How can you convince clients to trust you using their valuable and much-loved product? In my experience, the best way to sell work to clients is always to apply user-centered design not only towards the work we produce, but in addition towards the clients who commission that work.
We have to understand who our clients are, what is very important for them and what their set goals are. And then we’ve to supply work that not only meets the needs of end users, but in addition satisfies the personalities within the business itself.
Michael Bierut recently wrote a great article titled “Graphic Design Criticism as a Spectator Sport.” It’s part story about how exactly people react to design, part lamentation about how precisely we’ve lost the skill of real critique, and part therapy for all designers. In short, you really should read it. In this article, we’ll atart exercising . thoughts about one section in particular that are responsible for selling design solutions to clients:
“The basic starting point of Graphic Design Criticism as a Spectator Sport is “I could have done better.” And needless to say you could! But simply obtaining the idea isn’t enough. Crafting a lovely solution is not enough. Doing a dramatic presentation isn’t enough. Convincing all of your peers just isn’t enough.
Even if you’ve done all that, you still will need to go through the hard work of selling it towards the client. And like all business situation of any complexity whatsoever, that process may be smothered in politics, handicapped with exigencies, and beset with factors that have nothing to do with design excellence.
You know, real life. Creating an attractive design turns out to become just the initial step in a long and perilous process without any guarantee of success.”
This resonates with me, because last year I made the move to an agency after many years on internal product and design teams. I’ve found out that once you work by using an internal team, the most effective approach to sell your work and to get individuals to buy into the process is always to build trust slowly then run with it.
But when you are doing client work, you don’t have that kind of time, so a different strategy is needed. Mike Monteiro’s advice from his book Design Is a Job arrived handy very early on during my transition:
“Stop attempting to get customers to “understand design” and instead show them that you simply understand what they hired you to do. Explain how a choices you’ve made cause a successful project. This isn’t magic, it’s math. Show your work. Don’t hope someone “gets it,” and don’t blame them if they don’t — convince them.”
So, depending on this advice, I’ve learned to adjust the way we work slightly depending around the type of client. So far, I’ve come across three kinds of clients (or client personas, if you will), so we do things just a little differently for each:
The Visual Client
This client loves art and graphic design, and it has strong reactions and opinions about what things need to look like. They like certain colors, and so they despise others. They prefer certain styles (usually described with words like “clean” and “smooth” — but I’m guessing we’ll begin to see “flat” inside their vocabulary soon), and anything that doesn’t fit that mold is shot down.
With clients like these, moving from a wireframe or prototype to visual design without an intermediary key to get the “look and feel” right is dangerous. They might sign off about the prototype, but then get completely stuck on colors and typography and magnificence when they begin to see the first visual design.
This can result in the lot of frustration and rework on both sides. To mitigate this, we rely heavily on style tiles to iterate and obtain approval on the visual direction of the work before moving to the graphic design phase.
We’ve seen huge success with this particular approach. Once a visually inclined client is comfortable using the visual direction and feels like they’ve stood a chance to provide their input, the focus can return to discussing how the design will help them meet their business goals and user needs.
The Data Client
This client has a healthy skepticism concerning the design process and doesn’t have much patience for “gut feel” decision-making. They want to see research and data — and so they want to listen to us defend our decisions confidently. This isn’t a very bad thing and shouldn’t offend us — we absolutely should be in a position to defend our design decisions to anyone, anywhere.
With these types of clients, we rely heavily on which Cennydd Bowles calls the “UX validation stack” in his article “Winning a User Experience Debate”:
Read the article to obtain all of the details, but Cennydd describes three levels to make use of when defending design decisions:
- Always make an effort to use the most notable tier first: evidence in the form of knowledge collected directly from users, such as usability testing, Web analytics, etc. This type of knowledge relates directly towards the project at hand and is difficult to dispute.
- If you don’t have direct user data, try to get your practical some user research — either previous research you’ve done or research in similar areas that are relevant towards the problems you’re wanting to solve. For example, when trying to create the situation for top-aligned form labels, you could refer to eye-tracking data to aid help make your case.
- If all else fails, fall back on design theory. The principles of visual perception and gestalt, the rules of visual hierarchy and so on come in very handy when explaining why you’ve made certain decisions.
Of course, it’s obvious this isn’t an excuse to create stuff up. You have to believe that the evidence you have indeed points for the solution you’re proposing. If it doesn’t, don’t be lazy — go back and do the work!
The Detail Client
This type of client likes to know how the sausage is made. They don’t just want to see finished wireframes and exquisite comps — they desire being in the weeds. They wish to know that individuals they’ve hired are spending the serious amounts of attention required to come track of good solutions.
In these cases, we produce a point of inviting clients deeper into our design process. They come to the office for sketching sessions, they bring their particular sketches, and that we give them way more opportunities to supply feedback across the way. Most clients don’t want this degree of involvement, but those that do really appreciate working closely with our team and knowing exactly where we have been in the process and just how we’ve arrived with a particular solution. Collaborative design sessions, with specific guidelines for critique, are essential in these situations.
Relying on client personas to produce decisions comes with all the same caveats and challenges that user personas come with. Personas represent extreme cases, in order that we could design for your edges and trust that the middle will take good care of itself. Clients — just like users — can switch between personas on a dime, and sometimes even be a blend of seventy one at the identical time.
This shouldn’t freak us out — these personas aren’t rules; they’re guidelines to aid us recognize certain characteristics in our clients and respond in methods better meet their needs.
I’d also like to point out out that identifying the sort of client you’re working with and also the best method to include them within the design process is not a nuisance. They’re not “in the way” — they’re paying us to solve a problem, and our responsibility is to solve that problem inside a method in which gives the client confidence that we understand what we’re doing.
We spend a lot time on defining our users and building products that may meet their needs. But too often we forget our clients have their particular needs that are shaped by their personalities and also the political environments they work in. And if we ignore that, then the best design inside the world won’t mean a thing, because it will not start to see the light of day.