You Don’t Want Mockups Too Soon

A lot of design firms present mockups with their proposals, and in theory this can seem impressive, like the designer really cares about your project. And let’s be honest, seeing your logo on a shiny new website or brochure is the most exciting part of the process! But several glaring issues can come about as a result of taking this approach.

We almost never show a mockup before starting a project because it will likely be wrong, sending the project in a direction it shouldn’t go.

The wrong design gets bought

It’s almost impossible to design something that your customers will want without doing a full round of competitive research, whether on aesthetics or language. If you skip right to the mockup phase, the design may be pretty, but chances are good that it’s not going to help the brand sell because it’s not rooted in customer research.

Great design emerges as a collaboration of experts in two different fields– the client who is an expert in their market, with decades of experience interacting with customers, and the expert in branding and design. When a designer doesn’t factor a client’s industry experience into a design, the end result is visually stunning, but incorrect.

The client loves the prettier new design so much they don’t want to go back to do the hard work of discussing brand differentiation and customer pain points; and the marketer or designer isn’t dumb enough to talk themselves out of a sale at this stage, so they let a vastly imperfect design make the cut.

Internal disagreements

The next outcome is when two or more parties on the client side disagree about the visual direction, which can be equally damaging. The mockup drastically appeals to one party more than all the others, and someone ends up feeling slighted. The situation could have easily been averted if all parties were able to weigh in equally on design direction and discuss what they each liked and disliked, but instead there is persistent internal bad blood.

The important information is lost

Without going through a formal information architecture and wireframing session, the stuff that’s important can slip through the cracks. We’ve all read “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” so we know we all like to hear about things that are interesting to us. When a designer is trying to win a job, they’re likely to focus very heavily on the client’s company messaging rather than on appealing to the problems of the client’s customers, which is what clients are going to be looking for. As a result, the layout is all wrong, and again, the wrong design likely gets bought.
Every part of the website creation process exists for a reason. They’re not all as fun or exciting as seeing a Photoshop mockup of what your website might look like, but you’re shortchanging yourself by asking for mockups before wireframes and a competitive analysis.

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