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Designing with Ease 101: Client Collaboration

Over the years, web design has been making huge leaps in development. What used to be stepping stones in techniques and ideas have now become novel ingenuities. Owing to the increasing demand, several web design companies have sprung up to meet the requests of their various clients. Locally, the Philippines is not to be outdone, and several companies have since been established.

Web design Philippines is certainly doing its share to keep up with the exigencies of being a top web design company. But of course, every profession has its own share of challenges as well and being a web designer has its inescapable hurdles and interacting with difficult clients is one of them.

Clients come from all walks of life, and more often than not, web design professionals will encounter clients who are rather difficult to work with. It is a reality that some clients think that every last bit of their request should be carried out simply because they are the customer, and as the adage goes, “the customer is always right.”

However, this is neither always possible nor practical when it comes to web design as designing for websites has its own share of constraints and limitations. Furthermore, meeting every request clients have is not always realistic and feasible as some of these may be impossible to do.

Difficult designs are one thing, and designers can always opt to rise to meet the challenge but doing the impossible is another, for example, some design companies might not have the required technology for the design a client is asking for and other times the client’s request might interfere with the designer’s artistic signature.

At one point or another, a designer must have encountered a client who interferes with the design process which can be rather grating when a designer has conceptualized his or her design. Phrases like “Put that above the fold” and “make the logo bigger” are not new to the web design community; the fact is it has become a running joke within the community.

Losing money on a project as a result of the client relentlessly altering the design is rather commonplace. As a result of this negative experience, some designers exclude their clients in the design process and limit the number of iterations (at times avoiding consulting with them as well). Unfortunately, this worsens the interaction with the client.

But this vicious cycle can be easily avoided, and designers should not have to manage dilemmas such as this. There is a better way; a way that would enable designers to produce exemplary design and maintain a profit margin and it begins with involving the client in the process rather than excluding them. Collaboration with the client is key.

How is collaboration necessary?

Greater client involvement in the design process may seem daunting Scenarios such as uninformed suggestions, endless tweaking and what else. In fact, how in blazes could this lead to better design? Moreover, how could this be any profit for you? But the answer lies within the psychology of your client’s behavior.

Clients interfere with the design process because more often than not, they fear the unknown. They are not exactly pundits when it comes to design or the web, and your expertise is certainly something alien to them. They feel irrelevant in the process, and so they attempt to garner some measure of control.

When you exclude them, the more concerned they become and the more control they want to exert. But it is always important to consider that the client’s job, their reputation in the company is on the line. Moreover, they have to live with the consequences of your design while you get to walk away which is why they want to be involved with the process as much as possible.

With collaboration, you are hitting two birds with one stone: You give them a semblance of control, and you educate them about the design process. This will alleviate some of the fears your client may initially have, as the process will no longer be unknown to them.  Additionally, your clients will not only worry less but will have a greater sense of ownership over it and will be less likely to reject the result. This results in your client shifting from being a critic to your design to an advocate and thus making your job easier.

How is this better for the designer?

Designers mostly care about producing high-quality work and making a profit. Working in collaboration with your clients allows you to accomplish both. Client involvement will enable them to spot problems early on, which means less hassle for you. If clients are engaged in the process, they give the design more contemplation and as a result spot problems earlier, which translates to you doing less iteration. Iterations occur because the client had a different version and failed to relay that, the client wants to put their mark on the design or is afraid of getting it wrong. These issues will disappear if you are with your client. So how does this client collaboration happen then?

Collaborating with clients, the first step

Collaborating does not translate to the client sitting next to you as you work on your design. Rather, in an ideal world, it involves you both sitting in the same room while you show them things as you work and get their feedback. Unfortunately, working with the client in their office is not always possible. So what should you do then?

Having an initial meeting with your client and covering things like objectives, target users, etc. is a good start but it should not be limited to this. This time can be utilized to run a couple of workshops instead. As design mainly focuses on aesthetics and structure, your kickoff meeting should involve the client in both areas.

Aesthetic collaboration

Aesthetics vary in every eye and people tend to fall back on personal opinion if given no other basis within which to judge a design. This collaboration paves the way to provide that basis and framework. Additionally, it gives the client a sense of ownership over the aesthetics. Educate the client on judging the aesthetics with these two fundamental key questions: “Is the user going to like it?” “Will this be in line with the image that the company wants to project?”

Structure collaboration  

Balancing user needs with business objectives proves to be a difficult challenge for designers. The solution is to put emphasis on the right places.

Rejections of designs frequently occur because clients focus on the wrong aspects of the business or the wrong target audience. But fortunately, there are some techniques you can apply to save you from a lot of revisions. You can start with asking the client to design a book cover that communicates the core messages of their organization. From this, they should consider three points: the appearance of the front cover, most important things they want people to know, the back cover. Through this clients will start to focus their messaging and you will have a better grasp of the organization’s core messages.

Additionally, it is important to orient clients with their user’s point of view. Educate them why in a web design, less is truly more (and why cramming their home page with so much information is not a good idea). Give them a brief overview about a user’s average attention span and ask them at which points emphasis should be placed on their website. This will help them understand the tradeoffs designers need to make as well as highlights the importance of prioritizing what the user should focus on.

Client collaboration indeed comes with risk, one that might potentially involve the risk of losing control or having to deal with an impractical suggestion. But with planning, this is easily mitigated. The collaborative design will surely save you hours in alteration and will ultimately lead to satisfied clients. It may come with various risks, however; the only way to address these risks is to give this aspect a shot.

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