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Client vs. Good Design
lessons for avoiding conflict
(brought to you fresh from the field)
!

Chrissy Welsh @chrissywelsh
Lead UX - Backbase
What this will contain
• 5 solid lessons to get you off to a good start
• How to put these lessons into practice
• Tips on dealing with a difficult conversation
• and a little comfort (you are not alone)
It doesn't have to be this way
Pre-project: build a relationship

Lesson #1
Take the time to build a relationship off payroll. You’ll get
more work (if freelance), and you’ll have set the stage for
better dialogue when the going gets tough and the project
gets going.
Pre-project: build a relationship

How?
Talk; show them what you can do for them; talk about what
issues they face; send them relevant articles related to the
project. Basically, add value, explain why you think the way
you do, and build trust.
Project Kickoff: wait a sec. –
the client’s opinion matters?

Lesson #2
The client’s opinion matters. 

Take the time to listen early on, and they’ll listen to you later
when your life’s work is on the line.
Project Kickoff: wait a sec. –
the client’s opinion matters?
!
!

How?
Resist getting stuck straight into the work. Do an
introductory session with you & the relevant design team,
get opinions, & create conversations. You will find out what
they like & dislike and what their ultimate vision is. Its rarely
whats on the generic brief.
Architecture and Wireframing:
Time for the planning phase the client never understands
!

Lesson #3
Establish your client-side champion and
get them involved whenever possible.
Before you know it, you’ll be watching
them fight your battles for you.
(And please, for God’s sake, make the client know
that they are actually buying off on something
important when they approve your wireframes!)
Architecture and Wireframing:
Time for the planning phase the client never understands
!

How?
The foundation you build will help you
explain how important this step is. Look
at wireframes together, point out the
best practices. When the client can talk
about the logic behind the work, they
can defend it.
… and that’s OK
The great design debate:
Suddenly things get dicey
!

Extract from a real conversation
Client: "What is ‘Lorem ipsum’ anyway?"
Designer: Oh it is just fake, filler copy used while we wait to place the real content.
Client: "Yes, but what does it translate to?"
Designer: It’s jibberish.
Client: "So is it offensive?"
Designer: Not as much as this exchange…
The great design debate:
Suddenly things get dicey
!
!
!

Lesson #4
Back up your aesthetic choices with fact and theory – clients
will have a much harder time arguing with you. And when
push comes to shove, a little compromise never hurt anyone.
You want to do work for this client again, don’t you?
The great design debate:
Suddenly things get dicey
!
!
!

How?
Accept that you will run into conflict. Be ready with explanations
for your decisions, and remember aesthetic facts and theories
beat aesthetic opinion. Don’t ruin that great relationship.
e.g.: Why the colour orange? Because that’s our action colour throughout the
site, and we should use it whenever we want a user to do something important.
Project complete!
But still work to be done

!
!
!

Lesson #5
Countless things will go wrong at the launch, and the project will still
need you (hint: it always does.) If it really is small changes then really
look to doing this for your client.
Project complete!
But still work to be done

!
!
!

How?
Allow the client a set number of changes, and let them know how many
adjustments you are giving them. Communicate to them when they use
a change with you, and remain calm and approachable.
All this great work and you still have to
have a difficult conversation…
!

Here is how you do it
How to handle it
What you must do…
1. Pre conversation - Evaluate yourself
2. Acknowledge their opinion, first verbally then in writing
3. Educate - if it was genuinely good for the project then tell the client:
1. How does it meet the project goals
2. How does the work set the client apart from the competition
3. Refer to market research for data
4. Share your personal experience
!
!
If your client is angry
What you must do…
1. Don’t shut them out - respond promptly and if possible verbally
2. Realise its not always about you - pressures can come from above
3. Let them vent - Good questions “Please tell me what’s on your mind” and after “I
have some thoughts of where we can go from here”
4. The project is more important than you or the client - Structure
conversations around what’s best for the project
5. Point out the good/salvageable bits - e.g. “Even though you didn’t like the
word choice here, it seems that you still like the overall theme of the piece. That’s
the hard part: now we just have to work on the details.”
6. Move beyond finger pointing - resist casting blame
7. Stay close after a tense discussion - you need more communication not less

!
Manage the difficult conversation
process
How?
1. Ask questions
2. Keep notes
3. Repeat back what they say in writing
4. Refer to specific deliverables in the contract
!
!
!
!
What we just covered
• How important it is to protect your relationship at all
costs - you are protecting your work and your
business in the process.
• 5 solid lessons to get you off to a good start
• How to achieve those lessons
• Difficult conversation tips…
Question Time
!
!

