Designers that want to differentiate themselves from their competitors strive to bring more to the table.

These individuals understand that long term success is built through relationships, and does not only come from their designs. Throughout their interaction with their clients, they empathize, communicate, and partner on both a human and business level. They fully understand the risks associated with a project operates and shape the design process to cater for these risks. They always ask questions when in doubt and don’t hesitate to identify the flaws of their solution.

To become a great designer rather than just being a good one is however easier said than done. All designers can however learn from the best. If you are looking to take your services to the next level, doing these five things will help you get there.

1. Understand The Stakes

If a project fails, the designer has the least to lose. On the other hand, clients often put a massive investment into developing products and they generally only have one shot at impressing their audience or investors to keep their project alive. The last thing they want to do is to have their business’ future depend on your gut feeling.

The most successful designers communicate how their solution connects to the customer’s business goals. Although you may be a UX/UI expert, you are definitely not an expert on your customer’s business. To get some context, you’ll have to ask several questions. The list below is a good place to start:

  • EWhat is your overall business strategy?
  • EHow do you make money?
  • EWhat is your company’s capacity for change?
  • EDescribe your company’s internal operations?
  • EWhat is your go-to-market strategy?
  • EWhat is the overall market condition?
  • EWhat do your competitors do poorly?
  • EWhat do your competitors do well?
Excellent designers use the answers to these questions to help move the conversation away from design aimed at mythical users and towards solutions that will satisfy the users the customer targets.

Knowing what the stakes are will also help you to assess the risks your customer will be willing to take. The best design solution will sometimes create problems for your customer’s internal teams, such as operations or engineering. You should always communicate these risks and redesign solutions if required.

2. Find Out How Your Customer Works

A customer should not only be seen as a boss, manager, or employee with a budget and a deadline they must meet. They are also an individual that has their own limitations and goals. They’ll also have their own expectations of progress and ways of working.

You can only manage the relationship properly if you lead by example and allow the customer to see how you go about your work. This will lead to open and regular communications. Whether you do this via a regular meeting, a weekly video call, or a daily email, is up to you and your customer to work out. The aim is to show your customer all the hard work you put into your designs, and this will allow them to respond.

You may want to try the following recommendations:

  • EPropose goals that can be measured and then track them.
  • EDeliver regular status updates and indicate whether the work is on track or not.
  • EShow recordings of user sessions, and present heat flows and maps.
Excellent designers use the answers to these questions to help move the conversation away from design aimed at mythical users and towards solutions that will satisfy the users the customer targets.

Knowing what the stakes are will also help you to assess the risks your customer will be willing to take. The best design solution will sometimes create problems for your customer’s internal teams, such as operations or engineering. You should always communicate these risks and redesign solutions if required.

3. Understand Your Customer’s Worldview

Although your customer may not be a design expert, they will be experts in their own field. You must make them feel respected before you’ll be able to gain their respect. Listen to and consider what they tell you, make them an integral part of the design process, and whenever possible, ask them to share their technical expertise.

You should also be aware that there will likely be several things that will have to be translated. Excellent designers know that they need to help their customer to understand design basics. They will never expect a leap of faith or force anything.

You can build a common understanding by outlining terminology used in design and asking them about the vocabulary they use. Don’t only explain the design importance of your solution, but also how this relates to their goals.

4. Define What Success Looks Like

You should determine your customer’s expectations of the project in terms of their overall go-to-market strategy and traffic goals. Also, find out which metrics will be used to declare the project successful.

Excellent designers evaluate a design element’s value by using this information, i.e. these designers don’t spend money and time on flashy UIs, needless micro-interactions, and animations that don’t add value to the goal.

5. Remember Costs

When designing digital products, there are personal, organizational, and technological costs. Every new tool or feature that is designed will have to be built, supported, and maintained. Although a developer may feel that it is necessary to create a new tool that’s easier for them to work with, it could create problems for their customers in terms of staff that needs to be trained to maintain and operate it for many years.

Conclusion

Evaluating every argument and decision from a customer’s perspective needs humility, self-criticism, and courage. This is however what will make a huge difference in designer-customer relationships. All the top designers know that trust won’t be created simply via a beautiful design.

Have a project in mind?

If you have a website, mobile or web app idea in mind, or you just need some advice about product design, feel free to contact me directly.