Building a great website isn’t just about making something that’s visually appealing. The client and designer must work together collaboratively to achieve the most effective solution. This allows the designer to create a design that meets both visual and business objectives.
This post shares 8 tips to help you the designer to work more effectively with your clients.
This will ensure that they understand the direction of your designs and reasons for certain decisions. You need to keep clients updated with your every move. Best case scenario is to sit down and have an early whiteboard session with your client. After a preliminary meeting, go away and get your ideas together. Then set-up another meeting with your client and walk them through your design ideas, ideally sketching them out on a whiteboard or similar. Let them take part in the innovative, exciting process that goes on in designing a website. Get rid of the techno speak and get them on the same page as you. This will save you time and money!
If you’ve followed the first tip, this is less likely to be an issue but, NEVER try and surprise your client, this almost always ends in disappointment. You’ve been working on a new design for your client, hidden from your clients view until it’s ready for the big ‘ta da’ moment. Finally you send over the designs, and all you receive is a blunt, ‘We don’t like it’. By not keeping your client involved in the process, it’s much harder for them to see the reasoning behind your design decisions. And seeing as they are the decision maker, you’re not even giving them the chance to make some decisions! Try to share your designs in small chunks, often and early and ideally meet them in person, get them involved in the process.
Every web designer will have done this at some point. Put together some mockups, sent them over to the client in an email saying “What do you think of the new design of your website”? Don’t ever do this! It’s not about what the client thinks, it’s what their users think. Spend some extra time in your email educating clients on what sort of feedback you’re looking for. What would their users feel about this design? How does the client feel this design would represent their business? This can be a touchy subect but the idea is to try and avoid personal bias. Design is a subjective thing, your aim is to build something that meets the requirements of the majority of it’s users. Not something that the client themselves thinks looks great.
Luckily most of the projects I’ve worked on have given me direct contact with the key decision makers. However, in the past I have worked on projects where the key decision maker is not directly involved in the project. This can often lead to problems, wasted time and delays. Always find out who is going to sign off your designs and if it looks like it has to go through some kind of ‘committee’ you’ll need to spend some time educating the client on why this is a problem. You need to ensure there is a clear vision for what is being built as it’ll be no good for you, the client or the final design if you’re trying to mould together 8 very different opinions into one design.
Some clients believe that they are ‘different’ and that’s why they need to break the common design conventions on their website. Unfortunately this is rarely the case but to prove this to your client you’re going to need share the facts and do some testing. I’ve had clients who have told me that they wanted error messages to be in green because they felt red was too harsh. Fine, I get the reasoning behind that BUT, the research and testing showed that this would defeat the object of the error messages, confusing the user. If they still don’t believe it, set-up some live testing, let them watch their users fail to understand or get confused. (Assuming you’re right!)
Often businesses get in touch with a website designer when one of their competitors has just had their own website re-designed. Seeing this shiny and fresh site, the client comes to you and asks you to make a site better than their competitors. Be weary when this happens, clients usually mean they want something very similar with their own content. This isn’t good practice for you, the client or the industry. You may need to spend some time educating the client on the problems with this. Then spend the time to extract more information from them. What exactly is it that they like about this competitors site? Why do they like it? Why and how does it represent the personality of their own business?
Clients can get frustrated when you’re just not solving the problems they have with a design. They don’t understand why you won’t use the exact colour they have provided or why you won’t make the logo twice the size. Keep them focussed on the problems rather than allowing them to provide solutions. Explain to them the reasons why a logo might not need to be twice the size and find out from them why the colours are such an issue for their business. Avoid getting solutions from clients, you are the designer and need to take the reigns in solving the problems.
Make it clear to a client that things can be changed, iterations can be made. A website is never truly finished, continuous iterations, however small, should always be part of the process. It’s unlikely that clients will be aware of this unless you tell them. Make it clear that things can be changed and that if the design doesn’t work it can be changed. Sometimes you need some good usage from users to really understand if something is right.