Stop providing multiple design options

Design Options

When I first started out in this whole freelance web design world,­­ one of the first things I needed to figure out was how to pitch and manage projects with clients. Of course this is a logical early move because if you can’t sell someone on your services then you aren’t going to need to worry about anything else. I never sat down and really thought up a formal method for delivering my sales pitch to potential clients, instead I picked it up through trial and error. One thing I quickly gathered was this notion that you always tell the client they are going to get to see 2 or 3 entirely different design options at an early stage in the project. However, as I progress as a freelance designer I am starting to learn that this is actually a bad habit worth ditching.

After some trials I have switched over entirely to a one and done design mock up system. At first I was skeptical of how this might work and worried that my clients would run off on me after hearing they were only going to get to see a single design option. Admittedly I did get some raised eyebrows and some questions as to why I wasn’t offering multiple designs like other designers. What I learned is that if I explain to my clients exactly why they get one design from me and three from the other guy they are entirely comfortable with it, if not more willing to accept my bid.

So the secret to working this way is selling your potential clients on the idea the right way. In order to really sell the client we need to understand the process and be sold on it ourselves!

Why do we provide revisions?

Almost all designers, at some point in their career, will provide several design revisions on a single project but why do we do this?

For the most part, it boils down to peace of mind for the client. When we are shopping for something we want to have our options open right? Is it always best to have multiple options to choose from?

When I provide multiple design options for a client I almost always know which option they are going to pick before I turn any of them in. So why would I waste my time showing the client work that I know they aren’t going to like as much? Instead why don’t I take the time and effort I could be putting into a new design and spend it improving the design I already have? Instead of dividing up my bright ideas I put them all into one brilliant, blindingly genius design idea!

The Pitch

So what do we tell our clients then? We should start by calming their fears or worries. The first thing they are going to think when you tell them that they are going to get a single design option is that they shouldn’t be paying as much for one look as they would for two or three. So first we need to explain to the client that instead of dividing your time and inspiration between three places you are going to focus the same amount of time and inspiration into one design that is more thought out and closer to the final product.

The next thought your client is going to have is what if they don’t like the one idea that you provide? From a designer perspective this is a pretty good question as well and one of the main reasons why I hesitated to move to this system. The truth has turned out to be that the single design always goes over pretty well.

Really when it comes time to present the design idea to the client no one should really be very surprised by what they see. What they are going to see is a familiar color scheme, a familiar site structure, and a familiar brand style. These are all things that are decided on before a new design is conceived, much less presented. Make sure your client is aware that they won’t be going on any blind dates with their new web site design and as long as they have been paying attention to the process they won’t be surprised with the results.

Will this method work for everyone?

Honestly, this idea may not be great for every designer. The people who are going to struggle with this the most are the ones that don’t know what they are doing. This doesn’t really imply that you don’t know what you are doing when it comes to web design but maybe you are under educated on the project itself. If a client fails to communicate the goals of a project with you it’s going to get a lot harder to nail the project with a single design option. If you feel as though you aren’t communicating well with your client or you have been left a little bit in the dark then you might be best off providing multiple design revisions.

On the positive end of things, this method could do a lot to improve your reputation as a professional designer. No longer are you taking shots in the dark or approaching a web site design with a shotgun method. Instead you are the design sniper, you take the time to get the target in your sights and line up the perfect design.

Your turn

Have you tried this method or a similar one before? Share your stories of success or failure with providing design options.

3 Responses to “Stop providing multiple design options”

  1. Max

    My thoughts exactly on the subject. I usually provide a single design comp, sometimes iterate a bit and no more. The way I see it: I will only deliver something I’m absolutely proud of.

  2. Jessica Battram

    I understood all your points but made the opposite experiences. Many times I put much effort into one design, make it unique and am proud of it. Then I work on a second design (tradition in our web department) that I do rather quickly and it looks ok but is not as inventive and fresh as the first one. And almost every time the client chooses what I would have never expected. Very disappointing…

  3. Kagai Macharia

    I work for a web solutions company (@octopusict) in Kenya and this approach has worked for me with clients. The information and the expectations the client poses on the first meeting always, almost instantly, give me a design idea which I stick to. Later they come with there suggestion based on my idea which I am happy to implement. Cheers man


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