Satisfaction: the PH test for measuring your success as a webdesigner

Sometimes we web designers are selfish. We think we know it all – well, actually sometimes we do – but most times, we don’t.

I know when you look at my topic of discussion you think I’m talking about our satisfaction as web designers. No. I mean the Client’s satisfaction. What’s the point designing a website that only you like? What’s the point of being a service provider if customers don’t like your services?

The emphasis is on like. They have to like your work. You don’t have to try and convince them that you are the best – they have to see it and attest to that by themselves.

In my four years as a web designer, I have encountered different kinds of clients. From the good and understanding type to the irrational and annoying type – but the fact remains that they are your clients and as they say, the customer is always right. It doesn’t matter if they are clients from hell – if you didn’t say no to them, then for the duration of that design, they own you.

When I was doing the research for this post, I met a client. A real difficult client. I didn’t know he was difficult at first, but after 3 weeks of working on just one 5 page minimalistic design – I found out the hard way. You know what annoys me most? I can’t complain. I just have to make sure he is satisfied. It’s non-negotiable. That’s why he hired me in the first instance, right?

Word web defines satisfaction as:

‘The contentment one feels when one has fulfilled a desire, need, or expectation’.

When you design a website for a client, get his feedback. Most of us just feel we are gurus and have the whole ‘he’s going to love this site’ mentality. Trust me; one man’s poison is another man delicacy.

I’ve seen websites that I would not be caught dead putting on my portfolio let alone design, but when I ask the owners, they smile and ask, ‘don’t you just love my website?’ What’s the test of success for that web designer? Is it his skill or the customer’s satisfaction? I tell you, it’s the customer satisfaction. He followed the rules. They want a red text on a blue background? Tell them it’s ‘over your dead body’, but if they insist, design it. That’s why they are paying you. If they wanted your advice, they’d go to a lawyer!

Satisfied customers are a blessing. Off all the clients I’ve designed websites for; I’ve had only 3 not totally satisfied with my work. The reason? They wanted services they didn’t want to pay for. I had to say no; but asides that, I’ve not had any complaints. We have a saying, I don’t know if it’s all over the world or where I come from alone: ‘the customer is king’. In a taxi, the passenger is king until he comes off; in any business the customer is royalty – because without them we wouldn’t exist. That’s the harsh truth.

If you have 10 clients, and only 3 are satisfied with your work for them, then you can’t call yourself a successful web designer. It’s not in the number of sites you design; it’s the ‘sticky factor’. How many of those clients keep coming back? Success for us is measured at par with our clients and their level of satisfaction. Some of us think designing websites with flash is real cool and most clients will love it. Nope. Don’t assume; ask them.

How to satisfy your customers

  1. Always ask for feedback.
  2. Never assume.
  3. Don’t think you know more than them; trust me, you don’t.
  4. Drop that cocky attitude – so what if you own Microsoft certifications?
  5. Listen. Sometimes we hear things we want to hear, not things the clients actually say.
  6. Be clear in your dealings. If they need animations and you can’t design them, don’t say you can.
  7. Get them to trust in your experience. That way when they say they need red text on a blue background and you say no, they’ll listen.
  8. Remember it’s not all about you. If you want to do stunts on a site design, use yours.
  9. Have a likable personality. What has this got to do with customer satisfaction? People can always sense if you are fake, and then no matter what you do you can never satisfy them.

How to know when your client is satisfied

So we are supposed to satisfy them, right? How do we know if they’re satisfied? Easy. A few hints here and there, like:

  1. They have few complaints
  2. They refer you to their friends.
  3. They never mention anything about ‘redesign’ until like after 1 year
  4. They call you for any web related advice – that means they realize you are an authority in your field.
  5. After the design, you become good friends.
  6. They ask you to do other jobs for them. Though I’m a web designer, most of my clients ask me to do graphic jobs for them – business cards, flyers, brochures – but that’s not in my job description!
  7. No feelings of guilt on your part. Deep inside you can feel their satisfaction – and you are satisfied as well.

From your own experience, let’s look at our service providers – from AT&T to MTN to ISPs. Which ones do we like and keep referring to others? It’s the ones that satisfy us. Not those that say they will do this and that, but those who talk less and do more. My website is hosted on a particular web host in the US, and I’ll forever love them – and I refer them to most of my clients – because as their customer, I have been placed as a priority in their mind.

We keep changing phones, houses, cars, furniture and other things because we are yet to find what will satisfy our needs; and when we eventually find one that fits, we stick to it for a long time before changing. That’s our job and responsibility as web designers –to satisfy a need. Whatever it is, the customer’s satisfaction will determine if we will go far in our chosen profession.

Your test of success as a web designer is your customer satisfaction.  If you’ve been the type of ‘I don’t give a darn what you think’ guy, or ‘I can always walk away’ service providers, now is the time to rethink. Like my bank uses as their slogan, ‘Happy Customer, Happy Bank’, so I say ‘Happy Clients, Happy Zainab’!

Zainab Sule


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The Author

Zainab Sule has been working in the field of web design for four years and runs her own web design company, Pish On Designs in Nigeria. She also runs her own blog. You can follow her on twitter with @zainabSULE

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