There was an interesting article last week on Federal Computer Week, an information technology mag for the U.S. Government trade. Online Feng Shui — focus on users and not designers or committees.
As a designer, you can cater to the end user’s need, provide information and create value for them, striving for the ideal of a good user experience. Or, you can cater to your client’s wants — adjust spacing, imagery, font and colour until they stop bothering you with their personal preference, and ignore the guy who actually has to use the site.
Often, you end up having to do both. Clients sometimes get so wrapped up in their wants that they forget their users have needs that, if not met, will be taken elsewhere for fulfillment.
The worst of both worlds is when your work results in a cheap shill to make someone a quick buck, with no consideration to the end user. This, I find, is capitalism at its worst, and I avoid this type of client as much as possible.
In an article I wrote for this site in January, poorly titled “Marketing Bad, Useful Good”, I addressed a job where I had to stow my principles and create a horribly marketing–heavy site I was ashamed of. It’s worth noting that the epilogue to the story is that I’ve recently been contracted to revise my original work, because the end users were finding it to hard to use, and therefore didn’t.
It’s hard not to say I told you so.
update: for a much longer and more vexing look at the issue, check out Keith Robinson’s post.