Should clients have the ultimate say over design?

Clients like to have the ultimate say about design sign-off, but are they best qualified to make that decision? If not, then what is the alternative?

Web designers are always complaining about clients interfering with design. Many web designers feel frustrated that they are hired for their expertise and then over-ruled by the client. They are essentially reduces them to the role of a pixel pusher.

Trust your designer

The feeling within the design community is that clients need to trust their designers expertise, and rely on testing to validate the designers decisions.

This is certainly an easy argument to make. After all, the client is rarely the end user. It is not uncommon for a client to hate a design, but for the end user to like it and it to fulfil business objectives. In fact I remember working with the University of Portsmouth in the days of Myspace. We developed a design that reflected the preferences of the undergraduate audience we were focusing on. Like Myspace itself, the design was in my opinion hideous. I hated it, the client hated it, but the end user loved it and it performed well in testing.

Although a compelling case it could be argued that it is not the whole story.

The client’s feelings matter

If the client doesn’t personally like the design it makes them less invested in it. If they don’t believe in the design they are less likely to maintain and promote it. This is just human nature.

Furthermore, most clients have other stakeholders to please. Although these people are not the end user, they are crucial to the success of the site. If they don’t like the site then it may struggle to get further investment or receive the internal support it needs.

It’s not a black and white issue and so one I would like to explore as part of our debate season on the podcast. Our debate topic is therefore as follows:

This house proposes that the clients preference shouldn’t be a deciding factor in the appearance of their site.

Where do you stand on this issue? How much say should a client have over the final design of their site? Should they trust designers more or should designers take clients concerns more seriously? Let’s discuss in the comments.

  • richarddale

    I definitely think mobile sites have their place. Many of the sites I built prior to RWD, static sites that view great on desktop and tablet. Its only when you get down to smart phone size that things start to break down. For many of these sites a mobile specific site would probably work better than a RWD site where I could be more focused and target the medium specifically.

    I did a RWD e-commerce website recently and although the end results were good, trying to get the shopping basket working and looking correct whilst being responsive was a nightmare and I couldn’t help but think that a mobile specific site would have been a better solution. When I browse the web using my iPad Air I never visit a fix width website and think this is a poor user experience why don’t they have a RWD site. I ony ever think this when on my iPhone.

  • sanedevil

    I am not a web designer, but have a team that is building one for me. So in trad way, I have to have a “web designer” design the site in Photoshop which is then handed to “web developer” to generate code.

    You can imagine there are several problems w this – time, costs, rework, code doesn’t do what the design shows etc.

    I hit upon your blog while thinking if there are tools that would eliminate the design-to-code step

    I very much agree w the house and would love to know the process and tools to help achieve this.

  • David R

    The simple answer is yes, a website must be responsive and also Google is focusing more on responsive websites, a static design
    web development firm still works OK in most cases when you have separate mobile friendly website.