Customer is always right

Web design is a service industry. Web designers deliver what clients ultimately want to see. A two-edged sword which may kill both the client and the designer. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, should the image not speak for itself? I certainly hope so, but one can only see what one wants to see when one is ready to see it.

The Designer’s view: After a client told me about his business and his potential clientele, I had a great visualization of what was needed to attract this audience. Every element on this page was carefully placed, designed and coloured to be where a viewer’s eye landed according to usability and impulse behaviour studies. The approach was supported by computer-human concepts and marketing best practices.

A few changes and the site was launched. Nice piece to use as a reference link in upcoming proposals? … nope. In one week the font was changed, the logo lost proportion, the background no longer fits the scheme, the text expanded 5-fold…  The site no longer generates any impact and the owner is now wondering why the few viewers who manage to find his site, leave within 2 seconds. Plus – I have nothing to show for my work; this link is lost as a showcase.

Site owner’s view: I like medium gray as a background. Joe-the-big-retailer has it on his site. And I like Lucida handwriting font more than the plain arial. Hmm, it didn’t show up on my co-worker’s computer… Asked intern to add reflection and shadow to logo – I told designer I wanted web 2.0!

Viewers visiting the site: This page looks so small with gray edges, must be old… What is he selling? I can’t even see what he’s selling – so much squinty text… I’m going back to google…

There is a comic depicting “How a Web Design Went Straight to Hell“. In short, client (rightfully) wants to make suggestions and improvements. But he doesn’t fully understand the reasons behind your design choices, and so his “minor tweaks” push the website away from its goal. The design deteriorates, the designer gets depressed and exhausted, the client feels unappreciated and the relationship breaks down.

Our clients have their own taste and ideas. Everyone does. Your website viewers often have different feelings about what persuades them to buy.

How do you know which design ideas are right? You can’t really until you have enough traffic to do real-time, real-world analytical testing with web optimizer. And where the designer creates a few looks or layouts and these split designs are served to different groups of your website viewers. The layout that creates more desirable actions, like buying your product or staying longer on site and browsing more pages or signing up, wins! Even if it has a purple background…

The consumer ultimately decides. And by the time he/she does, let your designer design – even if with the low startup traffic you have to publish alternative designs every so often. Otherwise you are losing buyers blindly.

Web design is an extremely practical discipline by nature. There is a fine balance between satisfying client wants and delivering on business objectives. Trust helps it happen.

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