Design Proposals

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What are Design Proposals?

User experience (UX) design proposals are documents that outline a potential design project for prospective clients. They serve as a comprehensive plan and typically include a project’s approach, process, deliverables, timeline and commercial terms. They are platforms for designers to demonstrate their expertise, vision and proposed solutions to clients’ problems.

Much like any other design deliverable, the design proposal also begins with a careful understanding of the user—in this case, the potential client. Designers must understand what the client expects from a proposal and create one that matches their expectations.

Author, speaker and executive leadership coach Todd Zaki Warfel explains how to approach clients with design work.

Why Are Design Proposals Indispensable?

Design proposals are the lifeblood of any UX design project. These proposals  help provide a roadmap for the entire design process. They act as a reference for everyone involved and set clear expectations for the design solution.

A well-constructed UX design proposal can help designers:

  • Gain clarity and understanding about the project’s purpose and what they need to achieve.

  • Establish legal and contractual clarity, protecting the interests of both parties involved via clear terms and conditions, deliverables, timelines and budgets.

  • Accurately estimate costs, letting clients understand the financial aspect of the project.

  • Showcase creative vision and approaches to brand-relevant fineries. These include an appreciation for real-world user behaviors and compelling visual elements.

  • Streamline project management via well-defined project timelines and milestones.

  • Establish credibility and start to build solid and lasting trust with their client.

When Do Designers Create Proposals?

Designers create design proposals both when they are seeking new clients prospectively and when they are working on existing project discussions. In both scenarios, the key is for the designer to communicate clearly, present a compelling case for their design vision, and show an understanding of the client's needs and goals. A well-crafted design proposal can go a long way to winning business and ensuring project success for both clients and designers.

Since understanding the client means understanding users of the client’s brand too, designers should declare the full range of their skill sets in their proposals—and much more. A vital ingredient is to show how they’ll go about understanding users in a new contract. This includes leveraging UX research methods and approaches, such as quantitative research and qualitative research. For example, for prospective contracts, a designer might show how they made the best of card sorting, focus groups, user interviews and user journeys for previous clients in their UX portfolio. A vital point, of course, is to safely do so—that is, without violating non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

The key point is for a designer to be ready to prove that they can well exceed a client’s expectations with solid experience and a keen, fresh eye for innovative solutions in the marketplace. This is essential in a fickle market, where mobile device users are used to discarding apps after just one use and many clients can’t afford to place their trust unless a convincing, compelling proposal helps them start to believe in the solution provider they have been hoping for. Designers have only seconds—and just one chance—to make a first impression and leap out from a thick pile of proposals. Consequently, they need to ensure they come across as the best UX brand to handle the problem at hand.

Here, Principal and owner of Lebsontech LLC, Cory Lebson explains what goes into branding as a UX professional:

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What Does a Design Proposal Look Like?

Proposals are essential for all kinds of designers. They could be product designers like app or web designers, service designers or other professionals in UX or user interface (UI) design. Proposals can vary in form, with different nomenclature for the introductory part (termed “executive summary”). However, these key parts provide essential information about the project's scope, objectives, requirements and more:

1. Title Page

The title page includes the project's title, the designer's name or company name, the date of submission and possibly a logo or visual representation of the design proposal.

2. Introduction

The introduction provides an overview of the design project, introduces the client's needs and sets the stage for the proposal. This can act as a cover letter.

3. Table of Contents

This is to facilitate fast finding. The proposal is a design and should offer maximum convenience.

4. Client's Needs and Objectives

This section outlines the client’s specific requirements, goals and objectives. It contains a problem statement and helps show an understanding of the client's needs and how the proposed design will fulfill them.

5. Scope of Work

The scope of work defines the specific tasks, deliverables and services that the designer will provide. It outlines what the design project will include and—particularly importantly—any limitations or exclusions.

6. Proposed Design Solution

This section details the designer's approach to addressing the client's needs and objectives. It may include design concepts, sketches or other visual representations to illustrate the proposed design solution.

7. Timeline

The timeline section outlines the proposed schedule for the design project. It includes key milestones and deadlines.

