Step into my studio and get a behind the scenes look on a project – from enquiry to delivery

I am always intrigued by other designers processes. How people I admire tackle things and approach their work. How much do they charge? How do they land clients? How do they come up with ideas? And what processes do they utilise? I guess it’s human nature to be a bit inquisitive and to pry on others. That’s why reality TV shows and vlogging is so popular. Over time, I’ve been asked similar questions repeatedly, so I thought it’d be nice to share some of my own processes with you. My hope is that you can gain some insight into how I work and take something valuable away from it, so that you can add to your own work process.

Now that I’ve become an independent freelancer, my processes and responsibilities vary greatly to when I was a Creative Director. I am engaged to tackle very specific points in a project as opposed to working on an end to end product. That process looked something like this. 

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Agency model - How I used to work

1. Enquiry

2. Tender/Pitch - We won Yay!

3. Discovery

User Research

Project Requirements

Key Objectives

Competitor Analysis

4. Wireframing - Present plus revisions

5. Usability Testing - Test plus more revisions

6. Design Concepts

7. Design Rollout

8. Build

9. Launch

And a shit load of meetings in between; sometimes projects are spread across 3-6 months with multiple projects running concurrently. You are supported by a design and development team. 

 

Freelancer - How I work now

I'll be engaged with one of the key phases above – whether that’s wireframing, design concepts, design roll out, or a mixture of these key phases condensed into a shorter timeframe. And that's what I do today. I am more behind the tools, producing more work that makes me happy and having less meetings about meetings. Less writing and talking about what I’m going to do, and rather just doing it. 

As a caveat, every project has it's own intricacies which varies in size, timeline, outcomes and engagement. This is an example of 1 particular project.  So on that note, step inside and welcome to my inner workings. Even though I work in a very specific area, I always approach it with a very holistic view. What are the objectives? And who are the users and how can I service them?

The Backstory

I work out of my humble studio in Melbourne, Australia. Pants are optional in this space, but good design isn’t. Over the last 1.5+ years I have had the privilege to work for clients from around the world, from London, Toronto, LA to Zagreb – Croatia, and for some truly lovely clients in some exciting industries. I get asked a lot about how I get these freelancing leads.

So without further adieu, here it is... About 80% of it comes from dribbble, including word of mouth from those clients - leading to other clients. I've billed close to $200,000 thus far thanks to dribbble. The rest is from other channels such as behance(a lot more bogus leads I find), word of mouth from non-dribbble clients and from old agency connections. The focus is on nurturing quality leads. People and organisations that I genuinely feel I can help and get excited about. I've probably said no more times than I’ve said yes to leads, and purposely passing on jobs that I feel neither I or the client will gain a lot of value from. I quit my old post as Creative Director to work on projects that I was excited by. If you're new to freelancing, here's an article I wrote for six revisions that may help you. 5 tips to making more money as a freelancer.

So in simple terms, the process looks something like this. 

1. Get an enquiry

2. Get paid and do some work

3. Delivery

1. Getting an enquiry

I've mentioned before but I don’t use a push strategy. In basic terms, it means that I don’t seek clients via promotions or cold calling or emails and then try to offer my services. I may, down the track, but as it stands my freelancing enquiries ALL come from a pull strategy. Where leads have come to me and hit my inbox based on the work that I put up online and on different channels. I believe in focusing on doing good work, that breeds great results for my clients and their users. I also focus to promote only the type of work that I wish to take on. If you do this well enough – you will build a reputation and get enquiries  but first and foremost, keep working on your craft and trying to get better. 

Key takeaways

1. Promote and push the kind of work that you want to do. 

2. Publish your work on different channels. 

3. Push for the success of your clients and their end users. 


So what does a lead look like? Here, I will try to share as much as I can. Leads come in all shapes and forms. Some will be short. Some will be extremely long winded and detailed. Some will be “Can I HAZ a website and how much for a blog design?” Some will want to hire you and for you to work in-house. Others will be for remote work etc. etc. Your goal hopefully, if you've been doing the right things, is to weed out and qualify which of these clients will be a good fit for you  and that you can genuinely help and create great work for. 

