Show 101: Delusional | Boagworld - Web & Digital Advice

Web & Digital Advice

Digital and web advice from Headscape and the addled brain of Paul Boag... tell me more

Paul Boag Posted by: Paul Boag On Tuesday, 6th November, 2007

Show 101: Delusional

On this week’s show: Paul finally looks at the subject of intranets. Marcus delves deeper into the subject of rates and Andy Budd discusses getting design sign off.

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News and events | Marcus: Rates (Part 2) | Paul: Intranet delusions | Andy Budd on design sign off | Question of the week

News and events

OpenSocial from Google

The big news this week is the launch of OpenSocial, which is a new way for developers to build widgets/applications for a number of high profile social networks. At the moment the line up includes Google, MySpace, LinkedIn and many more. It really is an impressive list of partners.

This is exciting news for those who wish to deliver content to existing social networks as before OpenSocial it was necessary to re-code your application for each site it was delivered to. In many cases this just wasn’t worth the effort and a lot of developers just focused on the big name that is Facebook.

Now developers can build once and deliver to any number of social networking sites. However what is even more interesting is that you can build these applications using nothing more than HTML and Javascript. Unlike building an application for Facebook, coding for OpenSocial looks like it is going to be extremely easy.

The development community is still trying to get their head around what exactly all of this means but it would appear that OpenSocial does not go as far as some would like. For example (as Jeremy Keith points out) it does not solve the problem of having to re-enter your personal details and friends on every site you sign up for.

Content and presentation

I came across an excellent post by Mark Boulton this week that looks at how designers engage with content. He comes at it from the angle of typography, arguing that it is about a lot more than just typefaces. However, his underlying point is much broader.

How often do we really engage with the content on the websites we design? Does the content inform our designs? Are we just building templates that get populated or are we really working with the content in the same way art directors do?

If you look at traditional ad campaigns the design and content work hand in hand. The design reinforces the message and the message informs the design. Although we see this all the time on TV commercials, billboard ads and marketing campaigns we rarely see it on the web.

In many ways we have cracked a lot of the technical challenges of the web. We have best practice for coding, accessibility and usability. We know how to make our sites available and usable for all. But do we know how to really engage with users? How to interact with them on an emotional level? That is the next big challenge.

Online calendars and date pickers

The final news story for today is another great list from Smashing Magazine. This time they list the top online calendars and date pickers. I don’t know about you but I seem to spend a lot of time working with dates for various reasons. Much of the information we put on the web is date specific, from events to blog posts. It is common to want users to be able to search by date or access a calendar of events.

This post from Smashing Magazine offers a plethora of date related tools from online calendars you can embed into your own website to date pickers that avoid those difference in date formatting.

If you ever need to work with date related information this list is worth a look.

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Marcus’ bit: Rates Part 2

This can be a tricky subject and, because of that, I’m not going to go into what Headscape charges. I’m going to look at some survey figures and talk about charging for different services and when and how you should go about raising your rates.

This topic is of interest to both clients looking for an agency as well agencies and freelancers – we all want to know if we’re competitive. To save myself writing about this from both angles, and probably confusing everyone, I’m just going to concentrate on this from an agency standpoint. However, each point is easy to switch round to the client angle.

Enough rambling…

You get what you pay for

So using my favourite car analogy, are you offering a Bentley, a BMW, a Ford or a Lada! I guess the point I’m making is don’t over or under sell yourself. Recognise what you can offer and go hard for that market.

Have you got thousands of happy clients being serviced by a hundred staff in marble clad offices in central London? Or are you and your mate from Uni just kicking off your business in your dad’s garage?

You might not like it but talent, in this case, doesn’t really matter one jot. No big spending client is going to go for our second option above. This is fact of life. Accept it, move on.

If you want to charge top dollar then you need to show the following:

  • Relevant, high quality portfolio
  • Reliability and flexibility
  • Wide range of services
  • Innovation or at least ‘keeping up’

So, what do people charge

Right here, right now – I don’t know. However, I have got details of a UK survey carried out a couple of years back that, with a bit of an uplift, are I believe still relevant.