8. Deliverables

Within the timeline, this is the expected delivery of design elements. Designers name UX deliverables associated with the project and where they feature (e.g., user research insights followed by proposed user flows and usability testing of low-fidelity prototypes). Both deliverables and timeline need to reflect how the design process will work for the project.

Watch Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) expert Professor Alan Dix explain the steps involved in a design process.

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9. Qualifications and Experience

Here, the designer (or design team) highlights their relevant qualifications, experience and past projects that demonstrate their capability to successfully execute the proposed design project. When they include their UX portfolios, designers can showcase their skills in interaction design and other relevant areas. 

10. Cost Estimate and Payment Terms

This part includes the proposed cost of the design project, broken down into specific elements. It also outlines the payment terms, such as deposit requirements and invoicing details.

11. Terms and Conditions

The terms and conditions section specifies the legal and operational aspects of the design project. This includes ownership of work, revisions, cancellation policy and any other relevant contractual details.

12. Conclusion

The conclusion summarizes the key points of the proposal and reiterates the benefits of the proposed design solution. Most importantly, it should encourage the client to take the next steps and present the designer’s contact information as clearly as a call to action.

An illustration showing the 10 listed parts of a design proposal according to Userlytics.

Userlytics include 10 essential elements of a design proposal.

© Userlytics, Fair Use

How to Craft an Effective UX Design Proposal

Designers can use a recommended step-by-step guide to frame a persuasive proposal:

Step 1: Understand the Client's Brand

Before a designer starts drafting a proposal, they need to understand the client's brand thoroughly. They also must comprehend the needs, expectations, behavior, pain points, and more about the users the brand serves. For example, is it a niche startup, or a long-established client that has just had a brand makeover to appeal to a wider market? In an external context, it could be a B2B (brand-to-brand) or a B2C (brand-to-consumer) scenario. Or it could be a case where a company is working on an internal project for its employees, such as an intranet. In any case, this understanding ensures that their design proposal aligns with the existing brand identity, values and messaging. If a designer understands the brand well, they can tailor their design proposal to meet these objectives effectively and show great value in design decisions.

Step 2: Write a Stellar Problem Statement

The problem statement is crucial. It should be specific, concise and directly related to the client’s needs and the client's business objectives. The most difficult part is to define the problem accurately and clearly—which many designers often overlook. A well-defined problem statement will guide the designer’s efforts properly. It will also help set the right expectations with the client and stakeholders.

The primary problem is that of the client. Then the designer can move on to examine the specific problems that the client’s users face, the causes of these and perhaps potential consequences of not resolving them. When they clearly articulate the problem, a UX designer demonstrates their understanding of the client's pain points. This sets the stage for proposing effective solutions. It also raises the chances of a successful pitch if the client sees their problem clearly articulated in the proposal. A Point of View (POV) is a meaningful and actionable problem statement that designers can leverage to access many such insights. They can use a Point of View Madlib to pinpoint their focus with the most clarity.

Diagram of a POV Madlib

A Point of View Madlib helps designers clearly articulate a problem statement: “(The user) needs to (word or words reflecting the user’s need) because (the insight explaining the need).”

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Step 3: Define the Scope in Detail

A designer now outlines the work they will do. This could include website design, user interface and experience design, or other forms of content creation. It’s important to set out the tasks, deliverables, services and anything else that relates to the limitations of the design work.  

Designers must understand the full nature of the proposed work ahead of time—what they must do (e.g., usability testing) and what their services do not include. This helps prevent scope creep and surprises from miscommunication.

Step 4: Comprehensively Outline the Solution

Once a designer has clearly stated the problem, it's time to tie in the solution and explain why it solves the client’s or customer's pain points. A well-articulated solution gives the client a clear, detailed plan for how the design work will address their specific problem. It also ensures they understand the proposed approach and what they can expect from the project.

Designers should outline the specific goals they aim to achieve through their proposed solution. These objectives should be measurable, realistic and directly linked to addressing identified problems. If the designer clearly defines the objectives, the client gains a clear understanding of what the project aims to achieve and how to measure success.

It’s crucial to allow for some fluidity. Design solutions typically evolve as more user insights arise and as the project progresses. Therefore, while the solution should be detailed and well-thought-out, it should also be flexible enough to accommodate changes and improvements. Meanwhile, the client should feel it starting to address their unique situation from the outset. They should sense the designer has empathy both for the users and themselves as the client.

