Web Designers: How To Deal With Clients
I Want A Website
He's through the door, he's almost a paying customer, all you need to do is knock up a website for him.
He has a thirteen year-old nephew who's "into web design" and has briefed him so he can't be bullied by some know-it-all designer.
You have a hangover after the office party and don't like his aftershave.
This is where you, the web designer, have to deal with a client - and it's a battle sometimes!
Yes Sir, What Sort Of Website?
For my business.
Check notes: he owns a DIY shop on the High Street. Well, that's what he told Sales when they made this appointment.
Okay, you want a site for Bloggs DIY, Have you [interrupt]
No, it's for my general goods store.
[ Actually has a photo: it shows a small shop with a display of yellow plastic containers on the pavement outside it,]
Oh, erm, okay. Did you bring in the stuff that was talked about on the phone? Business cards, letterheads, any current advertising materials?
No, didn't see the point: I want it all new.
Ah, you want the full design package then. Says here you asked for basic website.
Yes, I want a website, I told you that at the begining.
Oh, I'm sorry. Nobody offered you tea or coffee. Let me get you something ...
Exit for much-needed caffeine intake and moan at vending machine.
And I Want Videos On It
Coffee coursing through veins, aspirin nicked from Jenny on reception, back to hear "I want video"
Yes sir, we'll get onto specifics in a few minutes. Now, you want the full package; that's the Â£550 package?
I was told Â£150, I don't like upselling by you people.
Explain pricing and services. Enlist Anna from Sales Department, sort it out, despite customer snorting when some slip of a girl from Sales tells him something. Aspirin not working.
Discuss content for homepage. Customer produces memory stick that contains the largest SWF you've ever seen. His nephew did it and it flashes the company name at a rate that would give a corpse epileptic fits. Explain technical reasons against. Tell him it would cost more. Okay, move on to video.
What sort of video were you thinking of? Product demonstrations, that sort of thing?
Dunno, I thought you'd tell me -- you're the designer after all. I'm not here to do your job for you.
Explain that you can make videos for him. Mention costs. Tell him they could be added later after "we see how the site gets on". Customer decides not to bother with videos. Aspirin may be kicking in.
And An Online Store
And we were doing so well, basic structure agreed, page content, discussed ideas for look and feel, general design ideas for logo. We've established that the shop is basically selling cheap tat made in sweatshops in third world countries (he's commented gleefully on how he can screw suppliers down in price). Think of telling him he's drinking Fairtrade coffee, decide against.
A store, okaaay.
[For plastic dolls that wet themselves, 99 pence each and not safe near fire? Hmm.]
Discuss set up, maintenance
Don't you lot do that for me? You're doing the damn site!
Discuss order fulfilnment, shipping, international difficulties, customer service requirements. Client's face goes blank at this last one. Decide to "wait and see how the site gets on".
A Week Later: Design Review
He's back to see the design options you've produced. Despite the fact you think he sweats too much you've been professional and done a few rather nice designs.
This one's a bit naff. Don't like that colour scheme (to the one that most closely matches his expressed preferences from the first session),
Open desk drawer and stare at large bottle of strong aspirin.
Eventually settle on design scheme after he's put you right on a few aspects. Explain again that this is a design review, as talked about originally, and that you couldn't produce the fully functioning website before this. Agree timetable for the next steps.
My Nephew's Had A Look And ...
A few weeks on, site launched, Sales department now screaming after he's phoned three times a day asking why he isn't doing two thousand times the business and he isn't showing up on all the search engines (well, Google anyway).
His nephew knows HTML, so knows SEO. He''s also clever and knows lots of tricks to fool search engines into rating you highly. Client thinks the black text on black background is jolly clever and why did you miss that? Try to explain that billionaire experts know more than spotty teenager. Use expression "keyword stuffing". Get accused of "trying to blind me with science". Start thinking about how atractive the McDonald uniform is, and it's a steady job. Ask client if he wants fries with his SEO. Next five minutes are blank.
The Morals Of The Tale
If you're thinking of going into web design, it isn't all fannying around in Photoshop and dabbling in Dreamweaver. For every good client there'll be three bad ones. For every glamorous and interesting site there'll be ten dull sites - accept these as a design challenge, not drudgery. Cost for awkward customers: and especially cost for post-launch activities and support. Small clients can drain your lifeblood after you think you've done your work.
As a client, put as much preparation into commissioning a website as you do into other aspects of your business. And don't try it on too much: web designers have to make a living too.
Designers, What Irks You The Most? - Apart from not getting paid
What's the most annoying thing about clients?
Do Some Research
Published nearly four years ago but the points it makes are still valid. If you don't know the questions to ask a designer, read this and arm yourself.