Skip to Main Content

Just Say “No” to Speculative Design

Does your web design company do speculative design work?
We don’t.

What I’m talking about is creating potential website layouts to show a prospect how their new website might look during the sales process. It’s not uncommon in our experience for a prospect to ask for this type of work, especially when they are talking to several web design agencies and making a decision about who choose as their new web designer.

We recently won some web design work where the client asked exactly for this. It was a competitive bid process, and we had been informed that we made the cut to the final three agencies. At this stage they asked if we could create a wireframe mockup or examples of what we envision the site would look like…

The Explanation

Here’s how we explained to them why we don’t do speculative design work:

We would be pleased to show you and your team sites we’ve designed in the past, as well as review other existing sites with elements that could be useful. I’m sorry to say that one thing we don’t do as a matter of policy is create speculative wireframes or rough layouts. There are quite a few reasons why we find this doesn’t work.

– Creating wireframes and design layouts for a business is precisely what our designers do, and they have an established process for creating fantastic work. To get those fantastic results, we need to go through the whole process. If we attempt to do something “quick”, it’s not going to be representative of what they would actually come up with after completing our process.

– If we were to spend the proper time to create initial layouts, well, that’s a large amount of the time you are hiring us to do. Doing that speculatively would be a large expense, and given that no agency wins every job they bid on, adding that labor to every estimate or bid would drive up the cost of every website we do. So by not doing speculative design or wireframes we are able to keep your costs lower.

We believe that our extensive portfolio of past work will provide evidence of our capabilities and give you the confidence that we can create a perfectly-fitting web site for your unique company. We are more than happy to demonstrate that during our upcoming meeting.

Strengths and Differentiators

We further shared that one of our key strengths is that our design team is capable of creating a wide variety of layouts, each appropriate to the company we are serving and specifically designed to meet the needs of their website visitors. Many designers are good at one type of layout, or creating variations of one general look and feel of a website. Our designers have a very wide range of design styles which is a key differentiator for us compared with our competitors. We shared examples across the range of our designs with the prospect, with the goal of giving them the confidence that we could create a design that would be perfect for their company and the constituents of their website.

This can be a scary approach to take, knowing that one or both of the other agencies competing for the job may very well create some speculative designs and “wow” the client. We stuck to our guns, and in the end, won the work.

More Resources

While I was crafting our response, I recalled listening to an article about this on the Boagworld podcast some time ago. Here’s an excellent blog post from their website that shares some additional reasons why speculative design work isn’t a good idea.