By making proper layout and design decisions with your client, before creating a mock-up, it is very likely that you’ll save plenty of time. As a matter of fact, this habit can help you jumpstart the design process during the mock-up phase. You should involve the client in finding solutions to any fundamental design issues and make site design a co-creative effort that can strengthen your role as designer and enhance your professional relationship with the client.
Besides being highly useful, the process can yield a number of interesting and sometimes unexpected information about your client’s tendency, which haven’t been known until recently, such as a particular preference or distaste for a specific color or alignment. While some preferences can be easily accommodated, others should be avoided due to some considerations, such as to ensure the site’s appeal to most of the visitors instead of the website owner alone. In other words, even if your client is the Marketing Director, Chief Information Officer or even the CEO himself, the visitor preferences should become a priority. Visitors are mere human with their own particular aesthetic inclinations and your client may need to adjust certain company-set design policies to keep the website in line with the visitors’ needs and preferences. Each visitor subjective taste should strongly influence what can and can’t be done with the site’s layout and design.
At first, the client may not have any idea on how the site should look other than telling you that the site should have certain characteristics such as a clean, slick edge. Armed with a specific knowledge you should try to create an elegant site that the client and visitors will be comfortable with for years. Sometimes, the client wants you to build a website around the existing marketing materials, which mean you don’t need to innovate too much. The choice you suggest to the client significantly dictates what your client will see during the mock-up creation phase.
Handling a client’s request is not always easy; you may frequently hear a phrase that “the customer is always right”. Unfortunately, in web design this is not always the case. Of course, the client pays you for the service and he may insist on having certain requirements applied to the site, like asking you to include certain text and media files. However, in many cases, how the items function and look are entirely up to you, a web designer who has the actual experience. This is not a perfect world where you have a 100 percent authority to make significant design and aesthetic decisions, because the client is paying you, so you don’t have a full freedom. While it is imprudent to bend each of your client’s whim; you should use your skill and experience as a web designer to accommodate the client’s requests and guide him into making the best web design decision.
For example, sometimes you work with a client who is still wowed by outdated GIF animations and cheesy Flash intros. Client like this often has a clear, definitive idea on how the site should work and may force you into working on based on some pretty awful ideas such as a huge, spinning Flash-based globe at the homepage with a few orbiting words like affordable, reliable, trustworthy and professional. If the client makes a weird or ridiculous suggestion, you should let him know gently and kindly that it will not work for today’s Internet users. To make sure your criticisms well received, you should frame your advices around enhancing the company’s image in front of the site visitors. You should suggest to your client that the site should be a place where visitors can get all the necessary information. If the client appears to be open minded you can say directly to him, “You shouldn’t add a spinning globe on your site, as it will make your site looks unprofessional, old-fashioned and cheesy. Animations may appeal to some people, but they tend to deliver sparkle instead of substance, which can divert the company from the real goal and take up precious site real estate that can be better used to promote the company’s products and services. A good homepage should be clearly defined with enough areas used for navigation and branding. The text should be both descriptive and interesting, which can explain things that can be found on the site both by human visitors and search engine bots.
If your client appears to be quite resistant, you should ask him to do some researches and ask for a second opinion from other seasoned professionals who have enough experience in designing a site that can appeal to most visitors. The site should also be built based on standards outlined by the W3C. With enough patience, perhaps both of you can come to a solid concept that will satisfy everyone, including the site visitors