Branding Fit for a Bride: Part Two- Web Design

{This is a continuation of Part One- The Concept behind Fit for a Bride. I'm not a branding or blogging expert, but this is my experience and I hope it will help those of you in similiar situations (starting a blog or revamping one).} With all my sketches and big ideas, I searched Etsy to find a graphic designer who would bring my website to life. I also reached out to well-known web designers, naive to the cost of them. I was shocked at the quotes I received for full-on branding and custom websites; they were really, really high.

For those of you who aren't familiar, a branding concept alone can run between $300-$500, but, keep in mind, that doesn't result in a website. (You may work with a designer, but need a web developer for the coding.) That's another few hundred (sometimes thousand!) on top of the concept costs.  Based on my research, the going rate for companies that do it all is about $1,200.

Despite the cost, I tried not to be discouraged. I mean, sure, I was disappointed that I couldn't work with the best of the best, but I simply couldn't afford them. That and, my husband (even though I didn't want to hear it) advised that it wasn't a good idea to invest thousands of dollars into a blog that didn't exist yet. (He was so right!)

Nevertheless, I continued my quest and finally fell upon a designer from Etsy. The price for a logo and website was about $800. That was a lot of money, but it sure beat $800 for the logo and $800 for the site. That, plus, I figured the process would be easy seeing as I'd already sketched my logo. They just copy it, right?

Hubby gave me the OK, and I excitedly emailed the designer. It felt so good to share all my ideas. I filled out a questionnaire with prompts such as:

Please describe the "feel" of your website, i.e, will it be Cute? Crafty? Elegant? High-end? Illustrated? Are there examples of websites/designs that you would like us to view? This is very important for us to be able to see exactly what your taste in design is. Please also include what you like about each example e.g: layout, colors, etc.

I attached a bunch of inspiration to my email, even my amateur sketches. At this point, I'd created a Pinterest board too. I couldn't wait to see my website come to life!

Thinking back, this is probably where I went wrong. I was so excited about the prospect of a well-designed blog that I didn't ask the illustrator for links to her previous work or for references. I saw that she had decent reviews on Etsy, and there was one or two sites that she'd supposedly designed, but I never asked WHY: Why was she so much less expensive than other logo/website quotes I'd received?

Then came the red flags!

1st Red Flag:

I paid an initial fee of about $350(!), and then there was about a week's delay. I finally heard from Marie (not her real name) and she said "I've finally been able to get in touch with the designer (who is actually an illustrator/artist)." I was a bit surprised because I didn't realize she'd be outsourcing for the logo, but I thought, maybe that's normal?

* This should have been disclosed in the beginning. I had no idea that I'd be working with more than one person.

2nd Red Flag:

Marie included a link to the illustrator's work and when I clicked it, my heart sank. It was very dark, nothing like my inspiration. It wasn’t the girly, fluffy, light, or feminine; it was dark. Very dark. There was no doubt she was talented, but the body shapes of the people she drew were distorted, sort of expressionist-like, and nothing at all like what I wanted.

*I voiced my concern, but the designer assured me the illustrator could do whatever I wanted.

3rd Reg Flag:

From this point on, Marie acted as a liaison between me and the illustrator, and it was A LOT of back and forth. I liked the first set of sketches (again, I still very excited and hopeful!), but they were quite different than what I had in mind. I expressed specific changes I wanted to see and the follow-up was very disappointing.

I continued to try to convey my wants, sometimes even drawing over the illustrator's sketch, doing what I could in Paint, and including stock images for reference, but we weren't getting anywhere. At one point, when I requested pastel colors, like pink and blue (versus the darker colors she kept using), she said pink and blue "kept reading baby," and simply would not do it.

Now only that, there were several delays on the illustrator's part (a hurt hand, moving, no internet); a total of 5 weeks exactly; and I was exasperated by all the failed attempts to tweak the drawing to my liking.

 

Inspiration

An image from my inspiration board via The Crafty Pie

In the end, the illustrator stopped responding to my emails. After about a week of waiting for the final product, I emailed Marie who said she thought the illustrator sent it over. She sent me the final and I was REALLY disappointed. Several of the small, important changes I asked for were still undone (capitalizing the F and B of Fit for a Bride, for example). I asked the designer if we could just go on with the website portion because I was completely burned out by the logo. I was losing it at this point, y'all! Ready to throw in the towel on the whole project.

