14 tips for successful web design projects
At the heart of every successful client services business are happy and satisfied clients, streamlined project management, and web design projects that boost the bottom line. Because at the end of the day:
- Satisfied clients provide repeat business, ongoing revenue, and new business referrals.
- Streamlined project management saves time, reduces stress, and creates better client experiences.
- Profitable web design projects provide the capital needed to reinvest in and improve your business.
That’s why it pays to develop strategies that will ensure the success of your web design projects — and your business.
Related: The difference between project management and client management
14 tips for successful web design projects
You know the elements of good design. But guiding each project to ensure its success requires looking at the bigger picture more closely. Here are 14 tactics you can use in your business to improve project management, boost profits, and produce happier clients:
Use clear communication.
Ask more questions.
Take great notes.
Get everything in writing.
Refer to your contract.
Plan for generosity.
Provide regular updates.
Do unscheduled check-ins.
Offer to help.
Automate what you can.
Fulfill all promises.
Let’s dig in.
1. Use clear communication
The easiest way to frustrate a client and make them uncomfortable is to use language, industry jargon and terminology they don’t understand. Strive for communication that is easy to understand and quick to read. Use short sentences and simple language, explain everything, and assume nothing.
Related: How to optimize interaction with clients
2. Ask more questions
More often than not, this is the first time your clients have built a website or hired a professional. This means they aren’t experts at creating website content, web design, or web development, and they don’t know what information you need. It also means that when you ask questions, they might forget to share important details.
This is why you must not only ask a lot of questions, but also ask questions that go beyond surface-level answers to discover the meaning behind what your client says.
Consider questions like:
- What does that mean to you?
- Can you provide more detail?
- Will you explain the history behind X?
- The reason for that is?
- Can you tell me more about X?
Related: The ultimate web design client questionnaire
3. Take great notes
Whether it’s in a face-to-face meeting, on the phone, or via video chat, when speaking with your clients, write things down. Take clear notes someone else would understand and document everything. While you think you’ll remember everything your client said, you won’t — especially if you aren’t taking action right away and you don’t get to the work for a few days or a week.
If they can’t see you writing things down via video chat or in person, say something like, “Great. Hold on one second while I write this down.” No matter what you might think, clients get nervous and feel stress when they’re providing information and you’re not taking notes. Help them relax and feel confident in your abilities by demonstrating how seriously you take their project by making the effort to take notes.
Related: 3 customer service and communication principles for web designers and developers
4. Get everything in writing
While verbal agreements are useful, don’t rely on them alone. If the client provides a verbal agreement to a change in the scope of work, design approval, site launch approval, etc., follow up with a written description of what you discussed and agreed to, and have them confirm their agreement or approval in writing. If it’s appropriate, use an official change order.
Getting it in writing protects you and clarifies things for the client, in case something goes sideways in the future.
Related: How to set expectations with your clients
5. Reply quickly
A paying client deserves to be at the top of your list of priorities. That means answering their phone calls and responding to their voicemails and emails as quickly as possible.
For example, you might consider implementing:
- A same-day response policy for all paying clients, which means that if they call you or email you before a certain time of day, they’re guaranteed a response by the end of the day.
- A 24-hour response policy, which means all paying clients receive a response within 24 hours or less.
- A 12-hour response policy for clients who purchase a specific level of monthly retainer.
If the response will require research or work you don’t have time for right away, don’t wait to respond. Instead, reply back with a message like: “I wanted to let you know I received your message and understand you need X. It’s going to take me some time to get that done, and I’m booked solid for the next two days, so you can expect to hear from me with a solution by end of day Thursday.”
With this response, the client receives great service, they know you got their message, they are aware of what is happening and what you’re doing, and they know when to expect a response.
6. Pad deadlines
No matter how long you’ve been in business and how experienced you are, your first estimate of how long something will take is likely too short. And at some point, you’re going to hit a personal or professional obstacle that will get in the way.
Make life easier for yourself and pad your clients’ deadlines with extra time. For example:
- If you think it will take you a couple days, tell the client it will take a week.
- If you think it will take a week, tell the client it will take two weeks.
- If you think it will take a month, tell the client six weeks.
When you pad your deadlines with extra time, you remove the potential stress that could come with guaranteeing you’ll be able to meet the deadline. It also gives you the opportunity to surprise your client by providing the project deliverables early or being able to accommodate an extra request without needing to change the project timeline.
Related: How to create a client management system
7. Refer to your contract
Most designers and developers only ever refer to their contract when they are trying to get a prospective client to sign it and when they are using it as leverage over a client who is angry, upset, or won’t pay. That’s not a good practice, and it can make any reference to the contract feel negative.
Instead, position your contract as an ongoing reference tool by referring back to it in client conversations to ensure clarity about scope of work, what’s being done, and what should be expected.
