S03E06: Managing client feedback

This is a transcription of episode6, season 3 of the boagworld podcast: Managing client feedback..

Paul Boag
Hello and welcome to boagworld.com, the podcast for all those involved in designing, developing, and running websites on a daily basis. My name is Paul Boag.

Marcus Lillington
And my name is Marcus Lillington.

Paul Boag
And we are here once again.

Marcus Lillington
Yes.

Paul Boag
In the last of the season.

Marcus Lillington
I know. We were discussing earlier the next season, right.

Paul Boag
I know.

Marcus Lillington
So it’s just going to roll on….

Paul Boag
We have –

Marcus Lillington
In one big, long episode.

Paul Boag
Shall we tell people? Shall we tell people what next season is going to be? I was going to leave this to the end of the show, but you brought up in the beginning.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, go on then.

Paul Boag
So next season is going to start in September, we hope. So notice how committed I am.

Marcus Lillington
It’s going to start next week maybe.

Paul Boag
No, it is not next week, definitely not next week. But it will start in September and it’s going to be on the mobile internet. And its going to be, which I really like written by Rob Borley, in other words not by me.

Marcus Lillington
Why do you like that?

Paul Boag
I don’t need to do everything.

Marcus Lillington
Because you are lazy. Well you won’t have time, will you? Because you’re on holiday for the rest of the year.

Paul Boag
Oh, shut your face. I’m speaking extensively, which Marcus calls holiday. So, there you go. So, yes – so with client centric web design hardly out of the door and we’re already thinking about the next one and it’s going to be the mobile web and it makes sense that Rob is going to be running that one, because he is our mobile web guru. But we will still be on the show. It’s not like we’re not going to be doing it, we are still going to be doing the podcast, but he is writing the associated book that goes with it and will be taking us step by step through what it means to put together your mobile strategy, how you decide whether you need an native app or a web app, what’s happening in the world of mobile, what is going to happen in the world of mobile and lots of other cool things. You might want to start following him now actually, because he is posting some brilliant stuff on Twitter at Bobscape, B-O-B scape, and also he is blogging extensively, so you will find out about all of that on Twitter. So, yes that’s going to be really good stuff. But…

Marcus Lillington
Do I get to talk about this at all. That was the longest sentence I’ve ever heard.

Paul Boag
Well, have you got anything worth contributing? You don’t normally.

Marcus Lillington
Well, yeah, that is true. I was going to add if you want to follow me on Twitter, that’s Marcus67.

Paul Boag
No one cares.

Marcus Lillington
Marcus67.

Paul Boag
67, being your age?

Marcus Lillington
No, well kind of related, no not quite that old, Paul. Although you’re now 40.

Paul Boag
Shut up.

Marcus Lillington
Aren’t you?

Paul Boag
I am.

Marcus Lillington
Yes.

Paul Boag
Thank you for bringing that up.

Marcus Lillington
So yes that was a lovely tangent that you brought on yourself.

Paul Boag
67 is the year you’re born in.

Marcus Lillington
That’s the year I was born in.

Paul Boag
So how old does that make you?

Marcus Lillington
45.

Paul Boag
45?

Marcus Lillington
Yeah nearer to 50 than 40.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
I don’t care. I still seriously feel like I’m 20.

Paul Boag
I know that. Yeah, so what?

Marcus Lillington
I meet people younger than me who are in kind of positions of power if you like –

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
– and I still feel like I’m 20 and I have to behave myself.

Paul Boag
I’m sure I said this before on the podcast about how some times in the middle of some presentation to a Board of Directors I get the giggles inside because it is like hee they’re listening to me, and taking me serious.

Marcus Lillington
That’s exactly, that’s a perfect example of the kind of place that I’m talking about. It’s like I’m looking at these people and they’re 10 years younger that me.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
But they’re all terribly suited and booted.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
And I’m not, but basically so Rob’s going to write it –

Paul Boag
Yes.

Marcus Lillington
– then he is going to try and talk about it in the podcast and won’t get a word in edgeways.

Paul Boag
Oh, shut up.

Marcus Lillington
That’s me too.

Paul Boag
You didn’t have anything…

Marcus Lillington
I’m painting myself with the same brush there.

Paul Boag
Yes. Well, hopefully he will be driving because he’ll have…

Marcus Lillington
He won’t though.

Paul Boag
But I don’t know, we haven’t worked out whether he is just going to write the book or whether he’ll write the blog posts as well. So, I might take each of his chapters and kind of condense it down into a podcast episode.

Marcus Lillington
That’s not a bad idea.

Paul Boag
So, he will be there to kind of prompt, but not necessarily to kind of run things if that make sense. But no I’m sure it’s going to be an excellent book. We are looking at the outline earlier today, and it looks like a really good one.

Marcus Lillington
I was listening in and it did sound good.

Paul Boag
But more importantly there is a really good book out right now that we could buy.

Marcus Lillington
Yes.

Paul Boag
At boagworld.com/season/3 you could get hold of Client Centric Design and we come to discuss today the last part of the puzzle that is working with clients, which is what the hell to do when they gave you crap feedback. That’s essentially what we are looking at. And in the last episode, in the series I spoke about the challenges of getting design approval and I explained that by talking with the client and involving them in the process and giving them a sense of ownership, we can increase our chances to get a approval for our design. However, what happens when they ask other people to comment on the design, that’s where things start going wrong. I think we may have the client onboard, but that doesn’t mean that other stakeholders will be convinced. After all, they won’t have gone on that same journey of calibration that our client will have. So we need to overcome that problem and that’s really what I want to talk about today.

