Monday 15 January 2007

What shall we tell them?

We're at that point on a website redevelopment project where, after a few months of being out of the loop, we're about to present the business with the draft site. They've had the opportunity to see the site design (although it's developed from that point) but they haven't yet seen the final (read, ruthlessly edited) version of the reams and reams of text they contributed for the site.

Inevitably, there are still a number of bugs to be worked out, and some things we wanted won't happen this time round, and some things look downright odd. On the blog Creating Passionate Users, there's an interesting post about the dilemma of managing expectations with demos:

"When we show a work-in-progress (like an alpha release) to the public, press, a client, or boss... we're setting their expectations. And we can do it one of three ways: dazzle them with a polished mock-up, show them something that matches the reality of the project status, or stress them out by showing almost nothing and asking them to take it "on faith" that you're on track."

Their bottom line?

"How 'done' something looks should match how 'done' something is."

But what's really interesting is the finding that the more finished-looking the demo is, the narrower the feedback; whereas the looser the demo looks, the more likely viewers are to give you high-level feedback. And there's even a programme that will help you fake the napkin-scrawl creative feel.

It reminds me - in a opaque way - of a comment by Wellington designer Neil Pardington about presenting to clients, cited by Lara Strongman in an essay for the catalogue for the Objectspace exhibition 'Just Hold Me' (the catalogue's not online, but you can find out a bit on curator Jonty Valentine's website).

Basically, the gist of what Neil said (I don't have the text in front of me) was that you take in four options. Two are clearly unacceptable. Of the remaining two, he wants to push one. So he makes a subtly disparaging comment about the unfavoured design, so the clients magically opt for the design he's selected for them.

Which begs the question - why bother producing four mock ups, if you only believe in one?

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