Details are important here because they provide a clear roadmap of how designers plan to achieve the project goals. This includes the tools and techniques they will use, the stages of the design process, and how they will incorporate user feedback. This section should also explain how the design strategy aligns with the business objectives and user needs.

This video explains the need for empathy in design and how it guides decision-making:

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Step 5: Establish a Realistic Timeline and Firm Deliverables

Timeline

The timeline section of the UX design proposal is essential for managing expectations and ensuring a smooth project flow. It outlines the projected timeline for each phase of the project, including key milestones and deliverable dates.

 A designer’s timeline should consider the complexity of the project, the availability of resources, and potential dependencies. It’s crucial to be realistic and allow for flexibility in case of unforeseen circumstances. A well-planned and communicated timeline helps the client understand the project's progress and ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding deadlines and expectations. As delays can have a ripple effect on the entire project, it's essential to factor in some buffer time for unforeseen circumstances or changes in the project scope.

Deliverables

The deliverables section of the UX design proposal specifies the tangible outputs the designer will provide to the client throughout the project. It should include a comprehensive list of deliverables such as user research reports, wireframes, prototypes, usability test results and any other relevant documentation.

 The designer should clearly outline the format, frequency and expected quality of these deliverables. For example, mockups may look like the finished project but can appear far sooner in the project. This section ensures that the client understands what they will receive at each stage of the project and helps manage their expectations.

Diagram showing the iterative process of design.

A proposal should reflect a solid understanding that UX design involves important elements: to iterate to validate ideas and to iterate to design around constraints.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Step 6: Include a Strong Portfolio

In this section the designer showcases relevant work to account for the “why me?” dimension. They highlight projects that are like the one they’re proposing for the client. This will give a sense of the individual’s design style and capabilities.

To highlight their experience, designers should showcase their past work, case studies and client testimonials that demonstrate their capabilities. Their UX portfolio should corroborate their claims and act as a design with its own superior UX as well. Designers should explain why they are the best choice for the project and how they can add value to the client's business. UX design is a burgeoning industry, and competition can be fierce. So, standing out from the crowd is crucial with a proposal that not only is professional and comprehensive but also uniquely fits the client's specific needs and goals.

Design lead for the AdWords Display & Apps Team at Google, Stephen Gay gives advice on how to craft a UX portfolio.

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Step 7: Estimate Costs and Decide on Payment Terms

A designer needs to show a client how much they will charge for the work, how they will calculate fees and what expenses or contingencies are included. It’s important to be transparent and fair about costs, and justify value and quality. It’s also vital to break estimated costs down into specific deliverables or phases. When it’s itemized this way and transparent, clients can understand what they are paying for, foster trust in the designer and make informed decisions.

It's better to overestimate (by a little) than underestimate. Include costs for research, design, testing and implementation, as well as any additional costs that may arise. A designer should be clear about pricing structure, whether it's hourly or project-based, and explain all costs. Designers include their fees, any additional expenses for resources or tools, and potential costs for changes or additions to the project scope. They should also describe acceptable payment options for the client.

Step 8: Set out the Terms and Conditions

It's crucial to specify clear terms and conditions for several reasons:

  • Clarity: They provide clear guidelines about the rules and requirements for both parties involved in a transaction or agreement.

  • Legal Protection: Terms and conditions can serve as a legal contract that may protect the rights of all parties.

  • Dispute Resolution: In case of disagreements, they are references to help resolve disputes.

  • Limitation of Liability: They can limit the liability of a service provider (the designer), clearly outlining what they are and aren’t responsible for.

  • Enforceability: Clearly stated terms and conditions are more likely to be enforceable in a court of law.

Image of two people having a discussion.

Disagreements can arise over any number of factors in a contract. A good terms and conditions section can account for contingencies.

© SHVETS production, Pexels License

Step 9: Summarize The Proposal

The final step is to summarize the proposal and restate the value proposition. A designer needs to show the client why they should choose them for their UX project, what benefits and results that designer will deliver, and how they will exceed the client’s expectations.

It’s important to make a compelling last section here. A client needs to feel that urge to engage from a well-written conclusion that encapsulates why a particular designer is the way forward with the right solution and more.