Marcus Lillington
It still happens, even today. Absolutely.

Paul Boag
Even with us and we’ve worked hard to kind of avoid this problem, we still have problems with clients going away and showing the design to other people. And I think it’s important to say that that’s okay. I don’t think we can expect people thing make a decision about a design, and sign off a design all by themselves. Hell, the majority women can’t go clothes shopping without somebody with them to tell them they look beautiful and that’s –

Marcus Lillington
Dangerous crowd, Paul, bloody hell.

Paul Boag
Well alright. Blokes are the same when you are buying a car, you feel a need to take someone else there to stand there and go, I’m not sure about that. I think –

Marcus Lillington
You need to have someone else to kick the tires with you.

Paul Boag
Exactly. You know I think with any…

Marcus Lillington
Touch it, like that. There you go.

Paul Boag
I think it is just built in us. I think we all have that kind of desire to get somebody else’s opinion about stuff and its very hard to make an opinion by self, that’s been some – I’m listening to a book at the moment called brain rules. And one of the brain rules is this, this desire to talk with one another and to get other peoples opinions and they’ve done some amazing scientific studies where someone has gone away, they have searched in depth into the best car for them and they have gone through this whole process about buying a car. And then they take their mate along to see the car and they’ve kind of primed this mate and the mate said something like oh, yeah I had a lecturer at college that drove that I really didn’t like him. And the person won’t buy the car because their mate has had this negative attitude towards it.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
So, we do have this need to consult with other people is the longer rambling point there.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, I mean – and sometimes for poor reasons like we are sheep.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
Other times also because you’re genuinely still researching and you want – you don’t want to be sold a pup or, in a kind of none buying something situation, you’re trying to collaborate to get something better.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
That’s human – that’s why we are –

Paul Boag
Social animals. Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
But also that’s why we’ve done so well.

Paul Boag
Yeah, absolutely. And I think there are also practical reasons from a web design point of view like you have to get the boss to sign it off or you have to get some department head that’s really opinionated on board or whatever else. So, I think it’s inevitable that our clients are going to be showing the work we do to other people, and we need to work with that and around that.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
And I think the beginning way to solve the problem is on how we present the design. I think that’s a huge part of the equation that often we don’t put enough thought into. I think the problem is that often, we don’t get to present the design to all the people that are going to comment on it.

Marcus Lillington
Well you can just email everyone, can’t you?

Paul Boag
Oh, shut up. You know that’s wrong, you are just being argumentative now.

Marcus Lillington
Just attach the JPEG in the email. That’s right, isn’t it?

Paul Boag
No, it’s not right. You know that that’s not right. Yeah, we may get to present to the immediate point of contact, but what about the others that the client shows a design to. Now –.

Marcus Lillington
You’ve got a cold, haven’t you, Paul?

Paul Boag
I have got a cold. It’s really annoying.

Marcus Lillington
Ah. Didn’t we start this series with you having a cold and now you have another one.

Paul Boag
I’m a sickly boy.

Marcus Lillington
You’re very sickly.

Paul Boag
I am.

Marcus Lillington
What you need to do is smoke and drink like I do, Paul.

Paul Boag
You know it’s another thing that in this Brain Rules book that I’m listening to is saying about how the immune system is destroyed by stress and it is the stress of working with you that means I get all these illnesses.

Marcus Lillington
But that’s okay because I let you go off on holiday for the rest of the year.

Paul Boag
This is why I’m stressed, because I have to listen to this kind of abuse the whole time. So, yeah you’re right. I mean, what you were saying you were being sarcastic, but it is true that you can’t just send an email with a JPEG attached and go, what do you think?

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
Even if the client is onboard and you’ve taken them through the process and you feel you can trust the client with a question like what you think even though that question is obviously so loaded as to what’s your personal opinion, do you like green or not, which is the last kind of comment you want. You don’t know what’s going to happen to that JPEG afterwards. Who it is going to be handed on to, what contexts are going to see it.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, I was going to say, or even from the other angle, even if you ask all the right questions in an email, still don’t send it in an email.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
Because someone will print it out and it will be all the wrong colors, and it’ll be like…

Paul Boag
Yeah. It’s the wrong way of doing it.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
So, the way that we’ve kind of solved the problem at Headscape and every time I say this, people love it, all right. So I can guarantee the next point I make, you’ll go, damn, that’s a good idea. It’s not often that I actually think we have a good idea and most of the time I don’t understand why people listen. But this one you will like. You ready for this? The way that we present our designs, if we cannot present them face to face with all of the people involved, and I think that’s the big if, because obviously an ideal situation is to meet with people face to face. If we can’t do that, we record a video of our design presentation and circulate that to all the decision makers. So, essentially instead of passing a JPEG around, you pass a video and that video has the JPEG nicely presented, you have to worry about your compression, otherwise it can look shit, but just very, very simple with the voice over, over the top of explaining it.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
And this approach works so well, doesn’t it, Marcus? Back me up here.

