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21 November 2013

The Number One Design Mistake Clients Make and How to Overcome It

Web The Number One Design Mistake Clients Make and How to Overcome It

At Orange Digital we can sympathise with this guest post by Kelly Exeter from Swish Design in Perth. Take it away Kelly…


We’ve all been there with clients – tweaking website designs to infinity until they start to resemble the final result in this cartoon from The Oatmeal. Yes it’s the very stuff nightmares are made of and no matter of complex briefing forms and rock solid processes seem to stop it happening.

And the reason it keeps happening is very simple. Most of our clients believe their website should appeal to them personally.

They think they are their own target market.

I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve found this to be the case in the 10+ years I have been a web designer.

Unfortunately however, pointing this out to a client doesn’t actually achieve anything because ultimately – if they don’t like their own website, they’re not going to think you’ve done a very good job. So we need to effectively change our clients thinking they are their own target market while still delivering a website they love.

It’s time to have this conversation:

Please describe for me, in detail, your most ideal client.

The person who, if they should land on your website, would do a little fist pump because you are exactly what they are looking for. And please don’t tell me that your ideal client is ‘everyone’, or ‘anyone who is a mother’. Describe them to me in detail.

Tell me your ideal client’s name is Kai.

He’s a 28 year old urban hipster who lives in Surry Hills, listens to Triple J, and rides a fixie but prides himself on doing it in a non-ironic way. He likes to pretend he only makes $50,000 a year but that number is actually $90,000 and he has a deep and secret love for his iPad which he has to hide from his indie ‘zine loving friends.


Now that we know that your ideal client is Kai, the next thing we need to know is

how do you want Kai to feel when he lands on the home page of your website?

Like he’s in on a secret? Like he’s somewhere people just ‘get’ him? Like he’s hit hipster nirvana? For argument’s sake, let’s go with ‘like he’s in on a secret’.

Nearly there!

We’re now totally across who your website is for and how it should make that person feel. The final thing we need to know is: what’s the one thing you want that person to do once they’ve seen your home page. Do you want them to sign up to your mailing list? Read the latest blog post? Buy a product? Submit an enquiry?

Again I am going to choose the first option here (for the sake of this particular blog post).

The final step in this process is trust.

It’s time tell that client that now we know the answers to these three crucial pieces of information, we need them to trust us to do our job. To deliver a website that will make Kai feel like he’s in on a secret and drive him towards signing up for your email list the very first time he visits the site.

I can pretty much guarantee that after going through this process your client will stop looking at the website from their own point of view (and applying their own personal preferences) and starting thinking like their target market.

And if they don’t? Then for the sake of all parties involved, it might be time for them to find a new designer. 🙂


About the author

Kelly Exeter is a designer, writer and the owner of Swish Design, a boutique website and graphic design studio in Perth. She loves all her clients unreservedly, but loves the ones who know who their ‘Kai’ is best of all. 🙂

Catch up with Kelly on twitter or on the Swish Design blog.

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