We all got into design because we love what we do. We love the creative part of designing. We love that feeling when we start a completely new project. We love tweaking our designs and making them perfect. We love to share what we’ve done with the rest of the world.
However, that does not mean our job is easy. It’s full of challenges and sometimes even the smallest problem can turn the ideal project into a nightmare.
The more experience you have, the better you can deal with problems. It’ll definitely take some time and painful lessons before you learn how to deal with the toughest ones.
In this article, I want to share with you the three most common problems I discovered on my way as a designer and how I solved them.
Problem #1: working with a bad front-end developer.
Imagine you spent weeks designing a new website project for your client. You carefully designed every single detail. You set a beautiful typography, wisely chose spacing and made sure all the colors were perfectly consistent. You’re very proud of it and your client is happy with the results.
You send your PSD files (or Sketch files or any other design software of your choice) to the web developer and you eagerly await seeing a fully working website.
Then the nightmare begins …
If your client hired a bad front-end developer, your design is screwed. You look at the website in the browser and it’s all wrong. The spacing is wrong, the font sizes are messed up, the colors are not exactly what you chose and nothing is lined up like in your mockup.
Solution: learn how to code your designs or provide a complete web style guide to the developer.
There are actually at least two good solutions to this problem …
The first option is to learn how to code. Seriously. If you’re designing for the web, then knowing at least HTML and CSS is a must. Don’t be scared, because it’s not even real programming.
Learning the code will help you to become a better designer as well. You’ll discover how websites really work and which design solutions are more efficient. Lastly, you’ll be sure that the final result is exactly how you wanted it to be.
There are situations when you can’t code the project, because the client already has a team of developers or you were simply hired to do just the design.
Well, that’s when the second option comes in: provide a solid web style guide to your design.
Your web style guide will instruct developers how to code your design. It’ll be much easier to identify all the basic elements of your design and translate them into CSS. It’s simply much more convenient to look into your style guide instead of trying to deconstruct your mockup files.
If it’s a small website project, you don’t have to create the entire design system. Make it simple and focus on the most important elements like typography, colors and useful user interface pieces (forms, buttons, content boxes, etc).
I usually provide two or more additional PSD files to my mockups. One of the files describes the typography I designed: h1, h2, h3, …, paragraphs, quotes, lists. Another file has the entire color scheme including the primary color, secondary color, accent color and background color. I can also add a UI file that includes buttons, input fields, popups, icons and more.
Problem #2: never-ending design revisions.
Try to picture this situation …
You’re very excited about the new design project you’ve been working on for a while. You send your first design mockups to your client and wait for the feedback. Then, the first response comes in and you nervously open the email to read your client’s comments.
Yes! The client loves the typography, layout and how you solved some usability problems with the navigation BUT … there is always a “but”:
- “Can you make this orange color darker?”
- “I don’t really like this sans-serif font in the heading.“
- … and the classic one: “Can you make my logo bigger?”
These questions usually lead to revisions to your design. The more changes you make to your initial concept, the more your client may want to change it. Finally, the client may even stop trusting you and doubt that you even know what you’re doing.
Solution: try to better explain all the design decisions before you show your design to your client.
First of all, don’t blame your client for having too many changes, questions or revisions. You’re the designer and it’s a part of your job to deal with it.
Clients usually question your design decisions when they don’t understand them. If you just send your design mockups and ask your clients what they think, you’re on the way to turning the project into a nightmare.
Try to always back up every design mockup with an explanation as to why you made certain decisions. It’s very important that your client reads it all before looking at your design. You can make a phone call, talk about it for a while and then present the project.
It’ll completely change the way your clients look at your work. They will less likely question something that makes sense to them. It’s worth spending that extra 30 minutes, because it may save you hours on revisions and unnecessary changes.
If you show your client that your design decisions can benefit their business, improve the conversion rate and sales, you’ll win this project!
Problem #3: designing without the content or enough information about the project.
This one is probably the most common problem among designers. Because design is usually the first step in the process of creating a website, clients may have no idea what they want and have no content for the website… even though you’ve been hired to design the website and promised that you’ll get the content soon.
Then, a couple of weeks pass and you still can’t start the project. Suddenly, you realize that you have three or even four projects like that. They’re all in a state of waiting for the client to provide you with the content or information about the project.
When you finally get it, it may surprise you and completely change the scope of work that you estimated for.
Solution: add research and discovery to your process to help your clients find out what content exactly is needed and to get more details about the projects.
Very often your clients won’t be able to provide you with the content or information because they simply don’t know what they want.
Your job is to help your client figure it out. Of course, you’re not doing it for free and that’s a great opportunity to make even more money on the project. Add research and discovery as a part of your service.
You can offer your client help with planning the entire website project before starting the actual visual design work (research and discovery is design too!). You can charge for it separately, so your client won’t be worried about risking too much money. They can test you and still get a lot of value even if they decide to not continue working with you.
Your discovery process can include elements like research, exploring the problems, setting goals and challenges, describing the target audience, reviewing competition and helping with the content strategy. You can even add some wireframes, sketches and sitemaps to help your client visualize it all.
Thanks to a solid project discovery everyone wins:
- Your clients know exactly what content they need for their new website.
- You’ll be able to estimate more accurately for the actual design project.
- You can wait with booking the design project until your clients send you their content. If they never do that, at least you made some money on the discovery part.
- Your clients will most likely want to hire you because they’ve already experienced working with you (it’s your moment to sell a bigger project and let them know how awesome you are).
- If your clients have already paid for the research and discovery, they will be more motivated to finish their website content and start the project faster.
You can’t just sit and wait for the client to send you the content. Get into the process as early as possible, so you can have an influence on some very important fundamental decisions that will affect the entire design project.
Your job starts way before you open Photoshop.
What are your biggest challenges? Were these problems familiar to you? Do you have your own solutions? Please share them in the comments below.