Breaking down a project: 5 questions before you begin a design

Initial meetings with clients are exciting times, and some of the most creative. When discussing a project at the onset, your mind races with ideas and plans on how a site will look, and sometimes even how you will improve on the brief given to you.

 

Even after the meeting, this continues. You brainstorm your design ideas; the fonts you will use, the imagery, the mock-ups and the next steps after that…but hold your horses! What happens if all these ideas and plans completely backfire in your face and the results end bad, so bad that you risk losing a client?

 

This is one of the worst things that can possibly happen, I mean, who really wants to lose clients?

 

There is nothing wrong with creative eagerness at all, but by going off in explosive tangents on how YOU think the site should look it is very easy to forget who you are designing the site for the client.

 

Ok, I understand, you want a portfolio of client sites that looks amazing by your own standards, but that wont necessarily make a successful project. By neglecting a client’s brand, ethos and preferences and going off on your own you risk ruining a project.

 

We have all been there, whether it was when you were a young and eager designer, or even in your later days as a more established designer in a successful web design agency, we have all made this mistake.

 

Creating a site that suits the client is mandatory; period. To ensure that you do that, there are a few things that you need to consider when you are starting a project and at Kalexiko we have put a few together.

 

What are you trying to achieve?

This is the vast and most important question when discussing a project with a client. It isn’t all about the aesthetic features and the look of the site, it is more about getting to know who your client is and what they stand for.

 

You need to understand who they are, what they do and most importantly, why they do it. This involves getting deep into the heart of their company and understanding exactly who they are. This means understanding certain details that are not standing there right in your face; how do they want to reach their audience and what impressions do they want to create? How do they interact with other business in the sector? What motifs in designs do they like? What is the concept of their branding?

 

There are so many things to learn about each client and it involves going in and digging real deep. Therefore you need to listen. When in the initial meeting, don’t start by throwing your ideas at your client, but listen to what they want you to do for them. You want to create conversions for your client in their industry and not alienate them from their audience, which means consistency between their goals and your design.

 

How does a client want to be perceived?

As well as understanding the purpose and goals of a client, you need to know how they want to be perceived by their customers. This is simply just finding out what your client wants their customers to think about them.

 

Ok, it is a lot simpler than it sounds admittedly, though it is crucial that you do this. Consider things like, what makes your favourite companies your favourites and why do you feel that way about them? What are your likes and even dislikes about a company and how do you want your company to be similar or different? It’s questions like these that help to develop a design that reflects a company’s ideas.

 

Here is where you really must listen to your client, because your ideas and their ideas about perceptions may differ. Think about marketing in Coffee shops. There are many that want to appear to be fun, trendy hangouts for hipster types and creatives. Then on the other hand there are some that want to appear as a premium artisan of coffee and appeal to the most high end coffee enthusiasts there can be. Given this scenario, would you mock up the same design for these two companies?

 

Think of it like this, if you approach your client as a consumer that has never heard of them before and needs to be persuaded to be converted, then you will have an honest and accurate idea of their desired perception.

 

Who is your client’s ideal customer?

This runs on similar lines to the question above. Though the difficult thing about this one is that every client will have a different ideal customer and ‘your average Joe’ (yes, this comes up) doesn’t quite cut the design specifics.

 

One simple way to get past this issue you is to ask your client to describe their ideal customer; right down to the specifics. of course, this will even be difficult for them due to the fact that we are used to focusing on attracting groups of people; though by boiling it down to one specific, it makes life much easier when tailoring a design to an audience.

 

So, if your client says that their target audience is women, aged 20-40, who are into fashion and music ask them for more specifics; what kind of fashion are they into? What end of high/ low fashion do they follow? Who are their icons, and so on. Boiling it down like this makes it much more easier to pinpoint and create a design that can strictly appeal to a niche audience as well as attracting a wider, more general one too.

 

What sort of emotional connection does your client want to make towards their customers?

Finding out how your client wants to emotionally connect with their customers is the next step. Of course, the emotional connection must be in line with their goals, their ideal customer and their desired perception of themselves. All of this together will bring you to the next issue; how do you design to connect?

 

It is an understanding that good design and UX elicits positive emotions when a user encounters it, therefore creating valuable business. To get to this point you need to combine everything you have learnt so far and put it all together. Without a doubt you want to create something that is beautiful, but remember that this is subjective. You want to create something that the client’s customer finds beautiful, and therefore gains your client conversions.

 

Finally, how should your design influence your client?

Really, the ideal answer is that your client comments on your great design and the value of the connections between it and their values, the goal being that the client understands the value of your design and its function, rather than just making something look pretty. You don’t want to ask these questions and then go create something that your client just can’t comprehend as that would be a complete waste of time and would look bad on you.

 

If you get to this point, and you on your client are on the same page then that is excellent, let the designs commence. If not then you will have to determine whether or not you and your client can come to some midway and compromise on how the site will appear, therefore ensuring that the project is valuable for both of you.

 

In conclusion

I really cannot stress enough how important it is to ask these questions at the beginning of a project. Not only does it create the foundations of how you should go about tackling a project in a client friendly manner, but it is also a lesson in communication.

 

Without strong communication between you and your client a project will fall apart and relationships ruffled. Asking these questions creates a map of understanding between you and your client which will help you to create a site that will be effective and please both you and your client.

 

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