The pain of a client constantly interfering with the work of a designer is no new concept. Go for a different color scheme, change the logo placement, and tweak the designs and what not! It’s understandable as to how this constant nagging and interfering can get annoying after a certain point. That’s why most designers start to completely exclude their clients out of work until designs are ready. But, that only tends to make matters worse. The more you leave a client out of work, the more control he wants to exercise.
But things don’t have always had to be this difficult. There must be an easy way out of this mess, right? Clearly, excluding the person you are working for is not the best approach. The answer lies in healthy collaboration and consistent communication.
But why collaborate?
Before answering this, we first need to ask – why do clients interfere at all? Simply because when they don’t, they feel left out of the game. Much of the implications associated with collaboration have to do with human psychology. To put it in the simplest possible manner; it gives the person a sense of control. When a client is unaware as to how the project is running or what the designer is working on, they feel oblivious to it.
The client himself may not completely know how a design will be perceived by his target customers, or what will look appealing. They just want to have that sense of control over things. Otherwise, they feel powerless and no one wants to feel that way. Besides, once the designers’ part is over, they are out of the picture. It is the clients who have to live with that design. It’s no wonder they want things to be spot-on right. That’s why collaboration is a must for any designer who wants to enjoy a smooth sailing ride with their employer. Otherwise, you will be trapped in a vicious cycle of endless iterations of rework that will drive you crazy and make you work life hell.
Elements of collaboration
First off: start the project with a kickoff discussion about the aesthetics and structural details of the designs. Use the project management system to share the minutes with everyone.
What to discuss?
1. Work out the aesthetics: Different people find different things aesthetically appealing. There is no one-for-all approach in this department. Come up with a certain framework within which to judge the aesthetics of the designs. This is essential in order to avoid falling on anyone’s personal opinions. Doing so will also give the client a sense of ownership as well as assurance because he will know the direction in which things will be headed.
2. Work out the structure: Usually, the reason behind a client being unhappy with a design is because the designers focus on wrong aspects. Talk it out with the client about what points of attention they want to focus on in terms of structure. Google’s homepage is the finest example of how it has kept the focus on the single most important thing: the search box. That’s probably why it’s most used as a search engine. Normally clients want to stuff the homepage with as much information as they possibly can. That’s the general approach. But anyone who has done internet marketing research would know that’s a damaging approach. Explain the client the downsides to it with examples such as the one with the Google. Do some research to explain why to a particular structure is more likely to succeed. Back your ideas up with statistics.
Share the MOMs with everyone
Once the discussion is over, document the minutes and share it with the relevant people involved. This way you have written records of all the crucial points that were discussed during the meet. Minutes also function like a reference point for the entire course of the project.
Have a common point of interaction
It’s important that both the parties agree on a common medium of interaction. Since it’s not feasible to have a phone conversation every time, if something needs to be discussed, it’s best to stick to online interaction. Have a dedicated tool for the same.
Promote online discussions
Become actively engaged in online discussions. Whoever is part of the design project, call everyone on board and get started with online meets. Conduct such discussions every once in a while just so you could keep everyone in the loop. It’s a great way to keep clients updated on the progress being made.
Use a proofing tool
Proofing tool is the best friend for every designer. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how a designer can function properly without one. Anyone who has ever worked as a designer would agree that the first design draft is only a jumping off point for starting negotiations. The first draft hardly ever gets approved. From there begins a journey of endless iterations. Every iteration translates into one more copy of the design getting created. The more the rework, more copies of the design get created. Translation: more confusion.
A proofing tool is a perfect way to put an end to the chaos created by the exchange of files that happened back and forth between designers and clients. Let’s not forget to decipher through the changes that client demands, such as change the logo placement, or a different font style for a certain text. Proofing tools are perfect for inviting multiple people to share their honest opinion and feedback about a design and offer suggestions in a way that would cause no confusion. No need to draft or struggle through a never-ending stream of emails which creates more chaos more than offering any help.
Let’s be honest. Collaborating with clients is never exactly going to be a piece of cake. There are still going to be challenged. But a lot of the problems and damages can be mitigated if you collaborate smartly. And, for smart collaboration, you ought to be making the most of technology and resources that are available in the market!
This article is written by Shikha Menwal. She is a writer for ProofHub. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences and writes on topics ranging from lifestyle to technology and management. In her free time, she loves to watch comedy shows and read spiritual journalism.