TIP: Have reserve money in the bank – if you're clutching at jobs for a quick buck, it’ll lead you to a dark and windy road that you don’t want to go down  that way you can be selective with which jobs you take on and help clients that resonate with you the most. 

Why explain when you can just use the cooking show format– here’s a few real leads that I’ve prepared earlier. 

Now compare this lead, to these two which I didn’t really follow up on. What’s the difference?

example-not-accepted-2.jpg

How I qualify my leads

1. Write my name at least. Chances are, if you haven't bothered to even write my name, or address specific areas of my work, you’ve probably sent this to dozens of designers: either hoping for a low price, to receive some free work as we try to battle it out against each other, or some other reason  which means it’s an uphill battle for myself, and unless it’s an amazing opportunity, I usually pass on these jobs. I used to follow up on  these early on, but have found that it is usually a waste of time. 

2. If price is the first thing you ask, I'm probably not a good fit.

3. If you want to Skype or talk straight away. There's actually not much wrong with this, except due to the volume of enquiries it’s very time consuming. I will leave these potentially great clients to all my other freelance brothers and sisters, because I don’t have the capacity to respond to all of these. 

For the leads that I do follow up on, I always try to be nice and helpful – even if I don't get the job. That's OK. These are usually individuals and companies that are invested in what they are doing. And I knew I would be in with a shot. So back to that first lead...

 

Do a quick internal check

1. Can I provide value to the client and help them achieve their goals? I don't know yet, so I will have to ask questions and look at the brief carefully and identify what the client needs and not just what they are asking for, and then make a proposal. 

2. Do I have enough time? Yes. 

3. Does the project resonate with me? Yes. 

 

With this project, I am familiar with the client. He and his wife are extremely passionate and positive entrepreneurs that run a very successful ecommerce site. They were actually one of the highest grossing sites on Shopify for a period of time and they have millions of followers on their social channels. So I have written about the art of emails before when trying to land a client. There are some useful tips there. You can read it here if you are not familiar with the principles I'm talking about – building trust, showcase experience and past work. So I followed up the email and tried to get to know the client more and ask as many questions as possible.

 

Pricing shit

So how do I price projects? Here are some concepts that can help you if you are a freelancer. 

1. Value based pricing. Get Dan Mall’s book. And read this nice article about it here.

2. What is your work worth to a client? How much money or exposure will you generate for them? Now balance that with how much is your time worth? What would be worthwhile for the time that you'll never get back again? Put a price on that. 

I like to work with fixed project rates. 

Pricing, and putting it all into perspective, could I juggle it with my other existing jobs for the month? And most importantly, still be able to spend time with my wife Phuong, my son Theodore, and Butters our pet corgi. Work-life balance is important. Sometimes, I'll take a month off to focus on other exciting projects like Verse and Process-Masterclass, or simply to travel and unwind. Health, family and happiness. I love what I do, but I also have to remember not to let it consume me too much and take away time from other important aspects of my life. As designers, design is almost a lifestyle where we never truly switch off. So it’s a constant balancing act. FREEDOM is what I value the most as a freelancer. 

In the end, what I brought to the table for the client, and what the project was worth to me at that given time, I quoted the project at $15,000 for responsive designs. Could what I was doing provide them 10X the investment? So to generate at least $150,000 not only in sales but in net profit? Most definitely. And this continues to scale up. 

So I sent over this email. Take a look at the things I address. 

____

 

Hey Client Name,

Thanks for the project brief mate. The inspiration sites you listed are great, you have good taste! For an ecommerce site of this size my quote is $15k usd. Which is 3 weeks of work on my end. Spread across 1.5 months from date of commencement. 

 

Here’s a breakdown of what this entails

  • Visual Redesign of Undisclosed

  • An audit of your sites information architecture and how we can sell the story and benefits of Undisclosed better.  

  • Variations on the product page for A/B testing to see what works. And which layout can offer the best conversion rate for you guys.

