by anthony on 08/12/10 at 11:14 am
Project managers serve as the liaison between the designer and the client, but sometimes instead of serving as the liaison they can be a barrier between the designer and the client. When the designer is fed second-hand information through the project manager, this can result in misinterpretation and miscommunication.
When project managers communicate the tasks of a project to the designer, that is simply insufficient. In order for a designer to do a good job, the designer needs to be able to check what sort of things are important to the client and in what degree. The client may say they want something in particular, but the reason they want it is absolutely crucial.
For example, the client may go to the project manager and say that they want a photo gallery. The project manager might then tell the designer to design a photo gallery because that is what the client asked for. The designer then designs the photo gallery and ultimately the client tells them that this is not what they wanted. Never did anyone ask the client why they wanted a photo gallery. It could be that they want to be able to show the people who are involved in their company, or display the different activities they do in their events, or maybe they just want a lot of pictures on their site to make it look friendly and inviting. Whatever it is, the designer doesn’t get to question the client about what it is they’re truly looking for because the project manager is the one who speaks to the client.
Just like with users, what clients say they want is entirely different from what they truly want. To find out what they truly want, you have to ask them WHY they want what they’re asking for. When you ask them why, you get to the ROOT of the problem, and as a result, you’ll be able to offer a better solution for them. Asking questions is important. It’s the only way to know exactly what the client is thinking and feeling. When project management gets in the way of designers asking the client questions directly it becomes a problem. Even if the project manager asks the question for the designer the designer is only getting a second-hand answer and loses the opportunity to delve into the ROOT of the client’s problem and understand how they think and feel. When you understand who you’re designing for, what you’re designing and why you are designing it you can do a better job.
To truly meet the needs of your client, you must know them as well as you know yourself. Project managers stand in the way of this and prevent designers from client contact. Instead, they are given tasks to do as if they are merely a machine, never knowing why they are doing what they do, or if what they are assigned is truly what the client wants. Getting the tasks second-hand works if what you’re doing is manual labor because you really don’t need any further information other than what your tasks is. If the task is to mow the lawn, then you mow the lawn. In these situations, nine times out of ten the result will meet the client’s expectations. But design is different because it is something that involves creative thinking, analysis and problem-solving. It can be so abstract that designers must get first-hand information from the client to design something that will meet the client’s needs.
User experience designers talk with users when they are doing research, so why shouldn’t they talk with clients too? Understanding the client is part of the designers job, as is understanding the user. It’s the only way they will be able to design a solution that completely meet’s the clients needs. Getting second-hand information from a project manager isn’t good enough. The more details the designer gets from the client FIRST-HAND, the better the designer will be able to do his or her job. Project managers remove that essential intimacy needed between the designer and client. However, to be fair, there are times when the designer is included to present their designs to the client, but why should the designer only be present AFTER the designs have been completed? The most crucial moment the designer should be present is at the beginning where the client relays what they’re looking for.
Project managers and designers interpret information differently. Since the designer is the one who is ultimately responsible for the output delivered to the client, he or she should be especially included in client meetings from the beginning. Project management may be valuable in industries like construction, where the tasks are to simply do X and Y, but design is much more abstract, and therefore, requires inquiry and investigation.