I was scanning through my daily blog headlines this morning and one stuck out to me: “Be Careful: Trends Come And Go”. It’s an interview at Smashing Magazine with the lead designer for 6Wunderkinder, Jan Martin. The article focuses on much more than trends in design, but a quote on that topic resonated with me:
"One of my best learnings is to be careful with trends. Trends come and go. Some are good and will return, and some will leave you embarrassed in the future."
So I have to ask, as designers, developers and marketers what is our level of responsibility to the client as it pertains to trends online? I’d argue we have the following:
- Understand the needs: We need to take the time to get beyond what the client initially wants. If a client comes in and asks for a specific type of site because their competitors are following a certain trend, we are obligated to step back and find the underlying need that has driven them to ask for this type of implementation. When we take the time to understand what a client needs from a proactive marketing stand point we help address their long term strategies and differentiate themselves. If we immediately do as we are asked we might miss the opportunity to help them stand out in a crowded market.
- Educate: In the case of one potential client, moving everything to a single page would have required a shift in how they communicate their message. They currently felt they had an advantage, but wanted to do something similar to the competition because it was better than the site they had lived with for years. As a designer/marketer it is my job to educate the client on how the new design will impact their ability to communicate and either create an advantage or maintain their current advantage. Additionally, we needed to help them understand that having a great new design wasn’t completely dependent on following this trend. We could build a site that allowed the client to maintain their advantage while still capitalizing on some really cool techniques in web development. We need to educate about which aspects of the hot trend provide benefit for the current situation and which are superficial and may come back to haunt them.
- Let Go: As much as I’d love to stand on a table and yell “NOOOOOOOOOO” at clients’ decisions sometimes, I can’t. Furthermore it usually won’t serve my clients best interests. As a web company we don’t always understand the intricacies of our clients’ markets. The longer we work with a client the more we understand. Also, the longer we work with a client the more they trust our expertise, so yelling or refusing to execute on a chosen strategy rarely benefits anyone.
So what do we do? We meet, we discuss and we put together proposals that help clients understand their options from a benefits and cost stand point. We listen to questions and answer them willingly. Then we back off and let them decide which particular implementation will help them execute on their strategy.