Everyone who works at Forge and Smith knows that I own a bell. It’s attached to a small sea anchor conveniently mounted on the wall above my desk. They know this because whenever a new client commits to a working relationship, I ring it one time ceremoniously. A new client is always an exciting proposition (the bell is reserved exclusively for these announcements). It’s a fun little ritual that pumps the team up.

As captain of the Forge and Smith ship, my job is to maintain that same level of enthusiasm throughout the duration of the project. Ideally, the client shares my optimism. Client participation is not only encouraged, it is expected.

I’m a big believer in transparency. When a client signs my work agreement, I like them to know exactly what the expectations are moving forward. With that in mind, the following list shouldn’t be construed as a list of demands, it merely represents where my team’s headspace is at during the collaborative process.

Here are four suggestions that aid in the client participation process.

1. Tell us what you want.

Clients generally have a pretty good idea of what it is they want their new website to do, the catch is that there are countless ways to go about achieving those desired results. Time is a valuable commodity for everyone involved, and no one likes to feel under the gun. We provide ample opportunity for the exploration of stylistic options. But like any artistic endeavour, the final project is shaped by the decisions that are made. Having a strong idea of what you want from the onset helps us deliver the best final project for you in the end.

2. Limit the number of cooks.

In our experience, voting by committee places a stranglehold on the creative process; it also hinders the timing of deliverables. Traditionally, it has been those projects with a designated and involved go-to person at the helm that have had the greatest success and the smoothest road to completion. Assign a person with a strong vision to be our contact person. This doesn’t have to be the individual with the final say necessarily, but it should be a person entrusted to carry the project through to completion.

3. Don’t be a stranger.

We use Basecamp to manage our projects. This application features an inclusive interface that promotes steady communication between all the project’s participants. We also book face-to-face meetings and conference calls as needed (discovery meeting, training sessions). We pride ourselves on being available to take your phone calls (or promptly return them). Bottom line: our work flow depends on a back and forth dialogue. If we don’t receive your feedback, we can’t make headway. We know websites, but nobody understands your business better than you. Let us help you by staying in touch.

4. Ask a lot of questions up front.

We’re hired to provide solutions. Just ask us. To simplify things, I’ve created three distinct website packages for clients to choose from (The Forge, The Smith, The Anvil). Each varies in terms of cost and the types of services provided. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re not sure what’s involved, required, or recommended for your situation. I’ll be honest with you. If we can’t realistically provide a benefit to your company, I’ll be the first to say so.

As a designer, craftsman and agency principal, I feel personally invested in the success of every single project. Showcasing a portfolio I’m genuinely proud of is one of the job’s best perks. The other great thing about my role is having the opportunity to meet with so many innovative entrepreneurs, executives, business leaders, decision makers, administrators and captains of industry; all of whom are looking to build upon their brand. I can relate. Collaboration is a great thing. When it’s done right, everybody wins.

Check out the Forge and Smith case studies page for a selection of my team’s recent work.