26 min read

1 Thing You Should NEVER Say To A UX/UI Designer—And What To Say Instead

Working with a UX/UI designer requires a lot of communication—but if you want your product to succeed, there's 1 thing you SHOULD NOT say.

Mikenzi RossOct 28, 2021

1 Thing You Should NEVER Say To A UX/UI Designer—And What To Say Instead

When hiring a designer for your startup (be it on-staff or freelance) there’s one thing you should NEVER say. This single phrase (and its synonyms) can destroy your chances of a successful project outcome, along with the relationship between you and the UX/UI designer you’re working with.

What is this earth-shattering phrase?

Honestly... it’s going to shock anyone who hasn’t worked in the creative field, and it’s a statement that most folks think their app designers would LOVE to hear:

“You have full creative freedom.”

Or…

  • “Do whatever you want”
  • “I have no idea, I trust you”
  • “I don’t really know what I want”

You may be thinking: “How can ANY creative pro see full creative freedom as anything other than a golden treasure trove of opportunity?”

On the surface, it can definitely seem like the quickest way to incredible results! After all, your UX/UI designer is the expert, and they know best, right?

Well, there’s more to it than that… and we’ll cover why it’s actually detrimental to success, and what you should do and say instead. It’s actually quite easy to provide creative direction without micromanaging—even if you don’t know anything about design.

Why Giving Your UX Designer Zero Direction Is Disastrous

Most everyone (including new designers) initially assumes that having total “creative freedom” is a dream come true. In reality, it’s a nightmare waiting to happen, and almost always ends with everyone involved feeling trapped and unsatisfied.

Highlighted in this wonderful article by Canva, check out how one pro designer feels when clients give no direction:

“[...] The bigger issue is the amount of freedom it gives the designer. This phrase gives us unlimited freedom to try to tell the story that you know best. We can deliver Picasso, but if you were looking for Rembrandt there’s gonna be an issue.

Jeff Sholl, Pinpoint Graphics

When clients don’t come into a project with at least some idea of what they want (or at least what they don’t want), it’s nearly impossible for your UX/UI designer to create something you’ll like.

Here’s what usually happens when your UX designer isn’t given any creative direction

Your designer will deliver several carefully crafted but wildly different drafts, and most (if not all) won’t be what you’re looking for. This leaves you feeling worried that you might’ve hired the wrong designer, and your designer feels frustrated, confused, and self-conscious.

You and your UX/UI designer are two different people. You have different tastes, perspectives, experiences, and preferences.

But at the end of the day…

No one knows your business the way that you do.

Dianne Eberhardt, the co-founder of The Design Project, shared this important insight on how she works with new clients.

“I tell a lot of clients this: you are the experts in your product, we are the experts in user-centered design. You tell us specifically what you need, and we translate it to an intuitive design that makes sense for your customers.”

-Dianne Eberhardt, Founder of The Design Project

UX Designers Aren’t Mind Readers

While a lot of skills fall into the UX designer job description, mind reading isn’t one of them. When you don’t give them any project scope or creative direction, you’re asking them to be mind readers.

(Remember what Jeff said earlier?)

No matter what project, goal, or vision you have... communication is critical to every aspect of your business. While the creative professionals you work with bring their talent, expertise, and guidance to every project—it’s the client’s responsibility to give them the information they need to do their job.

It’s absolutely okay not to have all of the pieces figured out—but providing your UX/UI designer with more than just “you’re the expert, I trust you,” vastly increases the chances of a successful outcome for everyone.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure where to start, we’ll share some tips in a minute.

Note: Providing designers with direction isn’t the same as micromanaging. Your UX designer needs your input and involvement—especially at the start of your working relationship.

All projects are collaborative. Failing to provide basic creative direction isn’t just unhelpful, it’s a recipe for disaster.

What To Do Before Hiring A Designer

Okay, we’ve covered the things that shouldn’t be done, but...

What is the client actually supposed to do?

You know that you need a website, an app, or a landing page, but you’re not a professional UX designer! You don’t know what works and what doesn’t…

That’s why you hired a professional designer in the first place, right?

It’s okay—even if you don’t have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, we’re about to help you find some… and it’s way easier than you think.

Here are 5 simple ways to give your designer plenty of direction without having to know anything about design.

Tip 1: Understand Your Own Company

Understanding who you are is just as important as understanding who your users are. Sit down and specify your company’s values, mission, and long-term vision.

When you know who you are, your UX designer can craft the best experiences for your users—helping you achieve your goals.

Tip 2: Get To Know Your Customers

Once you know who you are as a brand, the next crucial step is knowing exactly who’s using your product. The user is the focus of the design, so you’ll want to get to know them as intimately as possible.

Your UX/UI designer’s job is to help you solve their problems, and when you can clearly define what those problems are, you’re already halfway there.

Tip 3: Find Brands That Reflect Your Style Preferences

You can find a direction for your design project by looking for other brands with visual elements you like. Having a list of brands that align with your tastes tells your designer how you want your customers to perceive you.

Take note of a website with eye-catching product designs, or a mobile app that’s pleasant and user-friendly. Ask yourself why you like it, and share those notes with your UX designer.

Tip 4: Check Out What Your Competitors Are Doing

Competitor research can offer critical insight into what might be working and what isn’t. Not only can you get a feel for current trends in your industry, but you and your designer may even notice opportunities that your competitors aren’t capitalizing on.

Take advantage of that to set yourself apart.

Tip 5: Give Examples Of Stuff You DON’T Like

Come across visual elements you really don’t like? Good—give those examples to your designer, too. Sharing design elements you want to avoid is a great resource for your designer.

It helps them narrow down concepts, and ensures both of you feel confident when creative review time comes.

Bonus Option: Create A Pinterest Board

This is a surprising but really easy and helpful way to communicate your style. Creating a Pinterest board filled with your preferred designed elements (colors, fonts, shapes, etc) serves as a treasure trove of inspiration for your designer.

You could even create a Pinterest board that describes what your ICA (Ideal Client Avatar) is like.

  • What do they wear?
  • How old are they?
  • Where are they most likely to live?
  • What brands do they already use?

Always remember that the user is at the heart of every design decision. Give your designer as much insight into who they are as possible.

Your Designer (And Your Business) Will Thank You

By providing UX designers with a bit of guidance on your preferences, you’re already leagues ahead of your competition—and you’ll quickly become your designer’s favorite client.

Cool, right?

Working with a UX/UI designer doesn’t have to be stressful (that’s what The Design Project is all about.) Quite frankly, getting to know your own style using the tips above is fun and builds your confidence as a business owner!

If you couldn’t tell, we really care about design (it’s kind of our thing...)

After all, good and bad design shapes the way the world sees your business.

We’d love to hear what you thought of this article, so drop a comment below. We write these for you, after all!

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