Why clients are integral to the design process

Simon McCade

We’ve all had the kind of hands-off approach from clients in the past and we all know how it can make you feel like the project fell short of where it could have been if they’d have been more involved. 

From my perspective, client involvement is absolutely crucial to success in design. 

Clients know their own businesses. They have valuable industry knowledge and experience.

Designers know how to design. They have valuable industry skills and experience. 

When you combine the two, whether you’re building an app, designing a website or creating an individual piece of content, you start to see the good stuff. 

Collaboration and mutual appreciation of each other’s fields are necessary for a successful project. 

We need to talk about business objectives

All of my projects begin with an initial briefing. From the outset, I tend to make it clear to my clients that they can leave me to worry about the finer details. I wouldn’t go to my doctor and tell him what I think is wrong with me. I would go to him with a problem and let him find a solution.

It’s for this reason that I suggest clients focus on the business goals and objectives before we even touch a design tool. 

Finding solutions together

It’s not just about finding out what to do next. For me, it’s as much about finding out what we did before that got us to the point of requiring new design.

What are the underlying problems that are inhibiting the business? What are we trying to achieve and what is preventing us from getting there?

Once we can answer those questions, we can get to work. 

It might be a case of having a website or an app that has become unsuitable for consumption by the modern user. If it is, we need to explore the problem as well as the solution. We need to understand what kind of impact it’s having on the business because there might well be parts of it that aren’t broken and don’t need fixing. 

Design is a very subjective discipline. We all have our preferences, but what we should be asking as part of this collaborative process is whether or not the potential solution meets the needs of the business. 

I like to sit and listen to the client talk through this for a while so we can really explore it, so it’s a necessary part of the whole process. Only after this exploration can we find a real solution that helps a business deliver on its objectives. 

The importance of obtaining feedback

Feedback is a point in the design process that you simply cannot do without. 

If my client isn’t sure about any particular aspect of my proposed designs, I am always open to discussing this and utilising the comments function on InVision, for instance, to facilitate it.

It’s important to involve others in the feedback sessions as well – the views of people who haven’t been involved in a project can prove to be invaluable.

If it’s possible, external user testing can be extremely rewarding, but it’s not always necessary for smaller design projects. 

It’s all about trust 

Ultimately, the success of a project can often come down to one thing: trust. How much trust is a client willing to put into the hands of a designer and how willing are they to collaborate? 

There is always a reason for hiring a professional designer and it’s usually because the task can’t be executed in-house, so giving a designer the trust and knowledge and expertise of the industry in question is a must for any project, big or small. 

Taking this sort of approach always delivers a much stronger bond between the designer and the client, which means that the output is significantly stronger and more on-brief than it would have been otherwise. 

Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. 

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