Tips and Best Practice for Creating a Design Proposal

It’s important to consider various factors that will influence both the creation and reception of a proposal. Key considerations are for designers to:

Understand the Client’s Needs, and Prove It

  • Research Thoroughly: Before drafting a proposal, a designer needs to deeply research the client’s business, industry and competitors—and, of course, the users who make up their market. It’s imperative to prove an understanding of the client's challenges and clearly articulate how the solution will address them.

  • Be Accessible and Approachable: Designers should show they are eager to start a dialogue and be open to discussions for gathering requirements and insights as they begin the design project.

Appreciate the Technical Aspects

  • Feasibility: Consider the practicality of the design in terms of budget, resources and time constraints.

  • Functionality: Ensure the design works well and serves its intended purpose.

Present the Proposal Well

  • Clearly and concisely articulate ideas and how they align with the client's goals. Avoid jargon and complex language. Ensure the client can easily understand the proposed solution, deliverables and costs. Remember that design is a conversation in itself; the proposal must reflect appreciation for a great user experience. Aim to answer potential questions within the proposal.

  • Deliver a professional format and tone throughout the proposal. Ensure perfect grammar and spelling, and a clean and clear layout.

  • Include detailed sketches, mockups or prototypes when possible.

Maximize the Visual Appeal Wisely

  • Ensure a visually attractive design that aligns with the brand’s image. Use visuals such as images, diagrams and infographics to illustrate points and make the proposal more engaging. A strong proposal also needs to reflect a designer's grasp of great visual design. Balance the text with relevant visuals that effectively communicate ideas.

Diagram showing statistics about aesthetics and credibility on websites.

According to the Stanford University’s research, (published in the Stanford Credibility Project), nearly half of 2500+ participants assessed the credibility of websites based on their visual appeal. Remember the importance of visual appeal, both in design solutions and the proposal itself.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Understand the Client's Budget

  • Discuss the budget openly with the client. This understanding guides the scope and scale of the project, and gives insights into the company culture behind the product or service.

Anticipate The Economic Factors As Far as Possible

  • Costing: Provide a clear breakdown of costs including design, production and any other associated fees.

  • Return on Investment (ROI): Explain how the design solution will benefit the client financially or in terms of brand value.

  • Assumptions: Identify and communicate any assumptions, like the availability of resources, access to user groups or the client’s active participation. This will help align expectations with the client and address potential risks or challenges upfront.

 Clearly Define The Offer

  • Scope of Work: Clearly define what is included to avoid scope creep.

  • Deliverables: List all deliverables, including file formats and any other specifics.

Sell the Expertise

  • Portfolio: Include relevant examples of past work that demonstrate competence and style to answer the client’s “Why hire this designer?” in seconds.

  • Testimonials: Share testimonials from past clients to build trust.

Develop a Compelling Narrative

  • Storytelling: Use a narrative to connect the client’s problem to the proposed solution.

  • Benefits: Focus on the benefits of the design, not just the features.

Include User Research

  • Show commitment to UX Research: Impress the client with an obvious commitment to conduct user research to understand the target audience's needs, behaviors, pain points, expectations, motivations, and more about their world.

  • Show commitment to User Testing: Plan for user testing as a necessity. This will validate the proposed solution and provide valuable feedback for refinement. When designers test with real users, they can reveal unforeseen issues and gain insights to significantly improve the design.

Consider Proposal-Generating Software

  • Effective UX design proposal tools and templates are widely available. Use them to help streamline the proposal creation process and enhance the quality and professionalism of proposals. They can also provide a platform for collaborative work. Good programs can save time, provide more insights, and help the client choose a designer or company faster. Designers should find ones that help them customize the look, feel and professionalism they want to cast to clients—for example, as freelance UX or UI designers.

Illustration showing a design proposal template.

PandaDoc is one of many solutions to generate a design proposal.

© PandaDoc, Fair Use

Follow Up

  • Follow-Up Plan: Have a plan for following up after sending the proposal.

Be Flexible and Open to Revisions

  • Design is a collaborative process, and a proposal should reflect this. Be open to feedback from the client and be willing to revise the proposal based on their inputs. Designers who are feedback-oriented and -driven can show this commitment to evidence, flexibility and listening.

