Client Tip #1: How to Say “No”

Clients often ask for…interesting things when it comes to web design. “I want my logo to move.” “I want a video to pop up and take over their screens, but it shouldn’t interrupt them.” “Can there be music in the background?” These are just a few examples of ideas that are generally just bad. So how do you tell your clients that their ideas are dreadful? In my time as a web designer and developer, I’ve come up with a few tactics that usually do the trick without making my clients cry or, worse, fire me.

Try to Understand Their Underlying Needs

I’ve found that attempting to understand what my client is trying to accomplish with the requested change is incredibly helpful. For instance, a moving logo might be desired because they want to draw attention to their brand and really stand out as unique. A pop up video could a similar attempt – drawing attention to a specific service or what-have-you. And music in the background could be an attempt at making their users more comfortable on the site, encouraging them to stay longer. Simply understanding the meaning behind the request is incredibly helpful for relating back to the client.

Talk About User Experience

After I’m confident that I understand my client’s underlying needs, I try to politely point out why their idea might be flawed. So, in the example of the moving logo, I might say something like, “I like the idea of drawing attention to your logo and really standing out as a unique company, but, because logos are traditionally static, users might be more confused by this than anything else. Additionally, when you use your logo on stationary and letterheads, you run the risk of causing further confusion because that logo will be static.” I try to relate back to their concept, provide positive feedback for their overall concept, but suggest their approach might not be the best one.

Suggest Alternatives

After I’ve related back to my client and pointed about the possible issues with their suggestion, I try to suggest an alternative modification that would achieve the same ultimate effect without incurring the previously mentioned flaws. Once again, going back to the moving logo, I might suggest implying movement without actually moving – swishes, “action shapes,” etc. In this way, they will achieve their movement, draw that attention they crave, and yet maintain a consistent brand which won’t confuse the user.

State Facts

Finally, back up your suggestion with facts. If you’ve studied design or been working in the web design field very long, you probably have a few up your sleeve that can relate to almost any situation. For instance, studies have shown that a website has between 3-5 seconds to impress a user before said user will leave. Therefore, everything on your website – your homepage in particular, needs to be immediately clear to its user. A moving logo is going to distraction the user during this time, and therefore, could actually make them leave – the opposite effect we want to achieve.

I’ve found that these four steps provide excellent structure for telling your client that their ideas could be improved. Additionally, thinking through these steps makes you, as the designer, think about whether or not the idea is a good one in the first place. Perhaps music in the background is appropriate and these steps will help you figure out why it’s appropriate, what it will provide for the site’s users, etc.