Marcus Lillington
Yes it does, Paul. There’s two approaches – The reason, when we – we don’t always record a video. We record a video when we know that we can’t talk to everyone about it.

Paul Boag
Yeah, that’s – I think that’s the important caveat.

Marcus Lillington
Because it is not necessarily – you just said whether we can do face to face or if we can’t do face to face, then we do video. That’s not necessarily true. If we can have a conference call with the entire team and the decision makers –

Paul Boag
Sure.

Marcus Lillington
Then a conference call is okay.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
But if we do that, what we do is we don’t let them see the design until five minutes before the call.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
Basically they get sent an email saying click on this link and – I’m going to go off on another tangent here –

Paul Boag
That’s fine.

Marcus Lillington
Because this is quite important rather than this kind of a how do we present designs. What we’ve done lately, which has worked really nicely is basically I suspect most – not most but quite a lot of other design entities do this, you basically have a project page that lists –

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
– the wire frames, links all to the different wire frames in order so that you can go back and see the process, all the different mood boards, all the different designs, all the templates, everything, all nicely laid out. So that the client can go back in at any point and go – I really like that thing we did in the first mood board and it’s all there and basically every time that a new design is put together then we add the link in like a minute before the call.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
And then present it during the call. But as Paul was saying, if you can’t guarantee that everyone is going to be on that call, record a video.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
Otherwise you end up with –

Paul Boag
People saying, I don’t like it because it’s green or whatever.

Marcus Lillington
You’ll have done a presentation to 50% of the people and everyone else just get’s an…

Paul Boag
What do you think of this?

Marcus Lillington
– what do you think of this.

Paul Boag
Yeah, absolutely. I mean the approach has several advantages. First of all, presentation and design are inseparable in my opinion. Because the design is only viewable as part of the video it can only be shown with the accompanying presentation. You can’t show it without that.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
So, we therefore could guarantee people will have all of the information they require to provide constructive criticism of the design. Second approach – second advantage really of the video is call qualities are not always great. We’ve had – and sometimes I think this puts it even above the conference call.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, that’s a really good point.

Paul Boag
Sometimes we’ve had conference calls, where there has been a lot of people on the line and it’s been a nightmare hasn’t it?

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, I do agree with that.

Paul Boag
Well, you don’t have that problem with video. The audio quality can be assured, most video recording software allows the presenter to even a peer in a small little box, so you can see him as well. And I think that’s great because certainly with me perhaps this is probably an indication of me, but if they can – if the people that I presenting to can see me, they kind of get carried along with my enthusiasm, and passion, do you know what I mean?

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, yes.

Paul Boag
So, been – I think that’s another advantage it has over even conference calls, although I do accept, that conference calls allows that interaction and answering questions which is better, if you can guarantee the call quality. Another reason for video presentations is the presentation will be scripted, so not everybody finds it easy to present and so I know for example Lee, I think he actually writes out what he is going to – actually he doesn’t anymore. He has got cocky in his old age. When he started off he used to write out the whole thing so he can say, he can cover all the points, he can think about it all beforehand. While in a presentation it’s like oh shit, and it goes off in directions you don’t expect and not everybody is comfortable with that.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
Another good reason for videos is that all those providing comments get to see the presentation, so again it’s hard to arrange a conference call sometimes where everybody can attend. And often it’s the most important people, that are the ones that can’t attend the call because they’re super busy, like an MD.

Marcus Lillington
That’s very true.

Paul Boag
So a video means that they can watch it in their own time and because what often happens is you go, ph yeah, let’s have a conference call. We’ll arrange a conference call to present the design. Unfortunately the MD can’t make it, but let’s have the call anyway. So you do the presentation to everybody else, and then the MD just get shown the design, and says what do you think and the whole thing is suddenly derailed. So, that’s why I like the videos, even over a conference call, personally.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, it does make sense actually. We – I suppose as it’s a bit more effort to them and –

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
– and there’s always a deadline and that kind of thing, and you think well, we can get the this situation in the design will be done by Thursday lunchtime, so let’s have a call at Thursday lunch time rather than spending probably the majority of Thursday afternoon recording a video.

Paul Boag
It really doesn’t – I disagree with that. I think it does with some people, right? But for example, me and Lee just do it with one take now, straight through, so it takes us no longer than it would take us to do a conference call.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
Okay. You’ve got then save and upload the video, but that’s about it. And to be honest by the time you’ve got everybody on the call…

Marcus Lillington
I’m not disagreeing with it.

Paul Boag
No.

Marcus Lillington
I was just saying that’s probably the reason why –

Paul Boag
Another reason I like videos is because it gives the client time to digest the presentation as well. I hate that bit in the conference calls that inevitably happens, you do your presentation then you get to the end and in a sense you go, so what do you think then. And you end up back at the same kind of, you know, they –

Marcus Lillington
I like that though, because…

Paul Boag
… it puts them on the spot, and they feel like they have to say something.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, and that’s not always a bad thing.

Paul Boag
No, because it’s much harder to say I don’t like it to your face.

Marcus Lillington
Yes.

Paul Boag
But that feels a bit manipulative to me.

Marcus Lillington
It is a little bit manipulative, but the good thing about that is that it gives you the opportunity to kind of deal with issues that are, kind of personal opinion, for example.

