Working With a Digital Agency

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If you're not technically minded, it can be daunting to work with a digital marketing agency. Here is our easy guide to making life easier for both parties.

Designers and developers often charge by the hour, so where possible, deliver your requests and resources on a plate. This might seem like you are doing the hard work, but you are employing your designer to make your website, not fill in the gaps of your business information with guess-work.


Organising and Compiling Images

Supply high resolution image files, clearly named. If it's a photograph, it should ideally be a .jpg format, though .gif and .png are usually ok too.

If your site will feature lots of product photography, it may be worth hiring a professional photographer. Failing that, photos should be taken with a good digital camera in well lit, clear spaces. Photoshop can only go so far to touching up and improving images!

If you are supplying logos, illustrations or diagrams, these should be in vector format so they can be scaled up to any size. Most commonly these are Adobe Illustrator files (.ai) or Encapsulated PostScript (.eps) files.

Don't provide printed items to scan, even if you scan them, don't expect them to look great. These may take more work to put into a suitable format.

Including images copy documents and presentations is also a bad move as they reduce image quality and require extraction. Always provide the original images and sources.

Should you have existing designs and house style information, share these with your designer, especially if you would like to continue with the brand or style. These may include design files such as Adobe Photoshop (.psd) or Adobe InDesign (.indd).

Often image files are quite large in size which can mean they take a long time to send by email. Where possible, use .zip files to compress and group items.

Try supplying bulky content by uploading it to a secure place online. At worst, burn a DVD than waste time dealing with full mailboxes or sending several emails.

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How to Sort Copy and Content

It may seem like an impossible task, but providing full text content, pricing and product spreadsheets up front with your requests will save an enormous amount.

Designing a website without content decisions is like designing a house without knowing how many people will live in it and how much space you need.

You may need to adjust things to fit later, which is to be expected. However, the designer now has far more information, and can provide a far more accurate estimate.

If you are worried about confidentiality, consider asking your design agency to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

When providing text content, be sure you proof it first. Be consistent in how you refer to brand names, products etc and try to avoid long sentences and paragraphs. Use headings and if you want to specify images use their file names rather than putting the images into the document.

Before you send the text, save it in a Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx), Rich Text Format (.rtf) or even as a PDF so it can be easily opened.

If you are sending data in spreadsheets, use Microsoft Excel format (.xls or .xlsx) or comma separated value (.csv).

If data is to be imported into a database, CSV may be preferred. A website developer should provide information about how best to structure columns of your data.

Don't forget any legal requirements such as terms and conditions, delivery conditions, returns, privacy, terms of agreement etc. Without these you may not be able to go live. Get them written now.

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Keep Talking

Once the coding has begun, test early and often.

It is easier to spot if there is a better method, or a process has a fundamental flaw that you didn't foresee. Work with your designer to find the best solution, help them to understand the requirements so they can decide on the ideal technical solution.

Communicate regularly, but remember that emailing daily changes to the design or copy will soon clock up on your bill, and after all, aren't you employing the design to design, and did you not supply everything to begin with...?


Plan Together

For larger projects, the initial planning can cut costs dramatically. Before you even commission a design team, consider what you want to achieve and write a detailed brief.

When you meet with the design team, try to work things out on paper.

What information will you need from the customer when they contact you? Which is the most important page for a visitor to view? How can you make purchasing really easy?

Only you can make decisions on pricing, product availability, so be sure to do that before you sit down or begin to code.

Fundamental changes to shipping prices, extra product attributes and business process can be hard and time consuming to re-write, which means extra cost for you.

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Think About Tomorrow

Try not to restrict yourself with your website design.

You may expand your product range in a few months or add further pages - is this easy, is there room to add more to the navigation?

Be realistic, will you update your website daily or weekly, requiring content management, or will it be each year, where it's cheaper to just ask the amendments to be made on your behalf?

Sometimes you can't expect everything today. If your project is big, it may take weeks or months to develop, even a year depending on the size of the team and complexity.

Agree what is the most important, fundamental functionality and have that delivered first. A website can still go live and then add features, often it is the best and most sensible route.


Protect Yourself

Provide as much as possible in writing.

This way both parties have a record of requests and something to refer back to later. This includes non-disclosure agreements, contracts, briefs, emails, testing, content and bills.

Unfortunately not every relationship will turn out well, but those that do can build your business. Remember your designer is an expert, not a disposable commodity, and their insight into your business in terms of e-business and marketing could be priceless in years to come.