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Going the extra mile in design

I recently met a friend at a Greek bar for an afterwork beer and we were both quite surprised when a shot of Ouzo also appeared. When you have dinner at a greek restaurant, you can expect free Ouzo in the end. They provide this to help you digest the tremendous amounts of meat you just fed your body, not to digest a beer. And yet, despite neither of us being the biggest fans of Ouzo, we were very happy to get something for free.

In marketing, this principle is called “buy one, get one free” and is a popular tool for sales promotion. In the product world, these gifts are known as “extra miles” and every designer I know has run a few for a client. It’s always nice to get more than expected, especially when it’s for free.

But why should I give the client more… for free??

1) Bonding

When your client gets something he doesn’t expect (and even more importantly, hasn’t paid for) he’s very likely to book you again or at least keep you in mind for a while.

When you order a beer and get a free shot of Ouzo, you’ll remember the gesture for a while (Case in point: I’m writing this article).

2) Trust

Over-delivery also builds trust. There is no reason not to trust someone who is giving you more than expected (if the bonus is within a reasonable scale, of course). I know very few people who happily reject freebies.

It’s quite hard to say “No” to a free shot, even if you haven’t ordered it (unless it makes you instantly vomit or you have a strong allergic reaction to anise).

3) Opportunities

By going the extra mile you show the client possibilities that weren’t on his radar before. In this way, you can also influence the project roadmap without putting too many resources on the table too early.

We were planning to have a relaxing after work beer, but by serving us free Ouzo, the bartender might have triggered our impulse to get drunk and subsequent need to order more shots. Here, he had an effect on both our night and, unfortunately, the following morning.

4) It’s hard to deliver on point

There are always deliverables agreed to by both client and designer upfront. In my experience, however, I’ve found that it’s quite hard to meet them 100% and you’re often left with the question of whether to risk coming up short or to invest a bit more time just to be on the safe side. Take it from me, investing a bit more time is always worth it!

It’s win-win: Your client is much more satisfied and you save yourself a ton of stress because, well, you are on the safe side. Bottomline: It’s always better to do more than what’s expected.

It’s quite hard to put exactly 0.5 liters of beer in a glass. When the waiter gives you a bit more, you appreciate it, but if they give you any less than 0.5l you will remember this forever and may never come back to this bar EVER AGAIN!!!

5) Focus on your strengths

Let’s be honest: Most people have things they are good at and…things that they are THE BEST AT. There are only a few people who have mastered the universe. Going the extra mile is a good way to emphasise your best skills while hiding your weak spots.

Putting a bowl of chips on the table will definitely buy you time to fix the broken beer tap.

6) A little more stress upfront… less stress in the end

Most of the time, going the extra mile requires that you put more effort into something than is required. Although this can be unpleasant, it will buy you time later on. You have already convinced the client of your capabilities and gained his trust so there is little to worry about for the rest of the project.

If the bartender delivers the first beer very fast, guests are more willing to excuse a long wait for their second one.

A little “how to” when it comes to going the extra mile

1) Speed, speed & speed

Time is money. No one will complain if work is delivered earlier than expected. Who screams at the pizza delivery guy for arriving 15min early?

Maybe the feeling is most comparable to entering a bar and already having your beer on the table. The bartender knows that you want it and that you want it now.

2) Under promise, over deliver

Given a task, there are always possibilities to optimise it even further. Going beyond the bare minimum shows your client that you are genuinely interested in his product, which will have a positive, long term effect.

When enjoying a beer, it’s always nice to have some snacks on the side.

3) Last but not least, consider the future

We as designers should never be satisfied with the status quo but instead forward looking, with an eye toward the future. Once, while redesigning an app, I took a second to consider how cool it would be to have also have an app for the Apple watch. Instead of just communicating the idea, I built a little prototype. This really impressed the client and in the end, we also won the contract for building a Watch app.

Ok, you’ve stayed too long and have had several beers and shots of Ouzo. Realizing this, your bartender orders you a cab. This is something that you may not have thought about but will appreciate it in the morning when you wake up and realize how drunk you actually were.


It’s not always puppies and kittens. There are also risks when going the extra mile for your clients.

1) Setting the bar too high… too early

It can be tricky estimating how much extra effort is reasonable and which changes will irritate your client. Also if you go one to many extra miles, your client may start thinking that you’ve underestimated the project timeline and feel tricked. Never fear! With a little intuition and experience, this outcome is rare. The positive psychological effects of going beyond almost always outweigh the negatives.

When you only order one beer and get a burger, fries and a shot on the side for free, you’ll start wondering about the catch.

2) Increase speed at the expense of quality

At times, speed can lead to sloppiness and inaccuracy, two big no-nos! Going the extra mile and doing extra work should never result in you letting other things slide. When going beyond, always be sure you’ve reached the initial requirements.

When ordering a beer, I don’t want to have a burger and fries instead. Sure, it’s more for my money, but it doesn’t help me solve my thirst problem.

3) Involve your client

When going the extra mile it can be easy to get too excited and forget the client. But remember: He is the one that is paying you. If you are doing work that he hasn’t agreed to, whether or not he likes your ideas, he may not appreciate being left out of the process.

If you order a regular beer but the bartender serves you a more expensive wheat beer, even if it’s tasty and the same price, it’s still not what you ordered

Last but not least and very important: Don’t fuck yourself up

As with everything, try to find a healthy balance. One can only do as much as one can do. That’s just a fact.

Written by

Max Well


Max Well


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