Web design. How to present your work. And why a good presentation matters (a lot).

At Proof, my branding agency, we preach (and practice) the importance of explaining the why behind the what in our creative work. In this case, I’m primarily referencing our web work, but the concept really does apply to anything within the creative services spectrum, and, as you’ll read here, many of the “lessons” apply to presenting virtually anything you’d ever be asked to present in your career.

A product without purpose is empty. Design without intent is a dead- end. It’s a pretty thing that sits on a shelf and collects dust. It doesn’t convert. It doesn’t inspire. It doesn’t contribute to tangible, positive results.

“How does it work? Why is it the way it is? What do we intend the user to do? Why should they care. What next? What now?”

These are all questions we seek to answer both during the creative process, and when it all comes to head in presenting to the client. A few key themes always (should) come up.

→ Prioritize.

What is the most important thing for the user to do? What is the *one* things that the user absolutely must do before leaving the site/page/section?

→ Show the flow.

What happens when I click? What’s the next thing I see after I do _______? Recently, we moved away from the more traditional model of having the client approve the homepage first, followed by interior pages — to a model that involves us presenting all of the primary pages on the site at one time. Why? So we can explain user flow and articulate “if this, then that.”

→ Scale. Scale. Scale.

A common mistake in web design mockups is designing everything to (only) fit into a very perfect layout. Even if you do have all of the final content in-hand before heading into the design phase (big “if” there, no matter how strong your process is), everything should be designed with the ability to scale. What if the text is longer than expected? What if a blog post doesn’t have an image? What if they want to remove a section entirely? Remember that a website is much different that a “finite” print piece, and scalability/flexibility must be a consideration from the beginning.

→ Re-enforce the user.

One of the deadliest traps to fall into is asking the client, “do you like it?” While we, of course, want our client to love everything we create, they should like it because it works. Because it’s what’s best for their user (something we define very early in the process). Remember, through all of this, you’re not designing for the client, you’re designing for the client’s customer/supporter/client/user.

A few other quick words of wisdom on enhancing your presentation skills:

  • Smile. Nobody likes a sourpuss.
  • Rehearse. Doing your homework makes you look really, really smart.
  • Use the client’s name. It matters. A lot.
  • Make eye contact. Also matters a lot.
  • Eliminate disqualifying statements. Never “it may”, always “it will”.
  • Get excited. The simple act of saying, “I/we love it” can and does go a long way.

Clients will like you, trust you, believe you, and believe in what you create if you’re confident, clearly understand the problem, and are able to articulate solutions. Explaining the “why” behind the “what” is important, and being a genuine, positive person that your client feels comfortable with matters a lot. Now go give the best presentation of your life!


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