Design: Less Mockups Are More
How To Increase Satisfaction While Reducing Mockups and Revisions
Every time I start a design project, I set an initial number of mockup options I’ll plant to present. Depending on the project, I like to offer 2–5 options. But when I first started my design career, I’d offer 10, which would quickly lead to 15 or 20. And this was terrible…for everyone.
My problem was I wanted to explore ALL of the options, and I wanted my clients to have every scenario they could imagine to choose from. My approach was fear-based — I felt that statistically speaking, if I created enough options, surely there’d be something they like.
Providing a lot of options is bad for three reasons:
- You’re functioning as a task monkey instead of an expert.
- Too many options cause analysis paralysis
- You’re wasting time and money
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the creative impulse to want to explore every option you can see — but that doesn’t mean we should burden our clients with this. Maybe we do draft out 10–20 options, but when it comes to mockups for presenting, we should be narrowing in on fewer options and here’s why:
1. Be An Expert, Not A Task Monkey
When you present a ton of options, you’re really just generating a ton of stuff and putting the burden of thought and decision on your client. You’re also saying you don’t really know what the best option for your client is. At this point, the difference between you and a design app that generates images is very slight.
Don’t provide work that can be outsourced to a robot design generator. You are the expert. Know what your client’s objectives and needs are. Differentiate between small and important considerations. Eliminate the bad options. Based on your expertise and research, provide the 3 best options to meet your client’s goals and needs. If you’ve done that, the client can’t really make a bad decision. And that is the best position you can possibly put a client in, and ultimately the reason they hired you.
2. Too Many Options Causes Analysis Paralysis
Hick’s Law states that the more choices we are presented with, the longer it takes us to make a decision, and the longer it takes us to make a decision — the more likely we are to encounter analysis paralysis. Analysis paralysis is when overthinking kicks in. The options become so overwhelming a decision isn’t made, or there is such a great fear of making the wrong decision that the desired outcome never gets achieved. Even worst, when analysis paralysis starts to be encountered, typically other people start getting brought into the decision-making process to “help”, and bringing too many cooks into the kitchen can quickly lead back to square 0 and even more options.
We see Hick’s Law and analysis paralysis become a major consideration in UX/UI, but it’s just as important to take Hick’s Law into consideration anytime a decision needs to be made. It is your job as the designer to guide your clients to the right solution, not overwhelm them and leave them in a ball in the corner of their office terrified they’re making a wrong choice. When we give just a few options, we’re giving decisions that can be digested and comprehended; as well as decisions our clients can confidently make — and that’s a priceless win.
3. Too Many Options Are A Waste of Time
When you provide, let’s say, 10+ mockups of something, your clients are only going to want to elaborate on 1 or 2 of those options. Leaving 8+ mockups you put precious time into, and likely several hours worth of mockups you didn’t budget or bill for.
What I often see designers do is offer tons of options with little differences and slight changes. It is better to offer 3 really different mockups than 10 slightly different mockups. When starting a project, offer really polarizing options, so your client can establish the direction they’d like to go. Once a direction is established, then you can start with all of the subtle changes and variations. But it’s better to offer several variations on a direction you have established, rather a direction they’re going to dismiss.
Offering fewer options and mockups also gives you a chance to collect feedback early. Sometimes as designers, we want a big curtain unveiling of the final product — a big fireworks response of ooh’s and aaahs. But, it is much better to get feedback early and often; rather go spend hours chasing paths that only lead you into the weeds with your client. Putting out 3 polarizing options upfront gives you a chance to use your time to efficiently get on the same page with your client.
And if the client comes back and asks, “Can we see 3 more options?” , that’s great! It’s a much better use of your time to provide more options if the client asks rather waste time providing options they don’t want or need.
All that being said, I personally find 2–3 mockups to be the sweet spot. It gives me a chance, through polarizing options, to get a pulse for what they will and will not like — and I honestly find 90% of the time, they pick the 1st option. There are times a few more are needed, but as I’ve mentioned, I’d rather do those upon request instead of needlessly waste time.
Learning to produce less, is in the end, a way to produce more; more value and confidence for your clients, and more time and sanity for you.
If you have any tips or secrets you find work best for mockups, please share them in the comments below!