The Client's Learning Curve

Web designers work with a variety of people anywhere and everywhere in the world. No different than any other workplace, people are people and life happens. Personality conflicts, the old “ya can’t please all the people all the time” and in general life’s happenings sometimes cause friction or other problems.

I wanted to find out what kinds of issues in general other web designers have with their clients, so I asked a large group of them to anonymously give me one or more of the issues they deal with that seem to cause the most problems or crop up most frequently. Listed in no particular order is their feedback:

  1. A web designer’s job is to know web design, yours is to know your business. Please don’t expect us to know your business and we won’t expect you to know ours.
  2. Don’t automatically assume that because you had a bad experience with one web designer, that this will be repeated with each and every designer you have contact with. There’s a bad apple in every basket, don’t judge the entire basket on that one apple.
  3. Have your text and image content ready in digital format before hiring a designer. If you scan the images and send them to your designer via eMail or on a CD in digital format, it will save you money.
  4. If you have a page preference that a particular photo or image should go on, tell us. We are web designers not mind readers. Our idea of where an image is best placed may be totally different than yours. We can always discuss this with you if there is a mis-match of ideas on this.
  5. A web designer builds web sites. Most do not teach web design. If you want to learn web design or build your own site — we suggest you do as we had to do. Find a way to learn on your own. Please do not come to us and ask us to show you how it’s done or ask for our guidance so you can do it yourself. Some designers might love to teach, but quite simply just don’t have the time and some don’t have the temperament to teach . For some, our web work is how we make our living and giving it away for free will not feed our children nor pay our bills. Would you go to a car lot and ask a salesman for a free car and expect to get it?
  6. Have pertinent information such as logins, passwords and anything else related to your web site where you can get at it readily. Don’t wait until you hire a designer to obtain this information.
  7. When sending content to your designer, organize it first. Send the data in digital format via eMail, text eMail attachment or on a CD, not faxed, not handwritten, not in pdf format and not by telephone. The content should already be checked for spelling and grammar errors. If you are not especially good at spelling or grammar, get someone who is to proof-read it. If your bill is higher than you had anticipated, and you left this work to your designer, don’t complain about the additional cost.
  8. Let us do the job you are paying us to do! Don’t try to micromanage. If you absolutely must do it yourself, please do. Don’t waste your money and our time by paying us to do what you feel you can do better on your own.
  9. If someone refers you to their designer, don’t expect the cost of your 25 page eCommerce web site to cost the same as their 5 page personal web site. Each site is unique with it’s own functions and needs.
  10. Everyone wants to know how much their web site will cost. We cannot estimate cost until we know what you want. It’s a waste of everyone’s time to try to do it the other way around. Before you contact a designer to ask “how much will my web site cost” do your homework first then shop for a designer.
  11. We ask you what you want for a site look, color preference or other features for a reason. Our goal is to have our design efforts hit the mark as close as we can to your description and hope you’ll love your site the first time we show you the demo. When we ask, be honest, up-front and to the point. One of the biggest right-hand assistants a designer has is a visual of the look you’re hoping to achieve. Show us a web site that has what you like, draw us a picture, send us a photo. Whatever it takes, provide it. If you simply tell us “I’ll leave that up to you” don’t be disappointed if we don’t hit the mark the first few times around and don’t complain when you’re invoiced for additional design(s).
  12. Please don’t ask us to create a site that looks “just like” another site. Copyright law prohibits us from copying another web site. This includes both the look and the content.
  13. When your site demo is presented to you, make sure it’s what you want before you give your approval. If it’s not, be specific about the changes you want. Don’t let us get to the middle or the end of the project before you tell us you don’t like this or that or that you want some element of the design changed. This could potentially mean a huge amount of work for us, delays in live date and without a doubt, higher cost to you depending on the changes.
  14. A smart designer has business policies set up just like any other business. Whatever they are, you can bet the designer has a good reason for implementing them. What those reasons are doesn’t matter, they are what they are and your respect of them is greatly appreciated.
