While it may be obvious, communication and collaboration are key to working with clients on design-related projects whether they be for the web or print. I think people forget that though; and for anyone handling the project management aspects of a job — especially if you’re a freelancer, this can be very frustrating and really drag down productivity.
Without client communication, who exactly are you designing for? How do you know if something is working, or right for the client’s target audience(s)? How do you get them to approve anything so that you can wrap up parts of a project and move on to the next component?
There’s nothing quite like the frustration of a project, especially one with a very short timeframe, coming to a screeching halt because the necessary communication just isn’t happening.
The thing with collaboration is that it’s a two-way street — it’s not one person sitting in a room talking to him or herself. It’s no fun having to chase after a client (or the other way around) to get an answer to a question or to get feedback to maintain a project’s momentum.
The thing is that everyone involved needs to understand is, well — the importance of being involved. If they don’t, they need to understand that projects will not finish on-time, on-budget and sometimes not at all without their support.
Collaboration tools, such as Basecamp can help ease the burden by enabling more frequent and timely collaboration and communications while improving your responsiveness as a designer. It lets clients be more involved in the process, makes you more accessible and better able to keep track of everything.
Design can happen in a vacuum but only to a point. The client must get involved — whether it’s simply to bounce ideas off, to point out problems or suggest improvements. There’s few clients who will sign-off on a project without reviewing your work and being happy with the end result.