I have no formal training in web design, yet I've managed to teach myself and develope/design many personal sites in the past. I'd like to offer custom graphics/web design to my clients in the near future, but am not sure...
For those of you who provide web/graphics design, how do you start clients site? Of course they tell you what they want, but then do you just "wing it", show them ideas, take feedback, and make changes?
I'm not a webdesigner myself, but I've worked with some Designing firms. They usually ask for colour scheme, elements the client can provide (Like Logo). Competitor's websites' links. Then you work on the design and get back to them, if he likes it or need some changes.
try to get as much info on how they want the site to appear and function
they almost always have a couple of sites that they like/competitor sites/other sites that they want to resemble/function in almost the same way on their site.
If you do this, you will be gold.
the design and your creativity only come into play after you know what they want it to look and function like.
obviously your portfolio will provide them with an idea of what they can expect.
you can also draw up a couple of rough layouts for them to ponder on, take their suggestions and finish off the project.
I always ask them to send me five other websites that they like and tell me what they like about them.
They usually don't care if it validates, or is css instead of tables. They just care about how it looks and does it work!
You can also follow an established "brand image" that they may have already. Maybe it is a color scheme, or a logo, or font face.
Then we sketch (yep.. with good old fashioned paper & pencil) basic elements and layout... also a sitemap sketch (we call them site skeletons, content is "meat") then get approval for the basic layout & skeleton and then...
We then develop some of the graphical elements (header images, menus, sidebars, bg images, etc...) in Fireworks/Photoshop/Freehand/Whatever and present them for approval.
Finally then it is just assembly. Create the structure (divs/tables), add the css styling, and submit for approval. All images are watermarked until payment finalized...sometimes they just get to approve a JPG thumbnail. I usually dump the AN4L control freak clients. They usually are the ones that hammer you on price at the very beginning. Just say "No!"!! It works now and then!
Your comments really helped me piece thing together into a "system". Obviously any system can be upgraded, but it's solid and effective.
I have made many freelance sites for friends/co-workers, etc.. They have never been less than amazed. I've used many of the suggested methods to truly understand what the client wants in the past, and will continue to.