    Image showing the Zengenti Team in a discussion room.

    UX design agency Zengenti has used usability testing data in their design proposals to win projects. They find that including user testing data in their proposals provides a strong foundation for their design process and helps to reassure clients that their designs are evidence-backed.

    © Simon Dumont, Fair Use

Potential Pitfalls around a Design Proposal

Some potential issues that can arise in a project relating to the proposal include:

Lack of Research

  • Inadequate Market Analysis: This can result in a design that does not resonate with the target audience.

  • Misunderstanding the Brief: Not asking questions for clarity can cause a proposal to miss the mark.

Communication Issues

  • Overpromising: Designers who make promises on deliverables or timelines that are unrealistic can damage trust. Also be clear about the job description. Many potential clients might have a vague idea of what’s involved in product design, and expect UI-UX designers to deliver in unrealistic timelines.

  • Vague Descriptions: Lack of specificity in the scope of work can lead to misunderstandings. For example, a proposal aimed at service design needs to consider every angle of the service design process.

    Watch CEO of Experience Dynamics, Frank Spillers explain the service design process.

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Financial Missteps

  • Underquoting: Underestimating the costs can lead to financial loss or a decrease in quality to meet budgets.

  • Overquoting: Overestimating costs can make a proposal less competitive.

Including Design Ideas without Considering Consequences

  • Designers do not typically include design ideas in a proposal, unless the client has agreed to sign an NDA, and offers compensation for drafting the proposal. These are usually called RFPs (request for proposal). Also, if the client and designer already know what's to be designed, then a solution overview will make sense. That is, it merely documents what the client has shared or what the client and the designer have mutually discussed before.

Legal and Ethical Concerns

  • Copyright Infringement: Always ensure that the design does not infringe on any copyrights.

  • Ethical Design: Be mindful of ethical considerations in a design. Avoid anything that could appear offensive or inappropriate.

Remember, a great design proposal is not just about the aesthetics. It's also about how well it communicates the value of a design solution to the client. It should be clear, concise and compelling. It should also show extensive attention to detail in research, planning, foresight, empathy and vision. Overall, it travels ahead of the designer who relies on it. It’s often the first point of contact with a client, and so needs to portray the ultimate in professionalism, credibility, and much more.

“People hire who they know, who they like, and who they trust."

Chris Do, CEO and Founder of The Futur

Learn More about Design Proposals

Take our How to Become a Freelance Designer course.

Watch our masterclass Win Clients, Pitches and Approval: Present Your Designs Effectively with Author, speaker and executive leadership coach Todd Zaki Warfel.

Read our piece How to Get Meaningful Design Feedback From Your Clients for more insights.

Read Jami Oetting’s article 15 Proposal Software Tools for Proposal Creation and Management for an array of proposal software to choose from.

See how prospective clients think in this insightful piece by Karthika G L: 7 Points To Consider When Choosing UI/UX Design Proposals For Your Business.

Find helpful points in this article from Simon Dumont: How to create a winning design proposal with user research.    

Read Job M’s A UX Writer’s Guide To Writing A Content Design Proposal for additional insights.

Questions about Design Proposals

How does a UX design proposal differ from other types of design proposals?

The specific deliverables are different across different fields of design. Also, designers can continue to work on a product after launch and help to constantly improve or iterate on the design from testing and feedback. They can do this in an annual maintenance contract (AMC), for instance.  

Also, UX designers are more service-oriented, despite the point that they may have tangible deliverables. Meanwhile, other types of designers tend to be oriented around one-time deliverables, handing off their designs before moving on.

Lastly, UX design proposals must leave scope for some flexibility, unlike other designers who have a more concrete scope of work. This is especially relevant for UX designers, as they will need to watch for scope creep in particular in some cases.

How can designers ensure their proposals are aligned with the client's budget constraints?

To ensure design proposals align with the client's budget constraints, designers should adopt a strategic approach:

Prioritize Needs over Wants: Differentiate between the essential features required for functionality and the additional features that are nice to have. Focus on delivering the core requirements within the budget.

Allocate Resources Wisely: Pick cost-effective solutions without compromising the quality of the design. This might include using open-source tools or modular design elements.

