A common question we come across is how we started presenting web designs to clients. But there’s a more important question to ask: how do we show website designs really well, in a way that makes the concept and the ideas behind it crystal clear to the client.
Battling the nerves
Presentations can be nerve-racking. It’s a bit like being on stage. You might be able to present perfectly in the privacy of your home or office but go to pieces when faced with an actual audience. You may be perfectly capable of practising an eloquent speech in front of your family or colleagues, but the minute clients turn up you go to pieces. The same goes for web designers. The design bit is the ‘easier’ part. But the presentation bit can feel terrifying.
It’s no surprise really when presentation skills are rarely something people have at their fingertips. Unless you’re very lucky it’s something you have to learn. So rather than risk that awful ‘rabbit in the headlights’ moment, we’ve taken the time to find out how to present our designs eloquently and more efficiently without heading into nervous breakdown territory.
As a result, our clients are acutely aware of the thought process and rationale behind our website designs. Which means everybody’s happy… which in turn means the actual website build can go ahead smoothly.
Remember your clients are human beings like you
As designers, it isn’t our job to be yes-people. We use our design expertise to translate the client’s business goals into reality, and we’re the experts.
Confidence is key
If there’s one thing guaranteed to lose confidence, it’s starting off the presentation by apologising for the designs… and it’s surprising how many designers do it. Be confident, and know you’re brilliant. It will show. And it’ll help you avoid doing embarrassing things. While it sounds simplistic, standing up to present ideas does help boost your confidence. By standing up physically, you’re standing up for the things you’ve created using your invaluable expertise.
Start off with a strong, firm statement about why you’re all there and what you expect from the attendees. It acts like a formal agenda, setting the scene ready for your presentation. If it helps, think of your favourite film. Most films do some crucial scene-setting in the beginning, some solid context to help you grasp the plot from the start. It also helps to tell the client up front what kind of feedback you expect. Otherwise, they won’t know. Then, once you’ve clarified what you want from them, you can move your audience towards that goal. Don’t forget to ask for feedback they can give, based on their expertise, not yours. You want to know stuff like whether your design fulfils their users’ needs, business goals and brand. Not whether they like the red bit at the bottom, which is a design thing.
It’s a marketing thing
Yes, the strapline sits under the logo. Your clients can see that, and they’re busy people who probably don’t appreciate their time being wasted. Forget the obvious, what the design looks like, instead revealing the thinking behind it. It’s a marketing thing: you don’t sell a products or service on the features, you sell using the benefits.
If at all possible, get someone else to take minutes
You won’t be able to, you’re too busy making a brilliant presentation. As an aside, write up the minutes afterwards and email them to the client, confirming your understanding of what happened so everyone’s on the same page.
Forget presentation notes
Learn the facts beforehand so you can concentrate on being entertaining. This is, after all, your show, and you want to make it a memorable one. Aim for a narrative that inspires instead of droning away with your face hidden in pages of notes.
There’s a trick to accepting criticism with grace, calmly and positively, even if that criticism isn’t particularly constructive. Never, ever get defensive. Listen to what the client is saying, accepting their feedback and calmly dealing with it. If you get stuck, say you’ll think about it and reply properly later, since the concerns they have are so interesting, worth careful thought.
What the client cares about
Forget fonts, colours and layouts. Instead talk about the things the client really cares about: how the design as a whole reflects their goals, aims and ambitions. Avoid design jargon, too. They’re not designers and it using language people aren’t familiar with alienates them right at the time you want them on-side.
They just want to see the design
It doesn’t matter what design processes you went through to get there. What is important is what you end up with. The client isn’t interested in how long it took, how much you struggled, how hard you worked or how much of your precious creative essence went into the final design.
If someone asks you why you put the obscure image in the banner at the top, tell them straight. Resist the temptation to fall over yourself explaining how quickly it can be changed. Just because they’ve asked a question, it doesn’t mean they’re making a criticism. And never ask your client if they like the design. “Do you like it” immediately turns you into a supplicant, someone who craves approval. Like them, you’re an expert. The approval comes with the territory, and they didn’t ask you to design something they like. Your job is to design something that works.