Part 2: How to Position Your Process as a Valuable Experience

In the first part of this 2 part series, which you can read here, I touched on why you need to focus on creating an experience for your clients, while this part goes a step further to address how to do that, and explores the results of doing so.

Design has now become an integral part of a business yet it remains neglected by many. Only those who are positioning design as an experience at the forefront of your business are reaping the benefits. User Experience is a term largely associated with web and app design, but it should be applied to every field, because whether you are selling a product or a service there will be a user experience, and if you don’t tailor that experience then you are neglecting the user or client.

Below are what IBM describes as the 6 Universal Experiences with which they state, “Each experience offers opportunities to solve unmet needs and emotionally bond users to products.” If you read the first part of this series then you can see how that quote perfectly sums up why the first Betty Crocker just-add-water cake mix failed—because it lacked the experience which linked the user to the product. Let’s dive into the 6 Universal Experiences and discover how you can create a valuable experience for your clients.

1. Discover, try and buy:

How does the client get it?

The client will always have an experience even before they actually work with you. Take into account how you are being discovered and how you are further reeling clients into work with you. The phase of discovery traces back to even before the client lands on your site, meaning they may have first seen your work on Dribbble or Behance, or they may have even received a referral from someone else you’ve worked with. If you don’t update these other portfolio platforms then you are weakening the experience because it displays a lack of consistency and doesn’t showcase your current abilities. If these kinds of sites outside of your actual website are just littered with old work that no longer interests then potential clients viewing them will judge your abilities based on that work. So if your Behance is largely work from years ago, either delete that work or update it so that it properly reflects your current work.

Moving on, at first glimpse you may see try and assume that it won’t relate to you as a designer, but it very much does. A client needs to be able to envision how it would be working with you. So how do you give them a test run? An easy way is by having case studies of your work which go into detailed explanations of the process. Case studies are the easiest ways for clients to get a clear understanding of your process, but another way to help them gain an understanding is to simply dedicate a page which outlines your process in detail. When a client has understands your process and can envision themselves working with you then they’re less likely to ask you to compromise on that process because they have seen it and are on board with it.

Once someone knows that they’re interested in working with you, how are they getting into contact with you? Getting in contact is a part of the buying process. Do they have to copy and paste your email into their own gmail? Is there a contact page on your website? Every little thing they encounter leading up to the initial interaction will shape an experience, and so you want to make sure it all runs nice and smoothly. Getting in contact with you shouldn’t be mission impossible. On your website, potential clients should easily be able to figure out where to go to contact you. From there, don’t force them to copy and paste your email; instead give them the option. Many designers will have their email address as a mailto: link so that clicking on it will automatically open your computer’s default email service such as Outlook, but that takes on the assumption that potential clients have this service or actually use it. If they don’t have it and their contact page says Email as a mailto: link then they’ll be clicking it with nothing happening. If you have an actual contact form then they don’t have to worry about getting your email address or copy/pasting it somewhere, and you can tailor what people are able to contact you about.

With apps, actual payments occur this early on, but with design as a service that typically occurs after the value of the project has been defined; however, it’s important to note that this early on in the process it’s worth explaining the payment process to the client. If you charge 50% up front or even 100% up front then it’s not worth waiting until the immediate start of the project to notify them of this. Talking about money and the payment process isn’t quite as dirty as some make it out to be. Being direct and clear about it is more beneficial than forcing the client to make assumptions because nothing is worse than hidden fees or being surprised by payment terms. Defining these kinds of expectations and terms are a part of the process which leads into the next point.

2. Getting started:

How does the client get value?

The phase of getting started is extremely easy to relate to user experience within apps because the onboarding process needs to introduce the user to navigating and using the app, but there is also an onboarding process with potential clients. Many times when I download an app the onboarding process is virtually non-existent and so I have no idea what I’m doing which results in me deleting the app soon after. Failing to properly onboard potential clients may result in projects falling through.

One of the first steps is to reply to their email in a prompt manner. Being able to quickly respond to someone’s inquiry shows that you are reliable, don’t be that person who replies weeks later saying “Sorry for the delayed reply.” I just recently started using a technique I learned from Jessica Hische for when I’m busy and can’t entirely respond immediately in which I reply to their email to let them know that I got it and they can expect an email from me by Monday. From there I write it down so that I don’t forget, and then they know to expect an email from me by Monday.

The second step is asking questions. If a grocery store were to contact you to rebrand their logo then your reply isn’t going to be a simple yes or no. You need to be asking question as if it’s an investigation, you’re trying to uncover if this is the right person you want to work with. Determine if they’re familiar with my work. If they aren’t then they should probably familiarize themselves so they know what they’re getting into because part of the experience is expectations. They need to know what to expect, and so if they are familiar with your work then ask which project they find particular interest in? You need to dig in to find out what they’re expectations are and help them understand why they’re hiring you.

