Working with your clients

I have been working closely with my clients for years now, but having just read a post about why clients should be excluded from the design process, I thought I would clarify why I like doing this and why I think it’s beneficial to everyone.

I would much rather the client or clients were involved throughout the entire process, kickoff meeting to delivery (and beyond). Having my clients with me, preferably sitting together, means I have unlimited access to them when we both need it and we both get to fully understand, engage and contribute to the process. What this means is there is no reveal moment, no ‘Ta Da’, when the client just doesn’t understand what they are seeing, why they are seeing it, how it works and who it is for.

The development and design direction take on many stages (normally cyclical), and involving the client means they get to see this process. What the visuals look like with lorem ipsum, with poor images, with no taxonomy, with dummy placeholders because there is no content at all. It means that they can see the mood-boards based on target audiences and demographics, it means they can witness the prototypes for how content works responsively, different animation styles, transition speeds, content reflow, listen to the arguments about why the users would need this or that functionality, get to overhear the questions, comments and testing that happens daily. The conversations with developers about what’s possible, what’s possible in the time and what sacrifices need to be made, and when can be added to the nice to haves, the phase 2's etc.

Design is more than what it looks like, it’s how it works, and giving the client access to this enables them to understand the decisions made. If you let the client help, the likelihood is they will get a better understanding of the process and want to come back, want to work with you again and gain an appreciation of what you do. It will raise your / team / studio profile.

Importantly you will educate them so that next time it will be easier. Equally as import, you will also learn a hell of a lot from the client, after all it’s their business and they are (normally) the expert, they will have hundreds of ideas that wouldn’t have crossed your mind, and given the chance, they normally want to contirbute and help you, which in turn, builds up a relationship of trust and respect.

One caveat though.

Always, and I mean always, test. User test everything. User test everything — Real users are obviously better — and be ready to show real world working examples. You need to prove yourself as you go along, making sure the decisions you (all of you) have made confirm the theory, hypothesis or direction. This way it shows you believe in what you are talking about, are not afraid to be proven wrong — we ALL are now and then — and are willing to accept and test someone else’s point of view.