Effective Communication in Web Design

The average business person sends and receives 140 emails every day. That’s a lot of time spent reading, decoding, writing, editing, and re-writing emails. I find email communication essential to doing my job well: because I have a young family and my kids are with me at different times during the day, I rely on email to do most of my communication. The challenge with email is that it’s not always easy to communicate clearly and effectively without ambiguity or confusion. Reading, responding and understanding an email is a time-consuming process, so becoming a better emailer is in my best interest.

I read an article recently about giving clear, understandable instructions to employees and I realized I could interpret these suggestion to give my clients tips on how to provide clear instructions when sending me website updates. This article inspired me to do some additional Googling and thinking about what makes an effective email. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Remember that I’m not sitting inside your head when you compose your email. Here’s an example: I received an email instructing me to remove the title of a section on a web page. I interpreted that instruction very literally and only removed the title. In actuality, my client wanted me to remove the title AND the entire section of content. Adding clarification, like “Remove the title, ‘Blah Blah’ and all of the content in that section” helps me understand your instructions.
  2. Be very specific. It may seem like you’re giving instructions to a kindergartner, but that’s ok. There won’t be any ambiguity. For example instead of saying,
    “Add these bullets to the About page:

    • Bullet 1
    • Bullet 2
    • Bullet 3″

    It’s more helpful to me to be very specific about where these bullets should go, for example,
    “Add the following bullets to the About page, in the second paragraph, just after the sentence, ‘Please contact us if you have questions.’

    • Bullet 1
    • Bullet 2
    • Bullet 3″
  3. Choose the right words. An effective email should be clear and concise. Google Executive Eric Schmidt says it very well:

    “When writing an email, every word matters, and useless prose doesn’t. Be crisp in your delivery.”

    When sending tasks or website updates, use numbered lists or bullets so I can easily parse the tasks.

  4. Set deadlines. It’s always helpful to know when you’d like a task completed. If no timeline is given, I try to complete tasks within a few business days. If you have a deadline, such as a trade show, please let me know so I can ensure your updates are complete by that date.
  5. Watch out for industry jargon. I love learning about the clients and businesses I work for. Unfortunately, I’m not an expert in every field, so it’s important to be clear when using acronyms or jargon that I may be unfamiliar with. For example, when giving me instructions to update a page on your website, please refer to the page by the title of the page, for example, “Education and Development Services” instead of “E&D Services”. While that may make sense to you because you use the acronym E&D daily, it’s not clear to me and I’m left wondering if E&D is the same as Education and Development.
    Communication is an ever-evolving skill for me and I’ve learned a lot from my clients in what makes an effective email. What do you do to make sure your emails are clear and understandable?

    Image by Matus Laslofi (CC BY 2.0) via flickr


  1. De Yarrison


    Thanks for these tips, Jess! I will definitely keep these in mind the next time I send you updates.

    • Jessica Reilley


      Thanks, De! I always appreciate the effort you put into making sure your communication is clear and easy to understand.

  2. Akash Agarwal


    Always communication will be the key to anyone’s success in any form of business. Nice article, thanks for sharing.

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