Why It’s Good To Involve Clients From Start To Finish

Why It’s Good To Involve Clients From Start To Finish

Having the client involved from the creative process from start to finish can eliminate a number of unnecessary headaches, as digital strategist Alan Clark found out.

Alan Clark
Posted by Alan Clark

For the first time in my 20 year professional career, I had a client ask me to make their logo smaller. Not only that but they also approved the designs after a single round of very minor changes. The job was finished ahead of schedule, the frontend designer was pleased with her work, and most importantly, the client is super happy!

So, how did this happen? Was the client a pushover? Was it luck? Did we have to call in any ‘favours’?

Well… The client definitely isn’t a push over. I’m deeply unlucky. I’d definitely be the one who would need to pay for said ‘favours’.

So what did happen then?

Co-design has been talked about a lot lately. It’s the idea of getting the client directly involved in the development of the solution design from the start of the project. So here’s the process I took them through.

  1. Business requirements and audience groups
    I ran a quick workshop with all the organisations key stakeholders to understand what they thought the objectives of the site were and how the site would deliver to audience groups.
  2. Customer Journeys
    The digital manager and I built the customer journeys together. We made sure that we included touch points from all channels – not just what we wanted them to do on the site. It was important that our solution fitted in with all their other marketing activity.
  3. Information Architecture
    I got the digital manager to create the first high level sitemap in isolation. We then reworked it together. This forced him to relate his thinking back to the customer journeys AND to consider all aspects of the solution, not just what the noisiest stakeholders were demanding.
  4. Wire-framing
    I also got him to do the first low fidelity cut of the wire-frames (he used Balsamic as it’s really easy). Again, this forced him to think of the full solution to be delivered and the relative customer/ business weightings of items on screen.
  5. Specifications
    This was the only bit I did in isolation. Based on the low fidelity wire-frames the client and I produced, I developed high fidelity versions (using Fireworks) for approval. These were essentially compositionally finished designs, without the branding in place. These were functionally annotated in a document for approval. Because these looked more like a completed website, but weren’t branded, the client’s key stakeholders focused on content and functionality rather than how it looked. Although, it was made clear that all the graphic design phase would do was ‘colour in’ these layouts.
  6. Graphic designs.
    As previously mentioned, this was quick and easy. All the functionality and compositional layouts had already been signed off, so all that was left to do was to pick colours and brand items. Because the process to this point had focused on user centricity and functional design, the decision was made to make to logo smaller to draw users attention to the site function. I.e. users already know whose site they’re on, because they clicked on a link or typed in the URL!
  7. You need a client that wants/has the time to be actively involved in the process. In this case, the digital manager wanted to learn how to deliver his own IA in the future.
  8. Anyone can make sitemaps and low fidelity wire-frames.
  9. Leave all branding till the end – it’s a distraction from the content and functionality that your clients should be focusing on. Nebulous conversations on shades of orange when you’re still establishing basic wireframes are not constructive.
  10. Use high fidelity wire-frames to sign overall compositions off. This stops major reworks of finished design files (which are expensive to do).
  11. Make all stakeholders clear of the process up front and be sure that they understand what involvement is expected of them and what purpose it serves.

here are the key out takes

All in all, it sounds like it might cost more to run clients through this type of process because ‘you just end up doing it yourself anyway’, but this isn’t the full story. Taking people through this process gives them a sense of understanding and ownership that pays back dividends in account management resources, and other ‘favours’ that are no longer required. It also makes for much better outcomes and happier customers.