As the new project coordinator at Urban Geko, a Orange County website company, one of my main duties is to interact with clients interested in obtaining quotes for web, print or multimedia work. When dealing with a client who wants all the copy on a website centered when you really know that it’ll look better left justified, it is the designers’ great objective to articulate why. This is known as the great compromise between following what the designer knows looks best versus simply pleasing the client. As my print professor once said, “There are no rules in design, only proven guidelines.”
Smashing Magazine cleverly portrays the uphill struggle of designers in Paul Boag’s article Is John the Client Dense or Are You Failing Him? I strongly suggest you read the entire article because it is quite amusing, but here is the short list if you’re pressed for time:
1. Explain Why You’re Asking About Money
If you need to ask your client about his or her budget, make sure it’s clear that you’re not trying to find out just so that you can gouge them for all they’re worth.
2. Justify Your Recommendations in Language John Can Understand
People might not always understand what “SEO website design” or “sans-serif font” means so I try to explain the design to them in a way that they can understand.
Search Engine Optimization: Do you want your website to appear high up on the list when people search for it on google?
Sans-Serif Font: Letters that don’t have those little tick marks
Even though I compromise some of the design language, I feel like it’s a bigger victory if the client understand what you mean and decides he/she likes it after all.
3. Include John in the Process
This will help build a friendlier client-designer relationship and clear up any miscommunication there is in the design process.
4. Educate John About Design
We are constantly bombarded with media; hundreds of ads a day that is processed sometimes subconsciously. In addition to all the tutorials and downloadable programs on the internet anyone can be a designer these days. But very few can be a good one. That is why it is to the utmost importance that you educate your clients about design.
5. Communicate with John Regularly
6. Explain John’s Ongoing Role
Lastly, here is an important except from the end of Paul Boag’s article:
The Moral of the Story
As Web designers, we communicate and empathize for a living. Our job is to communicate messages to our clients’ users. We create usable web page development by putting ourselves in the position of our users, which allows us to design around their needs.
Why, then, do we so often seem to be incapable of empathizing or communicating with our clients? Perhaps it is time for us to apply the skills we have cultivated as Web designers to our own customers.