The problem with presenting web designs

Written by Finn Taylor on 22nd October 2015

(Last updated 9th February 2016)

As a web designer, the design presentation stage is the fun part where you get to show your designs and see the clients reaction - delight, surprise, in-difference and potentially (but hopefully not) complete dislike and distain! 

Forgetting about your skills in presenting your designs and the differences in your design process, there is a fundamental challenge in showing website designs which does not exist in the print world…each of the different ways you might show your designs have flaws...

The traditional option is to print the designs out

Whilst printing the designs often makes them look great (especially if you use a nice matt paper) and allows a group to review the design options in a nice and tactile manner, printing the designs is fundamentally flawed as you are showing something that is meant to exist on screen in a different medium. The relationship of size, ratios and colour can have a very different impact on paper vs on screen….from experience some designs look stronger in print and others look better on screen, potentially misdirecting the decision making process. Additionally the above-the-fold issues, and impact of discovery as you scroll will be lost in print….simply seeing the entire design in one go can really miss-represent the design, as elements are all seen together even if they will never be onscreen at the same time.

Show it on screen, as it is meant to be seen

The obvious solution is to show the designs on-screen as this is how they are mean to be seen.
Whilst in principal this is the right approach, the reality is that you can not easily get a large group of decision makers clustered around a screen, as you will have people having to squint over each others shoulders to try to get a reasonable view. 

Using a projector or a larger wall mount TV

Whilst most board rooms are kitted out with projectors or large TV’s for presentations, the reality is that the colours can be quite different often causing subtle details to be lost and the screen ratio is generally wide/shallow causing website designs to have an awkward ratio. Simply seeing a nice bit of typography blown up to the size of your head, is going to miss-represent the design and we also need to remember that a website is a one-on-one experience and viewing this projected on a wall is not indicative of the experience of using the site.

An online presentation

Online conference tools such as WebEx, GoToMeeting and Teamviewer as well as more general tools such as Skype all allow you to share your screen with a number of participants.
The problem with these solutions is that many users are operating in an environment where they can not install screen-sharing software or browser plug-ins as their workstation shave been locked down and specific ports are also often restricted resulting in challenging process to get the entire decision making team all connected. The additional issue with screen-sharing is that the scale of the shared screen is often squished down for different sized monitors and images are pixelated, resulting in a poor experience.

So how else can you present the designs?

One-on-one with the decision maker in front of a screen is great if you only have a single decision maker, but as soon as you have a group this falls apart. Ideally you want all members of the decision making group sitting in front of a screen each, but setting this up in the client board room might be a bit tough! Another option is to send people designs in advance and set up a conf call with all members sitting at their own computer.  However, staying in control of a presentation where people can skip through designs or scroll down the page themselves is difficult. Ideally we want to talk our clients through our thinking.

Maybe there is a better solution - somehow we seem to be caught in a mix of all of these…showing printed designs for tactility getting participants to view the designs at a laptop and sometimes having to use a projector, although we really try not to.

What we (the design industry) really need is way to present website designs which: 

  • lets you present designs, screen-by-screen controlling what everyone sees
  • shows these in the browser so the design scrolls like a webpage, highlighting the impact and discovery of what is onscreen vs offscreen
  • does not pixelate or overly compress the design
  • respects design ratio’s ensuring designs are seen as they are intended
  • allows each participant to point at parts of the screen so others can see what they are discussing
  • bypasses security issues which stop most screen sharing tools from working

We’re interested in what approaches others are using…simple printouts, a dedicated online presentation tool, or a mix n match like us.

This article was posted in Design by Finn Taylor