Why asking for design concepts before the project is awarded is not a good idea.
31st October 2012

We frequently get requests from prospective customers for presenting design options before the project/ contract has been awarded to us. They call it proof of concepts and use them to decide a vendor. We do not encourage this practise at all, although if the client is important and the contract large, we have been known to create POCs. But there are quite a lot of disadvantages and issues to this approach.

Designing is a process that requires lots of client involvement - bypassing it is not good practise.

Our web designers start work only after detailed discussions with the client on what elements they want in the site design. This includes discussions on colors, fonts, layouts, images, animations and lot more. By passing this process of collaborative designing is not a good idea. Asking for designs before the project starts means that the designers work in an information vacuum.  A good website design come about by following well thought out guidelines from the clients end. This also reduces rework as the client is clear on what they require.

Good designs take time to create, time that might not be available during the pre-sales process.

Designs submitted during the pre-sales process are usually thrown together in a hurry since the selection process has a very narrow time window.  What you end up with are half cooked creatives which might get thrown out when the project actually starts or worst implemented without due process. The worst case scenarios are where a designer uses ready-made templates which does not do justice to the client or the project.

Web designing is very different from Ad creatives since there is a huge functional element involved.

Web designing has taken many practises from the ad industry. Unfortunately, pitching creatives is a practise that works well with ad agencies but is not good for web designing. While ad creatives are all about the message; web design creatives are a mixture of message, functionality and technology.  Same rules should not apply.  The complexities are different and so is the application.

Selecting a web design firm based solely on creatives is like judging a book by its cover.

There are so many different aspects of web design that could make a huge difference in the outcome of your online efforts.  Getting fixated only on design is a recipe for disaster as later on you might realize that the web designer might not have the skills to deliver the entire project. A web design firm should be chosen on a 360 over view of all aspects of their capabilities, not only web design.

 Top web design firms get dozens of enquiries a week, how can they do POCs for all of them or even half of them

We get dozens of enquiries a week and if our designers create POCs for even half of them, they will not be able to do actual client awarded work. More the volume of enquiries the more it becomes difficult to present designs to prospective clients.  Web design firms are usually cross functional teams that require a lot of coordination to get work done. Taking up precious resources before the project has been awarded is not fair to the firm.

Judge the design capabilities by the portfolio of past or recent work done by the web design firm

If honestly represented, the portfolio of recent projects is an excellent indicator of the quality of design and work you will get from the firm. Past performance is a good indicator of future performance if no extenuating circumstances are involved.  It will also save time during the decision making process.

Lets be fair to web designers. Any professional should be given a commitment before they start any work. It sustains motivation to the project and to the client as well.


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