The Final Straw:

That's when when said she'd need more money to move forward. She said she had already had to pay the illustrator more because of all the revisions (which I had no idea about) and in order to move forward with to the second leg of the deal, I would need pay up.

*This wasn't at all part of our initial agreement. I wasn't supposed to pay anything more until the completion of the website. I wish she would have consulted me when the illustrator requested more money, because I would have had an opportunity to voice my lack of confidence in her work. 

At this point, I was in the hole about $400 and down about two months. I didn't feel good about the relationships I had with Marie and especially the illustrator. I asked my friends what I should do and one friend in particular, who happens to be a graphic designer, said she thought it might be best to walk away. The deal had been tainted from all the failed communication and frustrations among those involved, and if I wasn't happy yet, I probably wouldn' t be in the end. Did I want to invest more into this deal? That seemed too risky at this point.

I decided to write Marie back and outline the back-and-forth with the illustrator (to make the point that it wasn't necessarily my fault the logo had taken so long; the illustrator caused several delays, failed to implement design changes; and, obviously, I would have wanted the logo and website down a lot sooner). She was actually really nice and said she'd go ahead with the website without further payment, but ultimately, I decided not to move forward with the deal.

I was very disappointed. I still didn't have a website and I was down $350. I had an illustration, but I didn't feel it represented me or what I wanted my new blog to be at all.

Inspiration 2

More inspiring graphics via Saffron Avenue

***

I think you can gather your own "lessons" from the above debacle, but here's my top 5 take-aways:

Tips for working with an illustrator and/or graphic designer (or both!) on a logo or design:

1.) Ask for references. Ask for a portfolio. Ask for as much information as possible about how the design process works. Specifically ask: Who will I be working with? How long will the process take? What do I do if it takes longer? At any point will there be additional fees? Ask before you close the deal, not after.

2.) Make sure you chose a graphic designer whose aesthetic is similar to yours. This is the biggest lesson I learned! I shouldn't have settled! I could saved up for a better designer or waited for my friend Joy to become available. Don't work with someone whose work you don't love. You should love it if you're paying for it, and if it's for your blog. After all, you're going to look at your blog everyday. It's your baby. It's a representative of YOU. You should love it!

3.) Don’t let the process go on for too long if you’re consistently unhappy: Speak up! Put the brakes on the project before wasting anymore of your own time, or the graphic designer and/or illustrator’s time. I shouldn't have let the revisions go on for more than a month, and Marie, too, should have stopped to regroup, in my opinion. If you can, suggest creating check-in dates. "If the project isn't finished by x date, let's touch base and evaluate what's gone wrong."

4.) Be open to the free stuff and premade stuff. I'm going to get into this a lot more later (part 4), but don't feel like you have to have a custom-design blog. There are so many free options out there! Check out bluchic, bludomain, and even Etsy for premade templates. (I know Joy has a few.) They're not too difficult to install and sometimes, for a small fee (much smaller than a totally custom website), the designer will install the template for you.

5.) Compromise, but at the same time don't: I knew exactly what I wanted the sketch to look like for my new blog and I didn't want to settle. This blog means SO much to me and I couldn't give in to a design I didn't like. I don't think the illustrator was awful; she definitely tried; our aesthetics were just so different; I tried to compromise, adjusting my original concept to work with what she had done, but, I don't regret just taking her version of my idea and moving on. When she wouldn't (couldn't?) do what I wanted, I should have...

Wait. What do you think I should have done? Do you think I reacted appropriately to tweak her efforts? What about ending the deal? Do you think I wasted my money?

***

I know this was a monster of a post! Thank you for reading the whole thing if you did. I know there was a lot nitty gritty shared, and it's quite embarrassing to admit I spent close to $400 for practically? nothing, but, that's precisely the reason I'm sharing my story.

In part three I'll talk about trying to design my own website (disaster!), finding yet another designer, and how I came upon my current logo and design!

Stay tuned!!

Have you had any experiences like this?

What did you do when a deal went bad?

What lessons did you learn?