Web designers work with all types of clients. They can span a wide range of industries and organizational structures. Even those of us who work within a niche will see such variety.
I’ve worked with everyone, from solo entrepreneurs to large organizations. It’s interesting to pick out the similarities and differences. And it has helped me reach a comfort level when working in different scenarios.
However, some clients see this as a bug, not a feature. They believe that a web designer should have in-depth knowledge of their niche.
I can understand their thinking. A web designer who has never worked with a non-profit may not be the best option for a charity. But what if they have worked in eCommerce? Could that experience also be relevant to the client’s goals?
The web has matured and standardized. As such, maybe the idea of industry expertise is outdated. Perhaps finding out what a client needs is most important.
What Makes a Client Unique?
No two organizations are the same. Sure, there may be overlapping similarities. But they each have unique goals and processes.
Thus, there can be stark differences between clients within the same industry. That applies to their websites as well. For example, what worked for Client A may not be relevant to Client B. The same goes for design and branding.
That’s why even basic knowledge of their niche may be enough. You can learn through experience. But you could also study websites from other organizations. They can be a great source of ideas.
It’s more important to find out what makes a client unique. Ask lots of questions. Learn about their goals and the story behind them. Discover the obstacles that stand in their way.
Doing so will tell you about their needs. You can then develop a plan to help them succeed.
We Create Solutions Based on Need – Not Industry
A client’s needs may be unique. However, the underlying technologies of the web are more generic.
Web hosting is a prime example. We often recommend a host based on need. Factors like the site’s size and expected traffic play into the decision. Your client’s niche plays little to no role.
We instead take what we learn about a client and get to work. Skills like data wrangling and content organization shine in this context. An understanding of best practices for design and accessibility also helps.
It’s more about translating client needs into solutions. Experience, regardless of niche, is the key to making it work.
Take a Client-First Approach
If a potential client has concerns about your industry experience, talk to them. Having an honest conversation about their project can do wonders.
Building a website is a collaborative process. And your ability to work with a client should outweigh any worries about their niche. Frankly, all of the experience in the world means nothing without collaboration.
I’ve worked with clients who had websites built by niche agencies. These were not your typical high-quality services, however. They took a one-size-fits-all approach. They offered a limited number of options while charging a premium.
It’s a way to get a quick, albeit expensive, website. Does it serve a client’s best interest? That seems unlikely.
Maybe that agency had vast experience in a particular field. But that only helps if they take the time to engage their clients. Otherwise, the results won’t reflect the client’s needs.
A client-first approach works better for everyone. That holds across industries.
Niche Still Matters. But It’s Not Everything.
None of this means that a client’s niche is irrelevant. If it matters to them, it should matter to us as well.
Still, it may not be as important as we think. The tools we use are typically the same. The same principles apply to solving challenges.
There may be a few industry-specific exceptions. Apps that manage privacy or legal compliance come to mind. But that impacts a client regardless of who they hire to design their website.
Maybe we’re better off focusing on the client. Their website is a reflection of who they are. Their industry is only one part of the story.