These are daily charge out averages across all agencies that submitted to the survey:

  • Director – £750
  • Consultant – £650
  • Creative lead – £670
  • Designer – £570
  • Project manager – £600
  • IA/usability consultant – £610
  • Developer – £610

Of course, the actual figures varied greatly even within certain disciplines. For example, creative lead rates were as low as £370 and as high as £800.

Pricing roles

At Headscape we used to have one flat rate for all services provided. At the time, this felt fair and was certainly easy to manage.

As we have grown, we have found that the pressures on some staff, particularly the directors, have grown markedly and therefore we have had to charge more for those roles.

Regionality

The survey suggests that regional price differences are, pretty much, London and ‘everywhere else’. Notably with the South West coming a strong second! (We are based, more or less, in the South West).

Large city based agencies will always be able to charge a premium but I expect this is less so now due to ease of communication. We have had a number of clients over the years that we have never met.

Raising prices

This is a balance. We should all raise our prices to keep up with inflation but, we should only do so if we think the market will take it. Also, it’s possible that a particular service that was seen as ‘cutting edge’ and therefore got a high price tag, may later become ‘run of the mill’ so it’s possible that you may need to cut the price for that service.

Back to top

Paul’s corner: Intranet delusions

I have been asked a number of times to talk about Intranet development and I have always avoided doing so. This is partly because I am not an expert in the field (although that doesn’t normally stop me talking about something!) However, it is also because intranets are a massive area and one in which so many mistakes are made. There seems to be a huge amount of naivety about developing and running Intranets. Against such a backdrop I am somewhat unsure where to begin.

In the end I have decided to take 5 of the most common misconceptions about Intranets and see if we can shed some light on why they are wrong.

Back to top

Ask the expert: Andy Budd on design sign off

Paul: Joining me today is Andy Budd, hello again Andy.

Andy Budd: Hi Paul, how are you doing?

Paul: Not bad, it’s been a little while since I’ve had you on boagworld, I think?

Andy Budd: It has, I think it’s been a couple of years now, I think it was d.construct 2006 was the last time I remember chatting to you.

Paul: Unbelievable, I’ve spoken to you since then on the .net podcast mind, so, we’re keeping in touch.

Andy Budd: Yeah, and also just hanging out together, and doing, ya know, things.

Paul: I try and obviously avoid you, because whenever I meet you, you seem to be horribly rude to me but I will forgive you.

Andy Budd: What?!?

Paul: (Laughs)

Andy Budd: Oh Paul, you know that’s not true, that’s not true.

Paul: Ye, but I want to paint you in a bad light and get a bit of sympathy for myself.

Andy Budd: Oh okay, that’s your tactic actually isn’t it?

Paul: Yeah.

Andy Budd: I also heard that you try and play dumb, so ya know, everybody else comes across as being smart and you get the sympathy vote.

Paul: You’ve been listening to the Rissington Podcast haven’t you?

Andy Budd: (Laughs) I have indeed.

Paul: (Laughs)

Andy Budd: I’m not sure I’d buy that but, ya know, it sounds good.

Paul: You think I’m just naturally dumb?

Andy Budd: … So what was the first question?

Paul: Okay.

Andy Budd: (Laughs)

Paul: First question, no, what we’re going to talk about today with Andy is just looking at maybe processes, ya know, when you run a website company how do you go about dealing with getting things like design sign off and this was something that came up quite a lot in the 100th episode that we recorded a little while back and is also some we talked, we vaguely talked about running a web company on the .net podcast recently but I kind of wanted to home in more on design, because design is a hugely subjective area and getting design sign off is quite a challenging process. So Andy lets kick by just, if you could give us a rough sketch about how clear:left go through the design process, what are the steps that you go through?