Design with Flexibility in Mind: Propose scalable solutions that allow for future expansion or enhancement when more funds become available.

Use Clear Communication: Maintain transparent communication throughout the project. Regularly update the client about the progress and any potential adjustments to stay within budget. Communicate effectively and be open and honest to build trust and simulate a face-to-face business environment virtually.

Use an Iterative Approach and Iterative Design Process: Good design iteration is about testing and refining ideas in stages, like prototype testing and incorporating user feedback. This prevents time-consuming and costly changes later in the project. On that subject, the proposal must clearly communicate this – address the iterative nature of the service, additional costs (if any) and the responsibilities of each party (say sign-offs or testing) for each iteration.

What role does user research play in a UX design proposal?

User research plays a critical role in a UX design proposal. It gives valuable insights into user needs, behaviors and preferences. It serves as the foundation for creating user-centered designs in the form of products and services that effectively meet the target audience's requirements.

Also, research helps inform the designer about the scope of work for the proposed solution.

Moreover, by knowing what the competition is, they can propose ideas on how to beat the competition for the design solution.

Watch this video for valuable insights into the timing and importance of user research in the design process.

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How important is visual design in a UX design proposal?

Visual design is especially important in a UX design proposal. It's not just about aesthetics in digital products like websites or apps. Visual design plays a crucial role in user experience as it influences usability, user interaction, user perception and the overall effectiveness of the design. The fundamental reason behind this fact is:

First Impressions: Visual design is often the first aspect of a product that users notice. For example, the first few seconds a user spends on a web design sets the tone for the user experience and can greatly impact user engagement. A designer’s UX portfolio should likewise impress clients.

How do cultural factors influence the creation of UX design proposals?

Cultural factors greatly influence how designers create proposals. When designers understand and integrate these factors, they can create more inclusive, accessible, and effective designs for users from all cultural backgrounds.

User Behavior and Preferences: Different cultures have unique behavioral patterns and preferences. For example, color symbolism varies greatly across cultures. It affects how users perceive and interact with designs. Red in China, for instance, generally grabs users in different ways than it does users in the United States.

Language and Communication: Language is not just about translation but also involves understanding cultural nuances, idioms and context. Effective communication and communication styles in UX design consider these aspects to ensure clarity and relevance in visual design and beyond.

Navigation and Layout: Cultural differences in scanning patterns (like left-to-right or right-to-left reading) impact how users navigate and consume content. Designers must consider these variations to create intuitive and user-friendly layouts for different cultural groups.

Values and Norms: Cultural values, such as individualism versus collectivism, influence user expectations and interactions with technology across many groups of people. Designs for products or services that resonate with the target audience’s values will be more effective there.

Accessibility and Inclusion: Recognizing cultural diversity contributes to greater accessibility and inclusivity, long term. It ensures that products are usable and appealing to a broader audience and that they address at a high level the many pain points users face in problem solving.

Finally, with remote collaboration, it is extremely important to understand how people work in different cultures. What's acceptable in one region may be considered rude elsewhere. This will depend on what aspects of a proposal would have such cultural differences, though.

What strategies can designers use to accurately estimate project costs in a proposal?

Do Detailed Requirement Analysis: Begin with a thorough analysis of the project requirements. Understanding the scope and complexity helps to make a more accurate estimation for all individual tasks combined.

Review Historical Data: Look at past successful projects with similar scopes. Historical data can provide insights into the time and resources needed for the project life cycle this time.

Break Down the Project: Divide the project into smaller, manageable parts from the early stages onwards. Estimate the cost for each project task and then sum up for the total project cost.

Include Contingency Plans: Always include a contingency budget for unforeseen circumstances or changes in project scope. This will ramp up the total cost but may make the difference between whether the project gets completed comfortably or not.

Consider All Factors: Include all aspects of the project in the cost estimate, such as design, development, testing, and any third-party service costs or time-consuming extras.

Regularly Communicate with Stakeholders: Engage with all stakeholders to ensure that they consider all needs during the project schedule and that the estimate is realistic for long-term project progress.

Use Project Management Tools: Leverage project management and estimation tools to help automate and standardize the estimation process.

Review and Adjust Regularly: Treat the estimate as a living document that’s adjustable as more information becomes available.

