How to successfully work with clients who aren’t technically savvy

How to successfully work with clients who aren’t technically savvy

Rebecca Huehls's Layout avatar

Your clients are experts in their business or field, but that doesn’t mean they know much about web design. And they don’t need to. By focusing on results and breaking the web design process into manageable chunks, you can deliver the website that clients need and want without ever uttering words like responsive design or fixed-width layout.

Focus on results

When you communicate with clients, focus on the results that they want — or that you need —  in order to keep the design process moving forward. For example, in the initial planning stages, instead of asking, “Do you want a responsive design?” ask whether the client or their marketing department knows what percentage of visitors will use the website on desktop computers, tablets, or smartphones. Then you know to what extent the website needs to work on various devices.


Have a sampler of key design trends

Clients, especially those who aren’t technically savvy, often have no idea how their website needs to work or what would bring their website up to date for their customers or audience. If you keep a sampler of websites that reflect current trends, you can ask clients to visit the websites in your sampler and make notes about what features they like or don’t like.

Tip: An online form or survey can help clients structure their feedback so that you get the information you need.

By giving clients a limited number of websites that you’ve preselected, they’re less likely to be overwhelmed or ask for technically impossible or overly complicated solutions. Depending on your client base, you might have a sampler for your top two or three website categories, like artist portfolio websites and small-shop e-commerce websites. Within each sampler, include about three to five examples.

The websites in your sampler may all be from a portfolio of websites that you’ve designed, but you could also use websites from popular brands or research other websites specific to a client’s field.

Ask the client for examples

Some clients may try to get up to speed on web design jargon in an attempt to speak your language. The effort to prepare is admirable, but some people are more successful at picking up technical terms than others. If you find that a client is using a lot of technical terminology in ways that don’t quite add up, ask the client to send examples to illustrate their meaning.

You don’t need to correct your clients unless you’re sure they want to learn the lingo. The goal here is to confirm what the client means using concrete examples.

Define any necessary jargon or technical information

If you must use web design jargon, explain it in specific, everyday language but include only the necessary details.

For example, you may need to ask the client for specific types of graphics files, such as an EPS file that you can use to export a logo at the necessary resolution for your design. In this case, you might mention the following details to a client who has little to no technical background at all:

  • Having the EPS file of a logo will save the client money, because you won’t have to re-create the file yourself.
  • Working from the EPS file enables you produce professional-looking graphics.
  • The file extension, which appears after the filename, identifies a file’s type. You might even give the client specific instructions about how to display file extensions on their operating system. (Windows may not display file extensions by default.) Then note where to look for the extension in the filename.

However, to get what you need, you don’t need to explain how vector graphics are based on algorithms or how image resolution works.

Break down tasks along the way

If you’ve been designing websites for any length of time, you likely have a checklist (or five) to help with the client onboarding and design process.

Startup Stock Photos Startup Stock Photos

Technically savvy clients have the background to cover more details in one meeting or checklist. However, you can adapt your processes or checklists for your less technical clients by breaking the web design process into smaller chunks and asking them for only what’s relevant at each stage.

For example, with a technically savvy client, you might be able to discuss their overall thoughts about what they want the design to do, as well as any specific features, layout options, or functionality they need. With less technical clients, you might need to break down meetings or communications so they focus on only one or two tasks or goals.

When you collaborate with less technical clients, support them through the web design process with a few visuals, examples, and simple communication strategies. When you can provide a framework to help them make decisions, the client can lead the process while still giving you what you need to create a top-notch website.

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