Andy Budd: Yeah absolutely, it’s kind of interesting because it has changed, ya know, a small amount anyway from when when we started to what we’re doing now. I guess one of the main differences from what we do to what a lot of other agencies do is we generally only present a single design concept. It’s very common, particularly for companies that come more out of a print background to do this whole idea of like, we’ll show three design concepts to a client, I think that partly comes from a desire of print design companies too sort of make a bit more money rather than just showing one design, they do three designs a let the client pick. I’ve always found that this is kind of an odd way of doing things because, well first of all I don’t think you really giving your client good value because what your ending up doing is your doing three times the amount of work and the client only get a third of the value, they get to pick one of those three designs.

Paul: (Agrees)

Andy Budd: The other thing I’ve found is whenever I worked at agencies that have taken that process and I’ve been the designer developing the designs invariably what happens is you, say you’ve got a week to produce the designs, you spend maybe three of four days on one design and it’s working really well and your happy with it and it’s moving in the right direction, you only spend one or two days on another design which you kind of fine with, if the client picks it then your happy because it looks nice and then you’ll do something quickly for the last half a day just to kind of fill up the space.

Paul: Yeah.

Andy Budd: And then you have this horrible situation were by, even if the client picks the design that your least convinced with or what more than likely happens is they’ll pick elements from each design and create a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster, and I kind of do think that clients come to professional design consultancies for their design knowledge and their design experience and I think that from my perspective and from my experience the design that the designer feels most happy about is probably the design that fits closest to the clients goals, because that the one they’ve been spending the most time and effort on, thinking about, so really the first thing we tend to do at clear:left is only ever show our client an initial design or one design. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll only create one design, quite often, for instance, Paul one of our designers, our lead designer might create a couple of different versions initially and we’ll have a design review and I’ll look at what’s going on and we’ll chat about various pros and cons of the different designs and he might spin off in another direction but we tend to show the client what we think is the best bet rather than something that is half finished or just something that we don’t think is quite right.

Paul: Yeah, I would agree with that, that the whole principle of if you show a client a multiple designs they inevitably pick a little bit from each of them and that never quite works as well as it sounds. I mean, have you ever tried with multiple designs, having more than one designer work on those designs so you do like one each with three of you or something like that?

Andy Budd: Well again, I think this goes back to giving value to the client and I don’t think it makes sense for the client to pay for two or three designers time and expertise to give them the opportunity to only pick one.

Paul: (Agrees)

Andy Budd: I think what tends to happen in that sense is design stops being about solving problems and starts to become much more subjective and almost a beauty competition.

Paul: Yeah.

Andy Budd: So what happens is rather than the client picking a design or understanding the design from a technical point of view, ya know, why you’ve, ya know, what mood your trying to create or what feeling or sensation or how the hierarchy works and how the hierarchy that you’ve created matches the hierarchy of use that you need a user to flow through. Rather than it being more scientific it becomes much more subjective and it becomes much more about, ya know, whether the client liked particular colour, they had a particular colour on their bedroom wall and they hated it or they loved it or it’s their favourite colour, so I think, again, just having that kind of three design approach makes it much for subjective and much less scientific.

Paul: Yeah.

Andy Budd: I do agree that if a clients got lots of money, ya know, your talking with a big client and they’ve got months and months of design budget available then it does make sense, the kind of clients that myself and most of my colleagues sort of deal with, they got reasonable budgets but they haven’t got budgets to burn so they want to see as much value as possible and the idea of pitching two designs just kind of, ya know, seems… it just doesn’t in an environmentally sort of, ya know, challenging world that we live in at the moment, where people want to recycle and people want to see usage. Throwing two designs away always seems a bit, kind of wasteful.

Paul: I mean, talking about the thing of making the process more scientific and less subjective, how to do you go about encouraging the client to set aside personal preference and focus on how they should really be judging the design? And, sorry, there’s a spin off question now which is how should they really be judging the design?

