7 Keys to a Successful Design Project

There is a lot that goes into the process of designing and developing a website successfully for a client. In order for the project to be truly successful, it must accomplish much more than simply an attractive design. In this article we’ll take a look at 7 keys that must be present for the designer and client to create a site that achieves the desired results for the business.

1. A Realistic Timeline

Designing and developing an effective website takes time. Most designers understand this, but some clients assume that the process can easily be done faster without considering the impact.

It’s not uncommon for a designer to be contacted by a potential client who has an unrealistic deadline. At this time the designer can either make promises that they may not be able to live up to in order to land the job, or the designer can explain to the client why the deadline is unrealistic, what steps will be rushed with this deadline, and what the consequences may be. In many cases the client will be more flexible with their projected time frame if they understand the long-term ramifications of rushing through the project.

2. Proper Client Intake

Custom web design services address the specific needs of each client and their customers/visitors. No designer is going to know the client’s business as well as they do, so it is important to have an effective intake process that gathers sufficient information to help the designer to understand the particular situation of the client. Jumping right into the design process is a temptation for both the designer and the client, but doing so typically cuts out some important steps in the process.

Think of the intake process of getting to know the client much like setting a proper foundation before building a house. All future efforts will be made stronger with a proper intake process, and without one, anything that is built will be unstable.

Each designer will have a different process for getting started with the client, and it may even vary from one project to another. What’s important is that the designer and client take the time to get on the same page and start the project on a solid foundation.

3. Client Involvement

Some (but not all) clients will want to tell the designer the basics of what they want and then step away from the process. A successful project will include involvement from the client at the early stages of the project, as well as throughout the project for feedback. From my experience hands-on clients are actually easier to work with because you know what they want and what they are thinking throughout the process. It’s difficult to create a website that truly represents the clients and serves their business well without much involvement from them.

If you’re in communication with a potential client and they seem like they seem like they don’t have much interest in being involved in the process, take the time to explain to them why you will need their input and how it can affect the end result.

4. User Focus

An effective website focuses on meeting the needs of users. The designer can create something that’s visual appealing and something that the client likes, but if it doesn’t focus on the users and meeting their needs it will ultimately not be successful.

During the intake process the designer needs to make an effort to get a good understanding of the users of the website and the target market of the client. Without knowing who you are building the site for, what they want and how the behave, it’s impossible to create a user-focused website.

5. Specific Feedback from Client

In order for a project to be successful it will need to satisfy the client, however, getting specific and helpful feedback isn’t always easy. Some clients tend to give very general feedback without pointing out specific details of what they like and what they don’t like. With vague or general feedback it’s very difficult for the designer to know why they don’t like something, or what can be changed to please the client.

When you’re dealing with clients that only provide general feedback, take the time to ask questions that will lead to answers that are more specific. Explain to them that in order to come up with something that they like you will need to understand the details of what they do not like.

6. Implementation of Feedback

Once the designer has some specific feedback from the client, that now needs to be applied productively. Using the feedback that has been gathered, the designer needs to make changes that will lead to an end product that the client is happy with. Getting specific, helpful feedback and implementing it effectively will result in fewer revisions and changes that need to be made.

7. Effective Testing

Before any website is launched to the public there should be some testing involved. This includes browser testing, usability testing, and simply checking for errors and mistakes. Ideally the designer will have an established process for testing, but the client, and even users, should be involved if possible.

What’s Your Experience?

From your experience, what are the most significant keys to a successful design project?

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design, a popular design blog.
  1. May 21, 2010

    I think its important to set goals for the project, that way you can measure whether or not a project is successful, and can later implement changes to help reach this goal. Even if this goal is “I want my site to look pretty” you still need to know that up front.

    Great article!

  2. May 21, 2010

    Take the good clients and pass on the bad. No matter what steps you take a bad client will make it impossible to have anything near what you’d call a “successful” design project.

  3. May 21, 2010

    I am especially fond of the fact that you included #2. So often I forgot that I had the option to accept or decline a client. That’s even to the point of firing the client if I made the mistake of hiring him. Great list!

  4. May 21, 2010

    #3 and #5 are key to implement in the right time. it´s very important to let know the client that in the final stage of the project there will be no room to implement more feedback if it was not provided earlier when it was the time.

  5. May 22, 2010

    Useful Info! Thanks for sharing

  6. May 22, 2010

    The problem is, sometimes there just isn’t time to test, to evaluate, to feedback.

    Life is short, and the todo list keeps on growin’!

  7. June 1, 2010

    We have worked with all types of lay people and the hardest thing is to get them involved, and believing that what goes online makes a difference to perceptions of them and will have a resulting change in sales. The proof of the pudding is always in the eating… Once they have a great result then they see why all those detailed questions was necessary!

  8. August 15, 2010

    Useful Info! Thanks for sharing

  9. September 20, 2010

    yes, web designing is a very typical works. its need lots of expertise
    skill and your article helps more

  10. April 25, 2011

    I still think the most fundamental part of any design process (other than the actual design itself) is the communication between the client and yourself. If the communication is poor then you risk making something that does not meet the clients demands and wasting time for both yourself and the client.

    Also do not be afraid to say no. Some people are really unrealistic in their requests or simply have not thought about what they want properly; stay away from these people.

  11. June 29, 2011

    I completely agree with the realistic deadlines. I had a client come to me and request a full ecommerce site in 5 days! Its doable if I worked 8hrs a day with no other clients… After explanation they figured it out but not every client understands the effort!

  12. July 25, 2011

    in 5 days! Its doable if I worked 8hrs a day with no other clients… After explanation they figured it out but not every client understands the effort!

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