In my designer experience, when it comes to project design, clients tend to make unreasonable decisions based on their inner beliefs, convictions, and experiences. They strongly believe that their actions must be similar to their competition’s, but what they don’t realize is that the things that work for others may not particularly work for them.

Why does it happen?

First of all - fear of the unknown, ridicule, failure to understand the project. Some clients tend to be used to old design patterns, system architectures, the arrangement of elements, design process, the order in which elements are going to be displayed. They lack the knowledge about the newest solutions, technology, and patterns. This case is called the Anchoring Bias.

Confirmation bias. Have you ever heard the phrases like “I do that”, “I have that”, “Everyone does that”? People who use them are convinced that only they are right, and everyone else is wrong. They look for a confirmation of their thesis.

Constant comparing themselves to others. Since not everything the competition does is a good, universal solution, this pursuit may turn out to be deceptive.

Lack of knowledge and skills. Even though the team consists of experts, clients stick to what they know and their personal beliefs. They openly admit that they are not experts, don’t have much knowledge of how things should be, and yet they insist that only their ideas are right.

Asking for an opinion. When they really don’t have any knowledge about the project, they usually ask people they trust for an advice. Unfortunately, most of the time, the feedback they get is as wrong as their opinion. Even though they say that they put their trust in your team, they don’t really mean that - they change and override decisions.

Neglect. Paying attention to one particular issue while neglecting the bigger picture and the project as a whole. They don’t think about how a small change can impact the whole project.

Bad designers. Sometimes clients may not be the issue - the designers are. Designers should explain why their vision is better, what will work and what won’t. Designer bad at their job can’t provide any concrete arguments.

How to deal with these issues?

Conducting detailed research on users that will give your client clear, quantitative and qualitative results stating that people act differently than him or her.

  1. Clear and honest communication

    Understand the issues client is facing, why he thinks the way he does. Ask specific questions to get to the roots of the client’s problems. Lack of understanding and partial flow of information may cause some distortion and will force you to compromise. This often leaves both sides unsatisfied and results in an average UX.

    Keep in mind that you have to respect your client’s opinion. You can’t just ignore his or her feedback, even if you’re strongly against them.

    You have to help your client understand your thought process and why certain decisions should or should not be made. You should seek a common ground with your client through similar past experiences.

  2. Benchmarking

    Showing solutions created by the competition. Provide explanation why certain solutions are good or bad, why they will work or not in your client’s case. To prove your point, show your client a few real, live examples of these solutions. Try to demonstrate the outcome of certain decisions and their impact on the rest of the project.

  3. Cooperation

    Attempt to develop solution along with the client. Try to convince him that the solution is his genius idea. Your goal is to make your client develop a strong bond with the project. This way he will start taking responsibility for its final outcome.

  4. Educate

    Educate your clients about the most recent solutions, design processes, element arrangement, the way to acquire new users - how to move forward, not just keeping the old user base satisfied (unless that’s one of the business goals). Show him the influence of user’s experience and impression.

    Build the trust with your client. Remind him that the final product is as much important to you as it is for him.

    Constantly provide him with clear updates on the project, the stage the development is at, what will happen next etc. Solutions have to be presented as complete, logical and rational - don’t base them on your intuition and emotions.

  5. Hold your opinion

    Give concise arguments why you think your solution is better and more beneficial. Your words should be a catalyst for making changes. They should influence another person to agree with you.

    It’s not about repeating your or your client’s points over and over again. A designer should have a convincing and encouraging tone.

    Consider spending some time learning how to create statements that will trigger a certain, desired reaction. Your intentions have to be clear. As a UX designer, you have to prove that the project and its certain elements are thought out, logical and did not come from nowhere. Show your clients that they are there for a reason and that there are certain goals behind them. You need to be self-confident and have something to say. You’re the expert after all.

  6. Be preprared

    Note every small detail about the basis of the project that was made from the very beginning of the development process. It will help you defend the solutions by simply showing where they came from, what were their origins, what may influence them and what will be their result.

Designer's desk

Conclusion

Agile and clean communication as well as searching for a common ground. We don’t have to prove that we are experts, but if we call them ourselves, we should act like them. The designer who is incapable of an agile communication, approaching, educating and encouraging a client is a bad designer. We can’t treat our clients as fools. It doesn’t matter if they know or don’t know what they want - we have to make certain decisions easier for them and be able to show them the right direction. Sometimes it is impossible, but we have to keep trying until it happens.

If some arguments don’t work, we have to find another ones, provide examples and present our thought process. We have to understand our client and give logical arguments, but instead of forcing them, slowly and progressively plant them in our clients’ heads.

Lack of knowledge of our clients doesn’t come from ignorance, after all, they hired us, the designers, because they treat us as experts. It doesn’t change the fact that they have their own mind and experience. We have to respect that by showing our clients that our project is their own child and everyone involved wants what’s best for it.

All of our clients’ decisions, that may seem stupid at first, have some kind of an origin - you definitely should find out what is it and provide arguments why the origins are incorrect, for example, why didn’t something work as it should.

Clients tend to trust their intuition and emotions, the same way designers do. Our role, our advantage is the awareness of this fact. As designers, we have to use it for our benefit.

When a client is getting emotional we need to play it cool. Give logical arguments, make sure that your client is feeling safe, taken care of, that we are worried and we are doing everything to solve his problems - just like a skilled psychologist.

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