We can talk about the principles of great design until we’re out of breath, and they’re important. Clients pay for us to follow best practices, but they also expect us to create something beautiful. And you know the cliché about beauty…
So why not just ask your client what they like? Well, they don’t spend 8 hours a day scrutinizing websites. Most people don’t have the design vocabulary to explain what they want in a way that’s actionable. That’s where a taste profile comes in.
What’s a taste profile?
It’s basically asking what they like, but with examples. I round up a dozen or so links to websites from our portfolio or from online galleries. The idea is to showcase a variety of styles, all from designs you admire yourself. That way, there’s always overlap between your preferences and theirs.
This exercise is not foolproof, of course, but it usually gives you an idea what trends or styles a client feels strongly about. Bonus: negative feedback on examples is almost as useful as positive feedback.
How to make it unique
We always feel compelled to follow that last exercise with a disclaimer: we’re not trying to copy any other websites. So once you take into account best practices, required functionality, and design trends, where does the personality come in?
Brand should inform the custom part of custom design. Whether it’s a superficial flourish or a new type of functionality, you should always draw inspiration from the client’s brand personality.
Honestly, there’s no shortcut here. Ask the client about audience types and review whatever brand materials they give you. If you don’t have a lot of time budgeted for brand identity work, follow your intuition and hope for the best.
What you can always do is review all designs internally and look for opportunities to infuse personality.
No distracting content
I prefer using all real text in the first high fidelity designs we share because what a website says is as important as how it looks. The combination of powerful language with striking visuals is like the magic of sight and sound in a movie. A website with only placeholder text is like watching The Godfather on mute.
That said, if high-level copywriting is beyond the scope of work, greek text is better than bad english 😉 Same goes for stock images. Make sure they fit the tone of the project.
You can’t blame a client for getting hung up on the “wrong” things. It’s up to you to ensure a distraction-free experience.
Context, but not too much
Mad Men made me a monster. If I could spend all day writing and delivering impassioned pitches for the sites we design, I would, but then when would we design new sites?
What I’m getting at is that it can be helpful to explain the thought process behind a design, but don’t over do it. At the end of the day, the design must speak for itself, and anything you say to sell it won’t matter if the client isn’t already on board.
The best thing to do after you provide a concise walkthrough is to answer questions without getting defensive. Use proactive language about how you can iterate the design to make sure they love the next version they see.
Check out some of our designs here.