A number of issues that new designers come accross is how to deal with clients to make sure they get the required amount of company information to be able to start a design brief. Often clients will say: “We want this to reflect our business” without actually giving any details of how many pages they need, what colours, layout of the page, etc. The tricky thing is to get the clients to give you the copy for the website so you can build a design template for them, so they can see what it could look like without having to use the latin replacement text often used by designers. Then of course is the issue of payment, how much do you charge, when should you invoice etc.
When first dealing with clients always ask them who their competitors are, either get this by email or phone them and write it down, then go and investigate these sites and come up with some first design ideas based on a section of what you think is the best bits from the sites. Check with the client if they have a logo and if they have guidelines that need to be followed. This would then give you the colours and possibly fonts that the company uses for print media that you can use to make the website designs look corporate and in keeping with the company.
Before you do any major work, submit an cost proposal to the client (fixed package rate is normally preferred rather than hourly rates), always as a rule of thumb ask for 50% upfront, in case it goes tits up, you haven’t lost on the time you spent doing the designs for them. Once you have this, come up with around 3-5 designs based on what information the client can give you and by using the competitors sites as an idea net. Submit the designs to the clients 2-3 days after you start so they can give you feedback on what you have done, to save you time designing something they are not fully happy with. Always get the client to sign off on a design, either by email or over the phone and keep a note of which design, who approved it and when it was approved as proof, otherwise they may come back later in the process and say “We didn’t ask for this one, it’s nothing like we wanted, start again”.
Once approved you can then start the build. Start by laying the design out on paper and working out how many sections you need and where they should be placed, have an idea of what size site you are designing for. If the client asks for how long it will take, have a think based on your skill level and add a week on top of your guess so if anything goes wrong with the build you have time to fix it before the deadline. Keep in contact with the client every few days to let them know of your progress and if possible send them a link for them to have a look.
When you have build the first page to the design for the client send them the link and ask them to give feedback, once approved you can continue with the rest of the pages. Remember if you haven’t got the content for the website by now chased the clients for it and let them know that it’s holding you back from finishing the design of completely. If you don’t hear back after a couple of days, finish off the build of the site using text fillers (loreum ipsum) and send it over to the clients once filled out. It’s then up to them to supply you the content to finish their site.