The third step is to reiterate your process and ask more questions. Although they may be familiar with your work, it isn’t guaranteed that they clearly understand how you work. It’s important to go over your process with the client several times so that you’re both on the same page. This most important part of the entire “onboarding” process is asking questions because this is how you determine the specifications of the project, and asking questions is the only way to discover the client’s needs. Uncovering the problems that need to be solved and iterating those problems back to the client creates a mutual understanding and allows them to trust you, as the professional, to solve that problem for them. This process of discovering the problems displays the value you can provide, and then building their trust and confidence in you is the onboarding process which decides the fate of the project. Will you and the client form a working relationship or will you both part ways?

3. Everyday use:

How does the client get involved?

During the Getting Started/Onboarding process, it was determined that you’re the best fit for solving the client’s problems. Simply meaning, you’re in charge of the design decisions because your experience makes you the most qualified. What this doesn’t mean is that you’re a magician and at the end you’ll just pull a rabbit out of a hat. For a quick moment pulling the rabbit out of the hat is entertaining, but it leaves so many unanswered questions and the work remains a mystery. When you work in a similar fashion behind closed curtains, you’re asking for disaster. You may be the professional but working with a client should be a healthy relationship. The point of this isn’t to say that clients should be helping to make design decisions—in fact I agree that they shouldn’t—instead I’m saying that the clients need to have an understanding of the process so that they know why certain decisions are being made. Revealing how you work along the way isn’t a means of convincing the client, but rather it’s a means of educating them. Just because you’ve determined the initial problem in the beginning does not mean that the discovery process is over. Constantly be asking the client questions so that you can gain a clearer understanding of any issues at hand so you can most effectively solve those problems. The client gets involved by providing you the content and answers necessary for the development of the solution. Regardless if the end solution is great, if the client doesn’t feel as though they’re contributing then they won’t feel satisfied with the end result.

4. Manage and upgrade:

How does the client keep it running?

Again, how does this relate to client work? With apps it’s easy to grasp the idea of an update and how you receive a notification, but what does an upgrade mean when working with a client? Well, not every project you are doing is quite as extensive as it could be, and so there is always room for the project to expand. As the project is rolling and the client is happy with how effectiveness of the work, it may become an option to build upon the work you are currently doing. If you stick strictly to doing what they ask then what happens when you discover new problems? Perhaps there is another solution worth exploring? One option is to pursue that solution for them free of charge, and the other option is to expose them to that problem letting them know that they can also hire you to solve that problem as well. Remember, initially identifying the problem is partially what you are being hired to do, and so if you uncover more as the project progresses then you’re justified to present those issues and potential for solving them.

5. Leverage and extend:

How does the client build on it?

This question refers to how will the work grow? Typically, the client will have the goal of growing their venture, but they may be concerned with how the design work will also grow over time. How can you ensure the longevity of the work you produce? Firstly, you need to gain an understanding of how the client expects to grow in the short term and in the long term. When you gain an understanding of expected growth you design with that in consideration. The issue that still remains is how will the design aesthetics and purpose maintain consistency if other designers end up working with this company? In the case of branding, the simple solution is by developing an identity guideline so other designers that are hired can easily review the standards you’ve set forth and then design within those constraints. Creating a guideline is extremely helpful, but isn’t necessary for all cases. The bottom line is communicating how the work you’ve done can be expanded upon if it is able to be. In some cases, such as illustration or custom lettering, the work you do shouldn’t be tampered with and that is equally as important to communicate to the client. The point is to communicate the relevant potential and constraints of the work which was done.

6. Get support:

How does the client get unstuck?

Even after you work with a client it is possible that they’ll reach out to you again because they are having difficulties. These difficulties may be with the work you’ve already done or perhaps they need more help. If they’re getting in contact with you about something you’ve already done then it’s usually best to do what you can to help. If they are missing a file and you still have it then send it over to them when you get the chance. If they are seeking advice for utilizing the work you’ve already done then take a bit of time to share some of your knowledge and expertise. When you’ve already done work with someone and you enjoyed working with them then it’s worth maintaining that relationship even if that requires just a little extra work on your end because it’s likely that you’ll be the first person they look to contact when they need more work.


In the end, everything is a process. The final product does not exist without the process it took to get there. Far too many designers are focusing on the product which results in a game of “How can I please the client?” If you just position your work just as an end product then your clients will always be wanting more from you, but not in a good way. When you position your work as a process and shape it as an experience then you will be able to provide more tangible value. Almost every designer out there is just a collection of work that clients can just insert money into for design work. Stand out from the rest by being a person that clients can actually interact with and experience. The creative process is a beautiful thing, but not many clients are ever exposed to it. The start of providing more value with how you work is by crafting an experience that begins before the initial point of contact for as long as they can remember. It may sound cheesy, but be the designer that places a positive impact on how your clients will see the world.