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I contacted a design team to redo my company's website (small company, <100 employees, in the construction industry, been around for about 30 years). The graphic designer told me that I need to provide him with precisely what we need in terms of structure of the site, the content, and the general style.

That was a couple of weeks ago, and since then I've been breaking my head over what we want and where to put it. I don't know how to design a website, and I don't know what we want or where we want it. I know who we want to market to, and how we want to present our company, but I can't design a B2B website.

Am I supposed to provide all of this to the graphic designer, or is he supposed to be doing all this as a design professional?

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    If you have any sales materials... brochures, flyers, ads etc.. send those to the designer. – Scott Feb 10 at 18:05
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    Look at it this way. The designer knows nothing of your company, about its clients or product/services. Nothing about you marketing strategy or anything. You have now asked the designer to make a site for you. The designer needs to know a lot more about your companys needs inorder to do anything meaningful. – joojaa Feb 10 at 21:00
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    Is the graphic designer a web designer? Whilst there is a lot of overlapping skills, generally web is considered to require specialist expertise related to websites, whereas (at least where I'm from) graphic designers focus on things like logos, advertisements, brochures etc. And likewise, building a website requires a number of skills, many of which are not related to design per se (e.g. information architecture, programming, SEO). Someone who sells themselves as a designer may be a specialist only in the design side of things, not the rest. – cbp Feb 11 at 7:50
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    "Build me a website" is not that different from "Build me a house" and a similar amount of information is needed to meet the customer's requirements. – Alex Feb 11 at 9:52
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    @Fattie That statement has nothing to do with this question. – Zach Saucier Feb 11 at 17:55
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This completely depends on you and your designer. Most likely your designer is asking for the following things:

  1. What you want on your website. This includes what the purpose of the website should be and any important information related to that purpose, such as your company information that you want people to have, information about the services that you offer, etc.

  2. Some examples of similar sites that you liked and want your website to be similar to. This is very helpful for designers in terms of understanding what you want so that they can come up with designs that at least resemble what you have in your head. No matter what you think, you do have some expectations for how the website will look and will function. Knowing those in advance makes designers' jobs a lot easier and the whole process shorter.

  3. (if you have them) Other materials that you've had (and liked) in the past. As Scott said in a comment, any materials that your company has from the past and like would be helpful as well.

Based on your brief description, that is most likely what your designer is asking for. They are most likely not looking for you to design the website.

The question is: why are you asking us these questions and not them?


Now, you could find a designer who doesn't ask for or need this information. They will just assume what your business needs are and what it should look like and then ask you if/when they come to an area that they need info for.

Most designers don't work that way because it's generally terrible for both parties involved. But if you really don't care that much, you can make that clear when talking to a designer.

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    The reason why I asked on StackExchange is because I needed to know SOP for a designer. The person I'm working with would tell me what he's doing is SOP, whether it is or it isn't, because that's how he wants to work. So I decided to ask the community. I appreciate the answer. – Yehuda Feb 10 at 17:57
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    @Yehuda, what got you mean by SOP? – nicoguaro Feb 11 at 1:12
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    @nicoguaro Standard Operating Procedure. Meaning, OP wants to learn what is considered normal in the industry so they can evaluate their own expectations. – Preston Feb 11 at 1:17
  • The word "function" is a simple word that hides an entire iceberg. The Designer will need to know what kind of interactivity is involved, and interactivity requires a lot of thought on how to limit user input in a safe way that is still useful. A brochure is very simple. A frontend for a world-facing database with transactions is very hard. – Yorik Feb 11 at 15:41
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I assume that you want your website to provide more business for your company. You've hired a web designer, not a marketer or sales person. You need to either provide marketing and sales information to the designer or give the task to someone else. Your designer was hired to build a site.

To make sales (conversions) on your site you'll need marketing information like:

  • what you do
  • how you do it
  • how much it costs
  • how to contact you
  • steps someone needs to take to do business with you
  • common words and phrases (copy) that your customer uses when looking for what your company does
  • a call to action
  • a way to collect email addresses from prospective customers and a reason for those customers to provide their email address (see "sales funnels")
  • customer testimonials
  • and a few other things that I probably missed.

Make sure that your website content is customer focused. A website designer seldom will do any of these other things for you. To continue to get business you'll need to do some amount of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

If you want your website to work for you, to provide a steady stream of customers, it takes constant work. Do not think that just putting a website up is going to open the floodgates. With work, it will be worth it - a website can perform as well as your best salesperson if you give it time and attention.

