2012 is the year of the website redesign. After three years of conservative spending on websites, this year we’ve seen an explosion of activity. I am assuming this is because businesses have realized three things; first, Facebook is not going to replace the corporate website as a medium. Second, the recession is getting better and there’s a little money left over for marketing. Third: Sites look old and pathetic after a few years.

How to redesign your Site

There are a range of solutions for redesigning your site. I’ll give you two directions: For smaller companies, an easy and inexpensive solution is to go to TemplateMonster.com and VOILA! Add a few sentences of descriptive copy about your company and you’ve got a new site. It really is that easy, it looks pretty good and it costs about a hundred bucks.

However, many mid-sized to larger companies are interested in a more customized, branded site; one that is built off of a robust communication strategy, taxonomy and deliberate user paths through the site (read: one that will convert serious business). For this level of work, it’s time to hire a Web designer.

What does a Web designer actually do?

Contrary to popular opinion, a Web designer does not actually fire up a doobie, crank up Deadmou5 and then start randomly drawing squares and circles on your website. Your designer is part artist, part mathematician, and part business consultant. They spend serious hours behind the scenes researching your competitors, researching how companies solved communication challenges like the one you described, and how to translate your brand effectively online.

The result is a piece of artwork that needs to work on a variety of screen sizes (like 65 screen sizes), several kinds of browser technology (more than 25 variations), and communicates your exact brand message.

They do rendering math, column width measurements, button width and saturation measurements, and fight with the programmer who has to implement the design. With any luck, the designer is on your side during these parts of the process.

What makes your designer hate you

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After all of that work, careful planning, decision making, and formatting the Web designer presents their work to you, the client. If you’re a good client, you will appreciate the work and move on. However, your designer will want to murder you if your comments include: that font is too big, I think the blue should be one shade lighter, and you should reduce the size of the home page image by 10 pixels.


Why it pays to be a good client

Good clients get better work out of their Web designers. They often get additional hours of design time and a better overall design when they let the vision of the designer lead the project.

And they stay alive. An added bonus.

Marci De Vries is president of MDV Interactive, a web consulting firm in Baltimore. Reach her at marci@mdvinteractive.com.