Communicating Complex Concepts to Clients

Web designers, web developers, and project managers often find themselves in a situation where they must convey a complex or complicated subject to a client. This is where you need to hone in on your communication skills. Since most clients are relatively novice when it comes to the world of web creation, it requires a special attention to detail to ensure they fully understand the concepts you’re trying to communicate.

Getting the wrong message across can be detrimental to progress. Usually, when a client – or anyone for that matter – doesn’t comprehend a subject, they’ll make assumptions and draw incorrect mental maps. That incorrect interpretation can generate false expectations, or worse, dissatisfaction with the project’s progression.

This is why it’s essential to be crisp and clear when communicating the tough areas of web design. The web is a very visual and conceptual place where the application of creative thought is free and untamed, and unfortunately, hard to describe. Therefore, the following methods may help to communicate your creativity in a manner clients can appreciate.

  • Surveys: Using a quick and painless survey to field your clients’ needs and methods of communication is a great way to proactively adjust to their way of thinking while gathering valuable information.
  • Show By Example: Communicating complex concepts goes both ways, and the client will at some point need to describe their desires. To help them, suggest that they find examples from other sites or resources that highlight the specifics of their ideas. However, don’t build in the expectation that you’ll be copying the other site.
  • Mixed Communication: Like investing, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to communication. Instead, use a variety of communication methods including email, project management software tools, telephone, and meetings. This will help to ensure concepts are conveyed and reinforced in a meaningful format.
  • Tangible Deliverables: Wireframes, mock-ups, site maps, and asset inventories are all tangible deliverables. They convey, on paper, a description of your creative direction for the project. Where words are insufficient to outline a concept, use a solid deliverable.
  • Communicate Backward and Forward: When explaining a concept or deliverable, describe the steps you took to get to that point. This will help the client understand your creative formula. Next, describe the steps you’ll take moving forward so that the client can have an early understanding of what to expect.
  • Annotations: Annotations are like the little Microsoft Office paperclip assistant. Okay, bad example. But annotations are extremely important in providing textual backup to a visual concept. They can be used to explain your reasoning, and they’re useful for addressing potential client questions.
  • In Person Unveiling: For the big-ticket items such as a completed prototype, you may want to consider establishing a face-to-face meeting. During the meeting, you’ll have the opportunity to respond in real-time to client reactions; otherwise, they could sit there, confused and unsure of what they’re looking at.

Of course, not all of these methods are necessary for a single engagement, so use your insight into the client’s preferences to formulate a workable communication strategy.

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