Trust: The Role of a Good Design Firm in the Web Design Process
It’s customary for a design firm to present the client with multiple design concepts for a project. For a web design project, the design firm might present 2-3 entirely different directions to the client each communicating the same message yet using different approaches.
What most clients do not realize is that concepts that are presented to them in the first round are a product of a team of designers brainstorming, designing, redesigning, and refining the designs. The process includes the determination of typefaces, colors, layout/grid, whitespace and copy layout. Each element is carefully thought through based on the knowledge of skilled designers who understand that color creates an emotional response, that fonts communicate the personality, and that the grid guides a visitor down a specific path. It’s a balancing act and most of the designs don’t make the cut. As with most good design firms, the final concepts presented to the client are purposefully designed to communicate the client’s message and create a definitive brand for the client.
Communicating the Choices Made
During the presentation process, there are usually many opinions and emotional responses to colors, imagery, etc. The challenge, in presenting initial concepts to a client, is translating the choices that were made in the designs and why. A good design firm will have answers and will challenge the client if a design element is questioned. A good design firm will stand their ground when they feel the choices they made will benefit their client. A good design firm will ask the right questions and keep an open mind and work in partnership with the client. A good design firm’s purpose is to the serve the client, not please them. Design is a process but it is a directed process with purposeful decisions.
Once the client has selected a preferred direction, the first round is complete and design development begins. During the design development phase of a website project, more pages are developed and oftentimes more content. It’s not uncommon for minor modifications to occur as the client realizes the possibilities. It’s an eye-opening experience when a client views his/her company from an outside perspective and exciting to say the least. Whether the objective is an increase in revenue, an increase in awareness or an increase in credibility or any combination, when a client trusts in the process and considers the design firm they have chosen as an expert in their field, they will see lasting results.
The Blender Effect
Now let’s go back to the initial presentation of concepts for a moment. Let’s say the client likes one thing from one design and one thing from another design and yet another thing from the third design. We call this the blender effect — when random elements of each design are selected and effectively tossed into a blender and blended. Some clients think this a natural part of the process but it is not.
The blender effect can be usually avoided by a thorough discovery process. Discovery is a crucial part of any project cycle, especially a new website or rebranding of an existing website and company. When enough time is spent in the discovery process, to understand the client’s goals and objectives, to determine who their customer is and what motivates them, a good design firm will get it right the first time.
I Don’t Like That Color
Is it important that a client likes the color, or likes the imagery? No, it is not. Is it important that everyone at the company likes the design? No it is not. Design is subjective. It’s natural for people to have strong opinions on colors, fonts, etc., but this is not important. When a client is viewing initial concepts, the relevant questions to address are: Does this communicate our message clearly? Will this motivate our customers/clients to act? Is our brand presented accurately? Clients need to spend time with the concepts, sit with them, have the space to think. As designers, we take time, we design, leave the design, come back to the design, leave it again, come back to it again and again and then we refine. Only then do we present concepts. Concepts that communicate your message effectively and drive your customers to act.
A good design firm understands that design is subjective, intangible and emotional. A good design firm is like a good therapist, through a directed process, they help you discover yourself, and like therapists, they too look forward to that AHA moment.