Do you know what the 2012 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and the Souteast DX7, a mid-size SUV from the Chinese car manufacturer have in common? You might think than an Italian exotic made by one of the most storied name in automotive would have nothing in common with an SUV made by a brand that is practically unknown outside its native China but you’d be wrong. Those two cars were actually designed by the same company, the Italian car design firm Pininfarina.
In the automotive industry, Pininfarina and their Italian stablemates such as Italdesign Giugiaro and Zagato are referred to as coachbuilders. They’re not as widely known as the actual manufacturers but their presence extends as far back as the post-WWII era, when the economic recovery fueled car production numbers around the world. No matter if it’s for six-figure exotics, suburban SUVs or even for web design, outsourcing is a pretty common practice.
Outsourced design work
The Alfa Romeo Spider made famous by its appearance in the 1967 film The Graduate was designed by Pininfarina and so was the iconic Ferrari F40. The original Fiat Panda, long thought to be one of Italy’s national treasures was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign. It’s not because Ferrari and Fiat aren’t capable of designing the cars themselves, it’s just that every now and again, a collaborative process can result in a better representation of your original philosophy.
Fashion is also completely enamored with this idea, with Adidas collaborating with Alexander Wang and the ongoing collaboration between Nike and Virgil Abloh. Of course while this collaborative process might yield some beautiful results, the opposing cliche of too many cooks in the kitchen also holds true, finding the right partner that complements your artistic vision is always tricky and web design is no different.
I’m assuming here that you’ve arrived at this piece having already decided that you’re going to outsource your design work so I’m not going to waste time making arguments on why you should. I’m here to tell you that even if you’ve already made that decision, there are still things that you need to know when it comes to outsourcing your web design. It’s not advisable for you to take a complete hands-off approach when you’re outsourcing your web design and here are some things that you need to figure out beforehand.
Make sure you and your partner is on the same page
Solo: A Star Wars Story had a disappointing performance at the box office and that could be partly explained by the fact that the original director, the duo behind The Lego Movie, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, resigned after a few months of filming over ‘creative differences’ and was replaced by Ron Howard of A Beautiful Mind fame. This isn’t a knock on the ability of Ron Howard, whose work on Rush I personally admired, but a creative shuffle in the middle of filming like that was never going to be good.
In web design, the same line of thinking applies, you need to make sure that the company you’re going with knows what you’re trying to achieve so that you won’t have to check back in 6 months to see that what they’ve come up with wasn’t exactly what you had in mind, undoing all the work they’ve done in the preceding 6 months. Communication, both at the beginning and throughout the design process, is essential, which ties into my next point.
Set a timeline but check back in from time to time
Instead of imposing one set deadline at the end, upon which the review process would begin, impose a series of mini-deadlines along the way that you could use to check how things are progressing. The main reason is because it’s more efficient to make small changes and revisions along the way so that you could preemptively avoid any major mistakes before they happen. Repainting and redecorating a room for example would be easier than having to demolish a whole building and isn’t website basically your office but transplanted into the digital space?
Maintain creative control but also keep an open mind
If you have decided to outsource your web design project, you did so, I assume, because you are aware that the company or design firm you’ve picked are capable of doing a better job than you. What’s also true however is that ultimately, you have the final say on the direction the project is going to go. Don’t hesitate to put your foot down if you feel that there are times in which you feel the project is starting to move at a direction you don’t completely agree with.
That being said, there’s a limit on how tight that figurative leash should be. Remember, they’re not web designers for nothing, which is why you should also keep an open mind if they have ideas that could make your website objectively better. The issue of communication I’ve outlined earlier would be useful here as well and that a breakdown of a two-way communication between the two of you should always be avoided.
Decide how the website will be maintained in the future
Just as how your office building has to be periodically maintained every now and then to keep it from falling apart, your website also requires the same treatment after it’s live. If you have someone in your team that is capable of doing this maintenance on your own, you could simply ask your partner for documentation on the website so that you could pick up where they off. If not, you might want to consider making your partnership more permanent so that if at some point the WannaCry attack hit a second time, you won’t be left running around like a headless chicken.