To My Awesome Clients

I was just writing up a couple new statements of work for some new clients. And I thought about how lucky  I am to be doing what I love and to have such great clients. So I added this little note into my contract.

A Note About Client Satisfaction
“My clients mean everything to me, professionally. I take tremendous pride in the quality of my work and in the satisfaction of my clients. I’m very lucky to love what I do for a living. The essential balance between my career and my personal life allows me to dedicate myself to clients and my family. I make every effort to work quickly, efficiently, honestly, and with your best interests in mind. What’s more is that I’m committed to accountability; something I feel is too often overlooked in this industry. My clients deserve my best effort and that requires an open dialogue. I always appreciate my clients’ feedback and I respectfully request your willingness to rely on my professional expertise, when it’s applicable. In return, I promise never to B.S. you or knowingly offer solutions that are less than optimal. This mutual commitment will allow us to produce a better product. And if something’s not right, I’ll make it right.”
— Joe Myers

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  • Sunday River, Maine

    Sunday River 2010 website

    Sunday River 2010 website

    Among this years ski industry highlights were the redesign of JacksonHole.com, TheCanyons.com, and SundayRiver.com. Sunday River, in Bethel, Maine represented a second round of design; a rare opportunity for repeat business. And for that I’m truly thankful. What’s more, is that Sunday River is the place where I learned to ski. Or rather, Sunday River is also where my wife (a former Sunday River ski instructor) first gave me that all-important, life-altering ultimatum: “Well you can either learn to ski or you can just be lonely all winter…”

    The design is a result of very specific and time-tested insight from the established veterans of Sunday River’s brand manager Nick Lambert, as well as the tenacious work of Sunday River’s tireless developer, Maria Silveira. My thanks go out to Sunday River for their cooperation and commitment to their core principles.

    As always, feel free to hit me up for insider tips on the design and/or css of this site.

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  • Filed under: clients, my stuff
  • Proud New Daddy

    So a month ago I became a new father. My son, Charlie Landwehr Myers was born on October 18th, 8 weeks before his due date. My wife and I have endured the trials of the NICU and are proud to say that he is now home and safe.

    The professional implication for me is that I’ll be taking some time to focus on him and enjoy his first few weeks of life. I will be continuing to work on existing projects as I can, but I may be apprehensive about taking on new projects for the next few weeks. While I appreciate your interest (assuming you had any) I will be happy to refer you to another Design professional if I feel I cannot meet your needs.

    Thank you.

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  • Corrupting Young Minds

    Today I spoke to an undergraduate design class at my Alma mater Northeastern University in Boston. My friend Mark Wooding teaches a class at night to Junior level design students. This was my second appearance in his class via video conference. Our conversation was centered around the ups and downs of life as freelance designer. I tried to offer a series of tips to make life easier for aspiring freelancers. It seemed to be well received and this time around I was able to keep it much more succinct.

    Lecture Notes:

    http://www.joe-art.com/about_lecture3.html

    Although I don’t profess to be a seasoned design lecturer, I would certainly entertain other speaking engagements in the future. Please contact me if I might be of service.

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  • JacksonHole.com

    The new JacksonHole.com

    The new JacksonHole.com

    View Site »

    Today we launched the new site for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Jackson has a well-deserved reputation as an extreme skiers paradise. But they also need to appeal to a wider international audience of mixed abilities. So the site serves as a branding platform with enhanced copy points and bold imagery. At the same time, the hard-core local elite skiers can quickly access daily conditions and updates from anywhere.

    The design overhaul is bold and graphically rich. The nav is cleaner and more usable while the site architecture is streamlined for ease of use and SEO. The home page has a javascript slideshow, a tabbed media container, and an interactive promotional area. All pages have the daily snow report statistics in the header and a macro footer with handy links.

    Check out JacksonHole.com »

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  • The Canyons Site Redesign

    home1This summer I had the pleasure of “refreshing” the look of the main resort site for The Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah. As my “home” resort, The Canyons is my preferred place to ski for its variety of uncrowded terrain. So it was an honor to be able to assist their marketing department with the new site.  The Canyons knew what they wanted so there wasn’t an unusual amount of creative exploration. Overall this project was a joy to work on and I’m very happy with the result. Thanks to The Canyons for letting me help on this project.

    VISIT THE SITE »

    Details: The home page uses a large javascript slideshow which replaces the old Flash version I built them in 2004. The navigation sits in front of that div using z-index and negative margins to create a ribbon-style wrapping effect. Beneath the slideshow is a tabbed box that loads 5 different content objects using the Coda Slider JS by Niall Doherty. A graphic promo and on-board booking engine round out the bottom of the page.