Andy Budd: Well, it’s a really difficult question …. I think everybody feels that they have a good understanding of what design is. Everyone’s got their own personal opinion, everyone’s got their own personal tastes, so everyone feels that they’ve got an understanding of design. We’ve all watched changing rooms, we all know that a fancy designer comes along and he’s got big cuffs and ya know paints, crazy colours on the wall, sticks vases all over the place and that’s design, but I think what people actually see is not design but the manifestation of design. The actual design process is much less creative than people like to think, it’s much less throwing bits of colour on the wall and using your creative juices to see what colours and shapes match. It is much more the processes, much more the starting off with a central problem or a central set of problems that you’re trying to solve and using design techniques: hierarchy, colour, weight, positioning, to create a design that solves a solution, and again, and you have to look at design works within constraints. If you are asked to sit down in front of a blank canvas and just create something, that’s much more than an artistic endeavour than a design endeavour. Funny enough, we were having this conversation in the office today, a couple of minutes before we had this conversation and it’s much easier for good designers to have constraints, to have content to design around to have an idea who’s going to be using the site so I think design is much more the scientific process than a number of clients give it credit for. In answer to your first question “how do you get clients to feed back in the right way”, it’s very, very difficult. Ideally, what I’d like to say is, we sit down with every single client and explain the design process in detail, explain how it all works and stuff but unfortunately, design is very subjective and also feed back is very, very difficult to interpret. If a client comes to you and says “I want it more wizzier, more zingy” their using the vocabulary they have at hand to describe something they have an idea of in their mind and our job as designers is to try and understand what it is they are actually trying to say. They are trying to communicate a visual thing or a motional thing with words and quite often it’s not possible, quite often, you will have to try two or three different approaches before you actually figure out what “zingy” means. Does “zingy” mean bright and colourful, does “zingy” mean they want motion and so it’s difficult having design discussions with people who aren’t trained in using ya know, having design discussions and frankly, I find it difficult enough sort of having internal design reviews with our designers and trying to describe what’s right and what’s wrong with the design. So I do, ya know, I do really understand from a clients perspective, how difficult it is to try and deal with their designers and get their designs or get their sense across. I think we always try and take it back to first principals. We try and encourage our clients, no to sort of worry or obsess too much over the details but to kind of think more of the broad picture so not more whether you like this particular colour or whether you like this particular shape but ya know, what kind of sense of feeling you’re trying to have this design communicate ya know, we’re doing some work with an environmental website at the moment and they really wanted to create a sense of a feeling of nature and openness and warmness but really avoid the kind of clich233s ya know, let’s have pictures of trees and ya know, it will all be green and kind of earthy. So they communicated the sense and the emotion they wanted to get across and then we obviously translated that and put it into graphical format and I think in reality, that’s what the designers’ job is. It’s translation, except instead of translating one written language into another, we’re translating a written language or an oral language into a visual language and so it’s interesting but yeah, it’s setting the boundaries and saying to people, this is not, ya know, we’re not asking you at this stage to comment on the details or on the general sense, the layout or the feeling and as you move along, get more and more specific.

Paul: You talk about how sometimes a client uses a different language to describe what they’re seeking from a design so do you ever use things like mood boards or what other sites do you like as a way of kind of getting an idea of their personal tastes? And should you be catering for their personal tastes anyway?

