Posted On Monday, October 23, 2023
Author: David Armitage (Technical Director)
Ah, the eclectic world of web design, where we journey through the digital cosmos for clients of all shapes and sizes. Whether it's a startup bursting with entrepreneurial spirit or a colossal corporation with a labyrinthine hierarchy, we, the web designers, have danced with them all.
As someone who has pirouetted across the spectrum of clients, from one-person bands to organizational behemoths, I've come to savor the unique flavors each one brings. It's like trying different ice cream flavors – some cool, some quirky, but all delicious in their own way.
Yet, in this kaleidoscope of clients, there are those who harbor a particular conviction. They firmly believe that a web designer should possess a profound understanding of their industry, their niche. And this belief sometimes sets the stage for a grand showdown: Industry Expertise vs. Client-Centric Magic.
Picture this: you're designing a website for a charitable organization, and your portfolio sparkles with eCommerce gems. Your client looks at you with skeptical eyes, their doubts hanging in the air like mist in the morning. "Do you understand the nonprofit world?" they inquire, eyebrows raised.
It's a valid point. The idea that a web designer should be well-versed in the intricacies of their client's field has merit. After all, a designer who's never ventured into the realms of a nonprofit may not grasp the nuances and unique needs of such an organization.
And if you've sliced your way through the jungle of eCommerce, can some of that knowledge and experience spill over to the charitable cause? It's an interesting notion.
But here's the plot twist – the web has evolved, matured, and undergone a sort of standardization. In this era of web technology, is industry expertise really the beacon that guides us home? Perhaps, instead, it's the client's needs and dreams that should illuminate our path.
Let's admit it: no two organizations are identical, even if they share the same industry. While there might be some overlapping elements, each client has a unique set of goals, dreams, and hurdles. This uniqueness extends to their websites too.
What works like a charm for Client A might not even tickle the fancy of Client B. The same goes for design and branding – it's a personalized journey. Hence, the knowledge of their niche, even on a fundamental level, could suffice. You can learn on the fly, or turn to other organizations' websites for inspiration.
In the client-centric world, what truly matters is understanding what makes your client's heart sing. It's about asking all the right questions – who are they, what are their goals, what's the story that sets their souls on fire, and what roadblocks are they battling?
This deep dive into your client's world reveals their needs and desires, and with that insight, you craft a tailor-made plan for their success.
Web technology, the hidden machinery behind the scenes, often plays by the same rules, regardless of the industry. Take web hosting, for example. We recommend hosts based on the website's size and expected traffic. The client's niche? Not a leading actor in this drama.
The Name of the Game: Translating Needs into Solutions
The heart of web design is about translating your client's needs into real, tangible solutions. Regardless of the niche, it's your experience that weaves this magic.
Skills like data juggling and content organization shine in this setting, as does a knack for design best practices and accessibility.
Let's not forget that building a website is a collaborative waltz. It's not your industry-specific experience that shines the brightest; it's your ability to work hand in hand with your client.
I've crossed paths with clients who had previously danced with niche agencies. These outfits, though well-versed in their niche, tended to take a one-size-fits-all approach. It's a bit like settling for fast food when you crave a gourmet meal. Quick but far from satisfying.
A client-first approach, on the other hand, knows no industry boundaries. It thrives in all settings, knitting together the dreams and aspirations of clients from various realms.
Now, this doesn't mean we toss the client's niche aside like an empty ice cream cone. If it holds importance in their heart, it holds importance for us too.
However, the broader perspective suggests that, in this era, industry expertise is just one card in a full deck. The tools are the same, the principles universal, with a few industry-specific exceptions. After all, privacy and legal compliance apps can be pesky rascals, no matter who's designing the website.
In the end, it's about the client – their dreams, their aspirations. The industry is but one thread in the tapestry of their digital journey.