Designers: Jack Of All Trades, Master of None?

Web design wordsThis topic is one that I must say is a bit close to home. Maybe its a bit of therapy to say some things out loud, and maybe its a cry for help. Either way, it’s something I felt I should bring up to get you (our readers) to comment on. When I got into the web design or design industry, I had taken no prior classes, courses, lessons, drawing, nada. My background was in IT. Break just about any device and I could fix it. Now when I decided to walk into the design field, I jumped all in. Pestered my friends to let me use their computers to try out Photoshop. Bought really old versions of Macromedia desktop publishing software. I tried to get my hands on all the tools I would need to be a success.

After attaining all the things I needed, I really got involved in learning. However the more I learned the more I learned I had a lot to learn. So then I started to learn less new things, and develop skills in the things I knew or wanted to be better at. And that’s when the problems started. I became pretty good in creating wireframes and websites, basic business logos, flash animations, and more. However when opportunities came to me for more complex jobs, I shied away from them.  Sure I would take some but most I wouldn’t because I knew I’d be getting in over my head. What I should have done was take all that as a sign to become a master at one thing at a time.

When you’re a solo-preneur in this industry, you almost don’t have a choice but to try to learn and do everything yourself. My advice is to learn a trade at a time. Get to be great at design, then move to web. When you’ve conquered those then move to mobile. But being “ok” in all of those and more will end up hindering you on seeing big picture and acquiring bigger clients. I mean that’s the goal isn’t it? To get bigger contracts that allow you to continue to do what you love. Now if you don’t have time to learn more, hire someone who already does know more than you. In fact surround yourself with people who know a heck of a lot more than you. It helps you stay humble, but also makes you aspire to be a greater designer.

Great Ways to Market your Restaurant Online Successfully, Part 2-More Tantalizing Tidbits

Hungry for more?  Right on the heels of last weeks blog are more juicy tidbits for restaurateurs and the importance of having a website.  Whether a Mom & Pop or listed at the top of Zagat…tuck in the napkin and get ready for another serving!

* Taking it to Go ~ Because Smartphones have almost become an appendage, it is essential for people to be able to look you up while on the go. When people hear about or pass by a fab restaurant which offers a favored cuisine, the first thing they do is get on the internet and look for more information. Whether that’s the menu or a recent review – if you don’t have a website chances are that those folks might pass you by or pass you up when making their selection. An important point to make here as well is to ensure that your restaurant is easily searchable. You want your entire menu online, dish by dish. Using a PDF may seem like an easy, cost-effective solution as they are easy to download on a computer/laptop.  However, in order for someone to find you using a search engine and make proper use of “tags”, you must have an itemized online menu.  If possible, you should also try to have a mobile version of your website which will make reading the menus easier if opened on a Smartphone device.

*Cater to the Customer ~ If you are one of the many restaurants that offer catering services in addition to your in-house offerings, people should know this.  But guess what, many probably don’t!  Aside from your physical menu or waiting for a catering gig call, your website should be used as another promotion tool and done so in a prominent area.  The goal is to build greater awareness of the expanded services you offer and generate more business.  This way the customer might come to sample some food initially for the catering gig, but might become a faithful fan for other times.  And the reverse has happened many times as well – someone comes in and loves a particular dish or your culinary style and wants you to cater an event.  It’s all about using each opportunity and tool available to build your customer base – to be in mind for dinner time or party time.

*The Bottomless Cup of Possibilities ~ There are so many layout and design options it’s like a never-ending cup of good Joe. The restaurant web design business has become big business.  WordPress designers have capitalized on this and it has become a great website option especially since it’s super easy to manage the content and update regularly.  This is “muy importante” for a restaurant with a changing menu and daily/weekly specials.  But keep in mind that clean designs are best and adding vibrant, crisp images will make customers eat with their eyes first. An attractive yet informative website with regularly updated content and promotions is a place where customers return time and again – good for their bellies and great for your pockets!

Communication Between a Designer and Client

One of the things we web designers often talk about when we’re around each other is our client stories.  And while I won’t get into most of the topics or details, I do want to highlight a few important ones that are pretty common.  Those being, clear understanding of responsibilities of the designer, of the business owner, on-time deliverables, and contract and payment.

I like to refer myself as a junior web designer.  This because I haven’t been around for over a decade doing web design, but I have been around long enough to experience the highs and lows of the industry.  Especially when it comes to my responsibilities as a web designer.  First and foremost, I am to be the authority on such a subject matter when it comes to my clients.  I must assume they know nothing, and take the time to adequately discuss anything that doesn’t make sense to the client.  I’m not saying that non industry people are handicapped at all.  But I do think its unfair to talk a bunch of techno babble under the pretense that a client understand everything I’m talking about.  I also believe I have a responsibility:

  • To return phone calls or emails in a timely manner.
  • Clearly explain my prices and estimate for work to be done
  • Ask questions about what the client would like to see done
  • Get existing examples of websites & designs that the client likes
  • Secure a deposit before work is started

From a client’s side, there can be quite a few things needed that may not become clear until deadlines are approaching.  One example is “content.” It is always the business owner’s responsibility to provide content for their website.  As a designer, we can easily charge for copyrighting if necessary, but otherwise it’s up to the client to take the time to write out their bios, services, products, prices, and even provide the graphics and logos for the site.  In a lot of cases this is where pricing for websites starts to climb.  What at first seemed like a $1,500 job has now turned into a $2,600 job after creating graphics, artwork, content, research, and implementation. I can’t stress how important this is because of how it will seriously drag a project that would normally take 2 weeks into several months of back and forth missed calls and unanswered emails.

Milestones for each web project will vary, but each project has them.  From getting a contract signed with initial payment, to full site testing and launching, there are some goals that need to be tracked and reached before further work is started.  Most designers will keep the client informed with over estimated time lines.  This is not because we’re lazy or anything, its to give enough time to get things in order or received from the client with a realistic turnaround time for completion.  If we think we’re going to be late on a deadline, its our responsibility to inform the client.  If the client can’t seem to finalize something – they need to understand how that affects the overall time line for their project.

My last point is securing a contract and payment. Let me skip to payments because this is dearest to just about every freelancer out there.  We need this upfront not because we need to pay our overdue light bill.  Its more so because we need to get you truly interested in getting us the materials we need to really undertake a project.  If we don’t secure a preliminary deposit from you, we’ll most likely be waiting for months before hearing anything from you.  I won’t generalize that statement to everyone, but I will say most. Each designer has their own way of breaking down a project’s payment percentages, but their important to sticking to the deadlines.

Now as for a contract; this is important to all parties.  A working contract protects the designer for their work, what is fully expected of them, and also the client for what is eventually owned/owed to them.