Design for text instead of images
Images + graphics are great tools for designers to use on projects. But when it comes to designing for web, you are better off making sure that your developer (and your client) can use text as much as possible. I know, that means you can’t perfect the kerning on each word individually or apply some wicked font stylings using a typeface that isn’t web friendly, but at the end of the day, the final product — the website — is for your client’s clients, not your portfolio.
That doesn’t mean you have to design a boring-ass site, quite the contrary. It just means you need to either be in-the-know on what techniques are available or keep your developer on speed dial to ask them for input.
The more text you incorporate that can be actual text on the site, the better your client’s SEO + the easier it is for them to make changes as they grow + change their business. (Because let’s be clear, we all change our businesses along the way.)
Instead, if you instruct your developer to save different headlines + sections as images, the client either needs the original file to edit (assuming they have the software required) or they need to email you + ask for a change, which feels a lot like holding them hostage to your design.
Design page templates, not single pages
Odds are you will react one of two ways to this idea — “OMG, I can’t change my entire design process” or “Hallelujah, you just shaved hours off of my normal project timeline” — or you might already do this.
More often than not, when a designer hires tiny blue orange to build a website, they provide us with a zip folder of files + assets. In those files are PSDs or InDesign documents of specific website pages they have designed. Every single time, there are missing components that we need to ask for, which means development gets delayed. Sad panda.
To avoid this issue, designing templates instead of specific single pages ensures that your developer knows exactly how to handle all site pages (like the often forgotten about 404 page, search results page + category archive list) without having to bug you for more designs.
Of course there are exceptions to this rule, like the homepage which typically requires a good amount of attention from everyone to ensure design success. But I encourage all web designers to think about how often they could have achieved the same result by designing a full-width page template for the about, contact + media pages instead of designing + revising them individually. Could you have focused your efforts on designing a full-width template + sidebar template instead? The answer is “Yes!”
Design style guides instead of specific elements
Speaking of templates, this is where style guides come in. I bet when you thought about how to create a template that covered about, press, media, contact + more, you thought something along the lines of “Well, what about the contact form that doesn’t exist on the other pages?”
Simple. You design a form style guide within the template. That style guide includes what an input field, text area, radio button, checkbox + submit button all look like. Then your developer knows exactly what to code so that all form elements match your vision.
Then, when your client creates a new page that they need to add a form to, they aren’t left with a half designed form because your original contact page design only included single line input fields. Instead, they add the form + the code is already in place to make sure it matches the remainder of the site to keep the brand consistent.
Think about the next steps
Whenever you take on a new web design project, the best plan of attack after nailing down their website woes is to brainstorm where the client will be in the next year or three. Are they going to be adding lots of pages? Will they be building on their services list? Is their blog calling for a featured image template that they can create their own graphics from? (Or even better, hire you on retainer to create for them — hello recurring revenue!)
It’s impossible to predict the future, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan for what your client might need 7 months after the project launches. And it doesn’t have to be crazy specific either — even thinking along the lines of what content they will change + add can set you apart from a whole pool of designers who focus on today’s problems only.
If you’re looking for a trusted developer that can help you bring your visions to life while also keeping your client + your client’s clients in mind, we’d love to chat about our responsive custom WordPress theme development service — complementary code.