Chrissy Welsh @chrissywelsh
Lead UX - Backbase

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Client vs design

  • 1. Client vs. Good Design lessons for avoiding conflict (brought to you fresh from the field) ! Chrissy Welsh @chrissywelsh Lead UX - Backbase
  • 2. What this will contain • 5 solid lessons to get you off to a good start • How to put these lessons into practice • Tips on dealing with a difficult conversation • and a little comfort (you are not alone)
  • 3. It doesn't have to be this way
  • 4.
  • 5. Pre-project: build a relationship Lesson #1 Take the time to build a relationship off payroll. You’ll get more work (if freelance), and you’ll have set the stage for better dialogue when the going gets tough and the project gets going.
  • 6. Pre-project: build a relationship How? Talk; show them what you can do for them; talk about what issues they face; send them relevant articles related to the project. Basically, add value, explain why you think the way you do, and build trust.
  • 7.
  • 8. Project Kickoff: wait a sec. – the client’s opinion matters? Lesson #2 The client’s opinion matters. 
 Take the time to listen early on, and they’ll listen to you later when your life’s work is on the line.
  • 9. Project Kickoff: wait a sec. – the client’s opinion matters? ! ! How? Resist getting stuck straight into the work. Do an introductory session with you & the relevant design team, get opinions, & create conversations. You will find out what they like & dislike and what their ultimate vision is. Its rarely whats on the generic brief.
  • 10.
  • 11. Architecture and Wireframing: Time for the planning phase the client never understands ! Lesson #3 Establish your client-side champion and get them involved whenever possible. Before you know it, you’ll be watching them fight your battles for you. (And please, for God’s sake, make the client know that they are actually buying off on something important when they approve your wireframes!)
  • 12. Architecture and Wireframing: Time for the planning phase the client never understands ! How? The foundation you build will help you explain how important this step is. Look at wireframes together, point out the best practices. When the client can talk about the logic behind the work, they can defend it.
  • 14. The great design debate: Suddenly things get dicey ! Extract from a real conversation Client: "What is ‘Lorem ipsum’ anyway?" Designer: Oh it is just fake, filler copy used while we wait to place the real content. Client: "Yes, but what does it translate to?" Designer: It’s jibberish. Client: "So is it offensive?" Designer: Not as much as this exchange…
  • 15. The great design debate: Suddenly things get dicey ! ! ! Lesson #4 Back up your aesthetic choices with fact and theory – clients will have a much harder time arguing with you. And when push comes to shove, a little compromise never hurt anyone. You want to do work for this client again, don’t you?
  • 16. The great design debate: Suddenly things get dicey ! ! ! How? Accept that you will run into conflict. Be ready with explanations for your decisions, and remember aesthetic facts and theories beat aesthetic opinion. Don’t ruin that great relationship. e.g.: Why the colour orange? Because that’s our action colour throughout the site, and we should use it whenever we want a user to do something important.
  • 17.
  • 18. Project complete! But still work to be done ! ! ! Lesson #5 Countless things will go wrong at the launch, and the project will still need you (hint: it always does.) If it really is small changes then really look to doing this for your client.
  • 19. Project complete! But still work to be done ! ! ! How? Allow the client a set number of changes, and let them know how many adjustments you are giving them. Communicate to them when they use a change with you, and remain calm and approachable.
  • 20.
  • 21. All this great work and you still have to have a difficult conversation… ! Here is how you do it
  • 22. How to handle it What you must do… 1. Pre conversation - Evaluate yourself 2. Acknowledge their opinion, first verbally then in writing 3. Educate - if it was genuinely good for the project then tell the client: 1. How does it meet the project goals 2. How does the work set the client apart from the competition 3. Refer to market research for data 4. Share your personal experience ! !
  • 23. If your client is angry What you must do… 1. Don’t shut them out - respond promptly and if possible verbally 2. Realise its not always about you - pressures can come from above 3. Let them vent - Good questions “Please tell me what’s on your mind” and after “I have some thoughts of where we can go from here” 4. The project is more important than you or the client - Structure conversations around what’s best for the project 5. Point out the good/salvageable bits - e.g. “Even though you didn’t like the word choice here, it seems that you still like the overall theme of the piece. That’s the hard part: now we just have to work on the details.” 6. Move beyond finger pointing - resist casting blame 7. Stay close after a tense discussion - you need more communication not less !
  • 24. Manage the difficult conversation process How? 1. Ask questions 2. Keep notes 3. Repeat back what they say in writing 4. Refer to specific deliverables in the contract ! ! ! !
  • 25.
  • 26. What we just covered • How important it is to protect your relationship at all costs - you are protecting your work and your business in the process. • 5 solid lessons to get you off to a good start • How to achieve those lessons • Difficult conversation tips…
  • 27. Question Time ! ! Chrissy Welsh @chrissywelsh Lead UX - Backbase