Paul Boag
Yes.

Marcus Lillington
There and then.

Paul Boag
Yes, I agree with that. You almost want – in my opinion what you want is a video, give them time to digest it, then have a conference call.

Marcus Lillington
Yes.

Paul Boag
That’s kind of my ideal.

Marcus Lillington
You just get rid of them – you get rid of the opportunity to manipulate people with that.

Paul Boag
Yes, but well I actually think …

Marcus Lillington
I am joking by the way.

Paul Boag
Yeah, I know. Giving somebody time to sit with the design and kind of let it sink in, actually can be beneficial because often your initial reaction is, Ooh! you know, oh! Not sure about that because we don’t like change.

Marcus Lillington
Two things, two designs we’ve been working on lately, and I have been, I said to both the designers in this case, but look you know, we’ve had a bit of a, not an issue, but this bit didn’t work for the client.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
And we did all, did an iteration to that, and I was saying to the designer yesterday, this could be painful, blah blah blah, but you know in the end it’s like one tiny change …

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
… and that’s fine and then we move on.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
So I think the process of presenting and getting people to kind of talk about it in a conference call situation immediately is, and I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I think there’s a real value in that.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
I know we’re kind of joking about it being we can manipulate people into not saying anything nasty, because I think that’s not really true, if somebody doesn’t – they’ll tell you.

Paul Boag
That is very true. It’s shit.

Marcus Lillington
I don’t know why; it just focuses the mind, or focuses the group.

Paul Boag
Yeah, I have got mixed feelings about it because what it can lead to those conference–

Marcus Lillington
It just worked really well on a couple of occasions lately.

Paul Boag
Yeah, but on other occasions it can lead to kind of design by committee, where people are essentially trying to work out.

Marcus Lillington
There is a little bit of that going on.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
But then that’s, we’ve talked about earlier in these episodes that we’ve been recording that to a certain extent, the client does need to love it, they’re the people who…

Paul Boag
Absolutely, but we’ve also talked about how design by committee means that people trying to meet a consensus in the room, and so they would …

Marcus Lillington
So it’s impossible.

Paul Boag
So somebody says on the call something along the lines of, I don’t feel this is working particularly well, and then someone said, what if we did this, and before you know it the designer’s lost control, I prefer the kind of divide and conquer technique of getting individuals, now he’s being manipulative, of getting individual feedback and allowing the designer to go away and think about it. I’m not –

Marcus Lillington
Yeah. It’s tricky isn’t it?

Paul Boag
It is tricky.

Marcus Lillington
Design is a bugger and that’s what all this is about.

Paul Boag
Well, that’s why we’ve essentially dedicated two episodes –

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
Out of six to issue a design really.

Marcus Lillington
Really, it’s weird because I was convinced that we were going to have, it was going to be another iteration, it would become one of those kind of, one those blind alleys where we – let’s start again.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
And then no, all fine, move on.

Paul Boag
Yeah, it does but if we’d been recording this six weeks down the line, you could be saying the complete opposite because it just depends on what currently happened doesn’t it.

Marcus Lillington
I suppose so.

Paul Boag
But here’s a final killer reason, why I like videos, is that they allow you to demonstrate interaction, right, because websites are becoming more and more dynamic with Javascript elements, and responsive design, all this kind of stuff, a static comp can never show that. If you’ve got an interactive, if you actually build a kind of prototype of it and put it online and you say to them, okay now make the browser slightly smaller so you can see how it is – you don’t know what they’re really doing. They’re viewing it IE6 or they’ve got Javascript turned off or whatever.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
But in a video you can demonstrate all that stuff, and you know exactly what the other person is going to see at the other end, and it means that you can make little prototypes and not have to worry about cross-browser compatibility or whatever, as long as it looks good on your browser when you record the video.

Marcus Lillington
Don’t agree, don’t agree, don’t agree. I agree with what you’re saying but then you’re going to want them to go and test it on their own machines.

Paul Boag
Yeah, but not at that stage. Yes eventually I agree, but we’re talking about just presenting the initial designs, and these days a lot of the designs that you’re presenting, what makes the design is the interactive elements.

Marcus Lillington
Yes, definitely.

Paul Boag
Expanding and collapsing, the carousels and all of the other kind of stuff that goes on, and at that initial presentation they might say the whole thing has gone in the wrong direction, so you don’t want to spend ages getting it to work in IE7 or whatever.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah. Again I am not disagreeing, I am just saying that you do need to consider it.

Paul Boag
That will be a stage, but I think it happens after this initial feedback, that they’re actually playing with it and experimenting with it themselves. Whether you present using a video or in person, I guess the next stage is, well what do you include in a design presentation? What should you talk about, if that makes sense? If you – whether you’re doing it as video or in person doesn’t make any difference, it’s what are you saying.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
I think presenting a design, and I’m talking, when I talk about design here I am talking about whether it be a mood board, or a wireframe, or a final design comp, that you kind of need to show the natural progression of what was already been agreed, and that way I think the client’s much more likely to accept it because they can see that it’s just the next step on from what they already agreed with, what they have already done. So to achieve this, I think your presentation needs to heavily reference previous work, and how that’s influenced the design, so for example if you’re presenting a mood board, you should explain how the personality that’s been previously agreed with the client is reflected in that move board and that design.

