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Lessons:12Length:1.6 hours

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Free Preview: Working With Clients to Get Design Approval


  • Overview
  • Transcript

Getting design approval for a website is a minefield of personal opinion, endless iterations, and frustrating debates. It can undermine profitability, damage client relationships, and demoralise you as the designer. That is why we created this course. It will teach you how to:

  • prevent clients focusing on their opinions of a design
  • avoid speculative and Frankenstein design
  • gather feedback that is actually valuable for improving the design
  • avert the endless cycle of iterations
  • stop design by committee

1. Introduction

1.1 Introduction

Hi folks, and welcome to Working with the Clients to Get Design Approval, a course that will save your sanity. Because, getting clients to approve a design is enough to drive you crazy, isn't it! There are those endless iterations, where the client keeps wanting to tweak, and change the design, and it goes backwards and forwards. Then there's the micromanaging. Can you move this to the left? Can you change that? Can you tweak this? It drives you insane. Then there's those same old issues that come up project after project. Clients that don't want users to have to scroll. Clients that want to make their logo bigger. Clients who don't like the color scheme you've picked, or the use of white space. And all this can lead to frustrating disagreements when you're not happy, and the client isn't happy. Ultimately, this damages your business, doesn't it? Because, your clients are unhappy, and so they won't work with you again. Then the projects are becoming unprofitable, because you're going through endless iterations. And, it leaves you demoralized, reduced to nothing more than a pixel pusher. And, you end up not caring about the projects that you're working on, and clients pick up on that. There is a high cost of sale, because you are constantly seeking new clients. Because, the old ones aren't coming back to you, because they found the design experience as frustrating as you do. But, do you know what? It Doesn't Need to Be This Way! I've been working with clients for over 20 years now, and I'm now at the point where I never do speculative design work. I don't do design unless I'm paid to do it. But, more than that, I don't offer clients multiple concepts. They get one design with me, and I take them through the process of creating it. And, despite me not offering speculative design work, and not offering multiple concepts, I have many, many repeat customers. Customers that are happy, but most importantly, I have a healthy profit margin, and I still have my sanity. So, let me help you to get to that place. The place where getting design sign off, design approval is not a constant battle. Join me for the first lesson of the course where we're going to look at the importance of laying the ground work with your clients, and establishing the right relationships.

