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Learn Your Design Process

by Barbara Burns

image: how to match skills and styles?

Web designers look for clients that are a good match for their skills and styles, while clients/employers look for the same match. Organization, documentation and communication skills in web design can open doors. If you cannot communicate to potential clients or employers why they should hire you, they won't - they will believe you cannot communicate their message any better than you can communicate yours. Designers basically ask the same questions of clients - the clients' answers drive our creative process. With case site studies, you can show present and prospective clients how you will create the web site that will deliver their message.

Each web designer can have a very different, distinctive and personal approach to project creation, management and completion as well as portfolio documentation and presentation. Yet each can achieve the same great results for current clients and attract future clients. The key is to highlight your talents and effectively display your skills, whether it is done online, in person, via a proposal or in a resume format.

Clients Care About Results

Clients and prospective clients care about cost effective, timely results. They also care if you can clearly communicate with them and great looking web sites they can see that will meet their needs. Clients and employers are only willing to gamble on what appear to be sure-things, not long-shots with little or poor track records. Our portfolio is our track record. By documenting your design process, you will appear as an organized genius in your portfolio, presentations and work life. You will also be VERY well prepared for selling your skills/services because you know your "process". You will also know how you did it by creating case site studies of your past work.

"Oh! I Could Never Do That!"

Yes you can. The first step is to recognize your approach to the Design Process. The second step is to document it. The third is to use it in your portfolio and presentations.

Outlines, Flowcharts and Schedules

Are you the organized "Plan Ahead" Detail-Oriented Designer? (Sometimes referred to as an anal-retentive control freak that knows to the pixel how the final design will display in every browser before coding the site.).

During the information gathering/questioning phase, prior to site creation, write an outline of how you plan to meet the client's goals for the website. Create the site. As you work, document in bullet format what you are doing to meet the client's goals. If there are some client goals that will not be met, document this also, explaining in bullet format why they were dropped. Now in your online portfolio, showcase your talent with either a screen-capture or for confidential sites, a working mock-up of the "look and feel" of the interactive features for this site if possible.

Cocktail Napkins or Post It Notes

Or do you think you´re more of the disorganized "Create First Gusher"? (Sometimes referred to as a creative slob that cannot find anything on or in their desk, and whose keyboard might need crumbs removed thrice daily.)

Plunge into designing. Gather all of the information, create and finish the site. Now, get a piece of paper and write in bullet form what each goal was and how each was met. Document what client goals were not realized and why the client agreed not to have you implement them.

The Bottom Line

Make yourself look great to every present and prospective client. Be honest and straightforward, but remember site studies are your "skill / talent selling tools". If you know your design process, you can speak to anyone in an intelligent and self-confident manner any time anywhere about communicating their web site message effectively. And that is how you will meet your bottom line .... earning a living doing what you love to do.

Photo of Barbara Burns

Barbara Burns (aka TX Dragon) became an Intranet Web/Graphic Designer for a local Houston, Texas, area PEO in July 1999 after several years as a freelance Web Designer for small business and personal web sites. Her prior corporate experience includes customer service and mainframe computer programming in Iowa and Texas, as well as phone PC hardware and software tech support in the Austin, Texas, area. She can be reached at txdragon@txdragon.com and her resume portfolio is at www.txdragon.com.

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