User and Client needs – Finding the illusive balance

A metaphor describing the difference between how  a designer would think and how the user would feel.
A metaphor describing the difference between how a designer would think and how the user would feel.

Put bluntly, everyone thinks differently. Largely this is ok, we learn to deal with this by either educating the person as to why we think we are correct and why they should also think that way or we may have to concede and appreciate the sense in what the other person is trying to get across, then there’s always the compromise, a way of both individuals being ‘right’ in part but agreeing on a slightly different solution.

When designing for a client my opinion is that ‘pride’ can be something of a weakness for designers, whether this being that they believe that due to the work they have done surrounding users, researching how they interact with say, websites or writing reports from extensive quantitative/qualitative research on this they may think very highly of their own opinion. It is easy to get swept up in a bubble where you think your own opinion is correct and ‘right’ for the client which may not end up with the client being happy with the work you’ve produced as well as (worse case scenario) offended by your tone when you defend your own thinking to the point where the client feels their own opinion isn’t valued and that the end result won’t actually be what they required.

The client should always be addressed carefully as a designer, it is of upmost importance that they are happy with the end result, this will help ensure future work for you to update a website or do further work for the client as well as secure recommendations from them, something extremely valuable for a designer (especially freelancers). As well as this when trying to complete a project for a client even if as a designer you may think you know better than the client it is important to realise they work in the industry that they would like a website for and they know their users, this can mean they in fact know best when it comes to some decisions even if it may seem ‘wrong’ in a sense for the designer.

Considerations to be made here are to remember business goals are not always user goals. As a designer we design for the user, we are hired to translate business goals into user goals effectively and in a way where both parties can be pleased, this is a balance.

One way to ensure the client will be happy with the end result of your work is to design iteratively, with each iteration the client should be met with and all changes, no matter how small, should be looked at and explained with appropriate reasoning perhaps including user testing reports/videos showing the benefits of the change to the client, this will ensure the they feel up to date with the project, giving them confidence in you as a designer, but also making it harder for them to reject everything when it comes to the final proposal, in turn making the whole process much more time efficient.

References – Gitsham, O, 2010. Finding the Balance: Users’ Needs Vs. Clients’ Wants. UX Booth, Available from: [Accessed 20 November 2014].


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