What are effective ways to communicate complex design concepts to clients in proposals?

Designers can communicate complex design concepts to potential clients and clients effectively by using a few key strategies when they write a design proposal:

Simplify the Language: Use simple, jargon-free language. Avoid technical terms that may not be familiar to the client. This makes the proposal more accessible and easier to understand for a wide range of stakeholders.

Use Visual Aids: Include diagrams, sketches, wireframes, or prototypes for product or service design work. Visual representations can convey complex ideas more effectively than text alone. They help clients visualize the end-product of the design project and understand the design process.

Leverage Storytelling: Frame the design concept within a narrative. Explain how the design solves a problem or improves the user experience. Stories can make abstract concepts more tangible and relatable.

Use Modular Explanation: Break down the concept into smaller, manageable parts. Explain each part individually before showing how they integrate into the whole. This step-by-step approach prevents information overload.

Make Analogies and Metaphors: Analogies and metaphors can bridge the gap between unfamiliar design concepts or abstract ideas and the client’s existing knowledge. They make complex ideas more relatable and easier to grasp.

Involve Clients in the Process: Client involvement is a must. Ask for their input and address their concerns. This can increase their understanding and investment in the project.

Establish regular feedback loops: to ensure the client understands and is on board with the proposed design. This also allows for early detection and correction of any misunderstandings long before pain points turn up in user testing.

Watch this video by Morgane Peng, Design Director at Société Générale, for insights into how to work with feedback:

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What strategies can designers use to handle scope creep in UX design proposals?

To effectively handle scope creep in UX design proposals, designers can employ several strategies:

Clearly Define the Project Scope: Start by establishing a clear, concise project scope. This includes outlining specific deliverables, timelines, and responsibilities. Designers who define the scope in a written document help ensure that all stakeholders have a common understanding of the project's boundaries, and what’s involved to complete the project and keep to the project schedule.

Establish a Change Request Process: Implement a formal process for handling changes or additions to the project. This process should include evaluating the impact of the change on resources, timelines, and costs. It should also require formal approval before any changes get made to any part of the project, regardless of whether they’re key elements or not.

Regularly Communicate with Stakeholders: Maintain open lines of communication with all project stakeholders. Regular updates and meetings help manage expectations and address any concerns early on and prevent surprises in project status reports. 

Set Realistic Expectations: Designers should be realistic about what they can achieve within the given constraints of project timelines, project budget, and resources for project tasks. Overpromising can lead to scope creep as they try to meet unrealistic expectations for project team members and key stakeholders.

Monitor Project Progress and Consider Project Management Software: Keep a close eye on project progress. Regularly review the project status against the initial plan to identify any deviations early. Depending on the nature and type of project, consider using project management tools to aid in the management process.

Be Flexible, Yet Firm: While some flexibility is necessary, it's important to be firm about the project boundaries defined in the scope. Politely, but assertively, push back on requests that fall outside the agreed-upon scope. Clients may well agree not to assign tasks that go beyond agreed-upon terms, and therefore avoid scope creep and keep the project on track.

How can designers address client feedback or revisions in the proposal process?

Designers can address client feedback or revisions in the design proposal process effectively by following these steps:

Actively Listen and Understand: When designers receive feedback, they should listen actively to understand the client's perspective and the reasons behind their suggestions or concerns. They should ask clarifying questions if necessary to fully comprehend the client as they collect feedback.

Maintain a Positive Attitude: Approach revisions and feedback positively. View them as opportunities for improvement rather than criticisms. That can foster a more productive and collaborative environment, and establish a long-term relationship. With the right mindset, designers can turn the opinions of unhappy customers into constructive feedback and develop good ideas. 

Communicate Clearly and Regularly: Keep the lines of communication open. Regular updates on the status of revisions and clear explanations of any changes or challenges are crucial to maintain client trust and satisfaction.

Document Changes: Keep a record of all feedback and the corresponding changes made. This documentation can be useful for future reference and helps to ensure that no important details are overlooked. It also helps ensure more positive feedback when gathering feedback as the proposal manager can cross items off the list.

Set Boundaries and Expectations: Clearly define the scope of revisions and the proposal process. Set boundaries on the number and extent of revisions. It will prevent scope creep and ensure that the project remains on track according to the product roadmap.

