Why The Customer Isn't Always Right Despite “Knowing” What They Want As A Customer.
Clients, whether they’ll admit it or not, mentally discredit your ability to get results if your business, in some way, doesn’t resemble an agency model. For a designer, that means asking them what they want their designs to look like or asking them what pages they want on their website, endless revisions, and essentially, understanding that the client’s time is always more important than the one rendering the service.
I call nonsense on all those things. When someone hires an expert to render a service, they’re saying, “I’ve seen you take others on this trip, and they arrived at their destination safely. I want in.” Well, no one would board a plane to New York, and go to the cockpit to tell the pilot how to navigate the plane to get them there. The thinking that just because the customer “knows” what they want, means you should give it to them, i.e. design the website the way they want it is irresponsible because you’re putting the plane in the hands of someone grossly unqualified to fly it. Perhaps they know a lot of things outside of that plane, but inside, they’re just a passenger trying to get from point A to point B, and it takes more than that to be a pilot; you got to understand the machine you’re flying, the climate you’ll be flying in, the routes you need to take, based on the situation in order to actually arrive, and above all, if there's an emergency, still fly the plane.
Martyring Yourself In The Name Of What The Client Wants Is A Fool's Mission.
Most web design clients as it would seem, are secretly driven by ego. They believe they’re building a website for themselves or their industry. The only time they consider their ideal client is when it’s time to get paid. And with no real understanding of the web, much more branding and all its layers, compounded, these types of projects are destined to fail. Therefore, as a designer, it's in the best interest of your client to ignore what they claim they “understand” and “appreciate” because it’s all really devised to distract you from their not-so-secret agenda to be the pilot. Then, at the expense of your reputation, when the route taken fails to produce the “expected” results (to resonate with the intended audience, earn the trust of their ideal client and get them to actually buy), they’ll blame crashing the plane on you, and they’ll be absolutely right.
That’s the catastrophe — whoops, I mean, what will happen when you decide to build a website “the client wants”. The client can’t be the client and the expert at the same time. Which is why the one-page process is designed the way it is. But, it’s also because designs that lack substance; designs that only look like they will work; generic designs don’t only fall short of clients’ expectations, they also drain your profits and are consequently a terrible waste of everyone's time.
The only way to evade such circumstances is to have a streamlined process that starts from educating a prospective client on the importance of building a website their target audience needs, rather than what they or their colleagues want, to you delivering a website to a client with a detailed rationale behind your approach that’s capable of helping the client see how it aligns with what they are after.
So, What Is The Customer’s Rights & Responsibilities In All This?
Plainly put, to help the designer understand the service they provide (what’s valuable about it, to whom), and to also have a clear objective for the website.
Easy, right? Assuming some even understand the value of the work they do, clients also fail to understand that despite providing that information, the designer also has a suite of skills that helps them compartmentalize that data into an effective brand experience online — well, I do. And that’s what someone pays for when the work you do is considered “a cut above the rest”; strengths specific to you alone that can help them; not because you can build a website, install braces, paint nails or cook food. Something deeper.
Look beyond the product. As one investing in a website, and your clients gravitate towards your honesty, the designer has to create an atmosphere of trust through that design. You can’t just expect trust to magically manifest itself because you say you’re trust-worthy.
The approach to getting to the bottom of what’s truly valuable in a service, and developing a strategy for someone’s behavior to snow-ball into the final result (you getting hired), is key to avoiding subjectivity, and connecting a designer’s work to a real outcome.
Saturation Has Made Everything Cliche
How many times have you heard someone say they are “the world’s leading technology something”,“they are the biggest whatever”, or “they are all about positivity”?
Yawn, yawn, and yawn. Now, I’m willing to bet it’s not because you necessarily disagree with them that you’re yawning, but that everyone under the sun with a business in some nook and cranny of the globe are already saying these things, so it comes across as trite, and weakens their position in your mind.
...yeah, I know I’m right.
The truth is people who speak like this usually lack clarity on what their strengths are or worse, they know what it is but feel stuck putting their voice into the world because they are either fearful of what others (mainly their colleagues or people they aren’t even targeting) may think, or too ego-centered to invest in professional help.
If trust, everywhere is about doing things that encourages it first, why would it be any different online? Yes, it’s scary, but it has always been that way. Everyone else isn’t doing it? That’s why it is the perfect opportunity for you because it will immediately set you apart, and for the designer, visually representing whatever you’re all about, becomes super easy moving forward.
So, plane crash or no plane crash, what do you really want as a customer? On the other hand, as a designer, is the aim to come across as wishy-washy in the way you work?
I am the Founder and Visual Brand Strategist at The BrandTUB
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