What do web design clients want? Success for their websites, more sales, more customers, more visitors, easy maintenance, and all of their business goals met – through their website alone. What do designers and developers, those of us that actually make the websites, care about? Validation, web standards, creating something we can proudly put in our portfolio, and getting the job done that satisfies the client in a quick and easy way.
However, as anyone who has been making websites for any amount of time knows, clients could care less about some of the things that are essential in the web development process. A client doesn’t care if the website validates. They often don’t care about giving you, the designer, the content up front in a timely matter – ‘Just get the design done, and we can worry about that later!’ they say.
Let’s get them to care. The way we do that is we have to turn our own needs and wants from clients into something they can care about. We just need to explain to them why these areas really do match up with their goals, needs, and wants in their website. In this article, we’ll discuss some common areas where clients may not understand or care completely about what is essential to the website creation process, and how we can turn that around.
Wireframes & Planning
Wireframes can be pretty abstract to a client. They want to see a design, and work from there to make revisions, change content around, and more. On top of that, they want to make design-related decisions as well, at the same time as the layout and feature changes. Of course, though, from a designer’s perspective, this really complicates things. Not only can it result in a design that does not adequately meet the client’s needs (whether they see that result or not), but it can also slow down the entire web development process dramatically.
Image credit: luc
So how can a designer convince a web design client that this wireframing stage and any other pre-planning stages are essential to the final result? How can we get them to pay attention, care, and see wireframes like we do?
Explain how the pre-planning stage will affect the final results, to their benefit. Stress that this is the organization and final layout for the website. Make revisions now, or forever hold your peace. Explain slightly from a design perspective: hierarchy, design organization, balance, etc., but also explain more from their perspective.
- Give examples of how good organization can increase conversion rates.
- Show them how hierarchy can lead visitors to more relevant areas on the website.
- Before wireframing: let them know how questionnaires, goal-setting, and content planning can all influence the wireframe, and final design of the site.
- Stress that this will be the placement of features, and any future changes can be time consuming — therefore budget-consuming as well!
Just design now, they’ll fill in the content later they say…when they get a chance. This can be a designer’s nightmare. Sure, we could use dummy text, but many experienced designers know that once dummy text is replaced with the real content, the design can either be a bit lacking – blocks of content are part of the design after all – or some content doesn’t fit and content areas are too large for other pieces. The design needs to be rearranged, again.
Clients don’t realize how much their content has to do with the design. Let them know how much it does. Show examples of how typography and content can be designed, dependent on what that content is. Show them, through examples, that it’s not just the “plug in and go” portion of the website.
- Show examples of great typography design, specifically examples where certain pieces are highlighted, and may be constrained to certain proportions within the design. Explain to them how certain pieces of content are specifically designed for the page.
- Have a bad example from the past that shows what happens without proper planning around the content? Or perhaps you have another example of where the designer had to squeeze in unintended content.
- Explain that when content is planned for, certain points can be highlighted properly, increasing the effectiveness of the site — it’s not just about making it look pretty!
- As always, mention their budget. Having to rearrange or re-design portions of the website to fit in unexpected content changes can result in added time from you and more money from them.
A drop shadow here, and some beveling there – clients could care less what makes a design look good, or even if it looks that good, they just want their results. Many designers will present an initial mockup to a client, only to have it shut down with comments like, “I’d like it more simplified…take out such and such…and make it more like this design.” The client then presents a design that is equally as detailed. “Bring more attention to the logo by making it bigger…and removing this detail, that detail.”
We all have clients that like to take the reins from a design perspective in order to try and increase their needs from their goal-related perspective. They want their brand to stick out more, so they alter the design details themself to make the logo stand out more. They want something more from the design, so they give you an example, and try to fix it themselves. Or, in contrast, they don’t care about the design details at all, and refuse to give feedback.
We may not be able to get a client to care about a specific piece of design polishing, but we can get them to care about the overall effect. If a client seems like their trying to fix something by altering design details themselves, help them get to the root of the problem. Ask them, “Why does the logo need to be bigger…Why would you like the navigation simpler?” Get to the base of the problem.
They don’t care at all either way? Show them why it’s important.
- Let them know why you chose to place emphasis on certain features more than others through the design. Give your own reason, and why it compliments their goals (the base of the problem). If they are still not happy, suggest other solutions that will not sacrifice your design.
- Share with clients why details matter. Ask them if they like the overall “feel” or theme of the website (we all know how some clients like to share their opinions, based on their feelings alone), and express to them that details make up the whole look.
- Share examples of less designed elements and more designed elements. Share examples of elements designed under various style trends. Do they just like the look of a cleaner, flatter website? Then discuss with them how that’s possible through your expertise, and whether their recommendations may hurt or help.
- Share how their suggestions, their lack of suggestions, or your own features in the design work with their goals of gaining more members, customers, conversions, or whatever.
Web Standards & Validation
You want to use the new HTML5 for your next project, and of course, you want to make it accessible and adhere to many other web standards. You understand why it’s important. Plus, you don’t want to end up putting anything in your portfolio that you wouldn’t be proud of. Another designer or developer may not want to work with you if it’s not compliant and validated. You’re reputation as a web person is at stake!
So their site’s not validated, does the client care? Probably not too much. It’s just another “should” that they can’t directly see the results of. How does it line up with what their interested in?
It really doesn’t matter if they don’t care. If you want to use HTML5 in your projects, then do it. Do you think they’ll complain? No, they probably won’t even know the difference. If they do know the difference, well then they’ll know you opted for the better choice anyway. Validate the site, use web-standards, create an accessible site. Then, show off those development-related features in your portfolio. No client will complain that you went the “extra mile”, or to us, the “standard mile” to create a quality website for them.
However, sometimes they can add in their own content later, or otherwise, that messes up validation, web standards, or any other quality you put into it. Either leave it be, and if they mess something up and ask for help, feel free to use this as a teaching opportunity letting them know why quality code and design is standard. They’ve already seen the negative consequences.
However, if they recommend something that is bad practice, let them know why it’s a bad idea. There is a reason web standards are what they are. They have reasons. Share these reasons with the client, and explain how it could negatively affect their business and website directly, and not only how it negatively affects the world wide web in general.
As one can see, there is a general, overall rule for getting clients to care about the things we have to care about: relate it to them. Relate how the issue affects their goals, their budget, and the future of their business. If it’s not relevant to them, why should they care?
Believe it or not, a quality website and final result is important to the client, even if their recommendation or lack of interest sometimes don’t show it. Clients are busy, and they have other things going on. That is why it is part of our jobs to make them realize their participation and understanding when it comes to certain elements are essential to get what they want. Otherwise, if they don’t get what they truly want and need in the end, they’re just wasting their money hiring you! (Another excellent argument to point out.)
What issues do you have with web design clients not caring about? How do you fix it?