In the previous four articles we discussed how professional web design process looks like and how you can use it to create high quality work every time. Your next step is to present web design to your client in a professional way. This will be the main subject of this article. Today, you will learn the best practices to present web design. You will also learn how to work with client’s feedback and do required adjustments. Are you ready to learn how to present web design like a pro?
One challenge everybody knows
Your web design process will not be complete nor sustainable without knowing how to present web design to your client. There are many great and hard-working web designers delivering amazing results. These guys and girls know how to work with colors. They know the psychology behind it and how to is. They can tell you the whole history of graphic even if you wake them up in the middle of the night. The same thing applies to design theory. These people are walking reservoirs of knowledge.
Unfortunately, the amount of skill these people have is not everything. The reality is that it doesn’t matter how great web designer your are. You also must be able to present web design to your client, employer or anyone else. This one of the issues many professional web designers have to deal with. The ability to present web design is often also that one thing that keeps them from taking their craft on another level, not to mention make more money.
Delivery is just beginning
Let’s suppose you just finished the first iteration of the website. You also discussed the web design with your colleagues or another web designers and did user testing to get valuable feedback. Now it’s time to present the web design to your client. This is the place where some web designers are doing first mistake – they send the prototype of the website by e-mail. If you want to retain at least some control over the process of presentation, always present web design to your client in person. This doesn’t mean that you have to fly at the other end of the world.
Simple Skype call or hangout will work great. The key is to present web design in the real time. Personal presentation gives you every advantage you can get. First, personal contact will improve your relationship with your client. As a result, he will be more likely to remember you and hire you in the future. Second, personal presentation will allow you to frame your work in wider context. Third, you will have a chance to answer client’s questions right on the spot. In other words, say good-bye to e-mails about nonsensical remarks and comments.
Fourth, your client will gain confidence in you. There is only handful of web designers willing to take the time and present web design in person. Good preparation requires certain level of professionalism and preparation. The fifth, and last, advantage of presentation done in person is obtaining valuable feedback by watching clients reaction. Your client can tell or write you one thing. However, the reaction you can see on your own eyes is irreplaceable. What’s more, if you are good at body language, you can spot sign your client might not even know about.
Present web design like a pro
You know about the biggest challenge the majority of web designers have to handle. You also know the greatest advantages you can gain by learning how to present web design like a pro. Now, I will give you six-step process to master this softer part of your work.
The first step is to describe the problem. You need to present to your client the assignment you worked with. As someone well-versed in web design and also someone who went through all phases of web design process, it’s quite easy for you understand it. You still have everything in your memory – all assumptions, hypothesis, users’ feedback. Unfortunately, this is not true for your clients. For this reason, the first step is to familiarize your client with the problem.
Second step, is to “go” through the business of your client and his customers. This step is more about describing what you were building the website on. Your goal is not directly to present web design. It is showing your client that you understood his business. Otherwise, you could end up with a house built on the wrong meadow. Third step is to describe your four-phase web design process you used. Briefly describe individual phases and information you obtained. You should also talk about how you used these information to design the website.
Fourth step is presenting your prototype of the website. This is your chance to show the fruits of your labor in the best light. Just for case, I suggest that you test all features of the prototype before the presentation. Otherwise, if something went wrong it would jeopardize the entire project. While you will present web design, make sure to comment everything your client may not understand. Also, encourage your client to ask questions. Presenting the prototype is not the only thing to do. You should also explain how the website fits the whole picture.
Meaning, describe how the website will support and complete your client’s branding and how it will help his business. Remember, focus on benefits instead of features. The fifth step is to answer any questions. Even if your client doesn’t look like he has any questions, it is still better to ask him directly. There might be things your client may not be completely sure about, but he will hesitate to ask about. If you want to test client’s comprehension, you can ask him for a quick summary (don’t do that).
The sixth and last step is to give your client some time for feedback. This last step will typically take about a week, sometimes longer. The time it will take depends mostly on two factors. The first is your client. Some people will need only couple hours after you present web design to summarize their thoughts and give you feedback. Others will need days or weeks. That’s normal. So, if your client is not responding in the first five days, don’t panic. Remember that the website you designed is part of his business. Your client has to make sure to think about it properly.
The second factor that will have an impact is the size of the project. Large projects will require more time for your client to review than smaller ones. In case of bigger projects, there will be also more people involved. In other words, your client may not be the only person reviewing your work. The more people will be involved in the project, the longer it will take before you may get any reaction on your presentation. Still, there is something you can use to navigate through this.
