What designers can learn from developers, on pricing

Written on April 15, 2013

Designers and developers essentially do the same job – solve problems for clients for a set or flexible fee. So why do designers, and sometimes clients, tend to value their time less so than developers? I believe it comes down to development work being more easily measured by the client.

For example, a client hires a developer to fix an issue with an existing website. Once the developer has worked their magic, they test their code through W3C validators and check in all relevant browsers. If all tests pass and the issue is fixed then the developer has done their job, no question about it.

Let’s plonk a designer into a similar example. A client hires a designer to increase brand awareness by re-aligning their brand’s identity. The designer carries out a lot of research, tries a lot of different approaches and finally chooses the best direction. After many hours of work they present the client with the end result. The client likes it but how do they measure the emotions that the identity evokes, etc? A brand’s success is primarily measured on the shelves and it’s not just the design that makes it work, it’s a combined effort of all marketing touchpoints – a lot of which are measurable. So the designer is left at the bottom of the thanks list with a few comments of “Oh yes it’s quite nice that but I’m still not convinced about the new red”.

This is a bit of a skewed example, of course. What I’m trying to highlight here is that designers should perhaps learn to measure their input and show the results to their clients regularly. Clients love to work with numbers, for example “this new user experience flow increased shopping cart completion by 20%”.

So how can designers measure their work’s value? How can you measure how much of an emotion a brand evokes? I’d love to hear your thoughts.