Client Wars: Forget What You Like

Jumping into this series in the middle? Check out The Client Is Not The EnemyShut Up and ListenStop Taking it Personally, and Half Your Job is Educating. Or view the series index here!

Forget What You Like

Clients make decisions emotionally and subjectively. Just like you. No one (client or designer or anyone) makes objective, rational decisions for anything! We are all slaves to our prejudices. And yet often in Design, the best decision is one that the client might not prefer. Heck, the best decision may be one that you may not prefer!

It can be extremely helpful to ask for feedback in terms of what’s “effective” rather than what the client “likes.” I learned this while studying ethnomusicology in college. (Ethnomusicology is, simply, the study of music & culture.) Often we’d listen to music from, say, west Asia that honestly sounded like crap to my ears. Groaning and buzzing instruments playing the same note for 5 minutes with no discernable beat to even tap my fingers to.

The reality is, however, that people in that region of the world love that music and connect with that music and find joy in that music. Can I with any integrity say that they are wrong because my tastes aren’t for it? With a little education on why their music sounds the way it does, I can learn to appreciate it for what it is.

Talking about a design’s “effectiveness” is a natural way to shift a client’s thinking towards what is best for their business. Talking about a design’s “effectiveness” is a natural way to shift a client’s thinking away from what they prefer towards what is best for their business. When I’m discussing my decisions, I don’t talk about why I like them, I explain how they’re effective for achieving the client’s business goals.

Occasionally you will need to remind your client of this explicitly. Just like you would with a friend, be sensitive to the way in which you say this. Our clients need to remember that their preferences are not universal. Help them to see that they are actually getting what they want (success!) when they set aside their personal tastes to create an effective product.

Coming Up Tomorrow

Coming up tomorrow, learn to win the war by admitting defeat. Make sure you don’t miss out by subscribing to my RSS feed, or get updates directly in your inbox!

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