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Can Difficult Clients Be Helpful?
By: Tom Roarty
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Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between a problem client and a thorough client. The fact of the matter is, they can both be considered difficult, but exceptions can be made for the client who is educated enough to look after the best interest of his or her business. How does one distinguish between the two case scenarios, though? The answer is in the details.
The idea for this week’s topic came to me after I had dealings with two similar clients, asking like-minded questions about the design of their web sites for very different reasons. Let's start off with the questions they were asking, which included: What made you pick this color scheme? How did you decide on the placement of the navigation? What type of imagery do you see as the driving graphical force for our company’s inner pages? All valid and well thought-out questions, so I started with the usual designer-formatted answers just so that I could spend more time designing and less time explaining.
I chose your colors because I felt this are the hues that represent your business best. In my years of doing web design for a variety of different clients, I have found that there are a variety of elements that, when strategically placed, make them look better. I believe that the images that will best represent your company will make themselves known the further we get into the project, through our conversations and my better understanding of your business. All of which are true and valid answers. Good enough to the point where client one was satisfied, but client two wanted to dig deeper.
Client two followed up his first set of questions with: Is there a statistic that shows that the placement of the navigation in your design is more pleasing to an end user? Do you know the psychological explanations of the chosen colors? What other methods will you take to learn about my business operations?
Honestly, my first reaction was, “Are you kidding me?” It took a little while for me to break away from the idea that these questions were not just random ramblings, but well thought-out bullet points to help protect a business investment, but when I did, I learned something about myself. I feel sometimes as a designer (and I know I am not the only one) that when I design something that I have to present, I believe in that creation. Otherwise, clients would never see it. The simple fact that you are getting to view it means I thought it was to my standards as a designer to show it and maybe there is a feeling of resentment when having to defend my work to such extreme measures to a non-creative.
The reassuring thing is that I was able to answer all of his questions, because deep down in our psyche, we know the reasons we design something the way we do and all of those basic principles have their place in our mind’s eye. The real benefit, though, came in the designs that followed during the week. By asking myself those questions up front, I was able to quickly execute more psychologically appealing designs, proving once again that the push we sometimes need may come from the most unexpected places. We just have to keep our eyes open for it.

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