Listen, then respond

A new client came to visit me last week about designing a new website. We’d discussed content and were starting to talk about the look and feel of the finished site.

I was just launching into a spiel about responsive design and how it will save the world or some such nonsense, when he stopped me in my tracks. “I don’t want it to be responsive. I hate those sites that shrink down and hide everything away.”

I started to reply to this with something along the lines of, “oh, but you need to adapt your design for different devices,” or more probably, “splutter, splutter, but, but … but, everyone’s doing it at the moment!”

Before I opened my mouth, however, the realisation dawned on me that this website wasn’t my own personal project. It was the client’s website. I needed to listen to my client and respond to their requirements with a website that reflected them, their business and appealed to their target market.

In this case, the sense of the site, its visual impact on the eye, was more important to the client than any functionality and adaptability. Responsive web design was irrelevant to their immediate needs. So why was I trying to sell responsive design to someone who doesn’t need it?

I think, at the heart of it, it’s a good thing that we constantly learn, discover and come up with new ideas. That’s the magic that people pay us to come up with. Designers love new things, whether that’s a new technique, a new language or a new working process.

The web design community, especially, continues to innovate, learn and share knowledge in an open way that other industries can’t even begin to imagine. But I think that there’s a danger of becoming obsessed with pleasing ourselves and, especially, our peers at a detriment to the benefit of our clients. cough Dribbble cough.

So the next time you start a design project, stop before you try to shoehorn that new cool new thing into your latest design and ask yourself, “Does this design really need this cool new thing? Is it what the client wants? Does it serve their business needs?”.

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