Web Design and the Client Factor – Why It’s So Important to Keep Your Clients in the Loop about Options

client relationshipThe “client factor” is the single most important issue in any business, but in web design it is also a potentially complex issue. Web designers have to deal with the client’s knowledge base as well as the basic provider-client business issues. There are some potentially serious own goals here for web designers, including doing themselves some damage in business terms if clients aren’t kept in the loop.

client relationship
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Client knowledge issues

There are some issues related to the client’s understanding of web design which are obvious, and some which are anything but obvious and extremely tricky to manage:

Actual knowledge and understanding of web design – Like most normal human beings, clients generally have a basic understanding of web design and often very limited vision of web design options. Their technical knowledge is also usually low unless they’ve worked with web designers before.

Needs and wants – The client will have a range of wants, but not necessarily a clear understanding of needs for web design elements, content, functions and operational online issues. They may have no idea what they actually need, in terms of creating a functional website that can do what they need it to do.

Sensitivities – Clients may be sensitive to some types of design content, copy and graphic design. They may or may not let you know what they don’t want until you’re well into the design process. This can be an extremely wasteful, time consuming and thankless situation.

Relationship issues

The relationship between any two businesses needs to be managed on an equitable basis. The classic mistake for web designers is to underestimate the client, simply on the basis of their lack of understanding of web design. This is a quite self-destructive approach to working with clients. If the client’s knowledge and understanding is improved by explanation and good constructive communications, the client is quite likely to want more work done. They’re also far more likely to be interested in more advanced and better design concepts than the ultra-basic “index page and form” approach.

There’s another angle to this client relationship which isn’t quite as obvious, but is critically important for web designers. If you’ve ever been in a position in which the client has to come back to you on a page by page, element by element basis whereby you’re basically redesigning every part of a new website as the client sees it, you’ll understand this issue- Better communications and exchange of ideas drastically improves the client’s ability to define their needs.

There’s also the other side of the relationship- The client’s business interests. What do you know about the client’s business needs and aspirations? The recipe for disaster is not to find out, and therefore ignore both the client’s interests and your own. The client is the expert in this field and may well need a lot more than you realize, but doesn’t know how to express the need in terms of web design.

The fundamental truth in website design is that the client must be in the loop at all times. Don’t even pick a template, until you’ve got that issue locked in.