If you are having a website built on a small budget, there are two basic paths you can choose to help control your costs:
- Have a designer realize your vision.
- Let your designer choose the vision.
Either way works fine, so long as you are clear which way you are going and stay the course throughout the design process. Here's what I mean:
Option 1: Have your Designer Realize Your Vision
If you feel like you have a vague idea of what you want, but aren't quite sure, you better get sure quickly! The more specific you can be about the design you want created, the more time you will save.
A good way to do this is to find other designs, fonts and color schemes that are all in line with your vision and stick with them throughout the design process. (This means you've got to feel pretty good about them in the first place). And these things don't have to be from examples in your industry, or even the media you are having the design created for. Look at designs from all industries and all media types—print and web. Your designer should have the skill to take a design concept like a retro-style ad for an airline in a women's magazine, and translate it to your website.
I also recommend making these choices with your users in mind. These are big decisions and you want to make sure that they are in line with your goals and your target audience before you commit to them with your designer. The idea is to be as all-around sure about what you are trying to accomplish before the designer enters the room.
The more you can flesh out your idea and show your designer what you are talking about before the work begins, the less you have to spend time getting the design to where you want it to be.
Option 2: Let the Designer Choose the Vision
If you really don't have much of an idea of the look you are going for, you can let your designer have free reign of the design. This is what designers love to do and typically why they're in this profession in the first place.
A good designer will have the skill to take your company's message, goals, target audience and calls to action to create a design that has the right feel for what your project needs to accomplish.
You have probably chosen a designer or firm based on their past designs and experience, so trusting them to create something the you like and will work for your project should be possible. And going with the design the designer comes up with will keep your costs down.
The Muddy Middle
The muddy middle is where design costs typically are. When a designer is taking a stab in the dark or directions are vague, the hours will quickly add up. And having a committee with with several different visions of what the finished project should look like will get you into the same mud pit. You either need to be very clear with your team and come to an agreement before you get the designer involved, OR, agree to be open-minded, trust your designer and accept the final design you're given. Otherwise you can expect it to take a lot of extra hours.
More Hours Isn't a Bad Thing
Here's one other thing to keep in mind: spending money on a design project isn't a bad thing. Now, of course I would say that, seeing as how I earn my livelihood as a designer... but really! If you and/or your team aren't clear in your minds about the direction necessary, your designer can be a great resource for helping you flesh it out. That is one of the great parts of the job. When I work with Infront's clients, I love finding that sweet spot of visual elegance, brand messaging and calls to action. But that sweet spot comes at a price—you can't get that kind of design at a rock bottom, dirt cheap price. A great design that accomplishes your goals takes time, but if it increases your visitors, increases your sales, and spreads your message, it's worth it.
Choose Your Path Carefully
Before you embark on a design project, create a budget. And choose your path: come up with a clear vision and then convey that to your designer, or give your designer the control to be creative and come up with the best design for the job.
If you go into the project with your path in mind, it can save you and your designer a lot potential hassle or confusion, and in the end, that can save you money.