Designing a website can be an incredibly frustrating process for both clients and web designers. All too often, clients present their designers with long, evolving lists of design requests that can transform an otherwise beautiful project into a total disaster. At the same time, designers will often minimize the importance of client input, delivering a product which neither satisfies their client’s expectations nor meets the functional needs of their industry. Web designers should always strive to take the first steps in recognizing these difficulties and they should offer solutions to deliver designs which are appealing to both their clients and their client’s users.
As noted before, one of the most difficult jobs for any web designer is trying to create a product that delivers a superb user experience and still meets their client’s expectations. Such a task becomes virtually impossible when a client continually overrides their design decisions in place for their own. It becomes a battle of ‘who knows best’ between the mind of the designer and the mind of the client. While clients should have the ultimate say in the design of their product, it’s important for them to remember that they hired a designer for a reason. Remember, the purpose of a designer is to translate client ideas into functional visual products, visual products which delight customers. This can only be achieved, however, through a working relationship that is built on trust, communication, and compromise.
There’s a common belief among web designers that most clients are simply incapable of providing valuable input in the design process. As a result, designers tend to look at their clients as a hindrance, only calling on them at the beginning and end of the design process. The problem with this belief is that it is utterly false. While clients may not have the same creative expertise as their designers, they know their industry, and they know it well. Knowledge of an industry is a key component in designing useful and innovative products. Designers cannot solve problems they don’t know exist, and it takes a well-informed client to tell their designer what exactly these problems are.
On the other side of the table, many clients are unwilling to trust the judgment of their designers. Though designers are constantly immersing themselves in the best user experience and design practices, they believe they know better. They forget that it’s their designer’s job to take the existing problems and create functional and visually appealing solutions. Many clients are unable to let go of their personal design vision, regardless of how ineffective it may be.
It doesn’t matter how one looks at it, clients and designers need to learn to trust each other. They each bring something to the table, and they each do their job well. Clients present the problems, and designers are paid to fix them. Both need to be sure that they do not to allow their creative pride to inhibit their creative success.
If clients don’t communicate with their designers, they are almost guaranteed fail. Do you remember how we defined the designer’s role? It’s to translate a client’s idea into a functional visual product. Apart from clear communication between the client and the designer, this role cannot be properly carried out. Providing clients with explanations for certain design choices on behalf of their designer can help to alleviate client frustration. To this end, it is wise that new design projects are coupled with kickoff meetings where a client is able to thoroughly describe their current problems and desired design direction. If a designer doesn’t understand what a client wants, they cannot be expected to create a product that will deliver.
Of course, there are practical ways of improving the lines of communication between client and designer. Kick-off meetings are a great start, but using proper tools such as online design collaboration software is a great additional step. Making sure that clients provide designers with plenty of existing web examples is yet another. It may even be a good idea to have your project manager schedule recurring design meetings depending on the scope of the project. One thing is for certain, apart from thorough communication between a client and their designer, the final product cannot be expected to meet anyone’s expectations.
There must be a willingness to compromise. As was mentioned before, do not let your creative pride get in the way of your creative success. Simple designer suggestions like adding or adjusting brand colors, though seemingly unnecessary to some clients, may actually have a profound impact on the overall design. In the same manner, designers would be wise to accept client feedback about their designs. If a client informs a designer about an older demographic which they are targeting, the designer should be willing to forsake certain design decisions in order to cater to the needs of that demographic.
When all’s said and done, everything boils down to compromise. It’s only until clients and designers are able to work together that they can expect to see any major progress when tackling a web design project. Clients need to be willing to listen to their designers, and designers need to be willing to listen to their clients. Both must admit that they each have something to bring to the table. Only then will they are able to create a web design that stands out from the rest.