Clients, Why You Should Listen to Your Designers

I have a 1978 Volkswagen Bus. I love it. I actually lived in it, along with two other humans and a dog, for about 8 months. There are many mornings when it won’t start up, and I reach into the engine (way back there in the back there) and can pull on wires and adjust some levers enough to get it started. When one of the pistons lost compression all together and the engine needed rebuilt though, I knew I was in over my head and therefore took it to a shop to have a guy who was recommended do it for me. When the job was over, I had my opinions on how it was done, yes, but I certainly never told him how to do the job while in the process. If I knew better than him, I should have done it myself.

Yes, it’s an analogy, but just as it is wise like a wizard’s hoot owl for designers to listen to their clients before beginning a project, it is imperative, clients, that if you’re looking for the best end product – be it a brochure, website or television ad – that you listen to your designers. Top three reasons Clients Should Listen to Their Web Designers, and go:

  1. You think you know, but you don’t. If you did, you would be doing it. It’s that simple and there are absolutely no exceptions to this rule. I know how to take good photographs, so I have never hired a photographer. I know how to make a decent, but not excellent, dinner, so I only make dinner for my family and potlucks. No one has ever hired me to make dinner for them, because I’m not good enough to do it. I have no idea how to birth a baby, and so when my second son came along a month ago, I let the nurses do the dirty work. The results? I have great photos around my house, my family only mildly grumbles over dinner, and I have a beautiful healthy 1 month old baby boy. The moral: If you knew how to do design work, you would be doing it. If you knew how to do web design (which is harder than print / graphic design, by the way, so previous experience in the former field does not qualify you for the latter, de facto), you would be creating your own beautiful, functional websites, and not paying someone thousands of dollars to do it for you.
  2. There’s more to it than your favorite shade of purple. If you’re lucky enough to have found yourself a good designer (and that means you’re not paying $300 for your entire website, including logo), then they are not just picking out random colors from a Pal Easter Egg Kit and slapping your logo here, a menu there, etc. The best designers will be briefly writing copy to fill in for that step where you didn’t create any copy (’cause how valuable are “words” anyway, right?) A decent designer will at least tell you why things are on the page the way they are. Even a mild designer, who’s portfolio you like and who has done somewhat well for herself, will have gotten to where she is by having a bit of knack for knowing about user experience and layout, not just how to add some outer glows and a nice background of the sun coming over the horizon. It’s called hope people. The moral: When you’re about to make a decision like “I think this should be red” or “Can we move this 2 pixels to the right?” do ask yourself “And exactly what is the benefit of doing that?” If your designer’s good, you can believe he thought about it already.
  3. And the number one reason is….You will get a better website in the end. When a client makes decisions based on nothing more than personal bad taste, a few things happen: the designer gets fed up with what he perceives as the client’s “stupidity”, the designer loses interest in doing his best job, because the client has already made that impossible but requesting he do subpar, opinion-based work rather than base the designs around any real facts or ideas, and finally, a baby seal dies. At least two of those are true. So when you take away the gusto from behind your designer’s Italian wings, he is no longer motivated to give you the best product he can create. You have simply reduced him to a pixel manipulator, where he is specifically doing what he does based on your know how. To circle back to that VW Bus mechanic of mine, it’s like me standing over his shoulder telling him how to rebuild the engine. If I would have done that, the engine never would have started. Sure, it may have sat nicely in the engine compartment, but turn the key and nothing would have happened. Moral: Do you know how many websites are sitting out there in the driveway, people turn their key and nothing happens? The answer is “most of them.”

And before you dismiss me as a haughty power hungry design-freak, feel free to check out my counterbalance on the argument: Designers, Why You Should Listen to Your Clients

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