How to decode what your clients are actually saying

Barin Cristian Doru

Whether you’ve been working with clients for a few months or a few years, you’ve probably realized a certain struggle designers endure while trying to communicate with clients. On the one hand you have us, the designers, who are very familiar with the design process and specific jargon. And on the other hand there’s the clients, who are often new to design and don’t know the specifics.

As the professionals, we need to guide clients throughout the entire process, and break down the barrier of them vs. us. But during this process, you might sometimes get hit with feedback that baffles you — here is my mini handbook that shares common phrases from clients and translates what they’re actually trying to say.

1. Make it pop

pop2

Comic: Swarley Stinson

Client says: Make it pop.

Client is actually saying: Your design, overall, is pretty good but it lacks that hook that grabs viewers’ attention and makes them take action right away. You should rethink certain elements like the hero area, and focus on a powerful punch line.

Additionally, you should rethink the color scheme so the call to actions have a very distinct look compared to the other graphical elements.

2. Make it more modern

minima

Design: Tmas

Client says: Make it more modern.

Client is actually saying: This looks like something made in 2001 — you can probably find it on a template site somewhere. There isn’t any particular section or element that stands out so you may just need to start over with a fresh idea, very different from this one. Looking for some inspiration will do you a lot of good.

3. Make it warmer

kale

Design: GenScythe

Client says: Make it warmer.

Client is actually saying: Your color scheme doesn’t paint an adequate picture of the “feeling”our website is trying to transmit. Can you rethink the colors and images you’ve used?

For example, if you’re using blue as the main color scheme, try to avoid using stock photos that have lots of green and red in them. Make the whole design look consistent, from top to bottom. So if you look at it from a distance it should look natural with no hard contrasts.

4. Make it more creative

space

Website: sundayrain

Client says: Make it more creative.

Client is actually saying: You did a decent job in covering all the functionality, but the amount of detail invested into every section is sub par.

You could keep the layout as is, since it’s close to what I want, but you need to look for inspiration elsewhere and come up with something a bit different from what everybody is doing. Please note that I’m not asking for something totally out there.

That means it should still follow all the best practices, but please add a unique flavor to it. Please do not go crazy and put the main menu in the footer, or hide it in a tree somewhere. I still want my website’s navigation to be efficient, but viewers should leave with a clear impression that my site is different from my competitor’s.

5. You’re ignored

feedback

Client’s actions says: You’re ignored.

Client is actually saying: I’m way too busy to provide feedback. So, as the professional, do your best to interpret my brief correctly. From my promised 99 entries (‘cause the site is named 99designs, right?) at least one designer should be able to nail it. Maybe that will be you. I strongly recommend you reuse older designs and adapt them to my brief.

6. You’re being skipped

ignored

Client’s action says: You’re being skipped.

Client is actually saying: There’s a big difference from being ignored, and being skipped in the feedback round. I’ve engaged with only those who deserve my time. If you see other designers getting feedback or star ratings, it’s time to take a hint. There are other designs I’m more interested in.

Conclusion

So there you have it! These are my interpretations and you should take them as just that. Every client is different and some of these translations may not be accurate for your particular case. Do your best to read between the lines, going past the client’s words (or lack there of), and try to get inside their minds.

Have any baffling feedback you’d like to get interpreted?

The author

Barin Cristian Doru
Barin Cristian Doru

Barin Cristian Doru aka 'thislooksgreat' is an experienced web designer and proud member of the 99designs community: http://99designs.com/people/thislooksgreat Besides creating awesome website designs, he is also an entrepreneur, an Android App Developer and a content creator. His work ranges from freebie PSD files to small tips & tricks in Photoshop, all the way to a premium 16 hour long course on how to succeed on 99designs.

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