With wireframes, you need to demonstrate how they reflect the initial sketches that you did in that wireframing workshop we talked about, and also show how you have accommodated the agreed calls to action, business objectives and user tasks. And finally, if you’re presenting a kind of proposed design, you need to show the client how it brings together the business objectives, mood boards and wire frames. So sometimes, and I am presenting a design in a video, I’ll actually show the wire frames and I’ll shoe the mood boards first before showing the final design.

Marcus Lillington
Do you make them fade into one another like –

Paul Boag
Yeah, that’s the trouble with the video, the biggest problem with videos that makes them take longer, is being designers, you need to feel – make them fancy so you end up with lower thirds and introductory videos …

Marcus Lillington
All that..

Paul Boag
All that kind of stuff, you can do that. So where I think, so you kind of show the process of how you’ve come to the design, and how it builds on what was already been agreed, of course the reality is that sometimes as you go through the design process, you actually choose to deviate from what was agreed. Often, the mood board, for example, you change it when it comes to a real design, and where you do deviate from what has been agreed or where you introduce new elements, you need to present a really strong case to back up those changes. That needs to be a big part of it as well.

So I endeavor to support my designs in three ways, all right. First of all testing. If I am concerned that the client will be unsure about a design choice that I have made, I’ll carry out some testing to justify that approach. Sometimes that testing is very lightweight and is not a big deal at all, it could be something just as simple as putting the design online and then throwing it out to Twitter, sometimes it can be grabbing a person from the desk next to me to have a look at it, whatever, but I do try and do some testing. Second way I justify changes that I am making to the design is using reference material. So I wrote about this in chapter 4, where I talked about the idea of referencing material and other experts’ opinions, things like studies and statistics are a powerful way of improving your credibility. They are also an excellent way to justify your design decisions. So, for example, there are numerous studies of experts who dispel the myth of the fold, then it’s easy to justify, the requirement for scrolling on your design, for example. You’re looking blank.

Marcus Lillington
No, I was just thinking about the fold, it’s a funny one, isn’t it?

Paul Boag
Becaue, let’s not get into that.

Marcus Lillington
It does exist.

Paul Boag
Yeah, it does exist. But it doesn’t mean that users don’t scroll, is the point I was making here.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
And so you can put, you know it doesn’t matter; that’s a whole other conversation

Marcus Lillington
It’s just – talking about that, I’m moving on to the next series about talking about sort of mobile and things like that. The scroll, the fold came to the fore with the EDF project, when the design…

Paul Boag
On a mobile device, you’re talking about

Marcus Lillington
Well it was on a small laptop, actually. It kind of just so happened that on this particular device, you could see on the initial design work we’d done, you could only see the carousel, this beautiful image. And it was like, that really was the bottom of the page. It looked like the finished design.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
So that’s when we did that, it kind of worked with vertical responsiveness.

Paul Boag
Vertical responsiveness, yeah. Which is really good, if you haven’t checked that out, do a search on responsiveness and the fold on Boagworld, and you’ll find a brilliant piece of work that Ed did on that.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
…which even Jeremy Keith said that Boagworld has actually posted something useful…

Marcus Lillington
Yes, something of worth.

Paul Boag
Yeah. So, it must be worth checking out, but yeah, you’re right. And then the final way I endeavor to support my designs is by showing examples, nothing is more convincing than showing the client an example, if a major site like the BBC does something, you’re proposing doing, and you proposing do the same thing in your design, it does significantly strengthen your case.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah. It’s the no one got fired for hiring IBM attitude.

Paul Boag
Yes, absolutely. So, there are some things you want to include in your design presentation, I’ve talked about showing previous work, I talked about justifying changes, but also it’s worth preempting common objections in your presentation.

So, our experience of working with clients gives us, to be honest, a good insight, and by “our”, I’m talking about everybody, web designers have this good insight into the kind of things that clients are likely to throw up issues. So these include areas such as white space, choice of color…

Marcus Lillington
Fill that gap.

Paul Boag
Yeah. Content above the fold…

Marcus Lillington
Yes.

Paul Boag
Size of logo, all that kind of stuff. So we avoid that, as in Headscape avoids that, by mentioning these issues, I’m sorry. I think the standard way that a lot of us deal with that, is we kind of just hope the client doesn’t bring it up.

Marcus Lillington
Right, yeah.

Paul Boag
Right? However, I think, and probably the technique we use at Headscape is to kind of instead preempt those issues with the client, and raise them ourselves. And there are two reasons that we do this. First, it demonstrates that we’ve thought about these issues and we’re not just reacting to their criticism. So this reinforces our expertise and experience.

Second, preempting issues I think has a psychological effect. I think as humans, once we state a position like, I need you to make the logo bigger, we need to feel – need to defend and be consistent with that position, even when faced with evidence to the contrary.

Marcus Lillington
Absolutely. I’ve said something, and I’m not going to back down

Paul Boag
I mean a classic argument, my wife.

Marcus Lillington
Here we go.

Paul Boag
You know, I could – she gets stroppy about something I’ve done, I present a perfectly logical and reasonable argument about how what I did was perfectly understandable and it was the right thing to do. Will she change her position once she’s stated it? No, she won’t.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
And I think that is in human nature.

