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It’s common for a client to come to a meeting with a (half- or fully) finished solution that they want help turning into reality.
It’s just as common that what we end up doing is far from what they asked for in the first meeting.
And the reason is key to why you, the professional UX or graphic designer, can justify your role.
Designers in general, and junior designers in particular, have a tendency to just say yes to whatever a client comes asking for. From what I’ve seen over the years with colleagues, friends, and business acquaintances, it often stems from a fear of losing the project.
“If we give them what they ask for, we’ll get the job.”
Better not ask too many questions, right?
When you assume that your client has themselves properly diagnosed their situation and come up with the best solution, you’re running the risk of setting off on the wrong track. You might deliver to your client exactly what they ask for, and they might be happy about it as they receive it. But if the solution you produced for them doesn’t have the effect they were hoping for, you’ll likely not be approached the next time around. You’ve delivered the right medicine, but for the wrong diagnosis.
Just like a patient going to their doctor for help, your client comes to you. Don’t take their self-diagnosis for truth, and don’t just give them the medicine they have decided is the best.
You’re the expert here. Diagnose their problem and tell them what they need to do.
I had a client approach me about a redesign of their website which had been almost untouched for the last decade. Ten years in Internet time is pretty much a different generation from where we are today, and the client wasn’t happy about what the website was doing anymore. They had in mind a redesign, and as our meeting progressed it became more and more clear that what they were asking for was nothing more than a fresh coat of digital paint, and one or two subpages changed or added.
The most common reaction to a proposal like this is that the designer or design firm throws themselves at this, and goes from the client describing what they want, to the designer asking details about the design changes, color schemes, font styles, and so on. They don’t want to miss out on a sale, so they are eager to say yes.
“You want a new look for your website? No problem, we can do that.”
But what would a more modern design of the same content actually do? And what is the client after?
If you don’t know what your client is looking for, you don’t know what problem to solve. And if you don’t know what problem to solve, you’re going in blind.
“But I know what the client is looking for, they told me what they wanted!”
They told you what they believe they want, but that might not be right. And it might not be what they need.
As I realized what the client was asking me to do, I began asking them questions about what they were hoping to get out of the project.
So let’s take a look at what you can ask to guide the process forward.
“We want to redesign our website.”
With this info, at least I knew what my client was after, right?
No, I really didn’t. I only knew what they thought they should ask for, but what they believe they need to buy isn’t necessarily what they actually need. So I had to start digging.
“Why do you want to redesign your website? What are you hoping that the redesign will do for you long-term?”
“We feel like our website feels dated, and we want a fresh look so that it will invite more potential customers.”
“How is your current website working? Are there any pain points you have noticed?”
“We have noticed a decrease in traffic and people who visit aren’t sticking around for long.”
“Who are you aiming for as an audience with your website? What would you consider a successful visit from a potential customer?”
You need to dig deeper.
In this case, my client had initially asked for a new look but was planning to keep the same content and functionality. What we ended up was a complete rework of their design, content, layout, we came up with an optimal journey for a visitor and how we could lead them through that. We added interaction and functionality where needed, and brought their business from having a website that acted as an online billboard to a new way for potential customers to go through the buyer’s journey.
You can’t give them what they need before you know what they need.
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UX research encompasses a variety of investigative ... the design process from the perspective of the end user
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UX Design is the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product