    Additional development credit goes to The Canyons Marketing Department and Max Kloeppel.

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  • 6 Free Web Grid Templates

    I started a new web design sketch today. I opened a new canvas to 1100×900 pixels and as usual started laying out guides and had one of those “DUH!” moments. “Why don’t I just make a few common grid templates to start from?”

    If you’re saying, “Hey Joe, what a great idea!” then please feel free to download these. There are 6 .psd templates here that are optimized for 1024×768 resolutions. Have at it.

    downloadTemplatesWhat You’ll Get:
    7-column template (945px wide)
    8-column template (960px wide)
    9-column template (954px wide)
    10-column template (950px wide)
    10-column template (960px wide)
    12-column template (960px wide)

    Download Now »

    Quick Poll

    [polldaddy poll="1710950"]

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  • Ski Butlers Redesign

    The newly redesigned home page for Ski Butlers.com

    The newly redesigned home page for Ski Butlers.com

    Ski Butlers is a Park City-based chain of ski rental delivery franchises all over western North America. They cater to discerning ski vacationers who want top of the line gear without the inconvenience of traditional rental shops. At skibutlers.com you can reserve your rentals in advance for delivery to your hotel room at a time that suits you. They even show up with extra boot sizes if the fit’s not quite right.

    The redesign was challenging in that much of the content and functionality did not previously exist. What’s more is that the previous site made little consideration for SEO so the new site had to be completely standards compliant with lots of text and minimal markup.

    There’s still a lot to be done with the site’s content to get it up to speed but the new site should really help elevate the brand for next season, while increasing visibility and conversion. Here’s hoping.

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  • Avoiding Client Communication Errors

    As a designer you may find yourself constantly explaining the same things to clients. And while this can be frustrating for you, remember that it may be their first time down the road so you may need to slow down and explain why things are the way they are. Often times, simply addressing these items ahead of time will help you avoid any awkwardness in the transition from concept to development. Hopefully these common questions can help you anticipate your clients’ likely concerns and address them before they become an issue.

    There are ways to avoid these “surprises” throughout the process. But they require subtle communication and careful preparation. Remember, you’re the designer. So don’t corner the client with complicated technical or design questions, only to watch them glaze over and feel like they’re being talked down to. Instead try to engage your clients gently throughout the process to extract the necessary information and avoid any surprises.

    Common Client Questions

    Why doesn’t the type look like it did in the concept sketch?

    Setting the proper anti-aliasing for "live type" in your sketch can help avoid surprises down the road. (Mac OSX = "crisp" or "smooth", Windows IE6 = "none", Windows IE7 = "sharp" although not perfect.)

    Setting the proper anti-aliasing for "live type" in your sketch can help avoid surprises down the road. (Mac OSX = "crisp" or "smooth", Windows IE6 = "none", Windows IE7 = "sharp")

    It’s so easy to design a concept in Photoshop™ with gorgeous anti-aliased type as it will appear on your Apple Cinema Display. The client will LOVE your design because the smooth type looks better than jagged type on sites on their old CRT in IE6. But that’s not realistic now, is it? One way to avoid this pitfall is to find out what browser your client runs and design your concept to suit their environment. There’s no universal way to perfectly match Windows rendering but if you’re familiar with the evolution of different operating systems and how they render type, you can make small adjustments to better replicate what they will see when the site goes live. If your client is using IE6 as a primary browser, they’re most likely on an older machine without cleartype. So in anticipation, you can set all “live type” (type that will be editable) in your Photoshop sketch to “none” which will more accurately render the type as jagged (gag) like the browser would. If your client is on Vista, using IE7 or IE8 there is no perfect rendering mode, but the “sharp” anti-aliasing mode will be a little closer. If your client is on an Apple with OSX (you lucky bastard) you’re in the clear (pun optional) to use “crisp” or “smooth” as your preferred rendering mode.
    Here’s an example of fonts rendering in different browsers.

    What’s up with all the white space?

    Every time I get this question I die a little inside. But it’s legit. Clients often see real-estate as a finite asset, something to be rigidly maximized. This is understandable but it may be useful to set up an appreciation  for white space ahead of time. Often times, your client appreciates white space but they just don’t know it yet. At some point a client will say “Make it look like Apple.com.” Of course that’s a laughable statement but the undertone is that they like the singular focus and big beautiful imagery. You can do this. You really can. But when you  hear comments like that it’s important to jump on them and respond with something like “Yeah, I love how open their site is, and how focused the imagery is.” You may also have white space in the left hand column below the navigation. This is a common place for “dead space” (as the client  may call it) to accumulate. It’s important  to remind them that (A) the height of that column is independent of the content and will vary from one page to another, (B) it’s most likely dynamic so it’s impossible to control, so you’ve designed it to accommodate the worst-case scenario, and (C) the clean area will allow the user to focus on the important content at hand. But be sure to address it while you’re still concepting, rather than letting the site go to development.