Marcus Lillington
Yes, I think you’re right there, Paul.

Paul Boag
So therefore if you can preempt it, and give that argument before they take that position, then there is no backing down to do, there is no changing the mind, because they haven’t kind of said it out loud. If we preempt these issues before the client raises their objections, they don’t have to defend their position…

Marcus Lillington
It’s more psychological manipulation, basically, from Mr. Boag.

Paul Boag
It’s helping the client save face. Is that a bad thing?

Marcus Lillington
No, it’s not a bad thing at all.

Paul Boag
There we go.

Marcus Lillington
It’s very sensible; it means you’ve planned properly.

Paul Boag
Yeah. So, furthermore the client, often…

Marcus Lillington
Okay.

Paul Boag
If you preempt an issue by going something like, a lot of clients get caught up on this idea of the fold.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
But there are a lot of studies out there that really show this is a very out-of-date way of thinking, and that actually users do scroll extensively, and Jacob Nielson has written about this et cetera. And actually, here is the whole history of how it came about, right? If you as the client were sitting there thinking, I don’t want it to scroll, I don’t want it to scroll, there is no way they going to say that now because they’re going to look like a complete arse, and they do, and they’re going to look like an idiot, and nobody wants to look like an idiot, so therefore preempt it.

Marcus Lillington
Yes.

Paul Boag
Okay.

Marcus Lillington
Nice words.

Paul Boag
I’m really – I really am looking like a manipulative person now, aren’t I

Marcus Lillington
We’ve been here many times before, Paul…

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
…don’t worry about it.

Paul Boag
So, finally your presentation – this is the final thing I want to kind of look at, is your presentation should suggest some guidelines about the kind of feedback you’re going to find useful, right? So this is – this really comes to the nuts and bolts of what I want to kind of get into today, which is this whole area of gathering the right kind of feedback. We’ve all had that experience about clients coming, I think a lot of reasons why we don’t like clients providing feedback is because we often find that the feedback is not very helpful. The reason the feedback is not very helpful is because we’re not asking the right questions. We’re asking that, what do you think of the design, which focuses them on their personal opinions. Design is so subjective, so personal opinion isn’t always going to be valid. Just because the client dislikes the design, it doesn’t make it wrong. And a really good example of this was, do you remember, working on the University of Portsmouth website?

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
Back in the MySpace days, when MySpace was popular

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, it was the Multi-Colored Swap Shop design.

Paul Boag
It was, and the target…

Marcus Lillington
No one will know what that means…

Paul Boag
No, no…

Marcus Lillington
It was such a British reference. Of a certain age.

Paul Boag
Yeah, absolutely. So, the target audience was undergraduate students, so we produced a design that appealed to the MySpace generation. The client hated it. I hated it. It was horrible. It was disgustingly garish and busy. And not at all what we would look for it in a website. However, when testing the design proved very successful. And we had to set aside our personal opinions and implement what was right for the audience and that is why we need to reconsider the kind of feedback we’re asking for clients. So instead of asking what do you think, we need to be asking, for example, how will users respond to this, because that’s a very different question that will generate a very different type of feedback.

So, by asking specific structured questions, we focus the client’s attention on criteria by which the design should be judged. So I’ve put down a few questions that might be useful to ask, things like do you believe the esthetics will appeal to the target audience? Does the website help achieve the business objectives?

Marcus Lillington
I’d be more detailed on that one, on does it meet business objective A? Does it meet business objective B?

Paul Boag
Yeah. Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington
Because clients like that one…

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
…very much.

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
And if the answer to that is yes, and they’ve just have been negative about something you’re on to a real winner.

Paul Boag
Yes. Will the target audience be easy to complete, will it be easy for the target audience to complete certain key tasks? Are the calls to actions clearly visible, and do they encourage action? Questions like this will teach the client how to judge the effectiveness or otherwise of a design and discourage comments, like, I don’t like the colour.

And you can always use structured questions to remind the client of what has previously been agreed, they can show how the design is the culmination of a collaborative process. An example of that is, would be, is the design in line with the esthetics established in the mood boards? Does the design communicate the brand values of your organization? Does the design reflect what was agreed in the wireframes? Is the design consistent with the personality we chose together for the site? Now, you’ll notice that all of these questions encourage a yes or no answer. If as you said, if the answer to question is yes, then the client has little reason not to approve the design.

Of course they might personally not like the design, however, if you have warned them about how their personal opinions might be getting in the way and that it might colour their judgment then most would be able to set aside those personal feelings if they can confidently answer yes to all of those questions. If the client feels the design fails to meet these criteria, as outlined in the questions, things do become a little bit more complicated and need to be handled with sensitivity. And this is where you get into the whole area of handling disagreements. And handling disagreements is a crucial skill that every web designer needs to have, and I think many of us are not very good at. And I include myself in that. Yes, don’t look at me like that. We’ve got to balance the client’s happiness with producing the best website possible because remember what I said before, the client has to like the website. They have to – even if they don’t personally like it, they have to recognize its value.

Marcus Lillington
And they mustn’t feel manipulated into it either.

Paul Boag
No. Or bounced into it. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. If we simply give the client what they’re asking for we become demoralized and they don’t receive our full expertise. So there is a balance to be struck here.

