With a small amount of thought and effort the pitfall of this being a mistake can be easily avoided. As with any relationship, a certain amount of give-and-take should be expected. As mentioned in my previous article, this trend is actually more of a new kind of clientele than anything else. This type, or mindset of clientele that is emerging on the market today are those that want to be involved with the web design process, results and future design changes and enhancements. This change in clientele behavior, I believe, is directly related to the challenges of the current economic situation that many small businesses are faced with today. Business owners and company representatives alike, are looking further into the future in respects to their need for Internet marketing. They are intelligently pursuing every possible means to minimize undue expense. In order for this marriage to work, we as web designers and developers, need to take our client desires to heart and provide solutions and options that will facilitate a win-win situation for both parties.In order for this relationship to emerge as a marriage and not a mistake, certain steps need to be taken from the very onset of the project. This needs to happen before the design process is even started. As designers and developers, it is our responsibility to guide and direct the client as to website functionality, page layout, flow, basic design principles and how the whole thing should eventually come together. The other side of that relationship, the client, needs to be encouraged by the designer/developer, to state their needs, wants, desires, wishes and whatever else you can think of, as close to the beginning of this process as possible. If these two parts of the equation can come together the end sum results can be quite spectacular.
Because this is often uncharted and new ground for the client it is the responsibility of the designer or developer to take the client by the hand and lead them through a process that the developer or designer should know very well. Using questionnaires, the client will unknowingly actually be making decisions by simply answering those questions. It has been this designer’s experience that no matter how short or how long the questionnaire may be, dependent upon the clientele’s current work load will very much dictate how soon if ever the questionnaire is returned completed. More on this in the next article.It has been this designer’s experience that if the mention of the questionnaire is tabled early in the process, even in the bidding or pre-bidding stages, the result can be twofold. I’ve found that the client shows a certain amount of relief because he or she is not going to have to come up with the design criteria off the top of their head. The second positive to this is that it shows the client that some serious thought has been put into this process on the part of the designer by coming up with these questions. It is imperative that the client be made aware that this is not just an exercise. The client needs to understand that the effort and quality that are put into the answering of these questions are in direct relation to the result of their site. These questionnaires come in very handy during many stages of the design and building process when we as designers are needing to make certain decisions, and the client may not be available.As in any marriage, change is essential. It is imperative that the designer gets his client to understand that their website is alive. For so many clients, new to the website design and development industry, they are under the false impression and misconception that like printed media, once their website is built, that’s it, it’s done. This is a very simple hurdle to overcome, and it should be addressed early in the relationship. Once the client is made aware that their website is like a living, breathing entity and needs to be, much like a baby, changed very often, these misconceptions tend to fade away in the client is eventually able to grasp the concept of constant change. I find it essential to reassure the client that any decisions that are made regarding content, color, photos, layout, theme or basically anything, can be and in some instances should be changed from time to time or on a continual basis. Once the client understands that this change is not only acceptable but essential, there is an element of calm and comfort the client receives knowing that if any mistakes are made, they can easily and quickly be rectified.As you can see, there are responsibilities that lie on both sides of the equation when it comes to designing or developing an effective and successful website. Whether it be informational, entertaining, interactive or even an e-commerce site, open communication between the two parties is essential. Our clients need to understand that we need their input in order to create the site they expect, and it relies on our shoulders as designers and developers to make that point to the client. I must revert back to what I said earlier, for many of our clients this is the uncharted territory, territory that we’ve been through many times and perhaps take for granted or just forget. As designers and developers, we need to remember what it was like when we were designing and developing some of our first sites. The trepidation, fear the plane uncertainty of whether or not what we were doing was correct. These are the same feelings that our clients have. Unfortunately, for many of them, they will not have the opportunity to get better at this as time goes by, as we have. Most of our clients have one website built, go through this process one time. Therefore, it is our responsibility to make this not only as pleasurable experiences possible but also an enlightening and enriching experience.
In closing, if all of these things come together, the way they should, just like in a marriage the offspring should come forth. A quality website that is functional, appealing to both the eye and the search engine and especially something that the client is proud to have the name of his business or organization attached to. The client is happy with the outcome of their site and has also been educated to take care of that site to whatever extent the client wants. The final offspring of this marriage should be a client who is not only willing to but compelled to share your name and your services with other colleagues and acquaintances. If this offspring comes forth from the loins of your toils, then you can be assured that it has been a job well done.Thank you and please come back for my next article, “Choosing a Site Style, XHTML vs CSS.”