- How can I tell a web developer what I want?
- 2010-02-27: A genuine question and something that I think illustrates a (another) big difference between me and many web developers.
- From what I can see, many web developers just do the web development bit or web development plus graphic design. Or maybe graphic design with a bit of web development. They want you to provide the text (graphic designers are not usually big on text), the photographs, and tell them what pages you want. Then they look around for a template you might like and maybe they adapt it and that's kinda it.
- I really struggle with that. I used to work with a old guy designer (now dead, sadly) who used to say "I didn't design it for you, I designed it for your clients". In other words, it didn't matter whether I liked it his design or not. He hadn't designed it so I'd like it. He'd designed it so my potential clients would get my message and do what I wanted them to do. If I run a maternity shop, the 'look' of that shop isn't going to appeal to me, as a no-kids guy. It has to appeal to mums and maybe dads with kids. Anyway, it isn't about whether anyone likes anything, it's about whether it works. A design is there to do a job, does it do that job? Online, we can measure that.
- So, a website design brief? Sounds limiting. 'Design' -> graphic design. I want to know all about your market. Who do you sell to? Why do your customers buy (from you)? What do they buy? What do you want to sell? OK, you might not 'sell' on your website, but even a local youth club website is still selling the idea of a young person turning up one night.
- If I get good answers to those questions I'm happy. Once I know who I'm trying to reach and influence, I can design the website, write the copy, even take the photographs, and create something that will not only reach those people but be persuasive when they visit. And of course I'm not going to disregard your opinions about the 'look' of the site I develop. Of course you're going to like how it looks (or you won't pay for it and I'll starve).
- So I think the difference is that if you provide the design, copy, photography and structure to a web developer you're really just employing a programmer and the responsibility for whether your website is a success or not is yours. So you'd better know your PageRank from your Twitter. And anyway, if you want to give a really good brief to a graphic designer, they are going to want to know all the ways their design will be used. Which means you need to know what all your web pages are going to do so they can create a grid system that works for you in all cases. In other words, how the site looks depends on what it's trying to achieve which zooms right out to getting into the head of your customer, wondering what they want and how to speak with them and 'reach' them. That's all functionality stuff. What do people interested in clothes and fashion want? Catwalk news, new stock, ways to dress to suit their body shape, etc. How can we deliver that? Twitter through to YouTube via blogging perhaps. OK, so our website design brief is no longer about how our new website is going to look. It's not even about how our brand is going to look across a variety of media and different style pages on our website. How it looks isn't the most important thing. Without content there's nothing to see. It's a lot about how we are going to create that content every day and push it out through all the different media our audience uses.
- With me, you tell me the problem you want to solve, and I solve it for you. You tell me what you know about your business, and I build you something that will grow your business. My favourite goal is to double your online business. My way makes it simple for you. You can just get started right now, you don't need to think about your website, you only need to think about what you live and breathe already .. your business. You can pick up the phone and brief me on that right now. The rest is my problem to solve.
By John Allsopp
Next: Make your website headers small -
Previous: The Yorkshire Mafia -
Back to blog list