website designers working with a client

How to make your web designer your business partner, Pt. 2

5 min read
Lisa Stambaugh

You’ve hired a professional web designer. Good for you. Now a concerted effort to avoid these situations can help evolve that partnership into a true collaboration based on trust and respect:

  • Who wants his or her professional opinion ignored and devalued?
  • Who is anxious to be surprised with critical information at the last minute?
  • Who likes being overlooked for their contribution?
  • Who enjoys the awkward situation of responding to a request that is immoral, illegal, or otherwise ill-advised?

Surely not you. So why would your web designer look forward to these scenarios?

Know what info you should forward

Keep your designer informed about anything that might affect your website. If you’re not sure whether he or she needs to know about a specific item, timeline, or cost issue, go ahead and ask. Early in the relationship, prompt with “Let me know of anything you want be notified about.” Consider forwarding:

  • maintenance or update notices from your hosting company
  • reminders about payments for hosting, domain registration, or other related services — especially if you’re not sure that you should be paying them
  • advance notice regarding newsletters, press releases, or social media updates that might affect the website
  • creation or distribution of website login and password information to any other service providers
  • solicitation for services such as SEO or social media marketing

Clients often receive email messages asking them to pay a bill or sign up for a service — and they’re not sure whether they should be paying it. I tell them that if they’re unsure, they should forward the message to me, because I can quickly determine its legitimacy. It’s much more efficient for me to answer a question, than to spend time unraveling the damage done because I wasn’t asked.

Forwarding messages to your web designer with a quick note — “Do I need to pay for this?” or “Should I sign up for this service?” — takes one minute from you, and one minute for a response. Getting a refund for a mistaken payment can take hours. Even worse, your web designer might consider those billable hours.

Err on the side of over-sharing insider info

If your web designer is kept in the dark about upcoming changes for your organization, he or she can’t be planning ahead to your advantage. It’s entirely possible that your designer should have access to information before the general public. If so, then you should have addressed a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) at the time of hiring.

Depending on the scope of the information, of course, the designer might need advance notice to have time to prepare the changes. It might also be necessary to be available to post the changes on a specific day, at a specific time.

Press releases are an excellent example, as they may be given to a select group in order to prepare marketing materials prior to the moment of release. If the news in the release will necessitate changes on your website, your web designer needs to know about that before the release and might need time to prepare materials for your review, well before the release date.

Don’t make your designer respond to illegal or unethical behavior

While the typical client does not request something outside the law, it could happen. Avoid putting your web designer in the embarrassing situation of responding to an inappropriate request.

Examples of what not to request include:

  • use of material known to be copyrighted
  • use of material that is known to be false or a misrepresentation of the client’s organization
  • use of photos that the client does not have permission to use or photos of individuals who have not given permission
  • use of material that is racist, inflammatory, or libelous
  • collection of email addresses or personal information for the purpose of sending unsolicited messages or selling the information
  • capture of sensitive information on a website that is not suitably protected
  • offering cash payments to avoid income declarations and tax payments
  • implementing negative factors of SEO manipulation, such as pirated content, hidden content, or overuse of targeted keywords

Mom was right, saying thank you goes a long way

Yes, of course you’re paying your web designer for his or her excellent work. But the occasional extra thank you reinforces the message that the designer is your partner, and not just a hired typist. I have clients who occasionally send me a $5 Starbucks gift card, for no apparent reason. It’s not exactly a financial windfall, but how delightful to think “hey, I’m going to treat myself to the bonus of a delicious out-of-the-office coffee break.” I will remember that the next time this client needs a favor.

Other inexpensive ways to express appreciation:

  • Post a positive Yelp review.
  • Post a shout-out on social media when announcing your new website.
  • Send a funny card.
  • Write “thanks” in the memo section of your check. It brightens my day to receive a check with a note featuring a smiley face.
  • Invite your web designer to company picnics, parties, or events (if they are local).

Make your designer feel like he or she is “on the inside” and part of your winning team. Someone who feels like they are part of the team is more likely to scramble for those extra few yards toward the goal line.