The highs and lows of an invested client.

I am currently working on a project to create UX for a gaming/gambling crossover platform.

Our team’s client is wonderful. He has committed to giving us everything we need to be successful in the project and (as students) offered us the holy grail of potential employment post masters!

‘We are so lucky!’ we all exclaimed after our 1st meeting and as we come to the end of the project I still believe we are…. but I wanted to share what it’s really like to have a client who is very heavily involved in your project!

Weekly Meetings

We arranged to have a weekly ‘Happy Hour’ round up meeting with our clients as they were keen to be involved. Each week it was a great way to present our ideas to the client and round up the successes of each sprint.

The meetings had lots of up points but a few cons….

They often ran late — 4pm on a Friday was probably not a wise time to have a client meeting. After a long week we would all be a little low energy, but also keen to make sure we impressed the client.

We would have to stop our sprint at mid-day on Fridays in order to prep for the weekly meetings which was quite time consuming.

The fear struck every Friday…. Are we talking too much, is this boring/useful/too in depth/not enough in depth enough?

Explaining the Process

The client team we are working with his a small start up. They have a strong background in Business, Software Development and Gaming — but not UX Design.

During some of our more out of the box design sessions — we really felt we had to justify our process and actions. It felt important to ensure they realises we were not just messing around, but actually using tried and tested techniques! Also trying to explain that you cannot rush ideation sessions…. that you have to keep going until the best idea comes (project plan be dammed) was an interesting conversation to have.

Killing someone else’s darlings

At Hyper Island — we were taught very early to leave your ego at the door. If an idea is not the best — let it go… don’t be afraid kill your darlings. This however becomes a little tricky when the darlings are your clients. We knew as designers we had to test all the clients and our own assumptions. We had to ensure we followed the right path — even if it meant telling our client some of their ideas’s or assumptions wouldn’t work. This took a lot of courage and faith in the design process to follow the user insights (good or bad!)

The dreaded question — What do you need?

Each week — the CEO of our client would look at us earnestly and say ‘what do you need from us?’ The dream client, right…. hmmm well if you don’t need anything you have a weird — eyes to the floor, team shuffle and a sheepish ‘we have everything we need thanks’ response that feels very awkward. Through the project I have wondered if there is a better response — but really they have been so great we have had everything we needed…. answers on a postcard please!

In an agency environment you may be more sheltered from your clients by an account manager or product owner. Having our clients directly involved has created a lasting bond and an opportunity to steer the project toward delivery more quickly than expected. The insights into the market they have given us sped up our research greatly. Also being able to take them on the design journey has really helped us to feel like we are adding value in the right way to them. Handing over our wireframes tomorrow and preparing for our pitch doesn’t seem frightening a all — but exciting, knowing we have already delivered value and feel like part of the team.