Web Projects & Small Business

What to Expect When Your Small Business Needs a New Website or a Redesign

BooksWhen you work with a web services company, it’s always nice to know what to expect and how you can save yourself time and energy. We’ve put together some tips to help you set realistic expectations and better manage your end of the process.

Web Project Logistics

  • Expect to sign a contract
  • Expect to have a timeline included in the contract and take it seriously.
  • Make sure you will be available when it is time for you to give feedback.
  • Be aware that missing your deadline may bring the whole process to a screeching halt.

Your web services company will be juggling many projects at once, so just be aware that a 2 day delay in your response could easily result in a much longer project delay. Why? Because all those other projects are still going on and if they meet their timeline, then your project moves to the back of the line if you miss yours. Of course if you are paying astronomical sums to be the sole client you won’t have to worry about any of this, but most small businesses are not in that position—they are in the queue and must act accordingly.

Web Project Participation

Listen to the experts. If you hired a web services professional then commit to listening to their advice and accept that there are likely to be things you don’t understand along the way. The good news—you don’t need to understand the technicalities, but you should expect someone to explain basic concepts that will help you make better decisions.

After you listen, ask questions. You also should understand the process and your part in it, but your web pro shouldn’t spend too much time explaining technical details if you don’t have the background to understand them.

Most design and development processes require client decisions and a great majority of web projects change along the way as the site comes together. Be aware that the implications of changes in message, direction, color, design, etc. will vary depending on how much work has already been completed. For example, if you decide to change one color on your site it may well create a domino effect causing many other colors to change as well. That isn’t to say don’t request changes, just be understanding when you hear that your requested change will have more implications for design and development than you imagined.

Managing Expectations & Web Design Realities

Why can’t I have that exact color?

No color works alone on the Web, our visual perception changes according to surrounding design and color too. Your designer should stop you from going down the wrong color choice path. Remember that your site is for your target audiences and your favorite color should never be the deciding factor.

Why do my designs look different on different computers?

Ah, technology. When you look at colors on a monitor screen your eye perceives them quite differently than it would on a printed page. Computer monitors are backlit but a printed page is not. Colors that feel vibrant in print can be blinding on a monitor. To make matters more interesting, every monitor displays color slightly differently. I am looking at two identical monitors this very minute (same manufacturer, make, and model—purchased a few months apart) and they each display colors slightly differently even though they are set to the same specifications.

Desktop monitors are also typically capable of higher resolutions than laptop monitors which can also make a difference in the way you perceive colors. A larger screen set to a higher resolution also allows more elements on the page to be visible at once which can change visual perception. It is crucial to remember that your site design is like an ecosystem; you may not notice all the components simultaneously but they are all working together to create your website environment.

Why can’t my design flash and spin? Isn’t it your job to implement my vision?

When it comes to a disconnect between the client’s preconceptions and a web professional’s advice, it is usually a matter of shouldn’t rather than can’t. If your audience won’t be wooed by flashing and spinning (and few are on a business or professional site) then resist the urge to replicate some other site you thought was cool either last week or last decade.

I will never forget one client who sold expensive professional services to large companies, but wanted a site just like a trendy restaurant—loud music that automatically started on the home page, a flash intro with a long load time, and components of the site that never stopped moving or distracting visitors. Needless to say, what worked well for the restaurant conveyed exactly the wrong impression to the client’s intended target audience so we had to work through the friction created by the client’s initial preconceptions and our professional judgment about their web presence.

It is a web professional’s job to steer you clear of such mistakes and help you make web-savvy decisions—trust them or hire someone else. And don’t be surprised if they dig in their heels and refuse to implement a vision that they know will not give you the results you need. We’ve certainly done it before and will do it again—not to would be unethical. If a client is not web-savvy or technically experienced, then it’s pretty delusional to expect that they will “always be right.” What works for shoe sales will not work for web projects that must answer to much more than one person’s sense of taste, address search engine optimization, and attract returning visitors.

When all is said and done, small business owners will do well to recognize the importance of web project logistics, take an active role in their web project, and realize that technology is accompanied by as many constraints as solutions.