How to explain what a web designer does to your clients

There seems to a minor misconception amongst clients who hire web designers as to what a web designer does and in particular what all the different disciplines in web design/development are.

Your success as web designer depends on your ability to communicate to those people what you will do for their money.

What your client may think a web designer does

Your client may think a web designer just draws pretty picture on the web. They presume that this is easy because people who can draw often do so with great ease.

Once a design is supplied to your client, chances are they will cast their opinion over said design and expect changes to be made at no extra cost and in next to no time.

What a web designer actually does

  1. Meet the client and gather their requirements for the website. This meeting and subsequent meetings should involve discussions with the client about what websites they like and what design styles they like. At least half the meeting will be spent explaining that certain things on the web are a bad idea and why
  2. Take meeting notes away and draw up wireframe drawings of how the website and webpages should be structured e.g. should the search box be in the top right corner, what is the main focus of the homepage, etc
  3. Take photographs/download photos/gather imagery from clients that will be used in the design
  4. Come up with at least 1 (maybe 2) designs based on the prep work mentioned above. These designs take into account many things:
    1. How a person will interact with the site
    2. How to get a person to perform a set action e.g. buy an item or sign up to a newsletter
    3. How long it will take a person to download the site .e.g lots of big images may look good but don’t work well
  5. Show client the 1 (or 2) designs and listen to feedback
  6. Make changes to designs based on feedback
  7. Repeat steps 5 & 6 until everyone is (moderately) happy
  8. Use HTML and CSS to build the website template
  9. Populate the website templates with content

How long does it take?

This whole process can take anywhere from to two weeks to a few months depending on lots of issues including:

  • the client’s responsiveness
  • the client’s understanding of the process
  • the designer’s talent and experience and understanding of the client’s requirements

It is therefore, not cheap.

How much does it cost then?

Friends often ask me how much I’d hypothetically charge for a website and baulk at the hypothetical figure I quote them, but once I explain how detailed the process is they start to understand why a design alone would cost anywhere between £1000 – £5000 depending who it is bought from.

Obviously costs can be reduced especially if a client only wants 1 design and not 2-3 to choose from and they aren’t very picky.

3 responses to “How to explain what a web designer does to your clients”

  1. Good points. Although if you work in a small city, getting a website done in two weeks with little trouble is next to impossible. In fact, I’d say in my five years in said small city (approx. 200,000) the average website takes 1-3 months.

    The majority of small business owners see marketing as something secondary to their business and thus don’t give it the attention it deserves. Also, you can try and teach your clients the entire industry (if you want to waste your time), but 9 times of out 10 they don’t care what you do, how you do it, or how long it takes.

    They want their website now and for nowhere near what it is worth.

    From a small firm, our average sites range in price from $3,500 to $5,500 and we are hands down the most expensive in the region. Usually by a few grand. It’s sad really.

    I wish you the best in your endeavours. I just wish it went as well as described above. ha ha.


  2. Thor, what you say is quite true. Although, it does depend on the client in question.

    I don’t think, contrary to popular opinion, that this situation is unique to web design, other professionals go through the similar turmoils.

  3. Phil,
    Good point. ha ha. We can only do what we can to help our clients in the best way possible. Good luck to you and yours.