Web designers and developers are amazing at what they do. They can build a user experience that is exactly what the client asks for. Some clients have such a strong understanding of what they want to say that they can drive the website development process. However, we’ve had an influx of clients that have changed web companies, not because they didn’t get what they wanted, but because they did!
Which begs the question - why are you giving your customer what they want?
What the client asks for
So, your client has provided a clear brief and even has their content ready. While this sounds like the perfect client there is something that they are missing. While they are an expert in everything that they do, they are reaching out to their web designer to give them that little bit more. The clients that are coming to us to change web designers are all saying the same thing. “We just thought that the designer would have taken our ideas and grown them in a way we couldn’t have”. When this doesn’t happen, even though you provided them with a perfectly on-brief website they feel let down.
Let’s think about from a customers perspective. When you go to buy a big ticket item (a consumer product, for example), though you may have researched it to death, you still expect the salesperson to be able to enlighten you to the things that you haven’t actually considered that aren’t listed on the features document. This is the same, if not ten times more important, when developing their website. The customer knows on the surface what a website should look like, but after shine of the launch has faded, if it doesn’t do what they need, then it’s a huge waste of their money and time.
Ask better questions
The first step to finding out how to best guide your client is to ask better questions. Simply educating them on things like loading speed, reporting and hosting isn’t enough to add value. Ask them questions. "Do you have a marketing plan?" "Who will be updating the website once it’s live?" "What is your business plan over the next five years?" Ask these questions, then listen.
Then, ask even more questions.
If you are building a Content Management System (CMS - something that allows the end user to edit their website without needing a knowledge of code) and you don’t ask who will be using it, for example, then it is it a good idea? Further questions, such as "do you have time to edit it?", "are you excited at the thought of writing your own content", or "do you know how to source and edit imagery to fit your brand?". The idea of being able to edit their own site is fantastic, but when they struggle to find the time or inclination to do this, who will help them pick up the pieces? If you don’t have this support in place, they will leave you.
Don’t get technical
It’s natural to want to start designing the site in your head at that first meeting. The shopping list that you produce of plug-ins, templates, API's and CMS solutions is exciting, and it’s how you price your build, however if you don’t clearly explain what each functionality is to the client, and how it will help them achieve their goals then you will be faced with problems down the track. Read: they will leave you!
Give them options from the start
Now you’ve got your client fully versed in what they really need, fill in all the gaps of what owning a website entails. Explain to them about Google Analytics, Search Engine Optimisation, blogging, sitemap submissions, and keywords. Then offer them options for managing this. Even if they don’t want to pay for it up front, once they’ve taken their new website for a whirl, or their rankings drop, they will better understand these offerings. If you don’t, someone else will. Then, you guessed it, they will leave you.
You’re not selling them a car
When someone buys a car, they already know how to drive. They know the road rules and they understand most of the features of a car: Safety, performance, economy etc. They know it’s not something that will magically transport them from A to B. They know that effort is required to get to their destination. But when it comes to websites this is the exact thing they think. They think that a website will magically increase their business and ticks all their marketing needs with one fell swoop.
If you are assuming that your client thinks otherwise, even if they have had a website before, then you need to think again. Clients won’t tell you what they don’t know, it’s your job to find that out. The crux of it is, you shouldn’t give your client what they want, because they don’t know what they need! They don’t. Assuming anything less means that, they will leave you.