Andy Budd: It’s a fine balance, I mean, yes and no. Ultimately, it’s not the client that will be using the website, it’s the clients’ client, so the clients’ customers so really the ultimate goal is to create something that, ya know, the customers or the visitors are going to use, the visitors are going to love and their going to feel as though it’s their own but obviously, you are also dealing with human emotion and if a clients paying you money to create a design, you want them to be happy with it as well. Again, it’s an interesting challenge. We used to in the past, really encourage our clients to go out and have a look at different websites that are out their and we’ve actually got a, sort of a flicker group of inspiring websites that we can point clients to and say, look, here’s some of our favourite websites. Why don’t you go and have a look at some of these, ya know, use those as a basis because it’s really useful instead of asking people to off cold to describe what they want and to actually show you stuff and say, I like the typography of this site or I like the colour scheme of that site. A lot of designers will actually say, you shouldn’t ever show sites, ya know because then it kind of gets a bit derivative but I think, ya know, as we’re working on the web it is helpful to show clients similar designs in that same medium so I think it is useful for us anyway to show clients sites. And that’s always a good starting point, ya know, we like this site because and we like that site because. Unfortunately is sometimes backfires and sometime, particularly if the client isn’t as, sort of embedded in the design community as we are, they will pick some sites that they use on a daily basis that don’t necessarily show good design as designer might preserve it and then we have to kind of work round the edges and show kind of show them what we think they might be kind of thinking about, but the mood boards is a really good point it’s something that we’ve started using more recently and it’s a really good kind of first step, rather that jumping straight to the design process and possibly missing a translation, we have started showing clients mood boards, and if some of your listeners don’t know what mood boards are, they’re essentially a very quick way of explaining a mood or a sense or a feeling or a colour scheme on a design without actually having to do visual design, so what you do is take elements of design that you might have seen elsewhere, you might take some interesting photos you’ve seen on flickr, and maybe those photos have an interesting colour scheme or they might have a particular theme or sense that your trying to get across, ya know, maybe take some navigation elements from one site or a t-shirt you particular like the colour scheme from, a whole bunch of different things, put them down on a piece of paper, I mean in the old days it was a piece of paper in advertising, they would cut out bits from magazines. These days we tend to do digital mood boards which are more graphic art and photos and present them to the client, and that gives the client a kind of basis in which they can spin off their opinions, so they can look now at this mood board and say well, we said we wanted it clean, we didn’t mean we wanted it sort of white, we meant we wanted it sort of, ya know, some other adjective that works with clean, and it kind of gives them a discussion point, rather than just sitting around words you can now look at something physical and tangible and the good thing is mood boards only need to take an hour or two. And again we’re working with a client at the moment and we initially created some mood boards for them and it sparked a discussion and they weren’t sure about some of the things on the mood board but some of the things on the mood board they really liked so we worked out a second iteration which was even closer to what they wanted and when we finally sort of got to a level that we felt both of us understood what we expected from a design point of view then you can move onto the next stage.

Paul: Yeah, I mean it’s quite interesting, I think design from my personal experience is as much about what you do before you site down in front of photoshop or whatever than it is actually in the actually putting pixels on the page. I’d be interesting in what other things you do before you get to the design stage, you’ve said you use mood boards, what about things like personas what business background information do you tray and get before you start? Do you get people to personify there company and describe what kind of person it would be, ya know all the kind of techniques that people use, what do you guys use?

Andy Budd: Well again, that’s really interesting, I mean your right, a majority of people kind of think design is a visual thing, ya know, so, ya know the first thing they think about or expect when they’re getting designs is to see some kind of photoshop comps or some pretty pictures, clear:left we are a user experience design consultancy and what that essentially means is we kind of do meta design, we don’t just do the visual stuff but we design the systems and so what we do from the outset of dealing with our clients is we have workshops with them we ya know, a big discovery period to find out exactly what it is that they want, ya know, requirements gathering, we’ll do research into their users so quite often we’ll go out and we’ll interview potential users, their potential kind of market, we’ve done work in the education sector we’re we’ve spent a few days in schools and we’ve talked to teachers and pupils and school secretaries to find out how they do their day to day work, what kind of features and functions they would require off a site, using this information research we might create personas, and personas are a great way of capturing a rough demographic I guess of users and it allows you to start thinking in terms of how people will use the site because what tends to happen is people will sit down and think of the stereotypical user but each users got different needs and the nice thing about personas, is if you’ve got your personas fairly accurate it can then help you work out what features and functionality you need by following on the scenarios, a scenario is say your buying shoes or you doing a shoe store, so it might be that I want to buy a pair of dress shoes because I’m going to a formal function so I want to get a pair of smart shoes to match my suit so then what you can do is you can sit down and plan out on this system, how would I get from the homepage through to the purchasing process, how to get from a to b to c and that kind of helps design the system. The problem with personas is quite often you will do personas and they’re sitting in a draw, so personas aren’t right for every single project, and we’ve had a couple of experiences recently were we have done personas and we probably shouldn’t have done because the client already had a fairly good understanding of what they wanted to do but it’s kind of trial and error.

