Client/Designer relationship

How the strongest design strategy starts with clear communication.

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Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Transparent Communication

In the early stages of a project, how you communicate helps you truly understand how you can support your client. This is also where you can start to manage expectations, and use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your workflow. You might spend more time with them over the course of a project than your significant other, so I find it’s best to get a gauge of compatibility straight away.

Get aligned on roles and responsibilities

As you’re learning about the client’s current business and product assumptions you want to find out where those insights came from. This is a good time to have clients run through their initial project objectives and why those were important and then help re-prioritize those goals as you start your synthesizing your research.

Learn your client’s business

Try to understand what’s motivating their business decisions and the constraints they’re operating in. Are they seeded or pre-seed? If they’re seeded, what round are they in? If not, do they have a dev team or will they outsource MVP to launch V1? Having the deepest understanding of your client’s position allows you to make the most necessary design decisions that align with their own business interests.

  • Restricted funds to commit research
  • Unrealistic deadlines and scope of the project
  • Restrictive resources like additional design or development team to collaborate with
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Learn about Triple Constraint in Agile

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

In order to gain a clear and thorough understanding of what the client wants to achieve. I try to forget what I know or assume I know about a project or company. No matter how much time I spend conducting exploratory research, I still ask all the basic questions that might come across as obvious or daft at first pass. I use this as a way to involve the client in the process and to reinforce the value of good research and I do it in the form of a workshop.

Product Design Exercise

What workshop I choose to conduct really depends on the client and how developed their platform currently is. If I’m not given any assets to audit to set up the scope of the project, I’ll assume no research has been conducted and we need to start from scratch. Here’s my basic list of questions to get me started;

  • What are the goals and challenges outlined here? What research is currently supporting them?
  • What do we know about the target user audience at this point? What don’t we know?
  • What is the current functionality of the product? What is the desired state of functionality?
  • Based on the provided project context, what are potential metrics of success?
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Miro workshop based on Artiom Dashinsky’s Solving Product Design Exercises via Brendan Colarusso
  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • What impact does it have on the world?
  • How does this product benefit the customer?
  • What business opportunity does it create?
  • Is there a trigger event causing this need?
  • How much time do they have?
  • What emotions do they experience?
  • Customer's needs: What is there high-level motivation for solving the problem and how can they achieve it?
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Basic Priority Matrix

What do we gain by being this resourceful?

This can be a lot of extra work and rather exhausting, but the end results, in my opinion, usually positively impact the outcome of the product and build a deep and healthy relationship with that client for life.

  1. Learn how to deal with ambiguity and to better assess what does and does not fit within a reasonable scope for the project.
  2. Practice your communication of the design process by guiding clients.
  3. Learn how to do more with less by producing significant outcomes despite limitations and constraints.

Written by

UX Designer w/ a background as a photographer and digital artist. I’m a visual storyteller dedicated to solving complex problems & producing creative solutions.

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