Freelance web designers often work with a variety of clients. It provides many interesting experiences. For example, you get an insight into how decisions are made. And it’s something that can change a lot from place to place.
For example, you may find that an organization has a very clear power structure. Others can be a complete mess in that area. Those without structure are often the hardest to work with. And while these situations are usually not pleasant, they are almost always a learning opportunity.
Seeing where your clients excel and where they struggle gives you insight. That’s a good thing because the web design process can reflect office politics at its worst. Everyone wants to express their opinions and implement their ideas. It will test your patience. And if you’re not careful, your project can go up in flames.
Design politics can be intractable. But maybe a savvy web designer can save the day. Let’s look at some ideas that will help you get things back on track.
Web Designer in the Middle
As organizational outsiders, web designers are often the ones left in the middle of a power struggle. And too often, we are expected to act as mediators.
This is especially true when the client’s nominal “boss” allows too many cooks in the kitchen. As a result many people who are not on the same page are overwhelmed.
The challenge is that we don’t have to ignore everyone but the boss. Therefore, we pull in multiple directions and are left to sift through competing proposals. Sometimes, ideas can conflict and contradict each other.
For a designer, it can feel both frustrating and a bit pointless. You’re there to build a great website, not play team psychiatrist.
So how are you supposed to effectively deal with such a free-for-all?
Take a Leadership Role
At some point during the process, it may become clear that a client is having difficulty making decisions. You can usually tell very early.
In meetings, people tend to avoid productive debate. Instead, they will take the conversation in different directions without clear answers.
In these situations, you may be the only one who can put out the fire. So, you will have to speak up and assert yourself as someone who knows what they are doing.
This is not the easiest thing to do – especially if it doesn’t suit your personality. But you don’t have to be mean or strong – honest. Here’s how it works:
1. Explain the Design and Development Processes
Team members often crave strong leadership and struggle when it is lacking. You can be the person to rally around.
He begins by mentioning how, to be successful, the project needs a clear plan of attack. Explain your process for doing things and what you need from everyone to do it.
At the very least, this provides a bit of a reset for everyone in the room. Understanding what constitutes a successful outcome will (hopefully) create a higher level of collaboration.
2. Welcome Client Ideas
Too many thoughts can drive you crazy. But a client still has the right to express their thoughts. Therefore, the goal is to organize them better.
This can be achieved by cataloging ideas in a shared document. Here, everyone can add their voice, but in a less chaotic way. Be sure to use a basic template and try to get everyone to follow the same format.
From there, you can go over the pros and cons of each recommendation. It may take a while to get through. But hopefully people will start on a clearer path forward. As a result, that list should become much smaller.
3. See Through it
If you’re looking for a more productive environment to get things done – great! But don’t rest on your laurels. There may still be roadblocks on the way to launching the website.
Look for opportunities to restate your message. No need to be aggressive. It’s more about sending gentle reminders for items that still need to be done. And it’s not a bad idea to celebrate milestones as you pass them.
These small forms of encouragement can add up and keep the momentum moving in the right direction.
Learn how to adapt
No two clients will work the same way. This can be difficult to deal with as we are usually very habitual. But your client is unlikely to change the way they do things for you.
Therefore, it is up to us to adapt to them. Sometimes, the design and construction processes will go smoothly. Other situations may require a firmer grip on the regime. The key is to diagnose the dynamic in the room (physical or virtual) and adjust your strategy to match.
They say it takes “all kinds” to make the world. Web designers get to experience this firsthand. Ultimately, it enables us to navigate even the most difficult projects.