bad design decisions

One of the biggest challenges I have faced as a designer is – how do I stop a client making bad design decisions?

I am sure every designer has faced the same issue at one point in their professional career, after a project has been completed you sit and review it with a sense of uneasiness that the final design and message has been diluted and watered down, sometimes to the point where it no longer solves the original problem, and worst of all it has your name written all over it. This quote always plays in my head, can’t remember who said it but It seems to be my biggest fear if I let bad decisions into the final design –

“The client may pay for the work, but who takes the blame when the client campaign fails miserably because the client did not listen to the advice of the designer?”

I have studied and researched this problem for years. I now think that I might have finally found an answer. Before I get to my answer I feel that I need to show how I came to my conclusion. First I had to investigate the cause – Why It Happens, lots of people have put across their opinion on this but for me I think it boils down to –

  • Lack of trust – The client feels that they need to micro manage every decision within the project
  • Fear – Very closely related to lack of trust but comes into play even if the client rates the designer highly, “the panic effect” example – midway through the design process someone shows the client a rival site or they get some negative feed back.

I know there is a lot more to this and this article goes into this in more detail – Why Design-By-Committee Should Die but for me if a client is not sure of my ability the design process will not work, I have to say this is more common within larger organisations where one person or a department hires and trusts the designers decisions but other people and departments within the business may not.

This is how I think this can be fixed

First of all don’t work with bad clients, make sure your clients understand and know the value of great design. – How to spot bad design clients

  • Clear Objectives – I always get the main objectives clear from the start and make sure everyone involved with the project is very clear on what they are.
  • Concept feedback – If more than 2-3 people are involved in the design decisions I apply a filter/hierarchy on all feedback on the project. Makes evaluation designs easier.
    • A. Stake holders – most important
    • B. Users – very important
    • C. Dev team – important
    • D. People outside the team – not that important
    • E. People’s mothers, wives, grannies etc…. – not important at all.

  • I ask good questions / no more personal opinions – We need to stop asking people what they think! Instead of asking “What do you think?” which often elicits a long-winded emotional response. Ask questions that require the participant to consider objective factors, i.e. “Does the design meet our stated business goals?”. I always challenge personal opinions by asking questions that dig deeper and expose the core of the issue. Determining whether or not the opinion is valid and relevant to the objectives.
  • Use Real World Testing – “how do we know if a design decision is working or not working” – Involve the user in everything you do! From start to finish
    • 1. Meet with users
    • 2. User testing groups
    • 3. Conduct user a to b testing on all our big design decisions
    • 4. Involve user in design process.
    • Please note – Sometimes even the best clients can have an off day and so can you, designers are not always correct, sometimes the clients wisdom and experience about their product gives them the extra bit of insight to find the best solution. It’s all about a two-way flow of respect. On a final note if you do all the above and you come across the situation of “The head of products wants a pink button” and the only logic behind it is they like it, you can use this –

      Bad design decisions disclaimer

      “We/I did not follow the advice of the designer and made our/my own design decisions and we/I take full responsibility for how this will effect the website and will refrain from using the designers name when challenged about why bad design decisions where made and why the site now is not working the way it should.”

      I have found that even after you have pulled out the big guns of a Bad design decisions disclaimer, this still will not deter the determined ego of some people, it will on the other hand give you the evidence and reassurance that you need when in six months time the inevitable questions are asked “who hired that designer, that pink button looks ridiculous and the stats show no one is using it”

This entry was posted on by Stewart and is filed under Design.