Over the years I have worked on hundreds of projects. Some small, some large. But no matter what the size of the project, there were always ways to save time. After years of trial and error I have finally come up with some basic guidelines. These will save you time, which will save you money, but it will also help keep you sane. Here are a handful of them that I would like to share with you. Some of these are pretty obvious, but you'd be surprised how quickly we forget the little things.
For the purpose of this posting I am using a hypothetical website design project, but I'm sure you'll find these guidelines applicable to most design projects.
- Ask Questions, Especially the Obvious Ones. I would rather spend 5 minutes asking questions than 2 hours later doing revisions. Asking an extra three or four questions up front also gets the client thinking more about the project. Chances are, they have not thought of every scenario and by asking them more detailed questions it will force them to confront issues that otherwise might be overlooked.
- Labels and Folders - Use Them! When you design a project, whether it's in Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, or any other program - label your layers and place them in folders. You will be amazed how much faster you will work simply by grouping certain elements together in a folder and naming it. Not only does this help in the short term but also in the future for when you might need to tweak the design months down the line.
- Put the Ball in Their Court. When I have clients sign off on designs I always implement a timeframe. This way they know that they should give me an answer in say, 2 days. If it takes longer for them to get back to me then the timeline of the entire project gets pushed back. A timeline is a two way responsibility.
- Agree on the Number of Revisions. Typically each round of revision may have a handful of tweaks for you to work on. Agree with the client how many rounds they are allowed and how much each additional round will cost them. Placing a dollar amount on the revisions helps to keep the focus client on what they will request.
- Pick Up the Phone. Though I work pretty extensively via email and instant messaging, there is still nothing quite like a good old fashioned phone call. I usually prefer to talk with clients during the kickoff meeting. I also use the phone sometimes to cover revisions just to make sure what is needed and implied in an email. As great as email is, sometimes things get taken out of context or simply not explained clearly enough.