How many mockups or design comps do you show clients?

Dec 12, 2013

Hey gang. 

Just got an email from a customer who was working with some elearning contractors. She brought up a really good question around design mockups and I knew you guys would have some good feedback.

As I see it, there are mainly two schools of thought on design comps:

Option 1: Show 2-3 slightly different designs and ask the client to choose.

Option 2: Present one design for the client's project. Any changes or new mockup designs will be charged accordingly.

Am I missing another scenario? Really curious how you manage this part of the production process.


14 Replies
Phil Mayor

Hi David

I normally have a detailed conversation with the client about design and any existing assets , style guides that exist.  I will also visit thier website and use elements from there.

I rarely do mockups, I normally do a rapid prototype of the first section for the client to review.

At this point we start a second discussion on what they liked and what they didn't and I will redesign the prototype.  

I have never had to do more than one redesign, I find this saves the client time (and in the end money).  In my initial design I offer some different types of design so we can have the discussion of what bits they liked and what they didn't.  This way I build up a series of rules for each client and hopefully trust.

Bruce Graham


Pretty much work exactly the same way as Phil.

Trust is a fundamental feature here - this process is easier in my opinion with repeat business.

Just come back from a meeting where have confirmed 13-chapters of a book being reduced to 13 short overview modules, and this is exactly the process we agreed on.

The agreed "design" was discussed at length over hotel foyer coffee, and written on Post-Its as we went along so that elements could be shuffled around to match ideas that popped up in my head.

First prototype is now ready - 3 hours on and should be delivered this afternoon.

David Anderson

Bruce and Phil:

Thanks for that feedback. Your comment re: trust is also really important. I have to imagine the process goes smoother with known customers than with new ones.

Any differences in workflow as it relate to mockups with your new clients? How do you communicate your course design to clients when you're building something from the ground up that doesn't leverage existing client templates?

Nancy Woinoski

Hi David - I don't do multiple mock ups either. I used to do paper mock ups but found that most clients could not wrap their heads around the static design (this is the same problem I have when doing storyboards). They really need to see a working module.

So now I create a working prototype to show them the design. We then have a review cycle (or two) to iron of the details.

Phil Mayor

The process I described would be for new clients.  For existing clients the process would be a little more informal with a lot of reference to "what we did last time".

I find my repeat customers are happy with my design choices, but are also aware that I am not precious about my work, and learn early on that if they don't like it they can tell me and I will ask a few more questions and build them something else.

Bruce Graham

David Anderson said:

Bruce and Phil:

Thanks for that feedback. Your comment re: trust is also really important. I have to imagine the process goes smoother with known customers than with new ones.

Any differences in workflow as it relate to mockups with your new clients? How do you communicate your course design to clients when you're building something from the ground up that doesn't leverage existing client templates?

For new clients, a mixture of "What do you think you want?", "Have you thought of ....?" and "What do you think of this?"

I have a new client that pretty much knows what they want - but yesterday I explained the benefits of 16:9 over 4:3 and they have now gone away to convert their existing courses.

I have another new client (via a 3rd party) who knew EXACTLY what they wanted, until we both pointed out it was all completely useless and made no sense so they have gone off to rethink their entire training strategy

New clients usually have something - PowerPoint, website a preferred font.

For me it's more of a "feeling" than a "process". Now I know that makes a lot of people feel uneasy, but remember that over here we rarely ever have formal contracts either.

I feel that every client I have ever had prefers a dialogue where they trust me and allow me to interpret their needs to a formal process - maybe that's just the clients I have had.

Daniel Brigham

Hi, David: I think storyboards and mockups can work well if you've worked with the client before or if you're producing elearning for an organization that has a defined style.

When presenting a storyboard or mockup for new clients, however, many elearning developers (and man, I've learned this one the hard way) assume the stakeholder or client can visualize how the course will be from static images. Elearning developers have this ability to think visually. Most clients, though, do not.

Many clients are so new to elearning that they care more about "something happening on-screen" every few seconds than appropriateness of a scenario or interaction. Rapid prototyping allows you to communicate the dynamic aspect of the course.

Yet you do have to start the discussions on visuals somewhere. Like Phil, I'll often go to the client's website, if they like the website, that is. I'll show them different courses online (mine and others) and see what look they gravitate toward. Then I'll usually mockup a few PPT slides and send them off to see what they think. The major effort, though, goes into the rapid prototyping of the first section of the course (or the key slides/scenarios/interactions).

Working with freelancers is trickier than it seems, I think.

Jerson  Campos

I come from a graphic design background, and while at school our instructor would frequently say that you need to draw 100 thumbnail sketches when coming up with a design. And then narrow it down to 3. Sometimes the first 3 you draw are the ones you pick, sometimes it the last 3. While I've never done 100 sketches, I do draw out a variety of different designs when I'm doing a design from scratch.

As Phil said,  look at any existing assets or style guides they have. Usually large corporations will have very good documentation on what colors and how their logos will look.  When I approach clients, I usually have 3 different design styles to show them that I have done previously (all proprietary info scrubbed) to show them. They will vary from being very creative to very professional.  This way they can look at them and we can discuss what they do and don't like about each of them.  

I've also learned to not fall in love with your work. It may be the best thing created since sliced bread, but if the customer decides to go a different way, it's best to just put it in a "look at it later" file and work on a new design.

Kimberly Read

I contracted briefly before accepting a permanent position at my current employer. I did a rapid prototype of three different designs and then asked leadership and SMEs to vote for their favorite. The votes were evenly split so in the end I just picked one (they just had the illusion of having voted!). They have a design standards guide for their marketing materials and PowerPoints so each of the three prototypes reflected their brand image. Reflecting back, I probably did too much work mocking up three selections since they were torn between each of them.

Stephanie Harnett

My two cents...I'll always do a few stills (home, content, quiz, interaction) to demonstrate the visual style to the client fairly early in a project. This really isn't approval as it is my leading the way based on what I've heard from them. I never present a still with the expectation that the client is going to say change this to red, make this box bigger, change the font to bold...rather, I use stills to generate a nod that I am on the right path. Later, I do a functional prototype and it is at this point where the client may get a bit pickier but usually not.

Sarah Redmond

I think making three versions of the same thing, even if only a few slides in each, just wastes time. If you have a portfolio and you have the discussion around elements, then work within any corporate guidelines they have, you can't go too far wrong!  I think it also helps if you have a solid foundation of education theory when you talk about structure - it builds the trust that you know what you are doing quickly.

Garry Hargreaves

Hi Guys,

If an internal client (within my organisation)  I have detailed conversation and follow Phil's one design approach.

If an if was an external client, I have the detailed conversation then do to two irritations based on that discussion - If a very large client (Defence, Banking, Telecoms) I do two irritations plus a sacrificial design that the client never picks (so three in total) . This one time (temped to say "at band camp") the client picked the sacrificial design......that when we found out he was color blind.....hope it helps Dave.



Jeff Kortenbosch

I swing both ways. When I'm looking for a proposal I expect a mock up included. Obviously there is a proper briefing before and style guides etc are shared.  When I worked as a web designer I always include a mock up after the briefing whether the client asks for it or not. To me it is the best summary I can get and give to see if client and customer are on the same page. And believe me, in my customer role I've seen mock ups that had me running to the competitor 

This discussion is closed. You can start a new discussion or contact Articulate Support.