  • Prototyping of new ecommerce design patterns that could work well for Undisclosed. (You have only 1 product with multiple variations that the user needs to figure what’s right for them. What’s the best way we can achieve this. I will prototype different user flows that you can test with your users directly to see what works best. Sometimes we don’t need to re-invent the wheel. But other times if we can make the experience AT LEAST 2X better, it’s worth trying something innovative. Think smartphones pre-iphone. And then when the first iPhone came out what that meant for the phone market. Could be a chance to test new ideas, and we can test to see if they’ll convert) Examples: check out the customisation on this site. https://preview.unmade.com/ And a sticky buy now on long format product pages for example. https://dribbble.com/shots/2374798-Process-Masterclass-sneak-peek  It doesn’t have to be drastic things, but things that can delight the user a bit more. I like to call these little big ideas. We’ll feel this out as the project progresses and discover which solution is best. Because at the end of the day its all about providing value to your users and conversion :) 

  • Responsive designs for the main pages. Homepage, Colour Wizard, Product Page, Our story, Why Undisclosed. Give mobile some more love as more and more shoppers are shopping with their phones. I’d be keen to see what your stats are currently saying are you seeing a steady growth on mobile purchases at the moment.

 

Project goals:

  • Boost conversions for you guys

  • Provide a better user experience for your visitors. You guys have great content on your socials networks, make the site more sticky for users. Particularly when you diversify your product line down the track.

  • Execute on the vision that you want for the Undisclosed brand. Make it look awesome, function awesome, convert awesomely and make your customers feel awesome ;) It’s a good site already but to make it even better and to put it to the standard of where you want to be. If people ask - its a s*** yeah! That’s my site sort of feeling. 

 

Quick questions:

Are you guys keeping the existing visual language of the brand. Ie. the typefaces and current Undisclosed logo?

Will the photography be available during the redesign of the site? When it comes to ecommerce - content is everything. So regardless of what I do on my end if the photography and video is not right we’ve kind of lost the battle. Even if it’s preliminary art direction of only a few samples that will aid in the redesign of the site. Or I can provide reference imagery/art direction that could work for the site and you can shoot photos based on my spec. 

My payment plan for clients is 50% upfront and 50% on the completion and delivery of the source files. I use invision and redpen for project feedback. And slack and email for comms. 

Also for transparency - I will be running this project alongside other projects and my wife is due to give birth towards the end of Jan. Which means I will be taking a little time off. Communications line will still be open. But I won’t be on the computer as often to do edits straight away. If you need this job with a SUPER SPEEDY turn around at this point in time I’m not the best candidate. 

Phew that’s it! Whatever you guys decide sincerely wish you guys all the best with the project :) 

Cheers,

Nguyen

____

So I know that they love the visual side of my work, that’s why they contacted me, but I wanted them to understand that I focus on the objective side of the work as well, and key outcomes for their business. Ask questions, be honest and be sincere. 

Posted that. The client was happy, and I was asked to send over a formalised proposal. 

 

Sending over a proposal

So I have a base template that I use for my proposals, that contains an

1. Executive summary

2. Project schedule

3. Pricing

4. Services breakdown

5. A specific breakdown of key deliverables - How many pages/templates. What file format? And EXACTLY what will be delivered at the end. 

6. Terms & Conditions of contract. 

Client name not listed due to privacy reasons.

Sometimes the client will require some more examples of my work. The purpose of this is to build trust and validation. The proof is in the pudding they say. Dribbble is a fun platform, but it definitely doesn't display insight into a project, key outcomes, and a holistic view of a project. That's why it gets so much flak. But for getting leads, and connecting with other great designers and top tier companies, it’s a great space to get your foot through the door. Once you got your foot through the door, you're going to deliver the goods. If you've got nothing to show, you’re fucked. But we're prepared, because that’s when a credentials document can come in handy. 

 

Backing up your shit with some credentials

Sometimes I'll craft a custom credentials document based on the clients industry or type of project, and provide work examples of clients that I’ve successfully helped in that particular space. What were the key outcomes and how have I helped other clients succeed? In this case, I shot over to the client an Ecommerce Credentials document of some recent work that I’d done. They didn’t actually ask for one, they just wanted some examples. 

TIP: If you don't have work in a particular space – it’s OK. You’re fighting more of an uphill battle but the goal is to show and convince the client that YOU are the candidate that can solve their problems. Focus on that and be creative in how you can convey that message. Learn to sell.

