A Guide to Effective Communication During UX and UI Projects

UX and UI projects can be complex and require close collaboration to stay on track and achieve goals. Because of this, effective communication each step of the way from both clients and vendors is critical to UX and UI project success.
Based on my experience leading a UX and UI design agency for almost a decade, I’ve noticed that the most successful projects often involve seamless, proactive communication from beginning to end, whereas ineffective communication leads to roadblocks and delays.

Table of contents:

Why effective communication is important

Effective communication creates harmony during each step of a project. Some benefits of effective communication both before and during a UX/UI project include:

  • Aligning on goals and expectations from the start
  • Achieving milestones and completing projects in a timely manner
  • Staying on budget and within scope
  • Building trusting relationships between clients and vendors
  • Easily resolving any challenges or roadblocks along the way

Ineffective communication can cause challenges and frustrations throughout the project. Risks associated with ineffective UX/UI project communication may include:

  • Misalignment on UX/UI project goals, timeline, scope, and budget
  • A strained relationship, lack of collaboration, and poor experience for both the client and vendor

Best practices to communicate before beginning a project

Communicate clearly before starting a UX or UI project to ensure clients select the right vendor for the project scope and vendors work on projects that align with their skills and expertise. Consider these best practices to determine whether your communication styles are compatible.  

Request and give accurate bids

Given the varying levels of complexity with UX and UI projects, an effective bidding or request for proposal (RFP) process is essential before beginning a project. Accurate bids can save time, decrease project costs, and avoid over or underestimating the scope, among other benefits. The bidding process also gives both clients and vendors an opportunity to learn more about each other’s communication styles.

On the client side, some ways to proactively prepare for a successful bidding process include:

  • Completing research about your desired UX/UI project
  • Sharing a standardized project overview with all prospective vendors
  • Requesting the same information from all prospective vendors

On the vendor side, a few steps you can take to submit accurate bids include:

  • Completing in-depth research about the project
  • Sharing detailed project briefs or questionnaires with potential clients
  • Maintaining a defined pricing structure to streamline the process of estimating costs and scope    

Schedule a meeting

While a written description or overview can provide initial high-level details about a project, scheduling time to meet in-person or virtually through a video meeting can be beneficial. Taking the time to do so can give the client and UX/UI professional or agency the opportunity to discuss the project goals, scope, and budget in more detail.

A direct meeting, as with the bidding process, also helps you learn about each other's communication styles to determine if partnering will be mutually beneficial.

For example, is the prospective client distracted on their phone or with other tasks on their screen throughout the call? Is the vendor knowledgeable about the client’s specific industry or niche? Decide at this time if the partnership fits with your project needs and interpersonal style.

Complete a test project or assignment

Before formally initiating a long-term contract for a UX or UI project, the client and vendor should consider partnering on a brief test assignment. As a potential client, a test assignment can help you gain a better understanding of a vendor’s work, communication skills, and ability to follow directions. As a vendor, you can get a feel for what a longer project may look like, learn about the client’s communication style, and understand how the client gives feedback.

Consider asking for these UX or UI test projects:

  • An app or webpage wireframe
  • A prototype or user flows for a specific product
  • A review of the client’s website or app highlighting recommended UX or UI improvements

A test project also gives prospective vendors the chance to ask questions before getting started and ensure project expectations are clear. If a UX/UI agency or professional doesn’t ask questions and misses the mark, this may show that they’re not the best communicator.

One time, I interviewed a designer for a project with my agency. During the interview process, I asked the designer to complete a test assignment. She didn’t ask any follow-up questions after receiving the general overview despite being unclear on the project expectations and the delivered end product missed the mark. If the designer had communicated her questions from the start, the test project result would have been more successful.

Keep in mind, test assignments are typically only needed for long-term or large scope projects. If the project is brief to begin with, requiring a test assignment ahead of time will only extend the timeline.

Set communication expectations

Aligning on communication expectations before beginning a project can help support an amicable relationship between the client and vendor, while avoiding miscommunication down the road. This approach is particularly important when clients and vendors have different set working hours and are spread across the globe.

I personally know a designer who recently faced communication challenges with a client because he didn’t communicate about his working hours up front. The client reached out expecting urgent project updates on a Sunday evening and the designer hadn’t communicated that he doesn’t work on weekends.

Some details and expectations to communicate about include:

  • Time zones
  • Working hours
  • Meeting cadence
  • Preferred communication format
  • Desired feedback timeline to keep the project on track

Tips to communicate during a project

Once a UX/UI project is under way, effective communication can help ensure project milestones stay on track and enable the client and vendor to maintain a positive working relationship and quickly address any questions or issues.

Follow predetermined communication expectations

Clients and vendors should hold each other accountable to predetermined processes related to forms of communication, meeting cadence, and working hours. For example, if the client asks to cancel the recurring check-in meeting every week or the vendor joins the meeting unprepared, reiterating the importance of weekly check-ins can help get meetings and projects back on track.

While following expectations can help ensure smooth communication, some flexibility is needed at times. If the vendor needs to reschedule one weekly check-in meeting, this shouldn’t be an issue—as long as the new meeting is within working hours for both the client and vendor. Or, if the client needs additional time to share project feedback, the overall project timeline can be adjusted slightly to accommodate the extra time.

