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The User Experience Of Client Relationships

As designers we create experiences from thin air, every day. We hone and polish them, until they become beneficial and easy to understand for our users. Why then, when it comes to client relationships, we suck so much most of the time? Shouldn’t we create a great user experience for our clients too?

Managing Expectations

Most of the issues encountered during a course of a project come from bad relationship with a client. It’s not just about a famous "under-promise, over-deliver", but also about client onboarding.

Imagine yourself having to spend a few thousand pounds on services you have little or no knowledge about. Only then you can understand how our clients feel about working with designers. They see us as the professionals who should have an expert knowledge about the craft we deal in, but in no way they want us to burden them with it. They don’t need to know what leading or baseline is up front, or how a responsive grid works.

Our clients need to know just how all this is going to solve their digital problems. Let’s not talk about nuances of our work and instead replace them with facts and solutions. We don’t need to delve into details; those may be informative to our designer friends, but our clients are not interested. They have a business to run after all.

Research and iterative approach are the key to crafting a solid user experience. So always ask the right questions. Involving our clients in the process can not only help us find out more about them and their company. Ultimately, this will lead to a better understanding of their point of view. And believe me, you want to understand their business problems.

Don't Hide Under Your Desk

I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories about How A Design Goes Straight To Hell, but were you aware that sometimes it can be our own fault?

It’s because most of the time we like to hide ourselves behind a screen for a few days. Then, an email with our work goes off to the client, with hoping to get a sign-off or some constructive feedback. That's bad presentation, which calls for bad reception.

Don’t hide from your clients; keep them in a loop. Whenever a delay shows up to ruin your finely crafted timeframe, don’t just ignore it, tell your client about it! Most of your clients will appreciate your honesty. Those who didn’t, should have hired monkeys instead and saved both of you the hassle.

Ask For The Right Feedback

When sending your work for a review, ask for specific feedback and only people who are directly involved in the process. Make your client aware of what you are going to discuss during the next meeting or a Skype call.

Have you asked your client something like this before:

Did you see that homepage design I sent you last night? What do you think about it?

That’s straight-up like asking for trouble. Now, why not try something a little more creative:

Did you see that homepage design I sent you last night? Do you think the colour palette I used suits your company’s branding?

See what I did there? I asked about a specific part of the design. Your clients may not be an expert on layout or typography, so why ask them about it anyway? What might matter to him though, is whether your design follows his company’s branding and how effective it is. Specificity is the key here.

It’s important to make your client aware that all the requests need to refer to an agreed set of business goals. After all, you’re the expert in your field, and that’s exactly why your client hired you in the first place. Unless you were dead cheap too; there’s nothing wrong with that!

Start Right Now

It might be tempting to put your communication improvements on hold until the next project comes along. That is understandable, but you’ll be missing out on a chance to refine the relationship with your current client.

One small thing, such as improving your delivery schedule can make your client appreciate you process. You want them to be a part of your process, as it’s their opinion that matters in the end. Even if it’s something as tiny, as helping you narrow down that new colour palette for their website.

Respect your client’s time and educate them whenever you can. In return, they will surprise you by coming back to you with future projects, just because you showed them the ropes. And that, my friends, speaks a lot about a great user experience of doing business with your company.

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Professional digital designer, specialising in UI/UX for web & apps. Opinionated gamer (@_skepticalgamer), avid petrolhead, and a proud full-time dad.