The Top 4 Things Your Web Design Agency Doesn’t Want to Hear and How They Impact the Web Design Process

We’re very accommodating as a web design agency. We try very hard to work with clients on everything from their budgets to their personal preferences when it comes to design (if we could walk our clients’ dogs, we would do that, too).

While we are extremely flexible, we do have a web design process we work with and it is quite extensive. We’ve developed this over the years to produce great designs that marry our clients’ goals with what works on the web. As I move through this process with each of our clients, I’ve come to learn some red flags that are signs of future trouble (AKA: scope creep).

Whether you’re working with Atilus, considering working with Atilus, or are working with another agency, I’ve compiled a few of these red flags and how to handle them in a way that doesn’t cause your project to go over time – and over budget.

#1: A Good Start

Client Says: “It’s a good start.”

What Your Agency Hears: “I like this, but it doesn’t meet all of my expectations.”

Potential Problem: We consider this a full approval and move forward with development. Once it’s reached development, client voices his/her concerns and we have to redo work that has already been done.

In all the time I’ve spent helping clients build their websites, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this. It’s a wonderful compliment and we absolutely love to hear that we are on the right track, but our goal is to provide our clients with a design that helps to grow their business AND that they love. We want to provide more than a good start; we want to hear that you love what you see and that there is nothing that we missed. It doesn’t hurt your web designer’s feelings to hear feedback – we welcome this (in reasonable amounts, of course).

#2: Shelving Items

Client Says: “We don’t have to finalize this now – let’s proceed and talk about this later.”

What Your Agency Hears: “I don’t feel like getting into all the details now and will remember this later.”

Potential Problem: We move forward without fully discussing a key part of the future website only to discover that we will need to scramble to clarify and include said item prior to launch (which usually results in delays).

When we start a new website, we hold our Client Kickoff Meeting. This lasts anywhere from 1-3 hours and quite frankly, it can be overwhelming at times. There is so much to cover, including:

  • Business overview
  • Goals (for the business as a whole and the website)
  • Current marketing
  • Design preferences
  • Special functionality requirements

In covering all of these, it can be easy to move over items that don’t seem to be high priority at the time. Much of the conversation would rather be focused on design, which is great, but there WILL be items at the beginning we will need to clarify up front to avoid delays closer to launch.

For example, we once had a client that needed forms built into the site. We had the client in the room with us during our kickoff meeting, but skipped over specifics of those forms. As we got closer to launch, the topic came up again and launch was delayed because of the back/forth on these forms. Had we discussed this in detail at the very beginning, the site would have been able to launch on-time. (Lesson learned!)

#3: The “Wow” and “Pop” Factors

Client Says: “I want my site to have people saying “wow!” OR “Can you make it pop?”

What Your Agency Hears: “I want to look a certain way, but I don’t have specific words to describe it.”

Potential Problem: We design a page that we think will wow or pop. However, it doesn’t have the same effect as what you were expecting. (Design is subjective after all.) We know that every client wants an amazing, attractive and website that “wows” the designs we’re presenting were our best efforts at marrying that end goal with your audience’s needs, and web conventions.

Although more rare than some of the other comments on this list, this is something we hear all too often. I love to hear clients talk about what they like in terms of design and certain functionality features, however, hearing “wow” or “pop” (and only this) can be frustrating. What we think will wow users may not have the same effect for you. One way you can help your agency to describe the “wow” factor you’re looking for is to pull other examples. Obviously, we would never copy another design. However, if we can get examples, we can pull the elements you liked about it and integrate them into your own unique design.

For example, if you were to say you like how the menu stays at the top on Babcock Ranch’s website, we would know that you’re a fan of a sticky navigation bar – and can incorporate that into the design. Or, if you were to say that you think the large video makes it pop, we would marry that with a full width video background.

#4: Simple?

Client Says: “This is super simple to do. My last web designer did this for $500.”

What Your Agency Hears: “This should be simple since it’s on the web, but I don’t understand what could go into this and am making a false assumption.”

Potential Problem: We talk about this simple thing that needs to be done, only to find out that it will take us 10-15 hours to complete – eating into project time/budget.

In web design/development, sometimes things are simple. However, more often than not, when it’s assumed to be a “simple” task, it can often turn out to be not so simple – causing extra time/money to be used in the long run. I’m guilty of this as well. It wasn’t until I was working hand-in-hand with our developers on a daily basis that I learned the simplicity and complexity of certain features.

The solution to this is us asking tons of questions. For example, we had a client ask us once to integrate PayPal with their site for purchases. Simple, right? Well, it can be. But here are some questions we will ask:

  • What is it that users will purchase?
  • Will there be quantities available or just 1?
  • Is there any process that happens after the purchase is complete?
  • What fields will be required?

This is just a small sample of what we usually ask, but we ask these questions to better help us gauge what we will need to do. I typically compare this to that of a quote from any other professional service company. Until we know the FULL scope of what you’re looking for, we can’t promise something will be simple.

BONUS: Quick Changes before Launch

Client Says: “We’re almost ready for launch, but can you fix this one paragraph?”

What Your Agency Hears: “We’re almost ready for launch, but I have this one fix that will likely turn into more fixes and will delay launch further.”

Potential Problem: We make this change to be flexible and accommodating, but we learn that the one last fix is not just one – and it’s not the last.

During our initial kickoff meeting, this is something I stress to clients: we welcome change. We want our clients to be 100% satisfied with the final product we’re providing. However, we have a process in place that allows us to do this. Our process includes a number of chances for revisions, including:

  • Designs – 2 rounds of revisions
  • Content – 1 round of revisions
  • Development – 1 round of revisions

After that last round of development revisions, we typically don’t accept additional revisions. This is not to be rigid or difficult; we have this in place for the exact reason above. We’ve developed our process to give clients a plenty of time to find things they want to change on the website. Once that last round of revisions is complete, anything that comes after that can (and should) wait until after launch.

A website will never be perfect and this is something we go over with every single client. There will always be improvements to be made and again, we are happy to make them. However, when it begins to infringe upon the schedule and ultimately, the budget, we try to put on the brakes. There will always be time to revisit after the website is live.

It’s Your Turn: What Can We Change?

We’ve worked very hard in our 10 years to develop a process that will give our clients the best product and best experience. We want nothing more than for our clients to know that we are looking out for what’s best for them and I hope that this post helps you to understand how certain statements can impact an entire project.

As a client, is there anything Atilus or current web design agency can do better? We ALWAYS welcome feedback from our clients. If you have any to share, leave them in the comments below!

Kristen Bachmeier
Kristen Bachmeier
Kristen Bachmeier is Atilus' Client Services Manager and has worked at Atilus for nearly 5 years. She is a Google AdWords Certified Professional, is proficient in SEO and online marketing, and survives daily on excessive amounts of coffee. Day-to-day, she interacts directly with clients and the team to ensure that projects are executed with only our clients' end goals (and happiness) in mind.

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