Simon Foster Web Designer

Consultation

Consultation

Many moons ago, in a previous life before I became a web designer I used to work as a hairdresser and quite often when I start a new design project or meet new clients I’m reminded of a very com­mon sce­nario from that time. At least once a day a client would come in to the salon, sit in my chair and pro­duce a pic­ture from a mag­a­zine of how he/she would like their hair to look. If I was lucky then the pic­ture they had selected was of a per­son with a sim­i­lar hair type, hair tex­ture, skin tone, face shape, lifestyle and so on.

But 90% of the time this wasn’t the case, so I devel­oped a method of con­sul­ta­tion that would allow me to let the client know that we should prob­a­bly look at a dif­fer­ent direc­tion, while still mak­ing them feel that they were in con­trol and with­out caus­ing any offence. It would typically go something like this.

  • Look at the pic­ture and describe the hair tex­ture, thick­ness, colour, length, face shape, skin tone and eye shape etc.
  • Client describes the photograph.
  • Now describe your tex­ture, thick­ness, colour, length, face shape, skin tone and eye shape etc.
  • Client describes themselves.
  • So why do you think this per­son looks good with that hair­cut?
  • Because the styl­ist has con­sid­ered their hair type and face shape and lifestyle and cut the hair accord­ingly.
  • So what you’re say­ing is if I cut your hair with the same con­sid­er­a­tion to your own indi­vid­ual needs you’ll look good too!
  • Yes!

But how does this relate to way I design websites? It can be very tempting to send a bunch of links to websites you like to your designer as a reference to how you want your site to look but aesthetics are only a small part of a bigger picture. It’s easy to be seduced by aesthetics, by how things look rather than how they work, or why they even exist in the first place. How your website or app ends up looking is a result of a number of factors and this is where proper consultation and research come in.

Trust

Con­sul­ta­tion is an often-overlooked aspect of the design process (espe­cially by the less expe­ri­enced) but it is mas­sively impor­tant. Through proper consultation with my clients about my design process I can man­age expec­ta­tions, explain bud­get issues eas­ier and make the process work for us, rather than against us. As a design­er I try and remem­ber that for most clients hir­ing a web designer is an intim­i­dat­ing expe­ri­ence, espe­cially if you’re not so tech savvy, but who is to blame for that? Well surely it’s me? I need to give my clients an insight to how the design process really works and edu­cate them how to truly eval­u­ate the needs of their par­tic­u­lar project. This gives them the tools they need to com­mu­ni­cate with me effec­tively from an early stage and make the whole pro­ce­dure far more enjoy­able for everyone. People just need a way of start­ing a dia­logue, and if I, the designer, consult prop­erly with you, we can quite quickly build up a rela­tion­ship of trust. Once trust is established, feed­back becomes some­thing col­lab­o­ra­tive and enjoy­able rather than painful and daunt­ing, and ideas and sug­ges­tions from both sides can be exchanged with­out fear of ridicule.

Designing For Users

I try not to for­get that I’m not really design­ing for you, the client, I’m design­ing for your cus­tomers and users. That can take time to get used to, but if I do my job prop­erly through­out the project then you’ll trust me enough to steer things in a direction you might not have considered but ultimately is best for the people that really matter, your users.