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To what extent should a client be involved in User Interaface and User Experience Design?

For instance, in a web design job, at what extent the client should be involved in the structure of the layout of the website (Menu, content, footer, sidebar, etc...)?

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9 Answers 9

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Client accepts your work, so it’s a UX designer responsibility to listen to client’s corrections, understand his problems and to propose and explain/protect solution to him.

Every time client makes a correction/proposition, no matter how stupid it sounds, you should listen to him, understand his problem and solve it. If you were asking about if can you use your authority, then answer is no. Every word of client matters, and you should do something about it (it may be either a little explanation/UI teaching or massive redoing of your work, depending on problem’s source).

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+1 for listening to the client and explaining. But one should not blindly follow clients requests. If the client requests a car without brakes, then you should not rip out brakes from the car. –  Heiko Rupp Mar 3 '11 at 13:52
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@Heiko Rupp - I don't agree with the car analogy, because there are other regulatory and legal concerns, but if the are was for a demolition derby, why not yank out the brakes? –  JeffO Mar 3 '11 at 23:09
    
Ripping out the breaks doesn't explain what problem the client is trying to resolve. Definitely listen to the client, but rarely do you outright do what they request. Instead, you figure out what their specific request leads to in terms of the problem they are trying to solve. What you know the problem, then you can provide the right solution. –  DA01 Feb 27 '13 at 4:51
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When you say client do you also mean end user?

The client should be involved to the extent that they feel included, their opinions are being listened to, and that you are developing something worthwhile for them (so that you get paid). This of course needs to be balanced against your professional duty to deliver a suitable interface.

Important points to always remember:

  • Most users will tell you about their experience of using an existing tool that they use to perform a task. Usually they will not appreciate the distinction between the tool and the task. In designing interaction you are designing how to perform a task, and this is not necessarily the same as sprucing up the existing tool. You may have to educate your clients/users of this.

  • End users and subject matter experts are experts in what they do. They need to be involved so that you understand what their goals are, what they need to achieve them, what currently works for them, and what are the current shortfalls. They are NOT however experts in design, or interaction. That's you. And you may need to educate your clients/users so that they appreciate this distinction.

  • Get feedback early and iteratively. Use low fidelity prototypes. This will save you effort, increase 'buy in', and help to get important feedback relating to the users performing their task (e.g. "ut oh, I really need to know how many days in advance this is and it doesn't tell me that anywhere") rather than surface detail ("ooh I don't like that shade of blue").

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I guess it depends.

If you are doing the app only for the client, then they should have a strong influence - not total control. There are still established best practices that should not be ignored just because the client does not know about them. But in general they are paying you and when they find that the app UI does not meet their needs, they will not be happy.

If the app will be sold to multiple clients, the situation is different, as here the general UXD will apply to all clients. Clients should still have the possibility to customize parts f the app via different CSS or company logos

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From a montary standpoint, you should do most of the client's orders. If you disagree with one of the client's points, provide findings from top usability experts, such as Jacob Nielson, to back up your claim. Showing numbers from the findings also helps. If the client still refuses to listen after you bring this up, just do whatever he says. Any further discussion will lead to fights and possibly a cancellation of your contract.

From a user standpoint, you should put tape over your client's mouth. Most clients have no idea about usability. If they knew, they would design it themselves. If you don't like carrying out bad orders from bad clients, then consider quitting the freelancing business and start creating your own websites.

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...and hope the client doesn't take a look at Nielsons website, because I don't think they'll accept his authority after that. –  Inca Mar 6 '11 at 10:24
    
@Inca ... then you can tell the client that Nielson is a UI designer, not a graphic designer. –  JoJo Apr 6 '11 at 20:07
    
it just fails to work. Someone who is apparantly an expert who has one of the ugliest and also unclearest sites I know, that just won't work. Like a publisher with ads full of spelling errors or a builder where the house falls apart... it does nothing good to recommend him as an outside source when he doesn't come of as credible. (And if the client doesn't take my word for a recommended UI principle, the client probably won't take my word for him as a useful source. If I need to use outside experts to back up my claims, I need experts that appeal to the client.) –  Inca Apr 7 '11 at 11:28
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You are designing something for the client, not for yourself. They should be involved every step of the way. Not sure why you would even consider anything different.

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To clarify, you are designing something for the client's clients. Sometimes the client knows exactly what those people need. Sometimes it's the UX Designer's responsibility to figure out what those people need via the client. Either way, the client needs to be involved. –  DA01 Mar 3 '11 at 20:20
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It's a love and hate relationship or give and take :-)

As designers we need to satisfy our clients demands/requests so at the end of the unhappy client = bad rep or no pay day :-(

I like to meet with my clients hear them out, let them show me sites they like and sites they want their product to resemble or have similar features. From there I put on my headphones and go to work in a few hours or days I come up with a 1st draft solution. (Note: hopefully your client can understand wireframes and does not request high fidelity mockups. ;-) )

We meet I present we discuss and make modification hopeful not to many. Like this I can move on to high fidelity or final designs and then prototyping/coding out the site.

Now if you have client who believes they understand design, interaction and technology along with human behavior patterns better then you and will not except your professional opinion, recommendation or design. Your left with nothing else but having to pull out the big guns. What I mean hear is start referencing books, ux standards and procedures etc. follow up with competitor info on who failed and who succeeded with your recommendations. If that fails, hang it up!

Very important to know when to retreat and when to stand up for a battle.

hope that helps.

igotux

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The client is always right. You can advise them as best you can and present your case otherwise, but god-dammit if they want spinning neon pink text, they'll have spinning neon pink text.

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In my case, they wanted a shiny gold hip hop dollar necklace in the neck of a character that looks like a pokemon to promote a dating site. –  janoChen Mar 5 '11 at 3:56
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The client is the one who understands the needs and audience for the product the best. There are often opportunities to help them discover new things about that audience, but in general they do understand them the best. Given that, I like to involve them a fair bit but I'm careful to translate what I'm doing (the design) into terms that allow them to speak about what the audience and their business needs. Instead of trying to get them to speak my language of IA and wireframes, I make the conversation happen in their language as much as I can.

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Depends on if the client is also the end-user. If they are then the answer is obvious. If they are not, then it depends on the extent that they understand the user requirements. Regardless, they should be informed about the process and the decisions that you have made, so that they understand and can provide input where appropriate, and that an effective communication takes place during the project.

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