Don't judge a book, or a website, by its cover

Design is a subjective thing. What appeals to one may not always appeal to another.
But in web design, there is much more depth to a project than its visual characteristics.
And this is just one of the problems when creative companies are asked to submit speculative designs before engaging them to do the actual work.
I’ve said before that web design is a term we are stuck with and covers so much more than visual aspects of a project. For example, we could be designing strategies, databases, experiences, campaigns, etc. None of these are visual.
And so it’s wrong to even ask a company to submit a design, and expect the client to judge the complete project on visuals.
What happens if it looks nice, but has no functional qualities?.
What happens if the colours don’t appeal to the client, but would have been the right choice for its clientele?
We would also argue that clients do not always appreciate how websites work visually – we’ve all been asked to make logos bigger and add things that, quite honestly, are going to work aganst it.
This is all relevant now because a handy web page circulating around Twitter at the moment poignantly addresses this problem.
It is the work of Paul Annett, a respected and influental web designer who counts clients such as BT, BBC, Tesco and Harrods amongst his impressive portfolio.
The page explains, politely, why his agency does not provide speculative design services prior to engagement. It’s also neatly configured so that ‘web designers’ who have the need to respond to such a request can personalise it for their own use by adding their client’s name to the end of the URL.
It gives the following reasons:

  1. From a business point of view it makes no sense for you. Agencies have to charge higher fees to cover work they produce but don’t win. If you choose an agency that does spec work, you are paying for all their failed pitches as well as the one piece of work you are interested in.
  2. A good design is an informed design. This only comes through research and collaboration with the client — you know your audience best. A visually pleasing ‘best guess’ created upfront as part of a sales tactic is never a good design. Anything created without being informed is at best a pretty picture.
  3. Unlike advertising agencies, we are not in the business of selling. We love our work and we love showing off the diversity of work we’ve done (please ask to see our portfolio!) but that’s because every project is crafted with thought and research, and with respect for our clients. We put all our resources into every client that engages us because we don’t need to save our best ideas to sell ourselves to potential new clients.

A few web design companies still work this way. Websites are crucial for generating business and today’s marketplace makes them more relevant than they have ever been. We all know that a shop that has a nice looking window front will draw people in, but if the service is poor, no-one will buy.
At Canary Dwarf, we’ve built a solid reputation of providing a service which is effective. We don’t want you to judge our work on looks alone. Our customers put their faith in us to deliver well-structured web strategies, not pretty pictures.
Asking for free speculative design instantly suggests you don’t trust them to do the job, and that’s not how you should be starting off a new business relationship.

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