[thelist] How do I build a proposal for a website?

Janet Green JGreen at desmoinesmetro.com
Fri Aug 8 10:20:36 CDT 2003

>>>The reason I think showing creative devalues the web design industry is 
I feel it perpetuates the myth the web design is solely about making a 
website look pretty and has nothing to do with good planning, IA, 
usability and marrying up business objectives to user needs.<<<

Andy, I see the point you're making, but what do you believe is the alternative when the client specifically *asks* to have design mockups (or even just a color scheme) in the proposal? It seems to me that your answer to that would be to say, "I won't provide those because I can't do any design without thorough planning and research, but I *can* show you what I have done for other clients so you can see that my design work comes out of the research and planning." Which is a great and true and fine answer, until the client reiterates that they want to see some mockups because they want to see what you can do for *them* before they hire you, and now you're in a position of steadfastly refusing to give them what they're asking for. (Or, they shrug their shoulders and let you do it your way without pushing the issue, until it comes time to pare down that pile of proposals.) Will the client respect your commitment to your principles and hire you without mockups, trusting that your thorough research and planning will give them what they want? Or will they just pick one of the ten other designers who *will* give them a peek at some creative because it's easier to work with someone who didn't put up a barrier? Or - would YOU chuck the client altogether and forego the proposal? My experience has been that in developing a proposal, you can gather enough information from the client about the key parts of the site (functionality, audience, purpose, etc.) to be comfortable in creating a couple sample pages and saying, "This is one way this might flow together. Of course, that could change once we get into the planning process."

Furthermore, if you're going to argue that the web design profession is devalued by this practice, then I think it's fair to ask - "Devalued in whose eyes?" In the eyes of potential clients? I don't think so. I think clients care about meeting their business objectives, they care about getting good value for their investment in a designer, and a RETURN on investment from the product the designer creates. But they don't sit around their staff meetings commenting on how web design is just about making pretty pages. (And if they do say such things, they quickly learn from the OTHER materials in those proposals that there's a lot of planning and research that has to go into making those pretty pages!) So I doubt if we're devalued in the eyes of clients. How about in the eyes of the design/communications community? Well, *I* know the value of good planning and research and I'd bet so does everyone in this particular community - and I bet you'd be hard-pressed to find a professional web designer anywhere who says, "I just slap the design together and don't really give a hoot about planning it out or even if it meets the client's needs." So who is left to devalue our work? Who is out there saying, "web design is all about pretty pages"? Maybe the kids making the Geocities sites - but is that who you're competing against for major projects? Doubtful. Will they go to school or otherwise study the profession and *learn* that there is planning and research involved before making the pretty pages? Probably. Do you care what that kid thinks? Not til s/he grows up and becomes your competitor, by which time s/he's educated and shares your commitment to thorough planning. 

Spec creative doesn't devalue the profession because clients are too busy running their businesses to even think about it and your fellow designers know and understand the challenges you face in finding that balance between creative integrity and client service. I can't think of anyone else offhand whose opinion I'd even worry about. 

:/ Janet

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