If you are working on a smaller project – small business website or personal website – and your client didn’t get in touch with you for more than two weeks, take the initiative and write him first. In case of bigger project – website for bigger company – give it three or four weeks. Then, again, take the initiative and get in touch with your client. In all situations, always contact your client in polite and calm way. Another condition you can use is the time it took from the first phase of your web design to the moment you had to present web design to your client.
Adjustments and iterations
The moment you were hearing about is here. Your client wants you to change, add or remove something. As you will see, this change will be mostly related to the desktop “version” of the homepage. When your client has a concrete requirement, your job is to read between the lines. You have to understand the reason behind it. What your client wants to achieve by making this change? This also means that you will not blindly follow the orders and agree with everything.
Your clients are intelligent people who want their web to be successful. This is the number one reason they are working with you. Client’s change requests are often based on a good reason. All you have to do is only adjust its form, metaphorically speaking. In situation such as this one, you have two pros. First, your client is not just some middleman delivering information from higher levels of hierarchy. He is probably decision-maker. This means that every change from the side of your client is “approved” in advanced.
Second, you went through the whole web design process. You have information and arguments for why to do something and why not. It is possible that client’s request will create something new you will have to process, analyze and assign specific priority to it and implement it. Then, you will probably have to present web design to your client again. Where is that second benefit? If the change is bigger, your client will be more likely to increase the budget.
Generally speaking, it can also be useful to make one trade-off for your client. This can, in the future, lead to trade-off from the side of your client. It is also nonsense to fight with your client about whom will define the content of the website. Both of you will lose. You will not get hired again by this client in the future for another project. Your client will have angry and demotivated web designer, and probably malfunctioning website. Also, remember that your client has always one ace in his sleeve – money to pay your invoice.
Dealing with harsh feedback
There will be times in your career when you will get feedback that will be similar to punch in the stomach. The more attached to your work you are, the hard the punch will be. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid harsh feedback. Even if your work is flawless, you can still encounter client who will crush it. Thorough your career, you will stumble different types of clients. You can’t control them or their thoughts. Trying to do so is like fighting windmills. What you can change is your reaction. So, how can you change your reaction to your benefit?
No.1: Take a deep breath
The first tip for dealing with tough feedback is to take a deep breath and detach yourself from the situation. It doesn’t matter how crushing the feedback is. Never react defensively or aggressively. It can hurt, you may feel disappointed, but you have to keep your head calm and act like a professional. Taking a deep breath and gaining some distance are great first steps. If you are communicating over email, it is also useful to write the e-mail and save it for at least 30 minutes. Then, when you get back to it, you will have calm mind.
No.2: Seek first to understand
The second tip is to always try to clarify the feedback. You need to understand exactly what is the thing your client doesn’t like. This must be done before trying to explain or defend your position. Your ability to read between the lines is essential. Your goal is to understand what are client’s criteria for judgment. Then, you need to find why and how the web design fails to meet these criteria. Ask for specific things your client doesn’t like. Ask for specific examples. Go as deep and be as specific as you can. Remember, you need to get through the semantics straight to the core.
No.3: Direct the conversation
The third tip is to always direct the conversation to some solution. This can be basically done in two ways. First, you and your client will agree on the current form and shape. Meaning, you will not have to make any changes. Second, you and your client will agree on what changes you will make, and you make them. Offer solution for every issue or request your client has and ask if the solution is acceptable.
No.4: Solution-focused mindset
The fourth tip is to always present web design with solution-focused mindset. Your client is not your enemy. So, don’t try to turn the presentation into battle. Your goal is to end the presentation with agreement, both of you will benefit from. Present web design as a win-win. Show your client that you care about his business and you want to help him improve it. When your client will see genuine interest from your side, he will be more willing to consider different ideas and solutions.
Tips for getting better feedback
Feedback from our clients is a cornerstone of our work. It is also a crucial part of any collaboration between a client and a designer (you). The problem arises when you are unable to manage this feedback. Then, even if you get some feedback from your client, this feedback can be completely useless and your work will suffer. Can you somehow avoid this situation?
No.1: Plan ahead
For every project you will work on, you should agree with your client on a specific date he will provide you with feedback. You and your client has to take this date seriously. I also suggest that you notify your client about the feedback couple days in advance. You should also agree in advance with your client on the form of feedback. Some clients will want to give you their feedback over the call or in person. Others may prefer written form such as e-mail. Resolve these questions before getting in touch for the feedback.
