How To Explain What Design Approval Actually Means To Web Design Clients

Free template! Learn a simple way to educate clients about what design approval means and its implications on the rest of the project to avoid misunderstandings later.

Michael was a tough web design client. He was busy. Too busy to really pay close attention to what I asked of him during our work together. When we reached design approval, I was thrilled. Design approval meant that the website design was done and locked in, and I was very ready to hand the project off to the development team. Just to be safe, I confirmed design approval with the client over the phone, reminding him that this meant design revisions were over and complete.

Then a week later, I received an email from Michael with more revisions to the website design. He showed the approved drafts to a friend over the weekend and the friend had some opinions. Thankfully, my contract allows for three rounds of revisions (which we reached) and stipulates the process for requesting revisions after design approval.

Early on in my freelance business, what came next could go one of three ways:

  1. The client would get mad and demand I do the revisions at no extra charge.
  2. The client would be frustrated with the extra charge and negotiate it down.
  3. The client would understand and pay the extra fee.

I never knew which resulting situation I was going to get. Thankfully, implementing a client management system changed that. Today, clients know exactly what to expect and what the process will be if they make a request outside of our contract boundaries — and if there is an extra fee, they understand.

Because of my client management system, Michael knew there would be an added fee to accommodate the additional revisions and he was happy to pay it. It was a positive experience for both of us because we were on the same page with what design approval meant for the project.

Design Approval Explanation Sample Email

One of my favorite tools to educate a client about the implications of providing design approval is a simple email that is sent during the design revisions process. It explains what approving concepts means, how it affects the project, and what happens if the client needs to make more changes later on.

Here’s a sample of the email I use:

SUBJECT: What design approval means

[CLIENT NAME],

After reviewing your website design drafts, providing feedback, and reviewing revisions, it will be time to provide your final approval of the design. This is a major milestone in the project. It’s very important that you and all other stakeholders understand exactly what providing design approval means.

Design approval means that we move your website into development…

  • At the most basic level, your website project is moving from our design team to our development team who will build the WordPress theme (template), test it, and deploy it.
  • Design approval locks in the site design. At this point, no more changes will be made to the foundation design or structure of the site under our current agreement.
  • That doesn’t mean you can’t make any more changes. If you need to make design changes or add new features later in the project, it will simply require a change order and an additional investment.

The development of your site will take about X weeks. After that, it will be time to add, format, and style your content. You should be wrapping up your website content and making the final tweaks so it’s ready to go.

Building a website is a big deal and a lot of work — and we know it can be a little overwhelming at times. If at any time you have questions, feel stuck, or would like help, please reach out! Call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX or email [EMAIL ADDRESS].

Best wishes —
[YOUR NAME]

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Some links used on this site are “affiliate links.” If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About Jennifer Bourn

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Bourn is founding partner at Bourn Creative, a full service design and development company specializing in WordPress. With twenty years in the industry under her belt, she is an award-winning designer who consults on branding, website strategy, and content strategy. Jennifer speaks often, delivering workshops and keynote presentations, blogs about food and travel at Inspired Imperfection, co-organizes the Sacramento WordPress Meetup and WordCamp Sacramento, and writes often for other websites on freelancing, client services, blogging, marketing, websites, and branding.

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