The other day, someone asked how we present our web designs to clients. Good question. 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 and wins their buy-in?

We like to think we’ve cracked it. Here’s how.

Battling the nerves

Presentations can be nerve-racking. It’s a bit like being on stage. You might be able to play virtuoso rock guitar to perfection in the privacy of your bedroom like someone possessed, but you go to pieces when faced with an actual audience. You may be perfectly capable of practising an eloquent wedding speech in front of your family, but the minute the guests turn up on the big day you go to pieces. The same goes for web designers. The design bit is a piece of creative cake. 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’ thing, 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. If you’re rubbish at client presentations, this might help.

10 ways to do a brilliant job of website design presentation

  1. Remember your clients are human beings like you, not all-powerful entities. As designers it isn’t our job to be yes-men (or women, of course!). We use our design expertise to translate the client’s business goals into reality, and we’re the experts.
  2. 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 loud and proud, and know you’re brilliant. It will show. And it’ll help you avoid doing embarrassing things like tripping over cables and dunking your client in spilt coffee. But there’s more. 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.
  3. 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 about 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 sheaves of notes or buried up to your ears in cheat cards.
  7. There’s a trick to accepting criticism with grace, calmly and positively, even if that criticism isn’t particularly constructive. Never, ever get defensive, even if you can feel your blood starting to boil. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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. They just want to see it.
  10. If someone asks you why you put the cute little puppy dog 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.

If you’re reading this as a fellow web designer, good luck at your next client presentation. If you’re a business or individual looking for web design excellence, with us you can expect a wholly professional website design presentation that ticks all your boxes and achieves exactly the right outcomes as well as being entertaining and thought provoking. Just get in touch for an informal discussion.