I have traditionally used the industry specific design templates available on several well-known websites in order to come up with a more specific idea of what a client wants. However, I have noticed that some clients--typically those who want to pay the least--scoff at using "templates." I think this is a shame because you can share a lot of useful information inspecting various designs together. It also seems risky because without an actual design to home in on, the mockup process could drag on interminably.
How do you go about this? I understand some people might want to be "surprised" but I also have a feeling that the majority would simply want to take advantage of the lack of a design endgame and keep the process going on until they feel satisfied...
Thanks for sharing this idea. It sounds like an efficient approach. (I'd love to know what sites you use for this, if you're willing to share.)
I've usually taken a "content-out" or editorial approach to design, working with or enhancing an existing site or content. (This assume there's something there to begin with.) Noticing what's weak in an existing design, playing around with the material, familiarizing myself with the client's content to determine the main points or strongest assets... Then trying to create a design based on that, using whatever techniques I'm currently excited about.
I think some designers specify the number of ideas they'll present to the client and/or the number of revisions within their contract, to keep things on budget.