it sound like it's a pretty big deal to get a web site developed, don't we? Many sites, of course, are perfectly suited to small, static, simple pages. But we have found that the Client-Designer Relationship, even on small sites (and even—or especially—if the designer is a relative of yours) are much less fraught with anxiety and hard feelings if everyone is clear about everything from the get-go. Bad communication can destroy any relationship.

So educate yourself, be clear, and have a great time helping to create your great site!

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