Designing on the Frontline

Many of us are designers. Many of us receive project enquiries from clients to produce designs for apps or websites. We often find cause to complain about clients, their lack of direction, their crazy ‘make the logo bigger’ requests or just bad taste in general. Some clients are great, some are very clear with their direction and their ability to trust us to do our job and sometimes they can even have great taste.

Designing for clients is relatively easy. Show them a style and they’ll either like or dislike it. It’s only ever a two way street unless they are in the lack of direction street when they simply don’t know what they want so everything is confusing, at that point is sometimes easier to walk away from the project to give them time to clarify in their own mind what they want.

Products, Customers and Support

That’s clients. Let’s talk about ‘products and customers’. Customers are entirely different to how you think of clients. Imagine a product like an app, digital item like a WordPress theme or an online store like Shopify as an example.

A few months after joining Obox, I’ve been at the forefront of answering customer emails. This is something completely different to what I’d been doing for the previous 6 months of the year. For those 6 months I designed pretty much every single day. My head was in Photoshop designing, in Illustrator building wireframes or Google Docs writing specifications. The only customer I really saw was the rest of the team building the product.

I have a strange love for answering emails. Receiving customer emails has been an incredible experience. It’s rare that a designer gets access to customers, we’re usually a few miles behind the frontline taking cover from any incoming. Generally every email which I answer is like a mini user test in itself. Emails can be anything from theme issues, log in problems or any other manner of support needs.

Communicating with our customers on a daily basis changes the way I think about designing whatever is next whether it be a feature, button or some text. I genuinely believe that if you’re a designer and have the ability get in front of the customers you’re designing for you’ll be all the better for it!

You’ll be shocked and no doubt outraged but most of all, you’ll learn a hell of a lot in a short space of time.

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Head of Interaction and Service Design at DigitalDWP.