2. Initial Stages

2.1 Laying the Groundwork

Hello folks and welcome to working with clients to get design approval. In this video, we're gonna look at how getting design approval is so much easier if you have the right working relationship with clients. Because so often, we undermine our working relationship with our clients by holding them at arms length. And it's understandable, because most of us have bad experiences with clients in the past. Clients that have micro-managed, that have interfered, and that has made us hesitant to let the client in, to let them contribute to the design process. But by doing that, we're just making things worse. Because the client will pick up on our hesitancy, will pick up on the fact that we're trying to exclude them, and that will alienate them and it will undermine the working relationship. It also, it doesn't give the client to really, an opportunity to get to know us, and to see that we are competent experienced professionals. And that is the key. The secret to design approval is getting the respect of your clients and building a good working relationship with them. If you've got those two things, then it will be so much easier to get design approval when the time comes. So how would you go about achieving that? How, for example, do you establish your credibility? Well, the answer is not just to say, oh, yes, but listen to me, and to throw a strop. If anything, that undermines your credibility. But instead you've got to justify everything. You've got to make the presumption that respect is not just given to you, but it's something you have to earn. And that means you need to justify your design decisions. One of the ways that you can do that is by quoting experts. If you, for example, decide to have a long page, which requires a lot of scrolling. Then quote usability experts like Jacob Nielsen that say that users scroll. You could also quote statistics as well. There's ample statistics out there to justify all kinds of different design decisions that you're likely to make. By quoting stats, by quoting experts you show, not only that the particular decision that you've made is the right one. But you also show that you're well-read and experienced in what's going on within the sector. Another great way of building your credibility is to reference past work. If you've solved a similar problem before, make sure you talk about that with the client so they know that you're experienced. They know that they can trust you because you've solved this problem before. You've tackled a similar scenario. Part of the problem is a lot of us don't really understand how we do what we do as designers. We can produce great designs, but we're not always very good at understanding why or how we did that. Now that's quite difficult for a client to understand. They prefer a structure, a methodology, or a process that you pass through to get to a final design. So I would really encourage you to start building that kind of methodology. And that you explain that methodology to the client up front. Explain that you go through mood boarding, that you go through creating personas of wire frames, and all of these kinds of things. Because that adds credibility to you. It shows that you're a professional, with a process that always results in a good design at the end of it. You take the muck and mystery out of the process, and make it understandable for the client. A big thing about experts is that they don't feel the need to become defensive when a client criticizes their designs. Nothing looks more insecure than you getting all defensive the minute a client challenges you or asks a question. Instead, you've gotta view these kinds of questions and criticisms, as an inevitable part of the process. And that it's your job to listen carefully, take their opinions on board, and respond in a considered, controlled, and not angry manner. So make sure that you check your own pride and your own insecurities at the door when you're dealing with a client. Another example of insecurities we often fall into is when the client asks us something we don't know the answer to. We panic, don't we sometimes, and we start bluffing it, and pretending we've got the answer. And that looks so transparently obvious. So instead, turn around and have the confidence to say, I don't know. Because, do you know what? That adds more credibility than bluffing it. It's better to say, I don't know, but I can go away and find that out, than it is to try and pretend you've got the answers to everything. That screams insecurity and undermines your credibility. Okay, but it's not all just about your credibility. It's also about the relationship you manage to build with your client because the truth is, people buy from people they like. If the client likes you, you're going to find it much easier to get design signoff. So how do you go about making a client like you? Which you know, a big part of it is just showing that you care about their project and getting excited about it. The more excited you are about their project, the more they're likely to get on board with you and get carried away with your enthusiasm. A client once said to me, how can I say no to you, Paul? It would be like kicking a puppy. Because I was so excited and so passionate about the design I'd produced and their project, that they got carried along with my excitement. Another part of building a good relationship with a client is to not be that road block person. The person that's always saying no. Now some of the ideas that clients will suggest will be impractical and silly, and inappropriate. But, don't say no to them. No to them just causes confrontations. And just try and reach compromises with clients. Don't be the blocker, don't be person that's constantly causing confrontation. So, pick your words very carefully. Another big part of a relationship is to talk the same language. Often, I think as designers we sometimes hide behind techno babble or design talk in order to kind of force through our opinions. We think if we confuse the client enough they might just agree. But actually what you're doing is undermining the relationship. You're emphasizing the difference between you and them. So use their language and engage with them as equals. Pick your battles too. Too often we kinda deal out heels in over every single little thing. And never let the client get a win. There are some things that we wiil passionately believe and some times we will want to dig our heels in over certain issues. But then they'll be smaller things as well, things that, Well yeah, ideally we'd like to do it our way. But if the client won't go for that, that's not the end of the world. So in those kinds of situations, let the client win. It doesn't undermine you in anyway, or undermine your credibility by actually taking onboard their comments and even applying some of them. Being open and honest is another intrinsic part of building a good relationship. I think sometimes, I've already talked about how sometimes we hold clients at arm's length. But sometimes I think, as well, we hold back information from our clients for fear of worrying them, for fear of upsetting them. For example, if you're struggling to make a deadline. Sometimes we decide not to tell the client that. We thing oh, we might be able to make up at weekends, or we might be able to work evenings in order to get it done. And so what happens is, we put off that awkward conversation, and so when it does happen it's ten times worse, because it's last minute and it comes as a shock. Instead, be open and honest with your clients from the very beginning. Say look, I'm a bit worried I might not make this deadline. I'm gonna try my hardest, but it is a possibility. Then yes, sure you're having an awkward conversation early, but then if you manage to meet the deadline anyway, you've exceeded their expectations, and they'll go away even happier. It's all about being sincere with your client. Being real with them, and not holding them at arm's length. To moving it beyond the kind of professional supplier, contractor relationship, into something a little bit more real. Socializing is a part of that too. The idea of taking your client out for a meal or having a good time together. It builds something more real and tangible and less arms lengthy. So, what's the key lessons? What do I wanna leave you with in this video. For a start, stop holding your clients at arms length. You're just making things worse when you do. But also that respect has to be earned. Just because they hire you as a designer doesn't mean they instantly respect you. You've got to earn that through the project and you've got to put the effort in to do that. And finally, that if the client likes you, if you build a real sincere relationship with them, then life is gonna be so much easier. And getting design approval will go so much smoother. So that's it for this time. Next time on Working With Clients to Get Design Approval, we're gonna look at how to help the client focus on the right areas. So they provide real and useful feedback.