When you actively use your contract to provide clarity, it becomes a positive tool. This in turn removes any negative feelings that may arise if you ever do need to use it in a sticky situation.
Related: Crafting high-converting contracts for web work
8. Plan for generosity
There is a saying I love that states: “Go the extra mile; it’s never crowded.” It reminds me that while most service providers fulfill their contracts and deliver exactly what their client asked for, few go above and beyond to deliver something extra because it often means they’re doing additional work for free — and that can set a dangerous precedent.
So when estimating the project, I add in a few extra hours for a client surprise.
This way, when a client asks for something extra, I can say, “This isn’t in our agreement and normally would require a new estimate or change order, but you’ve been a great client and I would love to take care of this one thing for you at no extra charge.”
Likewise, there are going to be times during a project where I get inspired and have a great idea for the project that is outside the scope of work. If it’s small, I’ll share the idea with the client and offer to throw it in as a thank you for being such a great client and putting their trust in us to build their website.
9. Leverage reminders
Remember, while you’re focused on their web design project, your clients are working on this project on top of their normal day-to-day workload and responsibilities. It’s very easy for clients to procrastinate, delay, and put off getting the things you need done. They need to serve their clients or customers before they serve themselves.
If you need something from a client to move the project forward or the client has a deadline coming up, don’t assume they’re going to remember or that they are top of things and will meet the deadline.
Instead, be proactive with your client management and send the client reminders of upcoming deadlines, milestones and needs.
Your clients will appreciate the extra hand-holding to keep their project on track.
10. Provide regular updates
When clients aren’t sure where the web design project is at, what’s happening, what’s coming next, or what they need to do or should be doing, they start to get nervous. That’s when they begin to bug you, second-guess your decisions, and feel uncertain about how well the project is going. On the flip side, when the client is well informed, they let you do what they hired you for, trust you to do a great job, and feel confident in your service and skills.
Make sure you’re providing regular updates for your clients, either at the end of each week or at each major milestone, and include:
- What has been completed
- Current project status
- What’s happening next
- What they can expect in the future
- Who is responsible for tasks that need to be completed and the deadlines they need to be completed by
Related: 16 tips to earn client referrals and create raving fans
11. Do unscheduled check-ins
In addition to the regular updates designed to keep the client informed about the status of their project, it’s also important to check in with clients when things are going well just to ask, “How is it going? Is there anything we can improve?”
By doing this, you’re being proactive about client satisfaction, you’re showing the client how much you care about their experience, and you’re creating an opportunity to address and eliminate any potential client concerns before they escalate into problems.
12. Offer to help
I end every single phone call, video chat and email to clients with the same close: “If you need any help, a fresh perspective, or some direction, or you have a question, reach out at [PHONE] or [EMAIL]. We’re here to support you and would love to hear from you.”
While very few clients ever take me up on the offer, all clients notice the fact that I’m always willing to provide additional help and support and that I’m available if they need it. What’s even better is that even if they don’t need it, they appreciate it. They’ll remember the peace of mind it gave them when a friend asks them for a referral.
Related: 10 customer service rules every web professional should follow
13. Automate what you can
From invoicing and project management software to CRM systems and email autoresponders, there are numerous tools available to automate processes within your business to reduce your workload and help you better serve your clients.
Your time is your most valuable resource. When you leverage automation correctly, you can:
- Reduce the administrative time spent on projects.
- Increase the education and training provided to clients.
- Improve the quality of service delivered.
This will make your projects more profitable, create happier more satisfied clients, and provide a consistent, high-quality experience for every client you have — even if you’re swamped, exhausted, on vacation, sick, or busy dealing with other things.
Related: How to leverage automation to create a remarkable client experience
14. Fulfill all promises
More important than almost anything is your ability to deliver on all promises made to the client and to do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it.
Each time you fail to fulfill promises, the client’s trust in you is diminished and your professionalism and dependability is reduced.
Do your best to never leave a client hanging and wondering why they haven’t heard from you. So, whether you say you’ll send an email, follow up, call, provide a link, send more information, or provide work deliverables by a certain date, do it and do it on time no matter what. That might even mean skipping lunch or working at night or over the weekend.
Taking action is simple
As you can see, beyond adding automation in your workflows, the tactics I’ve shared don’t take a lot of work to implement within your business. What they do take is a commitment to providing remarkable client service and a proactive approach to caring for, supporting, and educating your web design clients.
When designing your client management systems and web design project workflows, review each phase of your projects and ask yourself:
- How can I reduce time spent managing this part of the project?
- What can I do to eliminate potential challenges or hurdles?
- Where can I make this experience better for my clients?
When the answers to these questions are implemented in your business, you’ll experience successful web design projects: smoother project management, higher profits and happier clients, which will result in glowing testimonials, repeat business and more referrals.
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