Paul: Yeah.

Andy Budd: Most of the time we find personas work really, really well, but they do work best when the client doesn’t really have a set idea of how their website is going to function and ye we do wire frames and wire frames are a big part of what we do, a big part of information architecture and big part of the user experience and design and again if your listening are you aren’t aware of what a wire frame is, it’s kind of somewhat like a story board in movies, so in a movie rather than just going and filming everything because celluloid’s really expensive, they’ll get some artist in to draw out scene by scene, frame by frame almost, how the story is going to progress and that’s a way of planning the shots, planning the locations and you can sit down in front of the story board and get a real sense of how the movie is going to flow and to work before you ever need to set up on set, and so we do something very similar with our websites, we create wire frames, which they can be on paper, they can be in HTML and it’s literally kind of a wire frame a kind of rough representation of how the site is going to fit together, and so when it comes to visual design and it come to the interface design the designer isn’t working from a blank sheet, they’re working from a fairly details blueprint, no so much on layout terms but on content, ya know, we need to have this block of content here, this is what inside this block of content, this is the hierarchy, this is more important, this is less important and so basically once the client has seen the wire frames and understood how the process is supposed to flow, they’re already signed off and they’ve already agreed to lay off the design decisions were as more traditional visual designers would try and do that on a photoshop document and I don’t really think you can capture, ya know, if you doing a fairly flat design or a fairly simple brochure website, you can probably capture that sense in a photoshop document but if you doing a more advanced, if you doing a more complicated site that has more interaction, maybe a, like a sort of social software, web applications site, you can’t show all this stuff in a flat document so you need to have this click through process.

Paul: No that’s cool. Okay to rap up I just wanted to ask about the subject of iterations because it’s something that we’re asked quite a lot and basically what people do or are concerned about is how many iterations do you go through when the client comes back to you and says I want this changing and then you make that change and then they want something else changing and it kind of can go on through this endless cycle, were do you draw the line do you have a contractual arrangement, we’ll do three versions of this or how do you deal with it?

Andy Budd: Again a very interesting question, the way we tend to work a clear:left is we tend to sell our services based on time spent rather than some kind of end point, because design is very subjective and as you say, you can’t sort of keep going on and on and on and keep making changes because not only will the project spiral out of control in terms of time but also in terms of budget and stuff, so what we tend to do with our clients and with our project is we specify a certain amount of time, we’ll spend 20 days on visual design and ye 20 days on a template build or whatever and we are a little bit flexible and this kind of almost goes back to something I was talking about on my blog recently about deadlines and stuff, ya know, if design takes a couple of days more and templates take a couple of days less in the end it all kind of balances it’s self out, but we do tract time to make sure we’re on track, we tend to say to clients that we’ll offer two iteration, again sometimes it requires more sometimes it requires less, but all along we track the time so to make sure we’re not going vastly off. What we try and do is kind of make the iterations increase in size so going back to what we where say before about the mood boards, you can do a mood board really, really quickly and you can get to a point a lot faster, understanding what the clients needs are by giving them a mood board or a couple of mood boards, a couple of quickly little iterations and, ya know you get significantly further down the line. Something we’ve been doing recently which I think is a really interesting idea and seems to be working really well is this concept of a one day design concept.

Paul: Okay.

Andy Budd: And so what we do is, in the olden days we’d spend like maybe a week coming up with an initial design concept and it was really good and it was really high level and it was really detailed and we’d give it to the client and if the client wasn’t sure about various elements, we’d be a little bit, because we’d spend so much time and effort into the design we’d be a little bit more resistant to making changes, were as we realised that if we did just a quick design iteration, that was just one day or one and a half days we’re much less kind of stuck on the design because it will be rough, because it will a bit rough and ready, which means that we’re much more flexible and happy to make changes and go in different directions also it means that if you are only given a day or a day and a half to do a design, you don’t obsess on the details, you work on the more broad brush strokes, you get the feeling and the sense and the layout right, you don’t worry about how the text is aligning or how the icons are place and that give clients first of all some instant feedback and rather than the old days, you’d go away and do a design, magic would happen and two weeks later a completely finished product, it gives clients a bit more of an insight and a bit more input into the process.