No.2: Clarify vague feedback
One of the problems with feedback is that it is often vague. Vague feedback gives you close to nothing to work with. One thing to avoid this situation is to clarify what kind of feedback are you looking for. This is not about trying to manipulate your client to tell you only what you want to hear. That would be not helpful at all. Instead, provide your client with guidelines for giving constructive feedback. The most important aspect of actionable feedback is being specific.
Your client should tell you what exactly he doesn’t like along with specific reasons. Make it clear that feedback such as plain “I don’t like that green color” is not constructive. I suggest that you take the risk and tell your client you will ignore any objections lacking reasons. Otherwise, your client can tell your that “that blue button is ugly” and you’ll waste the next hour trying to figure out how to “fix it”. This is also waste of your client’s time and money.
The best way to change the quality of feedback your client gives you is to make him see the website from the point-of-view of the visitors and users. Tell your client that when they’re reviewing the project, they should put themselves in the shoes of the people visiting the website. They should think about what their wants and needs are. Keep in mind that it is easy to fall back into personal taste. When this happens, gently nudge your client into the right direction.
Also remember that our clients often don’t know how to provide constructive and actionable feedback. Why should they? They may have no prior experience with it. In many cases, you will be the first web designer they worked with. It is up to you to help your client understand how constructive feedback looks like. I know … Another responsibility on your shoulders.
No.3: Explain the design process
My third tip is to help your client understand your design process. Give your client a quick run-through on individual phases of your design process and what each phase includes. Also, tell your client that when you present web design, it is just another piece of the puzzle, another cog in the wheel. Your client will also know what adjustments will be more expensive. He will also understand that some changes will get more difficult with time.
Lastly, when your client understands all different phases of your design process, the project and your mutual cooperation will be much easier. He will know what to expect and when to expect it.
No.4: Problems first
Some of the clients you will work with will want to help by offering solutions instead of referring to problems. Unfortunately, this can make your work rather harder. Your client may really think that he is helping you, but he is not. For example, your client may suggest that you make the button bigger or font smaller. This is one of the possible solutions for certain issue, with button or font. The problem is that it doesn’t addresses the problem.
Tell your client that you need to understand the problem first, before you can find the best solution. So, when your client will start to give you solutions, ask them to re-frame their feedback. Ask them to frame it as problem or challenge. However, that doesn’t mean that you should conceive hatred for your client’s solution. All you want is to go a little bit deeper. You want to see under the surface because there can be some bigger problem that you may not see.
Looking back at the web design process
One of the main goals of every web designer should be understanding the difference between two things. The first one is well thought website design. Second is mockup for homepage. Someone who is not a web designer by trade can see these two things in the same way. This person will also see the homepage as the most important part of the website. This is what leads to his obsession with having pixel-perfect homepage (and good looking rest of the website).
As a professional web designer, you have to resist designing only polished homepage, even if your client is willing to pay you for that. If this was the first time you encountered web design process, give it some time. Everything is hard when you do it for the first time. The more will you practice web design process and how to present web design, the better you will get at it.
Depending on your work you may use faster, cheaper and more agile tools and methods. This will be mostly true for web designers working with or in design agencies. Web designers working with teams in bigger corporations will incline to slower pace and higher number of iterations. Another thing important for successful presentation and completing whole web design process is to never be afraid dead-ends. It is exploring these dead-ends what moves you closer to the finish. In other words, web design process is never linear.
The same thing can be said about budget and investments into the website. Skipping any of the four phases of the process can cost as much money as doing them, if not more. Sure, you can present web design with prototype based on your own assumptions instead of user research. However, the ROI of the web design will go down while the risk of failure will go up. Trying to estimate the price of web design by the number of wireframes, mockups and pages that you give to your client, is just nonsense.
Closing thoughts on how to present web design to clients like a pro
Last words? The only sure way to learn how to present web design like a professional is through trial and error. You have to try different tips and concepts and see which works for you and which not. The good news is that nobody was born with this ability. Just think about Steve Jobs. Many people would say that he was one of the greatest presenters (and sellers). Sure, he wasn’t interested in how to present web design to clients.
Anyway, what I want to say is that he spent hundreds of hours training and improving his presentations. He was still trying new ideas. He was willing to fail again and again and learn from these failures. This is what helped him brought his presentations to perfection. So, don’t worry. It doesn’t matter where your presentation skills are right now. With time and practice, you too, will present web design like a pro.
Thank you for your time.