How to Talk About Web Design Preferences

You’re going to invest a lot of time and money when you redesign your museum’s website. The faster you can communicate with a designer about your design preferences, the sooner we can capture the true personality of your museum. As a designer, it’s important for me to understand your expectations for your new website, specifically for how it will look and feel. When I ask clients what they expect to see when we reveal our designs, I often hear, “We want it to feel like us.” That’s totally reasonable, but I want to help you express that idea in more concrete terms so that your new website looks and feels like you.

Sometimes a client will say, “I can’t describe what our new website should look like, but I’ll know it when I see it.” I get it. It can be difficult to describe something you haven’t seen yet. That’s why a blank page or canvas can be so daunting for a writer or artist. You know that the first stroke you paint, or the first word you write, won’t be the perfect, complete thing you want to see.

So one way to help us picture your new website in the early stages of design is to review some of your peer museums’ websites. Spend some time taking stock of what you like and don’t like about them. Try to think of how we could borrow and build upon your favorite elements. What is the first thing you notice? How do the colors make you feel? These are the kinds of things I’m trying to draw out early on. When we have a list of sites to talk through during our discovery phase, we can start generating ideas and getting a handle on your design needs right away.

There is another important constituency to consider when thinking about web design: the user. After all, while you are our client, and we’re building the site for you, your website is ultimately for other people. You wouldn’t be able to fulfill your mission without the public, so take a moment to consider what they find valuable about your museum. How would your visitors describe your physical space? What would they say about your collection? If visitors of your physical space were to come to your website, what would they expect to see? Most likely, they already know and appreciate the personality of your museum. Try to accurately describe that personality as if you were a visitor, member, or donor. What adjectives would they use? Your visitors can help keep us grounded and give us something to aspire to as we design your website.

We know that preparing for a website redesign is a big undertaking. But if you can take time at the beginning of the project to figure out how to talk about your design preferences, we’ll have a better chance at making sure it looks like you.