by anthony on 03/09/11 at 4:36 pm
You have finally finished your wireframes. You present them to your client and your client loves them. Your job’s done, right? Not quite. Chances are the client will come back to you and present you with some ideas of their own. Some of these ideas could make sense, but some could completely change your design for the worse.
Not everything your client suggests will be harmful to your design. But what should you do if your client suggests something that you absolutely know will hurt users?
This is where most designers try to explain to their client why their design has tremendous value. While this approach sometimes will work, most of the time it won’t. This is because most clients can’t see the value of your wireframes if they don’t have a point of reference. They cannot see the good without seeing the bad. Once they have a point of reference, the difference between good and bad is much clearer.
When you want to show the client the value of your wireframes, it’s important to place it side by side with an example that doesn’t offer the same value your wireframes do. This could be an old or bad design that isn’t as effective as yours. When the client can compare the good parts of your wireframe to the bad parts of the old design, it makes it easier for them to see which one is better. If the client were to only judge your wireframes alone, the value of your wireframes wouldn’t show as much, leaving parts of your design debatable. It’s difficult to show clients what’s good without showing them what’s bad.
Besides comparing differences, you can also compare the similarities of your wireframes with a design your client admires. Your wireframes might introduce a particular feature, navigation or layout that your client is unsure of. Showing your client that a similar website uses the same approach could make them more comfortable with your wireframes. Sometimes clients need to see a similar design they’re familiar with to know that it’s usable and effective. Clients will more likely to associate the good qualities of a design they admire with your wireframes when you point out the similarities between the two.
Research and Marketing
Research has shown that people cannot correctly judge the value of something when it’s placed in isolation (source). When you add other options to the mix, people are better able to compare them to judge value more accurately. This is why designers always hear from their clients that they would like to see more options. Clients want more options so that they can better judge the value of each design. You can tell a client how good your design is, but without a point of reference, the client is going to have trouble seeing the value.
This is the same reason expert marketers, like Steve Jobs, always talk about competitors in presentations. It lets people compare their product with other products that don’t offer as much value. They’ll also talk about the success of their past products to build up the expectations for a new product. For example, in the recent presentation Steve Jobs gave, he talked about how successful the iPad was and showed an emotional video about how the iPad has changed people’s lives before he unveiled iPad 2. This allows people to associate the success of the past product to the success of the new product based on the similarities.
Giving your clients something they can compare your wireframes to can help them clearly see the value of your design. The chances of getting the client to approve your wireframes are higher when you use this approach. When you don’t, you force them to judge your wireframes without a point of reference. This can lead clients to overlook what’s good and undervalue your design. What’s worse is that they can totally ignore what you say and decide to go in a direction that hurts their users. That doesn’t help them, and it doesn’t help you. Show clients the value of your wireframes by comparing the differences or similarities with another design.