Trust Me, I’m an Expert!
Web Designer (noun)
a person who plans, designs, creates, and often maintains websites.
By definition, the title of web designer seems simple. Someone who makes and maintains websites. However, it seems like even the most expert of designers spend much of their time trying to predict what a client wants instead of creating beautiful pieces of art. What caused this?
Let’s start at the beginning.
Before the internet, we had specialists in all avenues of employment. If you had a pain in your lower abdomen, you went to the doctor. If you had a car problem, you went to a mechanic. If you needed a commercial made, you went to a studio. But now, we are all “experts” due to the plethora of knowledge available at our fingertips. I’m guilty of this too, instead of going to the doctor I find myself searching WebMD or watching YouTube videos in order to repair my vehicle. If I actually go to the Doctor *shudder*, I’ll be fact-checking their diagnosis before I’m out the door. Perhaps this abundance of information isn’t all bad, but we seem to have forgotten that web designers are the experts, the people that have inputted the data, that have spent the hours creating what we see on the world wide web every time we want to second guess the person who spent 10+ years in medical school. So why don’t we trust web designers when we talk to them in the flesh? Or at least give some validity to their professional opinion, instead of trying to prove them wrong because “something doesn’t look right”?
When we actually need help from an expert, we seem to have forgotten how to provide context to the problem. When I worked in automotive, it was all too common to have someone come in and say, “my car doesn’t work.” Super! Let me hook your car into this machine so it can tell us exactly what’s wrong and get you on your way–FREE OF CHARGE (news flash: this isn’t how it works). I would often quiz my customers about their issue, to try and find the problem. When did this start? How often does it happen? Has it gotten worse? Can you imitate the sound/noise (a personal favourite)? Did this happen shortly after your teen borrowed the car for the first time? This way, the technician has something to go on and is more efficient in their search for the problem.
“What are you, an expert in procrastination?”
If you’re still reading this, you’re probably looking for me to get to the point. Well, I’m almost there. Designers deal with the exact same ambiguity when it comes to client requests. The most common/popular/maddening request is “make it look nice”. Certainly! That would be done without a question, but my opinion of what constitutes nice, compared to my colleague, compared to the client, may be vastly different. So what type of information would I ask for to achieve and exceed the customer’s expectations? Well, first off, is there a design you WANT it to look like? Most of the time my customers have seen something that caught their eye, and if they can provide examples or work my life is that much easier. There will usually be a few additional questions we may have, like what is the objective of the request? Who is the target audience? Are there brand guidelines I need to follow, or do I have full creative freedom? Everyone wants an original site, but as of January 2018, there were over 1.3 billion websites and I doubt that each one is entirely unique. The objective for many designers is seemingly simple: create an appealing, user-friendly, and contemporary site. The type of site that will set a client apart from their competition.
It’s safe to assume that my life wouldn’t change drastically if customers asked for the above, but I would better be able to temper expectations and the satisfaction of my clients would go up. With a bit of simple information, I’ll have a better idea of how to fulfill their request or fix their problem. Knowing the direction of a project, before we commence, will only lead to less back-and-forth about the project, less time spent working on the project, and clients that are happier with the project. With National Web Designer day falling on May 31st, it seemed fitting to write something about my perspective. Instead of asking you (the reader) to thank a designer, try trusting the experts in your life. And if they’re reluctant, find a new expert.