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A Blue Perspective: Putting the

Putting the "client" in "team"
12 May 2005

Have you ever had a client that you felt bad for charging, simply because it was so enjoyable working with them?

It's always fun to read quotes from the bad clients, and if you took those quotes on their face value you'd be forgiven for thinking that design would be much better off without the client's involvement. But I tend to think that you produce your best work when your client does make you think, when they push you out of your comfort zone, into somewhere you've never been before.

Instead of viewing a designer as a closed loop that takes input and outputs a design, I think that with experience you grow to see that a designer – or a design firm – is merely a teammate without a team. For every project that you work on, you join a new team whose goal it is to make the best end product that they possibly can. And I'm not including a client as part of the team just to make a nice metaphor. Beyond the initial brief, it is the cyclical nature of suggestion and refinement – team input – that goes into making a project a success.

A recent study showed that new collaborations produce the best results, and it is the balanced collaboration between designer and client that enables one project to be more successful, more innovative than another. Your client has knowledge that you don't have, and you have knowledge that your client doesn't have. Every project is an opportunity to merge your ideas, create something unique and step outside the rut into which many of us fall.

We've all worked on teams who have a dud teammate, and clients are no different. You're going to work with clients who have no sense of team, who don't recongise what you have to offer. How you deal with that situation is your prerogative, but don't let it disillusion you into thinking that clients can't help you make better designs.


1/5. 13 May 2005 @ 04:06, graste wrote:

Amen. :)

2/5. 13 May 2005 @ 20:30, Lea - What is my IP wrote:

Have you looked into Extreme Programming? XP is all about making the client part of team, down to requiring them to spend at least some time with a desk in the team.
Good stuff :)

3/5. 13 May 2005 @ 23:06, Michael Koukoullis wrote:

I agree, utimately developer's must operate in a context to which their work will be evaluated against, this isn't abstract mathematics.  Given that the context is almost always the clients' organisational or business  requirements, it is best understood by involving them, at what level or how deep in the team.. I don't know, but some is better than none.

Having worked on sites both for my employer and external clients the most important thing you must take with you into meetings or prototyping workshops is the willingness to  listen, if clients, employers and web developers listened to each other a little bit more then the development outcome would be more digestable by all involved.

There is however a negative to involving a client too much.  Sometimes they think they actually are a web developer .. on the flip side some developers actually start to think they are the client.  Sticking to your role is important.

4/5. 7 June 2005 @ 02:17, Jon wrote:

You should never feel bad when charging people money for your work. It is easier to get the client happy if you can involve them a lot. Ask a lot what they want and then give them what they want.

5/5. 8 August 2005 @ 20:12, Athyrius wrote:

Especially when your clients are developers themselves... gets sticky.

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