On the other hand, if we’re constantly arguing with them we could end up with a website that they don’t like. And if they don’t like the website, they’re not going to invest in its long-term.

So what’s the answer to this problem? Well, I think there were four answers in a sense, four criteria by which you can kind of avoid major disagreements and arguments. First of all, swallow your pride, and I am speaking to myself here. We need to accept that the client does have good ideas and we shouldn’t reject them simply because we didn’t think of them.

Marcus Lillington
It’s often…

Paul Boag
And this goes back to what you were saying before about the client does have the kind of – can have good design ideas.

Marcus Lillington
Absolutely, and it’s also a question sometimes it does come down to opinion because if you ask a client, does the design meet objective A?

Paul Boag
Yes.

Marcus Lillington
And you think it does, but they might not think it does.

Paul Boag
Yes.

Marcus Lillington
And then it’s really a case of they’re the client, unless you can persuade them – or show them a reason where you were coming from and why you think that works, if you don’t agree then you need to iterate basically.

Paul Boag
Yeah. I think there is more to do, mind, there. I wouldn’t give up so easily. I think I would ask – one of these points, these fourfold points…

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, of course.

Paul Boag
…is to ask why.

Marcus Lillington
It wouldn’t just go…

Paul Boag
I’ve got to blow my nose, I’ve got no choice.

Marcus Lillington
I’m turned him off briefly. He is back.

Paul Boag
That’s good, sorry. Sorry about that.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, of course but the bottom-line on it is, I mean they may give you a reason why and you go, oh I hadn’t thought of that.

Paul Boag
Oh, absolutely, yeah.

Marcus Lillington
And then it’s time to iterate.

Paul Boag
You, both parties got to be convinced, so asking the question why is it important to understand what the client’s thinking is…

Marcus Lillington
Sure

Paul Boag
And also, for example, if they don’t feel that the design, I don’t know, justifies user needs, you do need to understand why they believe it’s failing, because otherwise you can’t iterate it because you don’t know how to iterate it. So that is a part of it is asking why, swallowing your pride is another part of it, picking your battles is a big one.

It’s fine to disagree with the client, if you passionately believe in your position, however, let’s face it, on a lot of occasions you don’t feel that strongly. Okay, should the box have rounded corners or not? Do you really care? Is it really that big of a deal? Should you really be digging your feet in over this one? Oftentimes, it’s better to let them, to go with their idea, if it’s not going to be damaging to the design particularly, if it’s not going to be that big of a deal, then, let them have their way because when you do dig in your heels, then it’s going to be some much more meaningful.

Marcus Lillington
Exactly.

Paul Boag
Because the client is going to go, oh, they have suddenly objected to this when they’ve left me have all these other things. So they’re going to take you a bit more seriously. So it’s the whole boy that cried wolf thing, if you cry wolf for every little thing then nobody is going to believe you when you really are crying wolf. And then finally, in this kind of approach to dealing with disagreements, I would say if in doubt, test. If you and the client really disagree over an issue, test it with real users. This will inevitably break the deadlock, and it always provides a really clear way forward. So testing is really worthwhile.

So that is really all I wanted to cover on this last episode of the season, but I do want to leave you with some stuff, you know, hopefully I’ve demonstrated client centric web design is a better way to build website in this series. It does create better websites, it creates happier clients and it makes an easier life for you. And managing comments and feedback is a key component of all of that. So before you kind of close this season down and consign it to your iTunes trash bin…

Marcus Lillington
Buy the book.

Paul Boag
Buy the book, at boagworld.com/season/3. I’d encourage you to make some small, but significant changes in the way that you present designs and gather feedback. So those are, just a recap. Record your presentations, video presentations will transform your – the way you present design. It has at Headscape and I think it will for you. It leads to better presentations, improved comments and it always impresses the clients. The client loves, oh, you’ve done me a video.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, that’s true. Yes, definitely.

Paul Boag
I don’t think that’s something we touched on before but it’s a good thing. Second thing, I’d really encourage you to do is prepare the ground, suggest the type of comments you want, place an emphasis on identifying problems and not solutions that we’ve talked about before.

Finally, deal with the problems, preempt those common issues such as white space, color and branding before they ever become an issue, nip in the bud. And finally, stop asking open questions such as what do you think of the design? And start leading the client through the feedback process more.

I’m aware that this series may have challenged some of your preconceptions. I know I’ve suggested that your role isn’t just about producing websites, but it is one of offering a service. And you may feel that that’s not what you signed up for when you became a web designer. However, I really want to ensure you that, done right, client work can be really rewarding and satisfying, I love my job, I honestly love it. You get to build lasting collaborative relationships with people working across a range of disciplines and sectors that you just don’t get in other forms of web design. Client work is never dull and you’ll always be learning and if you embrace that role you are going to have one hell of a ride, I really love it. And I know you can too if you just kind of – sorry, this is getting sappy and crap towards the end. But I am enthusiastic about this, and I’m passionate about it.

Marcus Lillington
No. Yeah. No yeah.

Paul Boag
Yeah, no.