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I write line-of-business software so I spend a lot of time dealing with our clients' web companies. In my experience you can divide web companies into maybe four different variations. In ascending order of price:

  1. One-man-bands - someone who does web-design and came at it from either the design-side, or the coding-side and can do whichever isn't their primary skill reasonably well
  2. Digital agencies - these do marketing and branding and can knock up a pretty website using one of the main content management systems (CMSs)
  3. Big website agencies - these do large and expensive websites for larger enterprises who have high traffic and complex functionality on their sites
  4. Software development houses - these write web apps rather than websites, e.g. if you had an idea for an innovative new web based product.

It sounds like you're dealing with some variant of 1), but from what you're saying it sounds like you really need 2). In other words, I don't think you're looking for a website, I think you want a web-presence, and for that you need a multi-disciplinary agency with specialists in each area (SEO, design, marketing, web-development, CMS, etc.).

A digital agency will (or should) start by discussing the web and marketing needs of your business with you and will then suggest website styles and functionality based on that. A digital agency will employ a designer/designers, but in a lot of cases you won't need much of that resource's time because the most cost-effective solution for the website will be to use a pre-built template and then tweak the styling, rather than designing something from scratch.

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  • Based on the minimal description of the requirements asked for and of the designer OP is talking to, it's pretty impossible to say which of these categories they are in. And it's relatively besides the point as individuals can do SEO, design, web-dev, etc. all in one. – Zach Saucier Feb 11 at 23:17
  • @ZachSaucier some people certainly can do everything, but the person the OP is dealing with doesn't seem to be one considering what the OP is being asked to do. If this was a digital agency they would normally be helping with this stuff because site layout and structural design is all billable time. – tomRedox Feb 11 at 23:28
  • @tomRedox websites arent magic. However usually one person has a time constraint that is prohibitive. – joojaa Feb 13 at 5:26
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The designer is just asking you input to perform his job. He can't guess what you have in mind and what are your requirements/priorities.

The level of detail that you want to provide is certainly negotiable. Can range from "make a site for MyCompany" to "I want all hyperlinks underlined in dotted green, left centered, and here is the text of page Customers".

If you give few details, there is more high-level and creative work; if you give many details, there can be overhead work to comply precisely.

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A "Graphic Designer" is not a "Website Designer". A graphic designer only designs the look of something. Someone has to provide /everything/ else, and that is reasonable.

If the "design team" is only "a graphic designer", and that is not what you want, then it is reasonable to terminate the relationship and go somewhere else.

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The graphic designer told me that I need to provide him with precisely what we need in terms of structure of the site, the content, and the general style.

This tells me one of two, maybe three, things:

Thing 1

During your initial meeting you exhibited signs of being very picky yet giving no direction of what you wish to accomplish with your website.

The designer decided it would be easiest to put the onus on you to tell them what you want and they will simply do exactly as you request and create a website.

This relieves them of any pressure to be creative and end up having you not like what they did. If you told them to do it and they do it then there should be zero reason for you to reject what they did.

Thing 2

The designer is very new or busy and didn't have the experience or time to really get to know you nor your business.

The designer failed to ask the right questions which would have enabled them to confidently deliver an acceptable product.

Thing 3

I don't know how your conversations went but if they feel you are trying to low-ball the commission cost then they would rather have you do as much work as possible.

Refer to paragraph #3 of Thing 1

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    Truly cynical - but been there – Mark Read Feb 13 at 1:07
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    @MarkRead cynicism wasn't really my goal albeit's what I pointed out. Maybe my answer would get better reception if I added a way to salvage the professional relationship? – MonkeyZeus Feb 13 at 15:12
  • @MonkeyZeus I think your making a lot of assumptions about the relationship between client and designer. The answer also comes across as pretty hostile. Could you edit it to soften the tone a bit, because I do think it's salvageable and there's a kernel of truth in it. – PieBie Feb 14 at 9:58
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I would say that they are being fairly reasonable. As regards the structure, you need to provide them with a basic outline of your site. Think about what your top level sections would be, such as: About / Services / Track Record / Contact. And then if applicable, any sub-sections for those, so About might have History / Our Team, things like that, perhaps appearing on a drop-down. Or you might keep About as a single page item. If you are really stuck, then have a look at what other companies in your industry are doing with regards structure.

You would have to provide them with the text content for each page. If you don't have any supporting imagery of your own, it would be totally acceptable to ask the designer to source stock photographs on your behalf.

As regards the style, I'm guessing that they are just wanting to know if there are any websites or graphic styles that you either like or strongly dislike. Again you can leave this entirely to them, but they are probably asking this question to attempt to avoid wasted time.

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