Building Good Designer-Client Relationships

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Hand ShakeGreat relationships are at the centre of any good business. It is a prerogative of any business, big or small and regardless of nature of business to cultivate the kind of relationships that let it thrive. And so it is with the web designers to seek such kind of relationships with their clients.

Creative works require close collaboration between the creative and the customer. After all, the creative is in the business of turning the client’s dreams and expectations into reality. The designer has the tough job of bringing the client’s vision to life.

Moving from idea to realised concept involves the transferring of ideas between the web designer and the client. Unless this transference of ideas is perfect, the process of converting the client’s idea into reality is compromised. It is therefore in the best interest of the web designer to cultivate great relationships that facilitate this process.

Below are some of my ideas and beliefs that revolve around the designer-client relationship which when practised by the web designer will result in great business relationships. You might be a designer or you might be a client looking for a web designer, you might even be in any other business, and still these principles will help you develop the right mutually respecting and beneficial relationships in your future projects.

Demonstrate High Integrity Consistently

Integrity speaks to what you are as a business- what you stand for. It is necessary for a web designer to have a high level of integrity if they are to maintain strong customer relationships. Integrity is about adhering to a strict moral or ethical code. It also means keeping your word.

This might mean not taking some types of jobs that are in conflict with the designer’s personal beliefs and values. Such kind of jobs might range from things such as building porn website - because they have the potential to expose minors to inappropriate images, or billing customers at exorbitant rate than you believe your work is worth.

Acting with integrity goes beyond putting a values or mission statement on a website for clients to read. It is actually living those values.

Quality Not Dependent On Size Of Pay Cheque

I personally do not get motivated by money on a job. Don’t get me wrong, more money is exciting but I don't believe it should be the source of motivation when working on a project. In order to build better relationships with clients, a designer should treat all projects with a high level of enthusiasm and commitment.

This means that a web designer should be able to commit strongly to delivering a quality product despite any price differences across projects. This therefore means diligently working on a project whether or not it pays significantly more or less than another project.

Supposing a web designer does a project for free or completes a heavily discounted project for charity, they should apply themselves with the same level of creativity and deliver on all aspects as if it was their highest paying project.

Acting with integrity is rooted in principles beyond mere monetary value. It is also in the designer’s best interest to behave this way. They say karma's a bitch and what goes around comes around. If a web designer conducts themselves only in proportion to the return on a project, their level of work will show this and it will have a negative impact on their portfolio and future overall returns.

Under-promise and Over-deliver

It is often tempting as a designer to promise the world to a client. Sometimes customers will have lofty ideas about what they want done. In their quest to get the contract, designers may just nod yes to everything that the client requests when they cannot deliver.

Acting this way is not good for the designer-client relationship and does nothing but set up the designer for an eventual fall. When a client asks for over-the-top designs and features, it is better for the designer to act on the side of caution.

It is better to under-promise and over-deliver. This approach takes in the client’s requests and cautiously point out the areas that are possible and those not easy or even impossible to implement but makes the client aware that the later is a long shot and may not be possible to execute, or at least not the way the client desires. 

The designer would then go on to make a conscious determined effort to deliver on those possibly unlikely outcomes. This approach is a great reputation builder. If the web designer does not deliver as desired, then the client is prepared for the outcome, but if they do deliver, or better yet deliver beyond expectation, they earn major points with the client and improve their reputation.

A Little More Listening Than Talking

It is imperative that a web designer is a good listener. There is often a wide knowledge gap in the area of web design between the designer and the client. Due to this gap the designer may be inclined to monopolise the conversation with the client.

Every aspect of a project poses this possibility. It is very important for the designer to be conscious of this factor because, after all, it is the client’s concept and the designer is merely tasked with realising it.

Open communication is critical for the web designer-client relationship. The designer should see the moment as an opportunity to share knowledge and the sharing should go both ways. A little more listening on the part of the designer than talking should be on the cards.

Willingness To Do Everything Over

Sometimes the communication process does not go smoothly and the designer will find themselves holding a "hot potato" with a project that the client would not accept as what was required or expected. In such a case, arguing with the client will only make the situation worse.

The only option with a positive outcome is for the designer to eat humble pie and go back to the drawing board and redo some and at times all of the project. Understandably this move represents a perceived waste of time and other resources but fighting with customers over the outcome of a design job is likely to spell further disaster.

In the event of this happening, it is best to look at the situation as a learning experience and move on.

The Customer Is Not Always Right

Finally, I see the statement “The customer is always right” being thrown around quite a lot. I strongly disagree with this statement, especially in the arena of web design. The phrase is misleading, factually incorrect and can lead to poor design work being let out into the wild.

I rather contend that “The customer is not always right but you should make them feel like they are at all times”. Altering this saying makes the designer conscious of the fact that they are in a position to call a spade a spade when a customer is wrong but have to approach the situation with tact. Taking this approach is one of the first steps in the direction of building good designer-client relationships.

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