Ecommerce Credentials document – some client names are blurred out due to confidentiality

Once I sent this off, I got this response a few days later. They were budgeting closer to $8k-$10k. For this price, it was not worth taking on the project. So I decreased the scope of the work. The lowest I would go was $11.5k. Negotiating is part of the game, but don’t ever sell yourself short. I got this response.  

The day was over and still nothing. So after a little bit of radio silence, I decided to send a friendly follow up. We had a few more discussions regarding timeline, price and scope. As seen by the emails below. 

So 16 emails later and about 13 days from initial enquiry. We sign :)

In the end, we settled on a budget of $14,000 for design-only, across 4 weeks. Which for me, as an independent designer, is a medium sized job given the time frame of 4 weeks.

 

Working out payment terms

TIP: As a freelancer you need to accept payments upfront. It shows that the client trusts you. And beyond that, it protects you from getting fucked over, so that you don't spend ages working on something – only to not get paid. Next thing you know, you realise you can't provide for your family, you're clipping coupons and eating $1 rice bowls because some asshole you trusted, didn't pay you after all that work. DON'T be that person. Get fucking paid straight away. Sure, we love our jobs but this is BUSINESS. There’s a great talk by Mike Monteiro called “Fuck you, Pay me”.

For projects of this size, I request 50% payment before commencing work. I send off an invoice that looks like this.

Fun fact: Prior to being a freelancer, I was thinking who would pay some guy on the other side of the world a few thousand up front. Working for an agency, we had face to face interactions so it felt normal to get that big upfront deposit. But in the end, I realised it was all the same thing whether you do it in person or online. It’s about building trust and investing in your reputation. As long as you can earn trust and show examples of how you have delivered in the past, and that you’re a REAL person, they are happy to pay. Now it doesn’t even phase me anymore and seems normal to ask for a sizeable deposit upfront. For most jobs, I accept 50% payment upfront. That’s my rule of thumb. 

 

So I send off my usual invoice and the client accepts my 50% down payment of $7,000. Sometimes projects commence immediately and a basic kick off document is sent off if no brief exists. Most of the time, we will liaise via email and begin the project. This project had a brief already, so we set up a quick Skype meet and greet. The client was a great guy with a great vision for his company. So I was excited to make a star. 

For this project, I was sent a rough brief of the project requirements and reference sites. So when you start, you either have to extract a brief from the client, or work and improve on their pre-existing one. The key is to  ask a lot of questions  the more you know, the better you will be able to do your job. 

Fun fact: I once had to weed through a 100 page document for a hospital website to consolidate the findings, it's users, and the different departments. It took me a month, but by the end of it, I knew the ins and out of the hospital and what was truly required of the site.  

Give an overview of the process to your client

I like to work agile, but if you put a brief agenda for the different phases of work, it will allow you and your client to be on the same page. I prefer not to do detailed timelines like during my agency days, but something more like this – here’s one I prepared earlier. 

____

Hi Client name,

Here is the project process and flow mapped out til the end of Feb. 

1. Style boards - Iterate and explore different avenues until we agree on a general direction.

2. Once style boards are good to go we will then proceed to the Homepage concept designs - mobile and desktop. (Iterate and get feedback via redpen)

3. Once homepage is approved we will use that Art Direction to rollout the other page templates. Focus on desktop and mobile.  (Iterate and get feedback via redpen)

3a. Concurrently test flows on Invision and prototype interactions with principal (Iterate and get feedback)

- Conduct internal user testing done by Undisclosed team

4. Rollout remaining responsive page templates and prep for project handover. 

5. Finalise any small remaining tweaks with you guys and get it ready for the developers. Also post handover I am happy to audit and give my feedback on the site as it’s being developed. 

And as soon as you can please pass the concepts to your developers. To identify if everything is feasible with your chosen platform. Along with their own capabilities and if everything is possible with the timeline that you have set ie. the April launch. The earlier you involve them the better as we need to ensure that they are capable of executing the designs and the concepts presented. 

____

So for this particular project, that covered all bases. 

