I'm just starting out on my own as a web design & development start-up and I'm seeking advice on how to propose design concepts to my clients.

Currently I have a series of questions I ask them which I use to gather, among other things:

  • Main pages & features they're expecting
  • Language & tone of the website
  • The website's target audience
  • Examples of websites they find particularly appealing and why

After I've gathered this information, I'm considering creating a sketch of sorts using Visio which would use placeholder text and generic images to give my clients an idea of what the page structure and element placement would look like. Very similar to this.

I've been told in the past however that these types of generic sketches can confuse most clients and that they have a hard time envisioning the design from these sketches. Ideally I'd prefer not to have to create a fully styled mock-up with real images and the whole nine yards as that can take quite a bit of time in and of itself.

Can anyone offer any advice on techniques they've used or heard of in regards to proposing initial design concepts to their clients?


Usually, we do not prefer making sketches. Not only they consume time, but clients cannot see the technique there. Most of times it will be a blank shot. Unpaid blank shot.

We send clients previous designs similar to his idea in technique and topic. If he likes the style, then we talk further and start paid cycle.

Now, since you are a start-up and don't have large portfolio, it's very crucial you have a good sample database. Note down each design concept which is usually asked by your clients (shopping basket design, sports website design, etc.). Then whenever you are free (you will be at the start), spend time creating samples. Quality samples! In a month or two you will be able to show those samples to your clients. More than anything, clients like to see samples of design.

I remember when I started I created like 10 or so applications as a proof of concept. They helped me get my first job.


I think that you should create a real website image on Photoshop. This kind of images are not confusing for the client. At this image you can even write the explanation like this is slider, this is link, this is button etc. Before doing this all you have to ask about client`s choice as well. You can ask for their inspiration. This information will help you designing the website that will suite the specific client.


You could consider using Pattern Lab or similar to create something that will perhaps feel more "real" to the client, while still avoiding the old-school process of creating super-detailed photoshop comps that get you locked into a very specific visual design too early in the process.

  • Hi @tnorthcutt, welcome to Freelancing.SE! How does this project help the OP? Can you describe why it is the answer to the OP's prayers? This answer is currently very low in quality, and risks being deleted. Please edit it to expand on it. Thanks
    – Canadian Luke
    Jun 16 '14 at 17:01

Your idea to create sketches/wireframes is generally a good way to go in order to evade using a lot of time to create detailed mockups.

Ask them for websites that they really like in terms of layout, color, style, and functionality, then you can reference those sites in some ways to create a better image for them. If you tell them you are adding a slider in one section and a rss feed in another, they might get confused, depending on the client.

  • I had thought of another solution, which was to create a section/sub-domain on your own website which includes templates of styles and layouts that you could use to better clarify and show your clients. It is something i have been working on myself but haven't utilized yet.
    – matt6frey
    Jun 10 '14 at 18:29
  • That is a terrific idea. I'm leaning towards putting together quick designs using HTML/CSS. Somewhat similar in concept to the ideas presented here: signalvnoise.com/posts/1061-why-we-skip-photoshop Jun 10 '14 at 20:17
  • 1
    That was a pretty interesting article!
    – matt6frey
    Jun 10 '14 at 22:15

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