Recently I decided to return back to working as a freelancer as I really wanted to have more control over what work I did and who I did it for. I also felt that as a freelancer I would be respected over my opinion and seen as an expert in my field - and not as someone there to just massage egos.
Far too many agencies, designers, so-called bosses of so-called web design agencies, all completely miss the point of what a website is all about and who it is for. The only person a website is really truly built for is the end user. The man or woman sitting at their desk using the site, not the designer and certainly not the client.
Browsing around many web agencies across the world, many of them have some kind of document that the prospective client will download and fill in. This document is usually used to gauge what the client wants, and other information to help the designer. Now to some extent this is fine and fairly useful - however there is always a single question where I believe it blows a project off course - “The What Site You Like” question.
Of course we are all inspired by what we see, what we use and so on. Clients come to me and say “I like the way such and such have their buttons - can we do that”. Well my usual response is that I will design the site that matches the expectations of your users as ultimately they are the ones who will judge your site and not yourself.
If a client can’t afford to go through the process of finding out who their customer is and what their likes and dislikes are, then you really have to start questioning your desire to have a website.
Over the years and up to the very recent past I have witnessed clients and agencies completely ignore the end user, and usually against my better judgement - but I can only advise using my expert opinion. To quote what Nicholas Cage paraphrased from Thomas Jefferson in a guilty pleasure movie of mine National Treasure:
"If there’s something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action."
Now of course bruised ego’s may follow from the client, that is for sure. It’s their money, there baby, they know what’s best. Truth is, they don’t. They don’t know what’s the best way to design a website, because if they did, well they wouldn’t need a web designer to do it for them.
Recently I have took the bull by the horns and dismissed client ideas, told them why, added my own ideas based on what I believe the customer will want, and basically brought them around to my level of thinking. Which I truly believe in this industry of “Me Too, Me Too” mentality - it really is a triumph.
Superstar Ninja Warrior Rock Star (err, Web Designer)
The more times I read about “Rock Star” web designers, I cringe and I get embarrassed by such outlandish labels. You are a web designer, unless your up on stage coding live at Glastonbury, you are not a rock star - end of the matter. It’s just a way to inflate an ego which ultimately can become a blocking factor in design decisions.
There are far too many designers who post work on sites like Dribbble looking for positive feedback, or as I like to put it - “Fanboy Massages”. As Ian Brown once sang back in the late 80s - “I Wanna Be Adored”. We all want that at some point don’t we? The adulation? The fame? The recognition? The invite to speak at @Media? Personally I prefer to measure my own success differently. If I go to bed with a smile on my face because a design I have created has been well received by both client and customer, well then for me that is all the reward I need. I then move on knowing I have left a little part of me on the web.
It doesn’t exist, it can’t exist because far too many factors get in the way, but I live in what I believe is as close to habitual perfection as what the original architects envisaged. I live in Port Sunlight, a village created by Lord Lever for his factory workers back in the late 1800s.
Lord Lever hired several architects to each design their own style of house, and if you walk around the village you can see the differences in styles - but all maintaing the same effect of wonderment and desire.
When the architects were done and the houses were built, Lord Lever and his Architects probably sat back and thought, a job well done. This is exactly what we want, but not for the architects, and certainly not for Lord Lever - they were for the people who live there. Lord Lever wanted his workforce to be treated, to be happy, to go home smiling and come back to work smiling. That level of satisfaction, joy and happiness still goes on over a century later.
So leave the ego’s at the door, they just get in the way of creating the perfect site for your customers, or your clients customers.