Why Educate Your Clients?

“You know more than you think you do.”
I reassure my students this all the time. As a new web designer you may feel overwhelmed because you think there is so much to know. Don’t worry. It’s natural to feel this way. The truth is you’ll never know everything. So start somewhere and just jump in.

I recommend my students start with a client they feel comfortable with. It might be a family member or a friend. Working with someone you trust makes it easier to relax and practice your communication skills. When working with clients you’ll discover they have many questions. Some questions will be related to the work and others might be unrelated to the current project. The client might ask you questions about domain names, email newsletters, Facebook, marketing, and social media in general.

Educating your client is a big part of your job. A client will have questions regarding things you know and things you don’t. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. You’re smart and can help find answers or direct the client to people who can (i.e. writers, SEO experts, etc.) You must wear many hats with freelance work so it’s good to have a broader understanding of all things web-related. Only focusing on visual design and coding is not enough.

Clients are less likely to ask the most important question: “How does this work? The client will tell you what they need, and what they want the website to look like, but unless they’ve worked on a web design project before, they won’t know how the entire process works— or even to ask. A client usually has no idea what to expect from the business relationship. So make it very clear. It’s up to you as the designer to educate the client about the process. Make sure the client understands the general phases of the project and how you work:

  • Research & Analysis (Brief, Budget and Schedule)
  • Information Architecture (Content, Site Maps and Wireframes)
  • Design
  • Building
  • Launch & Maintenance

Don’t skip this conversation with your client for any reason. Practice talking this through with your client so it’s concise and clear. Learn how to adapt and fine-tune your conversation based on different projects and clients.

The advantages of having this conversation and educating the client are huge. First of all, many clients are surprised that there is a process. Design of most things, especially a website, is a mystery to people. Explaining the research and analysis involved, the information needed, and the phases, helps the client understand the complexity of the project. When you create an estimate and a budget for the project, an “educated” client may ask fewer questions because you’ve taken the time to explain the process and steps involved. On the other hand, if they try to remove steps to “simplify” and shorten the time frame— be prepared. Practice what to say to clients so you’re never caught off-guard.

So in summary,

1. Being a good designer is about educating your client.

As a student designer, if you don’t learn to talk about your work than your work is silent. Don’t expect your client to understand your design, or the process involved in solving their problem. It’s your responsibility to lead the project and to direct the client through the process.

2. Educating your clients happens in many ways.

Opportunities to educate the client occur throughout the project. Don’t feel you need to do this for free. As a professional, people pay you for your expertise, so while it’s “goodwill building” to answer basic questions, your time should not be free.

3. Educating your client (and others) is good for web design overall.

The better you are at talking about web design and helping others understand the process, the better it is for all web designers and the discipline overall. And sharing information and making a client more knowledgeable and self-sufficient (i.e. updating their own site) is good for everyone.

Remember, you know more than you think you do, so be sure to educate your client often and become the ambassador for all things web.

Image: Nichole Warman

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