SXSWi – Painfree Design Signoff with Paul Boag
Paul Boag goes over design sign-off — how to make it easy for the client, and therefore, easy for the designer. Search Twitter for #painfreedesign for additional conversation.
Painfree design sign off
The holy grail of design (“Wow, you guys really know what you’re doing. Let me give you a big check.”)
A lot of people complained that design sign off can never be easy - he lies! He didn’t mean pain-free for the designer, but for the client (since if the client is happy, you’re happy).
Meet John, the client
John is unhappy, and unhappy with you. He’s paying you to build a website, you believe you’re doing everything right and produce an (perfect, in your mind) design. Send the email to John (“What’d ya think?”). And John is agast, because it isn’t what he envisioned, you didn’t create multiple designs… essentially you didn’t keep him in the process and forcing a decision on him. He’s forced to tell you what he wants (“Make the logo bigger - fill that white space with stuff - make it bold/bigger/brash - move it slightly to the left - make the font bigger”) - and now you’re a pixel-pusher and angry (“Well I only budgeted for 3 revisions”)… and the relationship goes south.
And it all ends up with… “I give up” and you distance yourself from the project. No one is happy with the results.
There must be a better way
Problem:We’re too defensive - we have a view that the client gets in the way. So we limit the number of revisions - we’ll not be producing multiple designs - we only show the design when it’s finished - we discourage them showing the design to others (design by committee) - we control everything. And the client feels like we think they’re an idiot (…which we do).
Solution: We spend so much time getting into the head of the visitor, but never get into the head of the client.
What do clients want?
- To understand the process
- Reassurance about decisions
- To feel in control
- To feel confident in the end result
- To personally like the site (which we argue against… but the client is the one who has to live with the website long-term. And if they’re not happy, they don’t promote it, the website fails, and we get blamed.
It’s about collaboration not confrontation.
6 underlying principles
- Ensure the client understands their role in the process. Makes them feel in control. (To the client: Your job is to find problems. Our problems is to find solutions. (Because the clients try to find solutions, and tell you how to fix them… which isn’t the point. The problem would be “I can’t read the font” not, “Make the font bigger.” We can help this by asking “Why” when they give us solutions first.
- Have a strong methodology. Tell them the steps and what you’re going to do, which reassures the client and gives them confidence about your project.
- Include the client often and early. Makes them feel in control and that they’re shaping the final result.
- Educate the client about the decisions being made. You’re doing things instinctively and subconsciously - but you can’t tell the client this. You need to explain about white space, color theory, etc, and justify your work. By educating the client, you’re giving the client confidence about your results, and helps the client justify your design to others.
- Ask for specific types of feedback from the client. No good asking how they think about your final design, ask them about how their users would think, and whether it fits their business objectives - takes out their personal judgements.
- Avoid saying no. Say, “Sure we can do that, but let’s think it through - how it’ll fit in, how it’ll affect the website, how it’ll affect the timeline and the final result.”
Get them talking about their ideas and the project. Find out who all the decision makers are, and get them all in the same room and get them excited. Never forget about the “secret power behind the throne” - who the real decision makers are. Emphasize that it’s a collaborative approach, design borne not through the creative, but through the collaboration, so they’re part to blame for failure. “If your design was a famous person, which person would it be?” - think about the design as personalities.
Don’t ask what websites they like (Britain, they all say the BBC website). The trouble is, they have no frame of reference. Pick out the websites that you like, and tell the client why you like certain elements or the clean-ness, and have a discussion with the client - take the lead first. Don’t ignore personal preference.
Don’t go straight into design. Moodboards are quick and easy to produce - no more than an hour. It’s like the multiple design approaches, but with something super lightweight. You can have the client to help/create their own. Talk the client through the moodboards, ask them for feedback (specific - ask about the typography, etc). Ask for personal opinion, but make sure they’re thinking about their users.
Remove the aesthetics from the content. Just sketch out stuff with them. Get the whole project team working on this. At the end of the meeting, have a couple different approaches, messy and simple - and then let them have a choice.
Produce a single mockup, but it won’t be a surprise to the client since you’ve worked together. But present to only one person, not a group - since people with different opinions try to find common ground and you lose control as they start designing. Explain what you did and why you did it and let them know your decisions. It’s a process of education. Ask whether it meets the business objective, whether their clients will like it.
Protip: Make a video! Have your explanations, so when the person passes it around to their friends, the explanations go with.
Test the design
Do a 5 second test to test for quick reactions and ask for adjectives to test emotions
There shouldn’t be much to do at this point except for small tweaks — not big design changes (yay!). Since the client was in the process from the beginning, they’ll feel a lot more confident about the results.