Product Design

Teaching Clients the Design Process

I had a conversation with a client the other day that caught me a little off guard. He was interested in a brand new app for his company, and we got around to talking about what he could expect from me during the first week of the design phase. His first question for me was, “I can see some awesome designs by the end of the week, right?

Understandably, he was concerned with what the app would look like, what colors would be used, and how big the logo would be. Now keep in mind, this was a completely new app that didn’t exist yet. I sat him down and explained that visual design is only one part of the app design process, and I’d need to do a lot of work before I could think about what it would look like. I explained that the other part of the process is behind-the-scenes work that ultimately informs every aspect of the app’s visual aesthetic. And that this part of the process is why we are called user experience (UX) designers, and not just designers at WillowTree.

To him, design was all about the visual aspect of the app. Is this a misconception? Absolutely. Can I blame him for thinking this way? Not for a second. To almost everyone, design is what makes something look good and not much more than that. It’s all about the pretty colors and fancy photography that help make a product look attractive. That’s what we’ve all been taught since we were young.

But outward-facing design is only one side of the coin. The other side of design is in-depth research, user interviews, creating user personas, and wireframes. It’s all about understanding the product, who it’s for, and what problems you are trying to solve for the product’s users. Without exploring and learning about all of this, there’s no way to know if the final product will be successful or not.

As a UX designer, one of your first jobs when you have a new client engagement is to make sure they understand your process and everything that goes into it. Your client needs to be aware of all the work required before visual design comes into play. It has to be clear to them that just because something looks great doesn’t mean it’s going to work. You can have the best looking product out there, but if the user experience wasn’t carefully considered, people will become frustrated with the product and stop using it.

Every project is different of course, but always keep this in mind on each one: never abandon the core concept of your design process. There’s a reason you have one, and that’s what helps make your designs great and you a great UX designer.

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