Paddy Donnelly

You're enjoying: It needs to 'Pop'

It has to 'Pop'.

An age old favourite of clients which, without fail, causes immediate groans when it innocently flutters into the inboxes of designers. Along with its siblings 'It's a good start' and 'I think we're almost there, but...', this phrase does nothing but drive another wedge into that gap between client and designer.

Ah, that gap.

It's the stuff of legend, isn't it? That incredible bottomless void that tortures many clients and designers alike. That inescapable chasm of a relationship that causes so many troubles, late nights and law suits.

So, how do we fix it?

We can't. I'm afraid there isn't some almighty solution at the end of this article which if carried out will cause the relationship to magically evolve into an almighty dance of unicorn filled happiness.

The reason there isn't a solution is because of the fundamental issue which causes the great divide.

That overarching issue is trust

Now, when I say overarching I really mean overarching. I'm not talking about on a project level or a professional level. I mean on a human level. We are an untrusting and untrustworthy species. It's built in. We don't trust other humans and quite rightly so.

In our industry, the client doesn't want to hand over trust of their product to the designer and the designer doesn't trust the client's judgement. If they did, it would be that happy world of unicorns that we all dream about.

And, it's always going to be like this too. There's always going to be disagreements between clients and designers. Clients are always going to be unhappy with their designer's attitude towards feedback. Designers are always going to have to make it green because the CEO's daughter likes green. Designers are always going to revel in stories about clients from hell and clients will always get overcharged for a logo by dishonest designers.

Why do clients want it to 'pop'?

Think about it. It's their product, their baby. They've spent their time and money to bring it into the world and the bottom line is they don't trust anyone else with it. If we take web design, for example, they're allowing the designer to create the medium by which the world is going to see the product. It's inherently uncomfortable to relinquish power and see someone else making it blue when it should be pink, even though blue may look better.

As web design is still in its adolescent years, they have no clue of what to pay for this service. The only life-raft they can see to grab on to is making sure they get their money's worth out of the designer. The most apparent method to do that is to have as many design iterations, make as many suggestions (no matter how seemingly ridiculous) hopefully resulting in something satisfying. Sadly this is predominantly a counter-productive process.

Suggesting that something (or usually everything) should 'pop' is representative of a bigger problem. They just don't understand design, otherwise they'd be doing it themselves. In their head they want every aspect of their website to leap out at the user (their customers), but fail to realise that if you emphasise everything you emphasise nothing. They think whitespace is wasted space. They think nobody knows how to scroll. They think they need an exhaustive FAQ section. Why do they think this? Because of their limited knowledge and more importantly the fact that they're not being included in the design process.

Why do designers complain?

The designer has painstakingly made sure the margins are all equal and that the content is well structured and has plenty of breathing room and then the client comes in and wants to add two more buttons to the header, ruining the one clear call to action on the page. Complaining is the natural instinct.

The first thought is to complain on Twitter or laugh with your colleagues about the outrageous request. And we all do it. We can't help it. It's horrible, but it relieves the pressure and restores that feeling of 'you know better than the client'.

Perhaps we need to rethink what we're actually doing here. Is this constant barrage of 'clients from hell' talk doing way more damage than briefly relieving our frustration? What is the general public's opinion of web designers going to be in 10 years if our attitude remains like this? Are we going to be regarded as snobs, where clients will be afraid to say anything for fear of ridicule? Are we there already?

Designers need to take the client on the project journey and not simply consider them 'feedback machines'. If the client is made to understand the design decisions then he will feel part of the processes and ultimately the final product. Including them in the actual process will also help to convey why good thorough design isn't cheap.

But things aren't all bad

Designers are still making gorgeous websites for people, clients are still sending the designers presents for a job well done. The industry hasn't imploded. We're still all here, and that's because life's not that clear cut. That huge gap isn't going anywhere but once in a while you're going to get a dream client who largely accepts your advice, has belief in your skills and gives you some creative freedom. And clients, sometimes you're going to get a designer who can clearly explain the concepts of whitespace or colour theory to you and will manage to beautifully create that vague idea you have in your mind.

There is no almighty fix and designers and clients are never going to trust each other 100%. Never. Both parties will always have to take part in tasks they hate, but there are a couple of small things we can all do to make our lives a little easier: