When to trust the professionals
Many companies engaging in the website project process are unclear about their roles and responsibilities, and to be frank, each one has different expectations from their web vendor. Some clients want to drive the direction of the entire project; they feel they understand their organization best and therefore should be the lead decision maker on design, content, functionality, and usability. Other clients expect the web vendor to make all of the decisions; they expect their hired firm to provide them with branding strategies, messaging, content, and market research.
The truth is that the most successful web projects are when there is a good balance of decision making between the client and the vendor. The best results come from a high-trust, collaborative partnership, in which each side provides ideas and thoughts on the pieces of the project.
That being said, there are two main areas in which the client should always let their design firm drive the decision making.
Look and feel
Design styles, user expectations, and technologies change so fast that even the experts who work day in and day out in the web world can’t possibly keep up with the latest and greatest upgrades. However, you hired them for a reason.There is a good chance that your decision to hire them was solely due to the quality of their portfolio. You liked their design style, and hoped your new website would be of similar quality. Therefore, it is a good idea to let them drive this part of the project.
Unless you dislike the original mock-ups they created for you, you should let them win the little battles of layout and design execution. They have an eye for what people like, and you should trust their expertise. If you decide to scrutinize every little aspect of the design, it will lose quality. In fact, we have had many clients go through countless revisions and never be fully satisfied with the final product. When this happens, we’ll go back and show them the original mock-ups, prior to the revision cycle, and they fall in love with the design all over again.
You wouldn't tell a doctor how to diagnose your symptoms, or offer guidance to your attorney on how to defend your case. Let the designers do what they do best, and trust them through the design process of your project.
Many clients have a bad habit of providing technical advice to their web vendors. Their company’s IT guy might have told them to use certain software, or they recently read an article in FastCompany about a great CMS, and they decide it is a good idea to tell their web developer which technologies to use on their web project. While it is great to be informed, web design and development companies have most likely worked with a variety of web tools and know which ones are best to use based on your RFP requirements. By understanding your content types, work flow, security needs, and hosting platform, your vendor has most likely already narrowed your options down to one or two systems. Your budget will probably determine which of those systems is best for your organization.
However, before moving ahead blindly on your vendor’s recommendation, it is a great idea to read up on the technologies they are recommending, and plan on demoing them before making a final decision. In some scenarios, web vendors may push a certain software or technology because they built it, or it’s all they know. If that is the case, then definitely take the time to educate yourself a bit so you don’t get stuck with a buggy, homemade, proprietary system, or an over-hyped open source solution.