Paul: Yeah.

Andy Budd: They’ll see after a design they’re getting something that’s already start like a real project and they’re getting really excited, they sort of start inputting and feeding back. The difficulty is managing the right kind of feedback and getting the right kind of feedback at the right time because obviously in the early phase is what we really want is our clients to feedback on is just the overall look and feel. Is the layout right, is it giving the right sense, and not obsess about the details because we haven’t spent any time on the details.

Paul: Yeah.

Andy Budd: And then we iterate and once we’ve got an idea we’ll do another iteration which is more finessed and then maybe a third iteration which is more finessed. And then normally by that point because we’ve gone through a bunch of different steps and we’ve kind of had client buy in on the way by the time it gets to the second, third round of iterations, it usually is just dealing with the details.

Paul: Yeah.

Andy Budd: The problem is that almost all clients obsess about the details more than they really need too. And it easy too, I understand, if someone puts a design in front of you and they say, give me feedback clients obviously want to be really helpful, and they’ll jump into the design and say well that buttons miss aligned or I don’t like that orange I think it should be a different colour or whatever and really obsess about the details and I think at that point, ya know, that’s our job to obsess about the details I think. As designers we are more obsessive and we’ll sit there and we’ll move things a couple of pixels or ya know, play around in the colour palette and make sure things are exactly right and so what we’ve been tending to do is once we’ve got the initial direction of the project, once we know that the client likes the overall scheme, we kind of go ahead and build it and don’t necessarily go ahead and design it and while we’re not necessarily, not asking for feedback, so we’ll present our designs and if clients look at them and say oh well this is wrong and that’s wrong, that’s fine we’ll go and make the changes, as the client looks at them, I think basically what I’m trying to say is if you ask for detailed feedback you’ll get detailed feedback, if you present something to a client then if there is an issue they’ll feed back and if there isn’t they won’t. I think this has come about from a lot of usability testing, we sit down with test subjects and if we ask them for an opinion they’ll always give us an opinion, trying to be helpful whether that opinion is something they really think or something they’ve thought, well I’ve been asked to say something so I better say something.

Paul: Yeah.

Andy Budd: And so we’ve been trying to be a lot more subtle with feedback and rather asking for a definite cut off time, a definite sign off, we now expect a long list of stuff, it’s like here are the design, if you have anything to say that’s fine but if you don’t that’s great we’ll just get on and implement them.

Paul: Yeah, I like that. That’s a really good approach. Thank you very much Andy that was a really interesting conversation. I think every agency does things in a slightly different way and it’s good to hear the clear:left methodology.

Andy Budd: Excellent, well actually, sorry can I just jump in there and say something.

Paul: Yeah.

Andy Budd: Because I think this is an interesting point and it is a problematic thing, I don’t think a lot of companies have a process and a lot of companies will, ya know, every single project they will do the same thing time and time again and that’s good because you know at the start of a project exactly what your going to do step 1, step 2, step 3, the problem is not all projects and not all clients want all those step or all of those steps are necessarily valid for the thing they are trying to do.

Paul: Yeah.

Andy Budd: So I think what we’ve learned over time really at clear:left and it’s something we’re still learning and I think everybody’s still learning is rather than having a process have a methodology have a bunch of tools that you can use on a particular project, so if a certain project requires wire framing we do wire framing, if it doesn’t, drop it. Ya know, if a certain project needs a mood board, we do a mood board if a certain project doesn’t, we don’t do it. And so I think a methodology is the right point here rather than a process because a methodology keeps you flexible and a methodology means you don’t get stuck doing the same stuff over and over again.

Paul: Excellent, Okay, thank you very much Andy and I’m sure we will have you back in at least before the next two years are up. (Laughs)

Andy Budd: Yay, well thanks very much Paul delightful.

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Question of the week

What tips or techniques do you use to smooth the process of design sign off? Answers in the comments.

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