Design is an integral part of web development. More generally it is the way through which humanity has solved its biggest challenges. Through design, we took control of our environment and changed our way of living. Yet it is not a body of knowledge like many so-called designers out there would like to have you believe. For example, if you ever hear a designer proclaiming what the right solution for your website is without determining your core audience and the goal of your business, stop listening. However experienced one may be, each design challenge needs to be discovered, researched, and analyzed for the unique problem that it is. Design is closer to philosophy than a natural science in that there are fundamental principles that give rise to more complexity and that those principles are constantly being challenged and experimented with to get closer to the truth of the matter.
The point of Design
Design uses these principles in order to solve problems. It is not only deciding what shapes and colours the website will have. The visual aspect stands at the very top and most visible part of the product pyramid. In order for this pyramid to stand the test of time (and users), the lower layers have to support the visual design. They include efficient code, the best practices of programming, a good structure, and most fundamentally, the right design principles. Creating a solution that will most effectively achieve the goals set by the client lies at the core of these design principles.
How Design is misconstrued for Expertise
Often a designer will fall back on what has worked and rely on the way that they have always done things. They will justify design decisions based purely on their technical knowledge and experience. This is a fallacy and does not constitute real design.
A designer must apply first principles thinking in order to avoid falling into a confirmation bias that might harm the effectiveness of the design. The answers should stem from that knowledge but must directly reflect the goals and criteria agreed upon. And design thinking doesn’t stop there. Even those goals and criteria should be scrutinized before moving forward. Perhaps what the client thinks will be an effective strategy is not true in the real world. More commonly, they look to big brands and try to emulate their success. They go to web development companies with a preconceived idea, hoping that the same design will work for them too. Wrong!
The pitfalls of approaching Design without Design Thinking
In such cases falling back to design thinking can help us as designers better communicate why a client’s idea might not be in their best interests. It is helpful to frame such a conversation through the advantages of designing with the solution of the client’s problem in mind. This way the conversation with a client leads to a common understanding of each other’s needs and wants, without coming off as patronising. Developing a product exactly to a client’s initial ideas might work out in the short-term. You get paid, you deliver the product, there might even be an initial success. But producing what is requested, while potentially ignoring the underlying issue, makes you look inadequate at best and greedy at worst.
The proper way of doing things can lead to greater benefit. By putting the client’s needs and goals as the priority you re-orient the project’s meaning and scope in a way that adds the most value to them. You establish trust with the client, forming a relationship that may even get you referrals. The social credit this entails grants you credibility in your field and long-term stewardship of your clients.
Client conversations can be saved
Conversations with clients can easily get bogged down in the specifics. But if we go into each sit-down with an open ear, and a curious mentality we can avoid getting into the weeds about details and start getting at the core of what your client envisions. That is a value beyond payment.