I have always been an in-browser designer. This means that I build pages online, I don’t use wireframe tools to layout each page. I do love the look of Wirefram.cc and I would use it if I were designing and outsourcing the building process, but as it’s simply little ‘ole me, I just jump in and get to the building.
Where this method can easily fall off the rails is if you don’t have a clear understanding of what the client NEEDS and WANTS. I have built plenty of sites that aren’t my favorites, but it’s not about me, it’s about my clients getting clients.
I have found that when I lead the early phases of the project (as in before I do anything online) the building and ultimate launch runs so much more smoothly.
Here are three easy options to help you be more productive in figuring out what your client likes:
- Ask the client to send you a few websites that they like. They don’t need to be competitors, just sites they have seen through their web travels that they find appealing. To make this process easy I will often suggest that we collaborate on a Pinterest board. We set the board to private and add sites or layouts that we think are nice. It doesn’t mean you need to love every element of every site pinned, but you can start to see a trend: they like hero images, they liked pages with galleries, they like sites on a dark background. Often people have a difficult time expressing what they like and find it easier to show you. If I add images to the Pinterest board I will add comments: The About section would work well for you, or the section on this website that is showcasing services, could be used to showcase your books, or isn’t the contact section here nicely laid out. If a client doesn’t like something I have pinned, I tell them to just delete – or give a little Like so I know what makes them happy.
- Review your portfolio. Often I will get hired by someone because they liked someone else’s website. There is no need to reinvent the wheel with your designs, as you may remember from my conversation with Monica Higgins if you have created something that looks great, use it again for another client. Obviously, the images and text will change, but the layout can be repurposed. Think of it as the equivalent of “going green” online.
- Set up some potential options online and show them to the client. I have a sandbox site that I use all the time for this purpose or set up a new domain just for the client: You.com/ClientA. I load Divi and the Divi Cloud Plugin. Then I simply go through the layout options and select the ones that I think will work best. put them all on their own pages (ie, You.com/ClientA/option1, etc). If I do this I will delete the sections that I know the client doesn’t need (e-commerce, blog, map, etc). If there is something that I know the client does need, I will add that section in by using the Cloud sections or modules options.
I find that the Cloud option is working best with clients. Pinterest can be distracting to some people (yup, the line forms behind me for getting lost on Pinterest). The portfolio option isn’t great if you don’t have a wide variety of work to share. With the Cloud, I have access to 250+ design elements that are ready to use, many of which I would never have the skill set to create on my own.
I hear you asking if I insert images? Answer, sometimes, but not usually. I find the process of finding images to be very time-consuming. The purpose here is to get an idea of layouts and concepts that the client likes. Working together on images is a whole other post for a whole other day . . . watch this space.
I also have a checklist: An Exhaustive List of Questions a Web Designer Needs to Ask a Potential Client, which has a section on the design that you may find useful.