Marcus Lillington
I think one of the most important things for web designers out there, freelancers, people working in agencies, it’s so important that they’re working on projects that have been priced properly, and…

Paul Boag
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington
…and that have sensible deadlines, then it is fun, then you get a chance to work with clients properly. I did down Andy Budd on an earlier episode about his article, but he is dead right from one aspect that there are lot of people out there who are just out to make as quick and as fast of a buck as possible. So yeah, if you’re stuck in a position where you’re not, where you’re finding that client work isn’t that rewarding, chances are you are working for the wrong company.

Paul Boag
Yeah. I mean, I would slightly disagree what he said with the whole deadlines, deadlines not price, get the price right, but if you got a good client relationship, if you got that really good working relationship with the client and there is a ridiculous deadline for some real legitimate reason like…

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, that’s true, yeah.

Paul Boag
…it’s actually fun…

Marcus Lillington
That can be.

Paul Boag
That pressure of pulling together and getting something out of the door, can be fun as well, it’s about the relationship for me.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah. I suppose it’s a case of as long as the person doing the work, the person who is doing this design work that we’ve been talking about getting signoff for, et cetera has had a part in saying how long it’s going to take for them to do that work.

Paul Boag
Yes. Oh yes, if you just get lumbered with it…

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
And yeah, you’re stuffed.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
But I mean I remember for example working with Chris Moos on the Natural England website that had to be done in this ridiculous time, and I had a whale of a time. It was a ridiculous project but – because I liked the guy, I had a good working relationship with him, it was a fun project that I kind of cared about because I like, I wanted to please him. It was brilliant fun. For me it’s all about that relationship, if you get our relationship right, all of this manipulative stuff we joke about, all these techniques and stuff kind of fall away over time. They become irrelevant. It’s just two people working together in a good relationship. And that’s what it should be.

Marcus Lillington
Yeah.

Paul Boag
It should be two people working as equals to achieve an aim and that for me is what it’s all about.

Marcus Lillington
That’s the nirvana.

Paul Boag
Yes, and you get it – you don’t ever achieve that with all clients, but if you can up the number of those you can do that with then that’s brilliant.

Marcus Lillington
Absolutely.

Paul Boag
So, you’re going to leave us with a good cliffhanger joke, are you?

Marcus Lillington
Well not a cliffhanger.

Paul Boag
More of a crescendo of a joke.

Marcus Lillington
Well I’m going to do two, and the reason I’m going to do two is because I think I might have told them before. So, I’m thinking by…

Paul Boag
The chances are people will have heard one or the other but not both…

Marcus Lillington
Yeah. Or maybe one of them I haven’t told before. But I can’t decide because I’m so crap at organizing these things. I’m looking at them and thinking that’s a good joke, but it probably means I’ve said it before.

Paul Boag
Did you check on that website someone created of your jokes?

Marcus Lillington
There’s only three jokes on it.

Paul Boag
Is that all there is?

Marcus Lillington
Yeah, anyway…

Paul Boag
Lack of commitment.

Marcus Lillington
I went to the cemetery yesterday. Ringing any bells?

Paul Boag
No.

Marcus Lillington
To lay some flowers on a grave…

Paul Boag
But I don’t know nobody listen to your jokes.

Marcus Lillington
That’s true. As I was standing there, I noticed four grave diggers were walking about with a coffin. Three hours later, and they’re still walking about with it, I thought to myself, they’ve lost the plot.

Paul Boag
Can I do one? That my son told me, I’ve just suddenly remembered it.

Marcus Lillington
Yes go on.

Paul Boag
It’s a similar kind of joke. So this woman walks into a psychiatrist’s office and she goes, and she just babbles, I’m a teepee, I’m a wigwam – I can’t even do it because of my cold.

Marcus Lillington
Come on, come on, finish it.

Paul Boag
I’m a teepee, I’m a wigwam, I’m a teepee, I’m a wigwam, I’m a teepee, I’m a wigwam, right?

Marcus Lillington
Okay.

Paul Boag
And the psychiatrist turns to her and says, calm down, my love, you are far too tense. Too tense. Get it? Too tense.

Marcus Lillington
That is bloody awful. Right okay.

Paul Boag
Perhaps we ought to get people to vote for which one of these three jokes is the best. It was funnier when my nine year old told me.

Marcus Lillington
I can’t remember which one I was going to say… quick, quick, quick.

Paul Boag
Panic. So professional.

Marcus Lillington
I think it was this one. I was driving this morning when I saw an AA van parked up, it’s like a…

Paul Boag
Roadside recovery

Marcus Lillington
Exactly, that’s it. The driver was sobbing uncontrollably and looked very miserable. I thought to myself, that guy is heading for a breakdown.

Paul Boag
They’re all the same. All three of those jokes have the same basic premise.

Marcus Lillington
Yes, absolutely. Yes, they were all a bit poor.

Paul Boag
Is that a premise? Anyway, so join us again in September.

Marcus Lillington
Oh, actually September now is it?

Paul Boag
We’re committing to it, maybe. Where we’ll be looking at mobile web, which will be a great topic. In the meantime, pick yourself up a copy of Client Centric Web Design, which goes into all of the themes we’ve covered in the show in a lot more detail. It’s only £6.75, an absolute bargain. Presuming it’s still £6.75 when this comes out, I hadn’t thought about that. I’ll have to keep it at £6.75 now. Alright, thank you guys for listening and we’ll talk to you soon. Good-bye.

Marcus Lillington
Bye

Headscape

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