5 Truths About Revisions That Designers Don’t Want To Hear

Oh, revisions. We’ve all gotten them – I personally don’t know a designer on earth who doesn’t hate them, and I’ve read blog post after blog post about how much they suck. You put hours (or days) of your time and effort into getting a design piece just right.

Then, some nitwit in the client meeting – perhaps a spouse or relative, or just some lackey who knows nothing about design – butts in with some insipid opinion that your client takes seriously, and bam! It’s, literally, back to the drawing board as you try to accommodate their requests. You know the drill. It never makes the design better – it just placates the weird tastes of all these non-designers on your “committee”.

Well, the truth is, sometimes that’s not true. Sometimes, you’re the one with your head in the clouds. Today we’re going to explore 5 essential things designers never seem to want to hear when it comes to revising their work.

1. Not All Revisions Are Pointless

First, let’s be clear here. I’m not talking about the types of revisions that are, in fact, flat out ridiculous. Everyone can tell when a client is crossing the line from “trying to be helpful” into “totally incoherent.” If this happens more than a few times with the same client, my best advice is to simply walk away.

It’s not worth the headache of trying to please someone whose expectations are so far away from the type of service you provide.

Who Is Hanging On To The Mistakes?

What I’m talking about are suggestions that actually help improve some aspect of the design. Maybe that font was too unreadable by the client’s target audience, or maybe those navigation buttons really weren’t in the most optimal place for conversion rates.

As the saying goes, if you look all around you and can’t find the problem, it’s probably you. So always check to see whether the client (or his wife, secretary, or whoever else) actually doesn’t have a good point before you proceed to shoot them down.

2. Are You Sure You’re Getting The Message?

When you get slammed with revision request after revision request, it’s possible that there’s a communication error in play somewhere. You’re misreading the brief, your client is unclear on what he wants, or some combination of the two.

I know it’s easy to assume that the client is, by default, the dummy when it comes to design, but sometimes, a simple oversight on your part may be all you’re missing to help bring everyone back to the same page with your design.

For example, if your client is being vague or wishy-washy about the specifics of the design, it may be because the questions you’ve asked him were equally vague.

Go back to your checklist (you do have a client checklist, right?) and revise your questions to get more specific answers. Even if they are broken down to the point of silliness – whatever helps get the point across to both you and your client is essential for a successful designer-client relationship.

3. You Have To Read Their Minds

You have to get in your clients’ heads and know exactly what they need. This will cut down revision requests by at least 80%, if not more. You cannot do this with too broad a selection of clients, which is why you need to niche down your target client market as tightly as possible.

I focus on one particular type of client only, as I know exactly how to serve them. I know their needs and their audience inside out. I know how to make them as much money with my designs as possible.

You need to do the same with your own niche. Using your portfolio as a screening tool helps to send only those clients your way that you can best help. Choose the work you display online very carefully.

The Right Kind Of Attraction

If a prospective client sees a particular project you did that you absolutely hated, and they decide to hire you based on that project, neither of you is going to know there’s a problem until it’s too late.

The client is going to stick you with work exactly like the thing they saw in your portfolio, and you are going to secretly hate them and wonder why you keep attracting the same kinds of clients.

Personal work is a vital solution to this problem. If you continue to make time for projects you truly love, and you give them the same amount of time and dedication that you give your paid work, eventually people will start to notice and want to hire you based on that work instead.

4. You’re A Bad Salesperson

Design is a business, and business is about selling. You need to be able to sell your ideas to your clients so that they understand explicitly what you’re offering them. If you can’t properly sell a client on what you want to accomplish, you need to work on improving this skill.

Anyone can learn to sell – in fact, we all sell on a regular basis every single day. But some people might need a bit of help with particulars like body language, tone of voice, and clarity. There are countless resources online to help aid you with improving your presentation skills, but I would say the number one most important skill you can have as a designer is writing.

If you can write down what your goals are with a project so that other people can easily grasp them, you’ll be 99% of the way to a successful client meeting. Before you brief your clients, read what you’re going to say to a friend or family member to get their perspective. If a non-designer can understand what you’re getting at, then your client probably will also.

5. Maybe The Client Is Right

Not all clients are ignorant rubes who know nothing about design. Sometimes, they make good points. As a designer, nothing annoys me more than clients who think they know more about design than I do. There was a reason you hired me to do this job, wasn’t there?

However, as a design client, nothing annoys me more than designers who are arrogant and condescending about their superior design knowledge.

Yes, I’ve been both, and I have to say, from the other side of the fence, the smugness designers can give off is just as annoying as a client’s ignorance. In fact, I’d say it’s even worse, since as a designer, you should know better.

The key is being able to tell when your client’s ideas are good, and when you need to stand your ground and say no (politely). This is one more problem on your end, though. If you can’t be bothered to educate yourself and sharpen your design instincts, then clients are going to walk right over you and the end product will suffer tremendously.

What Do You Think?

How do you handle revision requests? What exactly distinguishes a good revision request from a bad one? Is there anything you can share about how to lessen the frequency with which clients ask for revisions?

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