Posts tagged with ‘freelancing’

Selling yourself


If you’ve visited my website in the last year or so, you may have found it strange that there are no case studies of my work anywhere on it. Despite being my main portal for explaining who I am and what I do, you can’t find a single example of my work.

I get weekly emails from different people in the design and dev community, asking why they can’t see my work. I’ve had it brought up in job interviews

It’s not because I have nothing of interest to show—far from it—in fact, I’m very proud of my work, and want to show it. But, I’ve always been a huge fan of long-form project explorations written by the likes of Teehan+Lax and TypeCode, so throwing a bunch of images onto the site without any copy was never going to be an option for me.

It’s not that I can’t write—I can throw together a blog post, and I regularly put together half-decent copy for my clients’ websites—it’s that I struggle to write about my work. The more I write about my process and what I did and why, the more detail I go into and the more pretentious my prose becomes. So much so, that I end up deleting it all and starting again.

To tell you the truth, there is a full case studies section of this website, designed and built in spurts over the last year and almost ready to go; but you can’t see it. There are lovingly art-directed pages with matching calls to action, integrated across the site. There are some great interactive elements and work examples, all interspersed between 74 paragraphs of text. All of this is hidden on the live site.

I’ve considered hiring a ghost writer multiple times, but while I’m not actively looking for work this seems like an unnecessary investment. And so, on a just-about-monthly basis I sit down and I write, and delete, and procrastinate, and rewrite until I’m bored and distracted and move on to other things.

One day in the future I might come up with something I’m happy with, but until then, this site will remain work-free while I continue to torture myself.

Dear Client


Hello there,

Chances are, this is your first time hiring a web designer. Even if it isn’t, you may not understand the methods I use, or the processes I follow, or even some of the language I speak. You may not even fully understand what it is you actually want me to provide for you, further than ‘a website’.

The good news is, you don’t need to know these things; that’s what you’re paying me for.

The bad news is, you have a new job now; well quite a few actually. My whole business is about providing value for money, and I can’t give you the best value without your input. We’re starting on a journey together, and I need your help just as much as you need mine.

Your first job is to teach me as much as you can about you and about your company. I’ll do a lot of research myself, but the best information will come from the horse’s mouth.

Why do think you need a website? Who of your clients/customers have expressed interest in using one? What do they want to use it for? Are you aiming to replace offline processes with online ones, or just use it as a marketing tool?

Until I know the answers to these questions I won’t know which audiences the site should focus on, and it will fail.

Secondly, what content are you going to put on your shiny new website? Get it to me straight away. Hire a copywriter if necessary (in actual fact, it’s always necessary).

If I don’t have any content when designing the site, all I can build is a bland template, with a hole to put some text in. Give me good content, and give it to me early, and I can tailor the entire website experience to it, and guide your users through your site in an immersive way that they will remember, and return for regularly.

Without content I can’t do that, your site will be forgettable, and it will fail.

Thirdly, do you have people in house who will maintain and support the website? Do you already have in-house designers, or another third-party that regularly create content, graphics or other design work for you?

I need to meet all of the people above, and they need to be involved in the design process from the beginning; therefore I’ll need you to introduce me. These are the people who already know your customers, and what appeals to them - as such they will be hugely valuable when creating a site that blends seamlessly with the brand they have helped you build. Without this insight, your site will fail.

And lastly, who are your customers? Let’s meet them.

All the research in the world is no good if we don’t put a prototype of the new design in front of the real-world users of your website. These users will play with it, get frustrated with it, break it, tell their friends about it, and based on their experience, use it, or leave it. If you wait until launch before you first show your new site to users, you are playing with fire. At launch, if a customer can’t use the new site in the way they want, you’ve lost a customer, and your site has failed.

Get their reaction early in the process, so we can respond to it, and at launch know in advance that together we have built something your customers will love and enjoy using.

As I said at the beginning of this post, this might be your first website, so you may not know the above is required of you, and without doubt there are many web designers who would not ask for that kind of involvement.

But it is absolutely necessary, however busy you are, that you or an equally-well-informed representative are as involved as I am throughout the design process. Whilst it may cost you time or money, this way we can ensure that I am designing a site that fits your company and is not just an empty shell, lacking in personality.

So please, be the client of my dreams, and help me out.


Your friendly web designer.

Looking out for the little guy


I am not a web designer.

I market myself as a web designer, because that’s what my clients think they want. In fact, what they want is a person who makes websites.

That’s what I am. I’m a person who makes websites. And apps too, if you’re feeling adventurous. I’m a UX designer, a UI designer, a front-end developer, a back-end developer, a hosting provider, a sysadmin, a copywriter and a marketer.

I’ve done all of the above individually, for different companies at different times, and also I’ve done all of them at the same time for a single client as part of a larger package, which I will refer to as “a website”.

Primarily, I work in front-end development. But to any client outside of “the web”, this means nothing. They don’t care about day rates, the tools I use, or the maintainability of my code; they want to give me a brief, and when the website is live, hand over a cheque for a pre-agreed amount.

There is much talk in the web community about the latest responsive trends, scalability tools and performance optimisations that should be used on the web; and much berating of those who shy away from them. This criticism is often short-sighted. Granted, the above are all important aspects in the building of a website, but they also cost money; money that the average client simply doesn’t have. But why should a lack of budget deny a client from receiving a website that employs good design principles?

The answer is in the base elements of the design; the layout and typography. Dan Donald talks about this at length in his great talk Flux and Flexibility. A well designed website could be as simple as a single column layout, with a good typographic base. Inherently responsive, a design such as this could easily catapult a small business into the modern era of web design, for very little cost.

But instead of this, too many designers concentrate on adding embellishments that add nothing more than zeroes to the price of the site. They may be eye catching, and no doubt will appeal to the client, but by placing these front and centre in mockups and prototypes, when it comes the time to remove features in order to fit a project within budget, these are the features which the client will want to keep.

But there are many aspects of web design that clients might not fully understand; responsiveness, performance optimisation, maintainability, accessibility. Why would any client choose these as features of their website, when the fancy lick of paint that masks them looks so appealing?

The answer is progressive enhancement. Not in the development sense, but in the process through which the website is designed and built. When creating mockups and agreeing quotes, start with that simple, single column layout. Explain that although such a design may not be the most modern, or the most eye catching, it is functional and inclusive across all devices, connection speeds and ability levels. Explain that embellishments cost extra, and add to a simple base, rather than removing features from an over-ambitious mockup.

If we were all to work in this way, the even the smallest of budgets could allow access to well designed, well implemented sites. Clients would not be disappointed when their users complain of lack of support for their device, or inaccessibility.

And why shouldn’t they be allowed access to good design? People laugh at clients who come to them with budgets in the range of hundreds, rather than thousands; but this is unnecessary. A website can be built in a couple of hours. It won’t win any awards, but if built properly and populated with the right content, it will be functional, and more than likely meet the clients needs.

So think about this the next time a small, local business comes to you for a quote. Spend the time to talk to them, and remember that whilst a simple website built in a couple of hours might not be up to your usual standard of work, it might just be the best thing that’s ever happened to that particular business.