A beautiful azalea from the Biltmore estateI just read a guest post on ElegantThemes by a designer who bemoans his client’s input. The author posts a few examples of painful feedback from clients. His overall attitude is something like, “how dare my client question my judgment. I am an experienced designer, and they are not!” His solution was to find better ways to exclude his client from the design process.

I find that an incomprehensible approach to design, one that is contrary to the purpose of website design, which is, after all, communication. It’s almost always guaranteed that a business owner,  your client, knows more about their business than you, the designer. It’s the designer’s job to acquire an understanding of the business goals, and to help the customer achieve them. It is also the designer’s job to explain why one design choice is better than another, and to educate the client on how you are meeting their needs.

My comment on the thread was this:

If you are designing websites solely based on your feelings, and if you have no way to articulate the rationale behind your design choices, or why one choice works better than another, then your design education is sorely lacking. It is unreasonable to tell your client not to express their opinion or desires. Rather than fire your client, you might ask yourself why you have a client at all. You are not painting a pot of flowers. You are creating a platform of communication for your client to speak with their own customers.

Everyone, especially my client, has a right and an obligation to express their views and preferences. When there is too much difference between what the client wants and the best judgment of the designer, then they should part ways. In my practice as a web developer/designer, I have no difficulty in talking about why I made a particular choice, and if my client has an idea, it is my obligation to consider it, evaluate it, and either execute it, or explain why it isn’t the best choice.

There are many competing goals when creating a website, and foremost is value, and cost-effectiveness. Petty choices may be trivial, and not worth paying me for the time to incorporate them. I have no problem explaining the rationale for design choices. This is another reason why I prefer not to set a fixed price on a project, but rather, to offer a solid estimate, and provide a range of what the cost will be. This enables my clients to understand where their money is going, and what value they are achieving by my work.