Document communications

Whether you’re a client or vendor, keeping a written record of all communications and UX/UI project updates can help both sides stay organized, keep the project on track, and provide visibility into the project status.

Some ways to document communications include:

  • Sending a written agenda before each meeting
  • Following up with a recap and action items after each meeting
  • Centralizing all updates in a project management platform
  • Sharing incremental updates on messaging platforms

Always be polite, responsive, and engaged

No matter the form of communication, displaying politeness, responsiveness, and professionalism throughout the project can help support a positive relationship between clients and UX/UI agencies or professionals. On the client side, this may mean providing timely feedback and voicing any concerns in a professional manner—rather than letting emotions come into play. On the vendor side, this may look like quickly resolving questions and displaying excitement about working together to achieve UX/UI project goals.

If the client is disengaged throughout the project, this can delay project milestones and the final completion date. And if the vendor is rushed or doesn’t show interest in the project, this can lead to mistakes or miscommunication along the way.

Quickly resolve challenges or roadblocks

Open and honest communication is a key to quickly resolving roadblocks and challenges. If an issue goes unresolved for too long, it will likely only build over time, which can lead to frustrations between the client and vendor, as well as delayed project timelines.

Any time I’m working on a project, if I notice an issue isn’t getting resolved quickly over email or a messaging platform, I always aim to be proactive and schedule a meeting. Challenges and emotions can be misinterpreted over email or a similar form of communication and discussing the issue face-to-face—either in person or during a video meeting—can lead to a quicker resolution.

With a scenario like this, I often think of a video I’ve seen in which two dogs are yelling at each other through a fence and calm down as soon as the gate is open. The fence was blocking them from communicating, similar to how an email chain may block a client and vendor from effectively communicating and resolving challenges on a UX/UI project.

Top tools to simplify communication

Through my experience working with a wide range of clients over the years, I’ve found the following tools to be the most helpful with supporting effective communication—especially in a virtual environment.

  • Video conferencing software. In the absence of in-person meetings, video conferencing software such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams can help clients and vendors build relationships with one another by interacting directly on screen.
  • Messaging platforms. While recurring meetings are important, messaging platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Team, and Upwork Messages can help address quick questions and project updates. Another benefit is that many messaging apps have options to set up specific channels to manage different projects at once and ensure all stakeholders only receive the most relevant updates.
  • Project management software. UX/UI projects often have a lot of different elements and moving parts. Understanding where the project stands is important for all involved. Asana, Trello, and other project management software help teams track various tasks within a project, assign tasks to individuals, stay on deadline, and reduce meeting time for incremental project updates.
  • File sharing tools. Similar to project management software, file sharing tools like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive simplify collaboration between clients and vendors. Rather than attaching new versions of a file each time edits are made, files are stored in the cloud and accessible by all individuals involved in a project.
  • Video recording and screen sharing solutions. Given the complexity of UX and UI projects, recording video walkthroughs or tutorials using Loom or a similar solution can help clients understand how a design, app, or website works. Maintaining a library of walkthroughs and tutorials also saves both clients and vendors time, as a meeting won’t have to be scheduled each time a question arises or a new team member needs to learn about the project.

Real-world examples of how communication impacts UX and UI projects

I’ve worked on many UX and UI projects over the years, both on my own and through my agency. Based on my experience, communication can have a significant impact—whether positive or negative—on a project’s success and the following examples came to mind.

These projects fell short

  • Cryptocurrency client. My team worked with a client in the cryptocurrency space who wasn’t engaged and didn’t put enough time into thinking through the project scope—specifically, communicating which calculations and cases to include in an investment portfolio. As a result, it took more than four months for the development team to reconsider the calculations and develop good, stable code that took all scenarios into consideration.
  • A search engine marketplace startup for land and water: A client approached us and said he needed to share project details with potential investors but he didn’t have a clear vision for the project or time to adequately prepare a project overview. Given the lack of preparedness and communication about desired deliverables, my team took on a product owner role to determine possible solutions, which extended the project timeline. This isn’t an ideal scenario because a more effective approach involves the client approaching the project with a clear vision and being engaged throughout the process.

This project succeeded

  • Healthcare client: My team kicked off a project with a healthcare client about two years ago and the client initially only shared a rough idea and no clear vision for the first minimum viable product (MVP). My team responded with a multi-tiered communication approach to ensure we were on the same page. We began by sharing a sketch, proceeded with Figma designs, and from there developed the MVP. Two years later, the client just hit an exciting milestone, surpassing 14,000 users. Over the course of two years, we’ve faced different challenges along the way but always rely on effective communication to sort things out.

    We achieved effective communication using the following two best practices:

  • Setting up a cadence of recurring meetings from the start
  • Promptly addressing and resolving any issues or conflicts during the project to avoid delays or misunderstanding

Achieve UX and UI goals with effective communication

Proactive, streamlined communications can help simplify even the most complicated UX/UI projects while ensuring projects stay on track and within scope.  

I work closely with businesses to bring ideas to life through UX/UI design and software design for SaaS, CRM, ERP—primarily focusing on management platforms and mobile applications. If you’re looking for an experienced, communicative partner for an upcoming UX/UI project, reach out through my Upwork profile and we can discuss your specific goals in more detail.

This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the independent freelancer listed as the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
Article Author
Author
Bohdan H.
Top Rated Plus
Software AI Design Expert
Kharkiv, Ukraine
Software design expert

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