  15. Understand that if there’s something you want on your web site that your designer isn’t skilled in (Flash, for example) doesn’t mean that you can’t have what you want. Most of us have resources to sub-contract that which we aren’t personally skilled in. If you spring this on us when the project is at the mid-way point or nearly done, don’t expect to have it accomplished without a delay or additional cost. Cost is that of the sub-contractor’s fees and work is done on their time-table.
  16. Did you ever have to wait a long time to see a Doctor or Lawyer? I have. My thought is always “Why do they think their time is any more valuable than mine?” The same is true with web designers. Our time is just as valuable to us as yours is to you. In most instances, although you are very important to us, it’s likely that you are not our only client and we must divvy up our time accordingly to get every client’s work completed.
  17. Don’t make demands, don’t expect immediate responses and respect our telephone hours. As important as you are to us, you are not our only client nor are you the only need we have on our To-Do list to in any given day. You are not the only one paying us to do a job.
  18. Constantly asking “how much will this cost” will likely add to your cost! If we have to figure cost estimates for every little thing, most of us are going to charge you for the research and calculation time if your requests for estimates become excessive. Your designer is quite concious of your budget and we do what we can to stick close to it. If it looks like things are going to go significantly over budget, a responsible designer will notify you of this.
  19. Visit your own web site (and not just the home page!) on a regular basis. Servers sometimes do strange things to web sites. Your host may have changed or updated a script that runs in the background, some change servers without your knowledge which may break something on your site. Your site may be disfigured by hackers. Checking your site on some kind of regular basis is to your benefit. If you find something amiss, let us know right away so we can fix it. I recommend checking your site completely at least once a week.
  20. Check your eMail, check your eMail, check your eMail and make it a priority to communicate with your designer. If you change eMail addresses, notify your designer! If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, notify your designer! If you send your designer an eMail and don’t receive a timely response, send it again, perhaps the designer didn’t receive it. Although they like to say they can, even the Post Office can’t guarantee mail delivery. Cyberspace is unpredictable. Most designers work strictly by eMail for very good reasons. eMail provides a way for us to document what you tell us. We have your information in hard copy format to refer to. Using the telephone means we have to take fast notes … did you ever try to take notes during a conversation that speeds along and changes direction several times and then have to try to decipher those notes later? Not always an easy task and so easy to get wrong! eMail input from the client also gives us a chance to research your question rather than try to answer it verbally on the spot – which then sometimes can be incorrect, misinterpreted or not complete enough.
  21. Don’t fall into the “‘if you build it they will come” philosophy. Putting a site up on the web is not automatic immediate exposure or a recipe for overnight success. It does not mean your site goes straight to the top of the search engines. It does not mean that people are going to flock to your site the moment it hits the web. Once your web site is up, it takes care and maintenance to get it to the point of being seen. You cannot just “set it and forget it, ” there’s no such thing as an “automatic pilot” button. This is where SEO comes into the picture. It’s imperative that you understand that although your site is live, it doesn’t mean the work is done.
  22. Never rely totally on your website for income. You must have other ways to sell your product and promote your web site as a way to sell them. Your web site should be just one tool in your toolbox!
  23. Listen to and work with your designer. We’re all aware of the phrase “the customer is always right.” If you insist on something, more than likely we will comply even if we feel it’s detrimental to your site. Remember that it’s part of our job to guide you, to look out for the best interest of your site, make suggestions, provide solutions and advise you of what might be a serious mistake. However, we can’t force you to follow our advice. The final say-so comes from you. We’re not perfect, but if you don’t listen to us and your site doesn’t do as well as you’d hoped, you don’t have a leg to stand on when you blame the designer.
  24. An experienced web designer is an absolute walking talking wealth of information that’s taken years and a tremendous amount of work and hours to accumulate. Pumping us for information and then taking that information and doing your web site yourself or giving the information to another designer you’ve hired to do the work is no different than stealing. A smart designer will not give to much information without being paid for it – this kind of conversation is called a consultation. If you go to a lawyer, they may give you an hour’s free consultation but if you want more, you pay for it. Is there some common sense reason as to why you would think we are or should be any different? Isn’t this kind of like asking a Doctor for a diagnosis when you’re both guests the same party?