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Presenting Your Design is a Lot Like Watching a Football Game (No It Isn't)

Posted by justin on Nov. 14, 2016, 9:58 a.m.

You’ve carefully crafted your designs after countless hours of user research, wireframes, and prototypes. There’s just one thing left to do: show it to your client. Let’s join NFL Commentator Phil Simms to find out how to leave your clients belittled and bemused.

1. Set the Stage

Phil is going into great detail about the entire process leading up to his presentation, but it’s not necessary to spend more than a couple minutes prepping your audience. You’ve already run through project discoveries, reviewed the competition, created personas, key experiences, and wireframes, and your client is thirsty to drink in the final, polished design. Your clients don’t need to hear you talk about what you talked about in every previous meeting.

  • If possible, meet in person. Body language and subtle interpersonal cues will help you gauge when it’s time to move on, or, when further explanation is necessary.
  • Briefly review the inspirations, discoveries, and discussions that informed this design.
  • Give a short overview about which screens, experiences, or flows you’re going to demonstrate.
  • Remind your clients of the goals you’re seeking to achieve and/or problems you’re solving with this design.


2. The Walkthrough

Oh, Phil -- he’s made some pretty sad assumptions about his client’s ability to understand what he’s showing them. Your clients aren’t daft -- you don’t have to go into lengthy detail about why ‘the logo is in the top left.’ Instead, walk them through a real-world scenario from the user’s perspective. I like to create key experiences, then wireframes that illustrate those experiences. The design presentation is the third time we’re stepping through the system together -- I prefer to spend more time on type hierarchy, button systems, and color balances instead of rehashing the page structure.

  • Move your clients through a typical interaction scenario rather than flipping through the top-level pages (don’t leave those top-level pages out, but tell a story that weaves through them).
  • Don’t progress through the page design from top to bottom, but from most-to-least important as they pertain to accomplishing a specific set of tasks. However, as you guide your clients through the user’s path, be sure to...


3. Clearly Explain Your Design Decisions

Why did you make the link blue/pick that font/stack the form labels? Sometimes the real reason we designers choose something is simply because “it looks better.” But your client deserves better -- and may need some ammo when they present this design to their superiors. Each element in your design should serve to improve the user’s great experience -- draw on your own experience and industry recommendations to back up your work.

  • If you’re not sure how to justify your designs, try summarizing the 3 questions from Tom Greever’s “Articulating Design Decisions”. This provides a neat framework to thoroughly answer tough questions via discussion while keeping the clients’ and users’ goals at the forefront:
    1. What problem are we solving?
    2. How does it affect the user?
    3. Why is it better than the alternative?
  • Speak your clients’ language -- talk about design decisions in terms of ROI, saved work hours, and how your recommendations improve customer acquisition.


4. Visualize Interactions

It’s asked in every design meeting -- What happens when the user clicks/hovers/scrolls/taps? -- and it’s a tricky question to answer when you’re limited to a deck of static images. If you haven’t prepared for a specific animation or illustration, rely on best practices and feature poaching to help paint the whole picture.

  • Annotate actions that can’t be easily visualized with a static mockup -- notes, mock-up overlays, and prototypes can fill in the gaps.
  • Switch to other websites or prototypes (opened in a browser before your presentation began) that demonstrate similar functionality to your proposal.


5. Answer Questions & Encourage Discussion

  • If the client’s suggesting something, they probably have a good reason for it. If you’ve already explored the concept -- say so, and in terms you client can relate to, share why it didn’t or wouldn’t succeed. Don’t get defensive, but don’t shy away from your decisions.
  • If you’re getting direction that you feel is, ah, problematic, work with your client to address the problem they’re trying to solve -- often, there is a solution that meets your design criteria and solves your client’s need while improving the user experience. Lean on your client’s expertise of their user base to design a solution for all stakeholders.
  • Give your clients time to share the design with their team -- it’s important that your deliverable includes the talking points you summarized during the presentation (design decisions, business goals, feature direction). I’ve found it helpful to include both the full design and the full design with an overlay of notes.

Further Reading: