When clients enter into an agreement for a design project one of their foremost concerns is often a time line for project completion. Designers work hard to map out milestones and delivery dates, and then meet those. When deadlines are not met (yes, it does happen folks), then open communication and problem solving are paramount to getting the project back on track. But what happens when a client misses their deadline? What? You didn’t think clients had deadlines too?
Many clients new to working with a design team are unsure of how a project should run. In reality, a good designer will let a potential client know upfront how they work, before they’re even hired. Once a job begins a timeline should be created based on the client’s due date and the amount and type of work needed. While there should be milestones in which the designer presents deliverables (wireframes, layouts, concept designs, programming, etc.) there should also be clear requirements for the client. A successful project cannot happen on a one-way street – it takes back and forth communication as well as client deliverables.
While the designer should detail in the agreement what the client needs to deliver, there still may be some clarification necessary before or after the project begins. Often times, our client will be asked to provide content. Content means text and/or images for the website or design project. The exception of course would be if the designer has also been hired to write copy for the site. In this case, the client requirements are to review the copy just as they would need to review a layout concept or design. Where some confusion might exist is in the case of a client delivering content for the site and expecting that the designer proof it before entering it on pages. Unless proof reading is requested (and paid for) in the agreement, a designer expects that your copy is error-free and ready to go live.
If you have any questions about any of your responsibilities on a project it is important to ask your designer before the start of the project. Questions that come up during the project should be asked as soon as they happen to avoid any confusion or delays.
Project timelines are usually set to the, “best case scenario” – give or take a small amount of padding. This is if a project runs smoothly from start to finish, the specifications do not change at all during the project, and there are no or very minimal delays. We usually recommend padding of 2-3 weeks, which may seem excessive, but realistic when causes of delays are factored in.
At the first anticipation of a delay, communication is key. This goes for both designers and clients. For example if a designer falls behind, letting the client know is essential. Also letting them know if other parts of the project are proceeding according to schedule and if there are any client deadlines that need to be moved is also a very good idea. If a client is missing a deadline (for example – delivery of finalized text) the same rules apply – let the designer know and ask if the project can still move forward while you are working on completing your deadline.
When delays happen, whatever the reason, designers and clients need to work together to overcome them and get the project back on track.