I've been working as a designer at Brightec for around three and a half years now. In my role, I get the privilege of spending lots of time with clients and potential clients. These are intelligent people who have good ideas for their digital product. They come to us for help with bringing their ideas to life. Yet amongst the healthy discussions, they will often say something which reveals a very low opinion of the design process.
"Oh, we don't want to spend any of the budget on fluffy UX thought-process stuff".
"Seems like quite an expensive quote for the design, I mean, it's just a case of changing the colours and the font, isn't it?"
Sometimes they'll even open up a wireframe they've made in Powerpoint or Paint and say: "Well as you can see the design is already done, so we only need you to quote for the development".
Face. Palm. These phrases are enough to make any designer want to walk out of the room. It's amazing how with just a few words, a client can betray that they consider the designer's role to be completely invalid.
The thing is, these people don't mean any harm by what they're saying. Unfortunately, they're speaking based on their previous experience of hiring a designer. And that's where the real issue lies.
By the time you're done with the project, you need to have convinced them that it was worth their time, effort and money. You need to show them how much better off they are now that you've completed their design.
Clients only think of UX as 'fluffy blue-sky thinking' because they've had a bad experience in the past. They've been invoiced by a designer for a large amount of money and been given next to nothing to show for it.
They only think of design as 'colouring in' because their last designer gave them nothing more than a fancy colour palette. Perhaps they gave them a pretty UI but no explanation as to how it would tangibly improve their product.
A Powerpoint presentation is a finished design in their head because that's what their previous designer delivered. They hadn't considered every possible error state, screen size, and edge case. They’ve never seen a better way of working. It isn't a surprise that they're not willing to pay for these experiences again.
Bad design has completely de-valued the process for them.
Before you work with a client, you are not in control of their preconceptions. But as soon as they come into contact with you, you are responsible for influencing their opinions for the better. You have an opportunity to raise their expectation of what a good design can offer to their project. You can't expect them to understand design in the same way that you do. That's why they're having a conversation in the first place! You're the expert, and they need you to help educate them.
This means that it isn't enough to simply 'do the job' and move on. Yes, your designs should speak for themselves. But in reality, you'll probably need to explain the benefits of your proposed design in order for the client to really get it. When you present, justify your decisions.
Why is that colour or typeface the right choice? Why is that layout the best option? Why does the button behave like that when you tap it? Why is this design perfect for your target audience? How does this design nail everything on the brief? Etc.
You need to speak their language. "If we design the screen like this, you'll find more people complete the sign-up process and you'll get more customers." Or... "I decided not to include 'X' because it would've been a distraction from the checkout flow and your conversion rate would've taken a hit." They've paid you to add value to their company or campaign, so show them how you've done that.
My experience is that explaining your work in this way turns suspicion into trust. You need to leave your clients in no doubt that your design is the best solution to their requirements.
If you don't deliver your designs in a professional, justifiable manner, then don't expect your clients to come back again for the next piece of work. Worse still, those clients will carry that experience on to the next designer and the cycle of bad client/designer experience will continue. But not on my watch. It's my mission at Brightec to get to work on being part of the solution to this.
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