I could write articles all day about how to be a good web designer but, perhaps surprisingly, being a good client can also have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of your website.
So what do you need to do to become a good client, and how will this make your website more successful?
Do your homework
Firstly do your homework, and by that I mean think carefully about the questions that we ask you over the phone or during our initial meeting. This will mean asking yourself who your target customers are, who your competitors are, why you are better than your clients and where you fit in to the market.
“We sell adventure holidays to anyone, we’re competitively priced and we have good customer service”
“We specialist in summer adventure holidays to affluent 25-45 year olds, we expect a reasonable level of fitness and our holidays are reasonably priced as we use high quality reliable equipment and facilities. We have highly experienced staff onsite and our customer service team usually have an interest in sports and have personally tried the holidays. We are different to competitors because our high level of training means that we can always customise trips to our clients’ unique needs, and we always ensure that clients have a single point of contact throughout the whole process without the use of call centres”.
Which travel company would you choose?
Have an open mind
It’s also important for clients to have an open mind. With new start-ups this is usually easy but it can be more difficult for well-established businesses that have always done things one way. There is a famous quote that springs to mind;
“If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got”
This is particularly true with website design and online marketing as this really is a fast moving industry, and what was perfectly valid five years ago could now easily be obsolete.
Listen to the experts
There are cowboys in any industry, but most web designers should be experts in their field; I personally for example have been creating and marketing websites since 1997 which was before the time of Google and social media, and when eBay was in its infancy.
I’ve seen every trick in the book, and now have a team of web developers working for me and (at the time of writing in 2015) we currently have 65 years of experience between us.
It would make far more sense that our clients take our advice, rather than that of their neighbour’s child who is ‘studying computers at school’.
Any reputable website designer won’t be plucking ideas out of the air, but will be basing their advice on decades of experience and research.
Don’t tell us the solutions
We don’t need clients to tell us the solutions; we need them to tell us the problems.
The reason for this is that clients quite often have a specific requirement in mind, and in their heads come up with a ‘solution’ to this requirement. The problem is that the solution isn’t based on documented techniques or experience, and is hardly ever the best way of doing things; it can unknowingly have a huge impact on other aspects of the website.
There is a popular example amongst website and graphic designers where clients ask for a bigger logo. The reason for this could be that they want users to recognise their brand, and so this seems the best way of achieving this.
However, having a larger logo could mean that the logo becomes the focus of the users’ attention, rather than the key message or call to action. Then of course the design can be affected, a decent designer will balance objects on the web pages, and increasing the size of the logo would mean the site looks wrong. I could go on… A better solution, in this instance may be incorporating the brand throughout the website’s design; whether that is in the background, across images or throughout the page; sometimes little and often is better. Lamborghinis don’t need a huge raging bull painted all over them to show everyone that they’re Lamborghinis .
Web design agencies use their knowledge to overcome problems without creating new ones.
Don’t think of yourself
Everyone is unique and in many cases you, as a client, may not be a typical example of one of your customers. It is therefore important that your own tastes are not necessarily reflected in your website as it isn’t aimed at you.
Our job as web designers is to consider your website from the end users’ perspective, not our own, and not our client’s. In some instances this can result in a website that may not be to our client’s taste, but if we can justify this, does it matter?
Taking this to extremes, would you rather have a website that you like which doesn’t generate much revenue, or one that appeals to the majority of your customers, isn’t to your taste, and keeps the enquiries rolling in?
Don’t have nasty surprises
As we concentrate on bespoke website design and development we do not have ‘off the shelf’ packages. Unlike perhaps a shop we need to carefully calculate the work involved in a project before we can fix costs.
Both the web design agency and their client want the same thing; a fixed cost and specification that delivers everything as both parties expect.
In order to do this both parties need to be able to visualise the entire build and be confident that every eventuality has been thought of, and documented.
It’s therefore of utmost importance that a client reads through any proposals, sign offs and correspondence in detail, and highlights issues or questions to their web agency before any stage is finalised. This way both parties always know exactly where they stand and there are no unexpected increases in specification or price.
To put it simply; if a web designer doesn’t have any nasty surprises with regards to specification, then the client is unlikely to have any nasty surprises when it comes to billing.
It would be worth noting that it’s the web designer’s job to prompt their client for details throughout the specification phase which will limit mistakes. However it is always useful if a client can be as verbose as possible.
Do what’s expected of you
This seems fairly obvious from the outset, but this is probably one of the top issues that we have with clients.
We can commit to tight deadlines and are generally happy to do so, but in order to achieve them we will need equally tight deadlines for our clients. If, for example, a project has to be launched on a specific date we will let our client know at the start of a project what we need from them and when. If we need a design sign-off perhaps two weeks in to an eight week build, it’s unreasonable for a client to delay this until week seven and still expect us to meet their deadline; it just won’t happen.
As with most business we value customers who pay their invoices on time. At the end of the day we need to pay our rent, pay our team of web designers, and keep HMRC happy. In order to do this we need to be paid by our clients.
We like an easy life and we love having a great relationship with our clients; if we have a client who consistently pays their bills quickly, and they want some work done urgently, we’re certainly more inclined to break procedure and get it done quickly during overtime.
We pride ourselves in trying to think of every eventuality and put it in our documentation, and follow this up during the build with timelines and sign-off procedures. This means that both we, and our clients are kept ‘in the loop’ and, providing procedures are followed, everything runs smoothly.
Like your web designer
It’s always nice to pick up the phone for one of your favourite clients and you feel that no job is too difficult. Conversely as a client it’s important that you can phone your web designer and feel that you’re not an inconvenience.
We love being friendly with our clients, and many have turned in to genuine friends that we talk to, and socialise with, on a personal level.
This sort of relationship makes everything run smoothly, and generally means that both parties talk openly and trust each other. It cuts out a lot of the formalities and makes working on a project an absolute pleasure.
It’s very hard to make yourself like someone, so it’s imperative that you implement this before anything is agreed.
So for this point, try and choose a web design agency that you like.
This bonus point was raised by a customer (and friend) just now on social media, so I thought it should be included.
Bring cake when you go to see your web designers, the chances are they’ll like cake.
Top tip thanksTim!
Building a successful website should not be a project that is handed over to the web designer then returned on completion; it should be built collaboratively between the web agency and the client, and therefore communication is key.
The web designer has a huge responsibility for the website build, but as discussed above, the client is also involved and has an important part to play.
A smooth interaction between web designer and client usually means the project runs better as whole and the more communication between the parties results in a website that is ultimately more successful.
We are web designers in Salisbury, we are Webbed Feet UK.