Things Clients Say (And Why They Say Them)

By Tuesday May 7th, 2013

If clients always have the same few comments on all design presentations, maybe we're not doing a good job of educating them.

Designers often complain about hearing the same comments on client presentations over and over again. Certain phrases, and even certain buzzwords, show up across all industries, at all different sized companies and for all different projects. These are the main three for web design projects…

“Make my logo bigger.”

“It needs more pop.”

“Why isn’t the X, Y or Z updatable?”

For designers and project managers who are juggling a design’s hierarchy and making sure the project stays on track, these comments are immensely frustrating. That doesn’t mean complaining is justified, however. As designers, instead of grumbling, it would be smarter to start educating. We all benefit from a more design-educated population.

To that end, I address you, the Client.

“Make my logo bigger”
Believe me, I understand. You want your brand front and center– memorable and unmistakable. Remember, though, that there are other ways to make things stand out beyond sheer size. If a designer put thought into your logo and your branding goals, then they likely drew attention to your logo by surrounding it with a comfortable amount of whitespace and positioning it well on the page. This is more than enough to be noticed, and then your logo can stay out of the way.

An oversized logo is a lot like one of those car dealership commercials that screams at you.

If you look at the websites of huge companies, like Apple and Nike, they’ll likely have very tiny logos. This is because human brains understand a logo when we see it on a website. In fact, that’s the point of having a logo. Once a user recognizes the mark, they know it’s you, and they truly don’t need to have it in their face while they’re trying to achieve whatever they came to your site for. Don’t underestimate your users. They’ll know you and more importantly, your brand. Especially if you provide them a quality product or service.

There’s also a sort of “side note” here, which is that subtlety equals cool. It certainly goes a long way in branding. Subtlety shows confidence and can make you look established.

“It needs more pop”
This is a little different from the logo comment. This one is related to expectations.

If your agency has been away working on something, separate of you, and then they come back to show you the work, then no matter what they show you, it won’t be what you’d initially expected.

I mean that literally. There’s no way you could have pictured every detail exactly as they give it to you. This isn’t a bad thing, but you have to take a minute to see through those expectations to what’s really there. Often times, it helps to absorb a presentation initially and then to reset your brain by going about your normal business. Once that initial clash between expectation and reality wears off, you can go back and more accurately assess the work.

That’s where the “pop” comment comes in. It stems from commenting too quickly. The expectation is to be incredibly wowed by such a fantastic, amazing product that you’re so excited for… and then you see a well-designed, professional website that’s probably awesome, if you just take a breath before you react.

I learned this one first hand recently. I designed an engagement ring for my fiancee and went through a revision round process similar to the one we use at Brolik. Each time I saw the next 3D rendering of my ring design, my first reaction was anxiety. I just wasn’t sure… would this work? Is this right? But I was picturing… I think it needs…

But when I stepped away and came back with a clear head, my first (and more natural) reaction each time was very positive. In the end, the ring came out beautifully and just like I’d imagined it. All the worrying was for nothing.

“Why isn’t the X, Y or Z updatable?”
This is also known as, “Why can’t I rearrange those entries on my own?” and “Can I upload video into that box?”

These questions are 100% reasonable and fair from a client’s perspective. That doesn’t make them less frustrating for designers and developers. (Although, frankly, that’s the designer’s or developer’s problem, not the client’s.)

The fact is that most clients aren’t educated enough on what really goes into creating a website. Most don’t know code, or even how code works.

I think building a home is a great analogy for building a website. Homes have structures and frameworks, hidden wiring and plumbing, a visual layer, someone needs to design them, someone needs to build them, someone maintains them…

The point is that there are different considerations and concerns that go into building websites (like standards, accessibility and man hours of code) that people don’t understand. Yet, people do seem to get these concepts relating to home building and construction.

So for instance, you don’t hire some guy off the street to rewire your bathroom, because he doesn’t know the safety concerns and proper installation techniques. Same reason you hire a professional digital agency for your website.

But beyond knowing a professional is needed in the first place, everyone also understands that home building and home maintenance require effort, hours and workers. People understand that opening up a wall with a saw, running wiring and then patching that wall back up is time intensive. Therefore, they’re willing to pay.

But when you ask to make a section of your website updatable, you may not realize that it’s very similar to opening up a wall with a saw, running some wiring (following all standards and safety specs) and then patching that hole back up. It’s time intensive.

It’s not the biggest deal, but if you don’t know, now you know. It’s not only about what should be updatable on a website. It’s also about time and budget and realistic expectations of what you as a client are likely to actually update. Remember, it’s inefficient to spend time and money making something updatable if it will never get updated (but that’s a whole other article).

Moving on…
The point behind all of this is that if the same comments always come up for all designers and all clients, then it’s time for designers to learn why clients are asking for things and for clients to learn why designers do what they do.

Most of the time, when we explain these types of things to clients, they don’t quite trust us. (And that’s crazy, considering how much they sometimes pay us.) In the end, it’s usually a compromise. We make that logo a little bigger, but not 150% bigger as they’d asked for. We add a few details to try to make the design “pop,” and you know what? A few of them we really like. We cave on that one section that really should be updatable, and we throw in another section because we think it’d be a cool feature.

It’s all about empathy. It’s about remembering that we’re all on the same team. Especially when we’re working on a project together. As long as designers keep business goals in mind, and as long as clients stay objective and business-minded in their judgements, we can all achieve greater things, and more importantly, we’ll all sleep better at night.

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About the Author

Drew Thomas is the CTO and co-founder of Brolik. He oversees Brolik's technology projects, including Leverage, Brolik’s proprietary technology platform. Drew spends most of his free time on side projects and prefers to blend work and life into a balanced, enjoyable experience. He lives in Austin, TX.
Twitter: @drewbrolik
LinkedIn: Drew Thomas
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