2. Doing the work

So now that the business stuff is out of the way, it’s time to do the thing that I’m actually passionate and excited by, and why I continue to be a designer in the first place. Doing the work. Creating beautiful work that delights and solves problems. I've talked the talk. They've paid me. Now it's time to walk....FUCK! 10 years doing this, but there always that little voice. “You're not going to come up with anything great. ” That uncertainty is daunting, but at the same time, it means that I still care. I’m not just phoning it in. I'm trying to challenge myself and do my best work. For myself and for the client. 

I stare at this blank screen. But stick to my processes and the results will begin to reveal itself. 

Create a styleboard or moodboard

So my first step with clients for a design-only job, is to explore the visual language. I like to focus on collaborating with the client and making them feel like co-designers as well. They know their business well and I know what works. The key is to go through iterations and to use the styleboard as a conversation starter and to gauge the general direction  without wasting too much time doing polished concepts. It’s a great way to get client buy in.

To begin, I just have a ton of books, magazines and resources that I refer to. I have a mental catalogue of typefaces that I use for different industries. This project I was working on, was in the fashion and lifestyle industry, with women as the primary audience. I opted to use Acta and Futura, after browsing through magazines that are in a similar space. When brainstorming, I’ll have a ton of resources just scattered on my desk to refer to. I also like to look at traditional media and not only digital references.

Couple of issues of Mindfood that I felt captured the mood and essence of the clients industry well. 

TIP: Look to offline media for inspiration. Find material that relates to and appeals to the industry and users that you are designing for. 

 

Start on something small first, then expand upon that

When I begin a project, I like to begin with 1 element and extrude the rest of the design. I would say 90% of the time I would begin with the typography. Exploring type sizes, hierarchy and typefaces when no existing brand and style guide exists. Using the type as a basis for scale, we can from there extrude other elements. I also think about different interaction design patterns. Anything we can improve on that can make a big difference to the outcome of the project. Create a better experience for users, create value and convert users to customers.

After a couple of internal versions, I came up with something that I was happy to present. A place I wasn’t sure I’d get to. But like always, I stick to a process. Working on 1 detail and building that out. Continually iterating, and something always reveals itself eventually. 

So I sent off the mood board. Sometimes it takes a few iterations to get it right, but the client was happy with the overall art direction and so we push on. The images were used as reference for the art direction on the photography. For ecommerce – photography IS the design. It’s about making the content the focus. 

 

First concept

I'm old school, so I like to print out my brief and highlight the key things I need to cover. I drill down all of the macro-level things I need to achieve.Work on incorporating design language with strategy, users and business objectives. Look through the list of requirements and think from a functional side and from an emotional and user-centric side.

TIP: Don’t take briefs at face value. Sometimes you will need to decode a brief. Dig deep and try to understand what the client is really after.

I identified 4 user groups I thought about when designing. 

_____

First time visitor - They're not sure who you guys are, and they don't know product that well, but are curious and want to learn. We need to inform and inspire. Show the benefits of your product and make it aspirational, to create that need. 

Needer/Comparer - These are the people that have a need. They have an occasion and are looking to buy product type. They are shopping around and comparing products. They’re halfway there but need a nudge. We need to show that we are a high quality product, almost premium, but at a great price. Showcase quality and value. We can immediately do that with the design, video content and user reviews. Make sure our product pages are enticing and detailed, so when comparisons are made, we’re on top. Judging by your competitors and your market - you guys are owning that space. So we’re just pushing that messaging further and tightening everything up so we hold that space. 

Youtuber - These are the fans from your channel. And after providing content for so long they are looking to buy. We need to make sure that your personality is not lost on the site. Through language and content we shall continue to tie it together with your social channels. Make the brand feel bigger than before but still personal. 

Buyer - These guys arrive at your site with a mission. They are looking to buy. Make the experience as CLEAR and no fuss as possible. Have clear call to action cues to SHOP and BUY. Also focus on the mobile experience as well. 

_____

So now we get into the gutsy phase. The concept designs. I use the following tools for this phase. 

1. Photoshop

2. RedPen

3. Skala Preview

4. Principle

5. Invision

Using the style board as a building block, I continue to build out the concept further. Think about the following things when working:

1. What are you trying to achieve with this page? What are the business objectives?

2. What and how will each of the four user groups interact with this page? What will they need to know and be able to do, to achieve their goals? And in what context are they using the site?

