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Amid rapidly changing technology, evolving user habits, and fresh design approaches, creating a website to suit your business needs is a demanding undertaking. While hiring an outside agency to redesign your company’s digital presence is often the best way to prevent your organization from drowning in these details, the development process can introduce new complications and potential headaches that come with any collaborative relationship.
As is so often the case in collaborative efforts, these issues often come down to communication. When working with a web design agency, you can head off schedule breakdowns and unexpected costs by establishing a clear roadmap to success with your agency. And like any map focused on finding a destination, those are most effective once a common language is established.
Before an agency can begin work on your web project, both you and your creative partners must understand of the scope of the effort. Too often, companies with digital design needs will approach an agency requesting a redesign then respond with confusion or worse when the firm outlines comprehensive changes to the site’s layout, structure, and functionality.
For most agencies, projects that involve only superficial changes to an existing design are called a reskin. Typically focusing on changes to a website’s colors or other visual elements, reskins make no changes to the user experience or the backend structure underneath. Put in cooking terms, a reskin involves making changes to the frosting on a cake. A redesign, by contrast, modifies the foundation and fundamental traits of the cake itself. In establishing your design goals with an agency, it’s important that both sides remain on the same page. That begins with a clear delineation of which areas of your site are open to reconstruction.
Before any design project begins, the terms an agency uses to refer to the attendant parts of a website should be defined, explained, and distributed within your organization.
Digital design is a broad, rapidly changing industry, and the terminology often varies. What one agency labels as site navigation another may break down even further into primary navigation or utility navigation. Even those definitions can be shared by multiple design firms but in reference to different components, and that doesn’t take into account the various names that may be used outside the design industry.
An initial onboarding process between you and your agency can help establish a clear outline for a design project’s success both in terms of language and stages of development. These sorts of conversations or workshops can help define technological terms such as site platforms or widgets being used, or any resources you are sharing with the agency for use on a project.
An inclusive and comprehensive conversation between your company’s stakeholders and your website design firm must takes place early to establish a solid foundation for the work ahead. That way, you can feel empowered to ask about specific details of the project and its surrounding terminology. But for the best results, this conversation should be an ongoing effort.
From the design to the development effort, consistent communication is a vital tool to streamline development and prevent confusion on both sides of the engagement. For instance, if site terminology is still vague during the design feedback stage, the designers will need to schedule additional conversations to clarify your needs. These can lead to development delays and, ultimately, additional costs.
You choose to work with an agency because they are knowledgeable and successful in their industry. If at every step of a project you receive assurance around what’s being done on your project and why, the design process becomes both clearer and easier. As a result, your collaborative relationship grows stronger and establishes a pattern of success.
To ensure the best the results for your web design project, each part of your organization should feel engaged with the process. In addition to establishing routine check-ins with your agency, you can also head off future surprises by keeping your internal stakeholders up to date at every stage.
With regularly scheduled updates, you can minimize the introduction of new input that often upends a web design project’s progress. The more everyone understands the effort undertaken to develop a given page or its layout, the more likely every concern can be addressed in a timely way. Through consistent communication, your project can stay on track and on budget.
If you and your agency aren’t on the same page early, then new variables can be introduced at a stage where insignificant changes no longer exist.
Through no fault of your own, you might suggest a “small tweak” to a design at a late stage in development. Whether the web project involves a reskin or a more holistic undertaking, these kinds of late changes can have a big impact on scheduling and costs.
These are difficult conversations if your agency has not been strategic in defining its process and its details. If your agency can proactively identify the gray areas where you may be unclear on what later adjustments entail from a development standpoint, then these conversations can happen sooner.
No agency has the time and resources to make every client an expert in their field over the course of a project. However, with an open and inclusive approach to communication, they can help you feel invested in the design with the added security of knowing your project is in good hands.
Hiring a web design firm does not promise the additional benefit of a design education. However, if the dialogue surrounding the development process remains clear, then you should learn what goes into an effective design and, crucially, about the agency you hired.
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