Seek Consensus: Designers should work towards finding a solution that aligns with both the client's vision and their own design expertise. Strive for a consensus that satisfies both parties and upholds the quality and integrity of the design.

What are highly cited scientific pieces of research about design proposals?

The following paper is a good resource for design proposal research:

Phillips, R., & Maier, A. (2020). How design proposals are evaluated: A pilot study. Proceedings of the Design Society, 1, 2109-2118.

This academic article, authored by Phillips and Maier in 2020, presents the findings of a pilot study on the evaluation process of design proposals. The study aims to understand how professionals in the field assess and decide on design proposals, focusing on the criteria and decision-making processes involved. 

What are some highly regarded books about design proposals?

Here are some popular good books on design proposals:

1. Hass, C. (2015). Writing Successful UX Proposals. Morgan Kaufmann.

"Writing Successful UX Proposals" by Chris Hass is a pivotal resource for UX professionals and students who aim to master the art of creating effective and persuasive design proposals. This book provides a comprehensive guide on how to write proposals that clearly communicate the value and approach of UX projects. Hass covers critical elements such as understanding client needs, outlining project goals, and detailing methodologies. The book is particularly valuable for its insights into tailoring proposals to different audiences and its focus on winning strategies for securing project approval. This practical guide is essential for anyone looking to elevate their UX proposal writing skills.

2. Greever, T. (2020). Articulating Design Decisions: Communicate with Stakeholders, Keep Your Sanity, and Deliver the Best User Experience. O'Reilly Media.

"Articulating Design Decisions" by Tom Greever is an essential guide for UX designers and professionals involved in design processes. The book delves into the crucial skill of effectively communicating design decisions to stakeholders, colleagues, and clients. Greever addresses common challenges faced by designers, such as defending their decisions, managing feedback, and achieving consensus while ensuring the best user experience. He offers practical advice, strategies, and real-world examples to enhance communication skills in various scenarios. This book is especially valuable for its focus on the often-overlooked soft skills necessary for successful design projects.

Where can I learn more about design proposals?

Take our Design Thinking: The Ultimate Guide course to get behind the client’s point of view for successful design solutions.

Watch our masterclass How to Build A Successful Portfolio with Chris Clark.

Read Write A UX Proposal: How-To Guide by Steven Douglas for further information.

See Offorte’s Proposal example: UX design for more insights.

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Literature on Design Proposals

Here’s the entire UX literature on Design Proposals by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Design Proposals

Take a deep dive into Design Proposals with our course How to Create a UX Portfolio .

Did you know the average UX recruiter spends less than 5 minutes skimming through your UX portfolio? If you want to join the growing and well-paid field of UX design, not only do you need a UX portfolio—you’ll need a great UX portfolio that showcases relevant skills and knowledge. Your UX portfolio will help you get your first job interviews and freelance clients, and it will also force you to stay relevant in your UX career. In other words, no matter what point you’re at in your UX career, you’re going to need a UX portfolio that’s in tip-top condition.

So, how do you build an enticing UX portfolio, especially if you’ve got no prior experience in UX design? Well, that’s exactly what you’ll learn in this course! You’ll cover everything so you can start from zero and end up with an incredible UX portfolio. For example, you’ll walk through the various UX job roles, since you can’t begin to create your portfolio without first understanding which job role you want to apply for! You’ll also learn how to create your first case studies for your portfolio even if you have no prior UX design work experience. You’ll even learn how to navigate non-disclosure agreements and create visuals for your UX case studies.

By the end of this practical, how to oriented course, you’ll have the skills needed to create your personal online UX portfolio site and PDF UX portfolio. You’ll receive tips and insights from recruiters and global UX design leads from SAP, Oracle and Google to give you an edge over your fellow candidates. You’ll learn how to craft your UX case studies so they’re compelling and relevant, and you’ll also learn how to engage recruiters through the use of Freytag’s dramatic structure and 8 killer tips to write effectively. What’s more, you’ll get to download and keep more than 10 useful templates and samples that will guide you closely as you craft your UX portfolio. To sum it up, if you want to create a UX portfolio and land your first job in the industry, this is the course for you!

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