3. What is the story I am trying to tell and does this feel reflective of the above points?  

I keep a mental note of the above questions. It’s easy to get lost in the details but always remember the above points. They are your north star. 

I go through a ton of internal iterations. I kind of throw things onto the canvas and see what sticks. What feels right. Then, try to think if I'm a particular user, would this be clear and feel right. A lot of my decisions and ideas stem from experience and intuition that I then validate with user testing and data as feedback, to make iterations. There’s no real shortcut for this, just a lot of hours, projects and hard work. Then, certain things become a lot easier. So after a ton of internal iterations moving different modules around, I finish the concept. What I like to call the first cut. 

Mobile is also a big part of the experience moving forward, so concurrently I was working on testing that. I had to make sure that the IA felt right across the board. I also focused on prototyping a key experience that is at the heart of the user purchasing process. 

So initial comps. To prototypes. Test with Skala view and principle. Then allow clients to preview on Redpen for desktop and Invision for live mobile previewing. This will be interesting with the introduction of Adobe Experience aka ProjectComet and may change my workflow again. 

Using Skala Preview to test type size, look and feel and ergonomics of the site on mobile. 

OK. This part I really need to drill in. Make sure you explain your decisions to your client in an objective and NOT subjective manner. I made this blue because it feels light and used this font because it’s modern and in trend -- NO. Fuck that shit! Tie your decision making process back to the users and business goals! And how you've interpreted that with your design. 

Find a tool that will articulate your design thinking and the ideas behind your decisions. I like to use Redpen to annotate notes and showcase key areas. And clients can comment directly on to my annotations.

My note on Redpen: Kept this as it’s a big selling proposition. And it’s great for conversions. 

I can’t show you the full preview, but here is a snippet of the first cut. 

So I delivered on a homepage for desktop, a preview for mobile using Invision, and a prototype for a shopping flow. I sent these components to the client. Here’s the exact email.

____

Hey Client name,

Hope all is well in London. And that you are hopefully getting a small amount of sunshine. 

Here is the first cut of the homepage, based on the project brief. The structure of your existing site is great (and clearly as its converting for you guys) but I’ve taken on the liberty of tightening things up where I see fit. And where improvements can be made - not only from a visual standpoint. But from a conversion standpoint as well. 

When designing I had a few user types in mind.

First time visitor - They not sure who you guys are, and know product type that well. But are curious and want to learn. We need to inform and inspire. Show the benefits of your product and make it aspirational, to create that need. 

Needer/Comparer - These are the people that have a need. They have an occasion and are looking to buy product type. They are shopping around and comparing products. They’re halfway there but need a nudge. We need to show that we are a high quality product, almost premium but at a great price. Showcase quality and value. We can immediately do that with the design, video content and user reviews. Make sure our product pages are enticing and detailed, so when comparisons are made we’re on top. Judging by your competitors and your market - you guys are owning that space. So we’re just pushing that messaging further and tightening everything up so we hold that space. 

Youtuber - These are the fans from your channel. And after providing content for so long they are looking to buy. We need to make sure that your personality is not lost on the site. Through language and content we shall continue to tie it together with your social channels. Make the brand feel bigger than before but still personal.

Buyer - These guys arrive at your site with a mission. They are looking to buy. Make the experience as CLEAR and no fuss as possible. Have clear call to action cues to SHOP and BUY. Also focus on the mobile experience as well. 

I’ve placed my notes on Redpen. Also the footer is still being worked on butyou can view the first cut here:

https://redpen.io/linkhidden 

Also attached is a quick prototype of how the “Choose your desired set” could work. The rectangle you see will appear on hover. We want to make everything feel clear, easy and snappy. 

And I’ve begun getting a feel for the mobile experience too. You can view it on invision here. You can view this link on your phone and follow the instructions to see what it will look like natively. At the moment it’s optimised for iPhone 6. But the site is responsive so when its live it will be flush no matter the device. At the moment its just to get a look and feel to see how the art direction will feel on the device itself. 

https://invis.io/linkhidden

 

Some questions.