    How come the site doesn’t take up my whole browser window?

    This is a tricky topic. But if you’re designing for a fixed width, the best answer is that you’ve looked at the client’s user data and it overwhelmingly suggests that their users are mostly on a common resolution (1024 x 768 most likely), and your design is set to optimized that viewing experience. The second half of the answer is that the site does not scale with the browser resolution (like say, Amazon) because your client’s content is not infinite. All the client wants  to know that you’ve considered these possibilities and made an educated decision that your decision best suits there needs. You’ve considered that a fluid width would be detrimental to the ideal line-length (66 characters or so) and ultimately it would hurt readability. You’ve addressed all the permutations of necessary content objects (banners, promos, etc) and they all have a nice neat place to live. And if all else fails, point out that The New York Times does it so it must be right. (Of course, choose your words carefully.)

    Why can’t we use our corporate font everywhere?

    It can be hard to explain the limited font selection on the web. But once you’ve gotten over that hurdle, it can be an opportunity to discuss why you’ve chosen Arial to compliment their logotype of Bodoni for example. And until CSS3 is universally supported, embedding display fonts through the use of “@font-face” is not a viable option.  In some cases, however you may want to dress up headings or special type areas with more graphic-looking fonts. For that you may want to look into sIFR which is a cool way of replacing live type with display type rendered in Flash through the use of CSS and Javascript. Another options is FLIR which uses PHP, Javascript, CSS and image replacement to render your headlines. But of course the effort and accessibility are drawbacks to these otherwise cool work-arounds. Having used sIFR initially on FetchDog.com I also found that there were load time issues caused by the extra scripts and server calls. So the best bet is to get good at making web type look sexy.

    Can you change the rollover states?

    It’s impossible to anticipate and document every minor detail for client approval. Sooner or later you’ll have to make some executive decisions to avoid opening a major can of worms and wasting time with client approvals. For example, should you ask your client what visited link color to use in the right hand column? Probably not, but what if they don’t like the color you picked? Obviously that’s an easy one to fix. But what if you created a nice flash site where all the button elements have a complicated mouse-over behavior? It may be best to define the behavior once and seek approval before proceeding with the rest. Your call. But consider how long the effect will take to alter and weigh it against the time it would take to receive a quick approval. There’s your answer.

    Can we add a major content element at the last minute?

    Last minute scope creep is a given in this industry. Typically it happens when a client is not fully prepared, but is under a tight deadline. But rather than being combative or perceived as unreasonable, cover your ass with a signed Statement of Work (SOW) document that defines the scope and requirements of the project. This document can get batted around many times but when it’s signed you have a project framework and a record of which requests are reasonable and which ones may mean potential added revenue. If those out-of-scope requests add up, you may be able to table them until after launch and address them all at once in a Phase 2 approach. Clients can usually budget and digest that much more easily than a nickel and dime approach.

    So I have an idea for the site intro…

    NO. This isn’t 1999. I don’t do intros. —Well, let me clarify. I’m not opposed to some animation on the home page. But in recent years I’ve adopted a “no splash page policy”. If someone requests an “intro” I try to talk them off the ledge by offering them an animation on their home page. This usually goes over pretty well once I get done explaining that (A) the concept of an intro is out-dated, (B) it’s annoying to users who are completely over the idea and who just want to find content, and (C) that we can make the same impact without a barrier to entry which the isolated intro represents.

    My mom looked at the site on AOL and…

    There’s always going to be some techno-peasant on a dial-up connection somewhere who is not getting the complete experience. Your job is to determine early on in the process if those people matter. If you’re able to ascertain who the clients’ core users are and what their minimum requirements are. If your client is hot on ground-breaking technologies or a high-bandwidth user experience, you’ll need to warn them about the risks without talking them out of their excitement. A good way to do this is to make clients sign a Technical Requirements Document (TRD) up front. We’d all like to stop supporting IE6 but that  may not be realistic and it’s important to know up front if that’s important. So draft up a document saying which target browsers will be supported, what system specifications are necessary to view the complete experience and what versions of software will be required.

    Your Turn:

    If you’re a designer, are there common questions you get from clients that make you want to dine out on a bullet? If you’re a marketer, have you ever had an awkward exchange with a designer that could have been easily avoided with proper communication up front? If so, comment on this post and let’s discuss.

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  • Filed under: clients