How to Work With Clients Professionally During the Design Process?

Posted on September 20, 2011 by
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Unfortunately, not all good designs can speak for themselves. Many web designers don’t have the privilege of designing for themselves. They design for clients and these clients often have their own ideas and taste. Clients are people who ultimately should be persuaded on why designers have made certain decision. Because good designs often can’t speak for themselves, they need an advocate.

You should understand why web designs require justification and how web designers can go about providing them in a way that is completely understandable. While web design often focuses on visual design, the principles mentioned in this article are still applicable to any creative process. Indeed, web designers learn a good deal of lessons while presenting mock-ups and user interface prototypes to clients, which usually takes place after the visual design has been agreed on.

To have a compelling website, you should connect the principles of marketing to the design, because design without marketing is mute and marketing without design is lifeless. Despite what you might think, marketing isn’t a dirty word. To improve the communication effectiveness of your web site, you should learn much from the marketing industry and advertising. Some ads are as direct as a huge sledgehammer, they are practically screaming ‘Buy Now!’, and plenty of thoughts should go into how these messages would be perceived and how they would convince buyers.

Communication is often much subtler when used in Web design, it should maintain a delicate balance between delivering business objectives and satisfying user needs. It allows the design to persuade users and simplify processes. For example, some websites require registration form. Often, business processes require a large amount of information from the consumers to effectively direct and streamline the marketing efforts. Unfortunately, potential buyers and users are often reluctant in supplying personal information and are easily put off by complicated forms.

Current trend dictates that user experiences must be prioritized; if possible, registration form should be consisted only of email address and password. Although, companies will get less user data, the reduced efforts will translate into more registered users and first-time visitors are more willing in submitting email address. In additionally, you can integrate a short form into your design and arrange them in a way that can grab the most attention, for example, the form can be placed below a compelling and interesting article.

Because design is a result of deductive process, it involves a number of unconscious and conscious decisions. During the process, designers may dismiss some ideas as unfeasible and they should pursue others to arrive at the same conclusion. Often, web design process is opaque to the clients and they often see the web design only as a visual representation to the ideas and constraints set before the web designer. Web designers should educate clients and reveal to them the details of design process. If you refuse to do this, certain problems may occur in the near future. Clients often want to provide some inputs to the process, with improvements and suggestions. Because they don’t fully understand the reason behind a design choice, their “minor enhancement” may take a website further away from its original purpose. When it happens, the client may feel unappreciated, the designers may get exasperated, the design may suffer and the whole relationship may break down. This may sound all too familiar to many web designers.

As a web designer and also a web professional, you shouldn’t be afraid of inputs and criticism. If your design is good, it will stand up to criticism because it isn’t just a matter of taste. You should see criticism as a way to explain your reasons and an opportunity to invite your client to the design process, so both of you can work better together. This will benefit everyone. The client may eventually start to articulate problems using the language that web designers can respond to. They no longer say, “make it blue”, instead they would say, ”The yellow looks too dominant and we seek to show the professionalism of our company, so calmer and dignified color should be more appropriate. Perhaps dark blue?”. Similarly, you should be able to hold your ground, unless their argument for design change is convincing.

When explaining a design to the client, you should know the language. Translating visual elements of website into easy-to-understand words is not easy. Many designers are already too comfortable and well versed to design language that they find it difficult to convey their ideas to non-designers. Web designers may also forget that much of the successes come from past experience and they may become impatient to people who are criticizing to their suggestions. In these situations, you should go back to the basics by re-learning the concepts of good visual design. For example, white space can become an expression of balance, as it provides all elements with enough space.

By using elements and principles of web design, you can add validity to your website and when you need to fall back and assess your option, your argument should be more than just “It feels and looks right”.

Ultimately, you should persuade clients about your design values and come up with convincing arguments. Because clients are people, they also have biases, so you should frame your arguments in the right context.

Clients also have pressures and responsibilities put on them, because the website may significantly affect their business. Due to the urgency of the situation, they often have some expectations. Understanding those expectations from the outset may help you with each stage of the process. Objectives are derived from expectations, they should serve the basis of your design brief and documented properly. However, because some expectations are motivated by more subtle reasons, they can be more difficult to identify. While, it is inadvisable to play the guessing game, spending enough time to understand client motivation can pay dividend as a project proceeds.

Broadly speaking, these are types of client motivations:

  • * Return on engagement (ROE)
  • * Return on investment (ROI)
  • * Financial
  • * Usability and accessibility
  • * Deadline-driven

Depending on the dominating factors, your client may be more sympathetic to certain options and more hostile to others. For example, non-profit organizations and government agencies might prioritize more on usability and accessibility.  Usability and accessibility are often the principal considerations in web design project; however they may not be client-driven and are often more influenced by designers’ decisions. In these cases, Flash and other proprietary technologies might need to be dismissed out of hand to improve accessibility across all devices.

It is a bad idea to simply send your design as an attachment to the client, try to present it in person, or at least using remote conferencing. By ignoring your client, you may:

  • * Look highly unprofessional
  • * Have no proper control over the mindset and environment, in which the web design is viewed and analyzed.

Once, you’ve scheduled an appointment, what should you do next? First, write down your expectation and goals for the meeting. Your success depends on how you deliver the message. Some web designers show up at the kick-off meeting with plenty of printer boards of design options. However, they may be sending conflicting messages, because the boards may be communicating something different. Clients could get hung up on certain assumptions that can badly derail the project in the future. Web designers have many instruments in their arsenal, including boards, wireframes, scamps, sketches, HTML templates and flat designs. Choose methods that can convey your messages best.

In some projects, designers can form a better relationship with the clients by – believe it or not – giving them a task. Many clients actually want to help. However, just like wayward children, they should be nurtured and guided.

To speed things up, you should talk your clients through the design brief. Invite the client to examine the design from your standpoint and ask for their comments. A good client should become a quality control officer, who points out where others might have veered from the agreed goals. By involving your clients in the process, it is far likely for you to get helpful inputs and avoid misunderstanding.

Conclusion:

Because your design may not be able to speak for itself, then you should act as an advocate, if it’s to standup to scrutiny. When you’re explaining about your design, don’t use meaningless catchphrases. Try to only use easily understood words. It is advisable to involve the client in the web design process. When you arrive to a decision, try to walk them through the process. Always be proud of what you’ve done and the client will consider your confidence as a favorable sign.

About: This Article was Contributed by Raja. He is a Web Hosting industry watcher and writes regularly on Dedicated Hosting Reviews and Reseller Hosting Reviews.

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