1. Is there a reason you added an extra step from the existing buy flow.

Currently its SET > COLOUR > PRODUCT DETAIL

The version I created per your spec is 

SET > COLOUR TYPE > SPECIFIC COLOUR > PRODUCT DETAIL

Are users getting confused with having to pick from so many colours? I can create versions for both so you can A/B test but just wanted to see why you introduced an extra step. 

 

2. With the footer

I see some links have been added there for SEO purposes. So before I work on the footer. Please advise which links you want to keep and which can be removed, if any. 

Post this - I will await your comments and continue working on the homepage :) 

 

Cheers mate,

Nguyen 

____

The clients response :)

I don’t think I’m naturally a detail oriented guy. When working with mentors, fellow designers and different projects over the years, you naturally become aware of different things. Details that you begin to notice. The way type is meant to sit. What the hierarchy of the page is, what will users understand easily and what kind of journey and experience should they have. Keep finessing and eventually your base standard will be high. Shit, people might even mistaken you for being detail oriented ;) 

Setting up a consistent schedule

Give your client an open line of communication and schedule times as to when you are going to update them. If it’s every Monday, let them know. Or if it’s everyday, set the expectation and make sure you deliver. Weekly updates, with a few more sprinkled throughout the week, was sufficient for this particular client. And these are the clients that I enjoy working with. I like to let the work carry the conversation and not have conversations and meetings for the sake of having a meeting. The amount of these kinds of meetings I had during my agency days is mind boggling. It makes sense when you are paying a studio $150,000+ so you need that level of service and to keep people between both organisations busy. But was it that necessary? Sometimes yes. Other times I'm not so sure. 

So continually, I would collaborate and keep refining with the client. But be sure to question things and play devils advocate. You need to champion the needs of users and also help setup the very best chance of success for your client. 

 

Refining and design rollout.

I continued working on the rest of the designs. This is a big process, so I'll have to leave it for another time. But I kept working and iterating. Designing, prototyping and testing. I even got a few users who fit the target audience to test some of the interactions and user flows based on specific tasks.  

 

Make sure you keep backups

Always keep backups of each of your iterations so that you can refer back to different screens when you need to. Particularly when you’ve changed certain details and in the end it turns to shit. It’ll save you time so that you can go back to previous versions and finesse that component another way. 

I keep my backups pretty basic. Nothing fancy, just old school folder structure. For every iteration, I create 1 new version and put the files into those folders. 

 

Things I wish I did better

There are bad habits that I wish I didn’t have. I am terrible at keeping my source files clean on the go. Check out the before and after. I always make sure my files are clean on handover. However the clean up for handover was pretty huge and it is a lot arduous work that could’ve been saved. No more Junior Designers to pick up my slack and fix it for me. It’s definitely something I would like to improve on moving forward.   

layers.jpg

 

3. DELIVERY

Be considerate and take into account the people that will be involved. Early on in the project I made sure that the designs were to be tested and looked over by the developers building the site. It was a mistake I had made on a very small passion project that I had accepted. The whole process was going fantastic – the client was super happy with the end product, but unfortunately, the expectation of what file types their developers had wanted and what was delivered was slightly different. It was a once off mistake, but once was more than enough. For non technical founders, make sure you get technical people involved too. 

Anyway, I finally sent off all the source files via dropbox and did a few extra design tidbits out of good will. I really enjoyed working with this client, so I made the decision to help them out and not bill $1-1.5k worth of additional work that was out of scope. Sometimes it’s better to build relationships than billing clients. Doing good work for good people is what it’s about. I’m sure that nice gesture will come back and reward me in one way or another. 

I also created all the responsive designs as art boards in photoshop. As a sign of courtesy for the developers, my machine may be much faster than theirs, so I decided to seperate the files out as well. That way, they can load files quicker, should their machines not be able to handle the main source files. 

I also created prototypes of how key interactions would work, so the developers would know exactly how I envisioned these micro interactions to play out so there would be no guess work.

And that was it. The completion of 1 job done in my humble studio in Melbourne. 

 

NOTE: This is a bit of a brain dump and a monster post that I will be sure to go back and edit. Thanks so much for reading and hope you gained something out of it. 

If you enjoyed this, I am also launching a course soon that will go into more technical details about my processes. Be sure to check it out at Process:Masterclass.

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