Good Web Design Investment

How to convince clients that good web design is worth the investment

5 min read
Justin Hein

When it comes to what defines good web design, web designers and clients don’t often see eye-to-eye.

Clients frequently want bigger logos, more text, crazier colours, and other elements that web designers generally consider to be a nightmare. Designers typically envision clean lines, less text and a curated colour palette. Why? Because designers know that these qualities are the elements of good design, and good design is effective.

Here’s how to educate your clients and convince them that good web design is worth the investment.

1. Understand that there is an education gap

Want to know what upsets baseball managers? When a player fails to successfully lay down a good bunt.

A bunt looks silly to baseball fans, is a guaranteed “out,” and normally results in a teammate only advancing about 90 feet. But a baseball manager knows that a good bunt can be the difference between winning and losing. The same principles can be applied to good web design.

The difference between good design and not-so-good design is the same to a web designer as a successful bunt is to a baseball manager. Designers, through their experience and trained eye, know the power of what often appears to clients as ineffective or subtle choices.

The challenge is getting the client to understand and appreciate the difference — and pay for it.

What is great design anyway? For the purpose of this article, might I suggest this statement as our compass:

Great design conveys the intended goal(s) with as little distraction as possible.

Being succinct — in design and in messaging — is not an easy feat. This is what clients need to understand and in some cases, pay more for.

"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." ~ Mark Twain
"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." ~ Mark Twain

2. Manage expectations

It’s not about what you’re able to put into any given design. It’s about what you should and shouldn’t include. The human brain is great at focusing on what’s important; if there’s too much happening visually, we ignore it altogether.

Anyone can slap together words, graphics, and star-wipes on a website or landing page. But clients enlist the services of web designers because designers know that star-wipes may not be effective elements to communicate the message.

So, start by telling prospective clients why you’re good at what you do. Try the following lines:

“I’m great at what I do. Not based on what I put on the page, but what I leave off of it.”

“My clients are extremely happy because they trust me to take their amazing idea and convey the message perfectly to their customers.”

“You want to say X, but most of the time you need to remove a bunch of things from X to allow the message to be properly communicated.”

Then, show examples of first drafts that feature all sorts of bad design ideas (driven by client demands). Compare that with a great final product. Ask the potential customer what they think the goal of the design was in the first draft, and then in the final version.

3. Create a framework

Web designers should take the time to build a project framework before starting work — even for last-minute projects. It’s important to share it with your client and review it together. This will help you educate your client about how certain elements impact others and how some sacrifices (such as going with a smaller logo than the client originally visioned) can help them better meet their goal.

Getting a little pain or awkwardness out of the way at the beginning contributes to a happy relationship in the end.

Having the same goals from the start will ensure minimal revisions, an on-budget product and mutual satisfaction.

On that note, let’s talk about those situations when you receive a last-minute project request, or one that is substantially larger than most. Even in these rush or monumental situations, be sure to take the time to clearly set expectations with the project framework or structure. It seems that contractors often get burned in these situations otherwise. Don’t be one of them.

4. Ask questions

Convincing a client of the return-on-investment of good web design is challenging. It’s also crucial.

Here’s an example line of questioning you could use to convince your client:

  1. What are the five messages that this website/page/flyer/etc., needs to convey?
  2. Of those five messages, what are the top three?
  3. Now, rank the top three in order of importance.
  4. If this piece only featured number one on that list, would that convey the entire meaning?
  5. In a perfect world, after your target reads or views this one message, what is the desired outcome you’d like for them? Click a link? Call a friend? Jump up and down?

This exercise can be repeated over and over, until the clear meaning is eventually discovered. Clients often want you to help them discover their real purpose.That’s partly why they hired you!

Good web design & ROI: Closing argument

The strategy I’ve used frequently and successfully is this:

  1. Establish credibility around what makes you a great designer.
  2. Educate your customer on the differences between bad designs and great ones. Use previous case studies and get them to an “a-ha” moment.
  3. Set expectations for project and design outcomes before beginning the project.
  4. On delivery, clearly re-state the expectations and how it delivers on the agreed upon targets.
  5. Invoice early and often!

This framework is just one of many ways to communicate that good web design has a valuable return-on-investment. Do you have your own strategy? Any tips or suggestions for convincing clients of why good design is important? Comment below.