Take a moment to reflect on the very real possibility that the new web site you’re working on – the one you have declared a masterpiece in your mind – is in fact the bane of your client. They hate it, and you don’t even know it.
Why don’t you know? Perhaps they aren’t vocal and prefer to seethe in silence, or maybe they’re too busy to guide you in a more suitable direction. The fact is, they have chosen not to communicate this dislike of your work, which is a very big problem.
Some clients may never voice any concern, and instead just go along with the show. In the end, they’re left unhappy and with a site that they don’t think achieves their goals. Other clients may just go behind your back and hire another designer. Whatever the case, the client isn’t happy, and you’re left to pick up the pieces, wondering what went wrong.
How can we avoid this mess in the first place?
There are five simple, though effective, methods below that can help you to discover, address, and alleviate client concerns before they turn into a whirlwind of trouble.
Practice being proactive
Being proactive takes a lot of work. Most of us are reactive, meaning we respond to issues as they’re brought to our attention. On the other hand, proactive behavior requires a certain amount of foresight and planning, which can be tough when you’re juggling multiple projects. Proactive communication can help get your clients to express themselves more openly, because you never leave the ball in their court. For example, if you’re requesting feedback on a design, you need to be proactive in following up when the client fails to respond. Otherwise, the ball will be stuck in their court far too long, and your proposed design will grow stale, and the inaction – regardless of who’s at fault – will be viewed negatively.
Work in small steps
Working in baby steps and continually communicating is a great way to keep your client in the loop. By involving the client early on, and in more steps of the process, they can help you make minor course corrections before the direction of the project heads down a dark, ugly spiral. Once the direction turns sour, you’ll have a hard time buying back the trust of the client in your abilities.
When interacting with the client on feedback, ask more forceful questions. I don’t mean questioning their feedback, but rather digging further into what they mean. Oftentimes, by probing a client on a specific piece of feedback, I can learn much more about their desires than I could by producing another design iteration. Getting to the root of the feedback can eliminate bad design direction early on.
Have confidence in your work
Sending mock-ups and designs to a client, especially if conceptual in nature, is nerve-racking business. You will be rejected at some point in your career, and that rejection can be painful. Nevertheless, the potential for rejection should never cause you to shelter your work. Instead, you should strive to be more open with it. Get it out there, and fast. By being transparent with your work, the client becomes a participant in, rather than an audience of, the design.
Know when to be defensive
The client is not always right. A shocker, I know, but as a design professional, you need to understand when it’s appropriate to defend your work. If the client questions aspects of the design that you think are spot on, be willing to explain why you chose that direction. Of course, this type of communication needs to be extremely professional as to avoid condescending or rude tones, which can alienate clients.
There you have it. Five extremely easy ways to discover and repair client issues with your work before they destroy the project. If you have a method of your own, please share!