November 25, 2009
There’s no question that social media has reshaped the way we do business online. I’ve posted a couple of times about using Facebook with clients; however, the real power of social media lies within Twitter.
Used correctly, Twitter can become an integral part of your projects from client screening to web site integration to ongoing client education and interaction. In this post I will step through some ideas on integrating Twitter with your projects and clients before, during and after the project process.
November 19, 2009
Here’s the deal. Designers should not accept every project that crosses their eyes. For five years, I was stuck in the mentality that every potential project was a chariot of gold ready to bring me unimaginable riches.
Wrong. I discovered through a series of poor projects that accepting everything is not a profitable strategy. I began to understand and value the concept of opportunity cost. Let’s say I’m working on a low paying project that, while bringing in some money, eats up all my time and leaves me exhausted at the end of the day. What else could I have done with my time? Could I have worked on a more rewarding project? Or perhaps hunted for more profitable business? I will never know.
This is not a foreign concept to most veteran designers. As you grow, you must become more selective about how you spend your time. But how can you screen potential projects to eliminate the problem ones as quickly as possible?
I’ve developed a set of internal heuristics that I run each new project through as a test. Keep in mind that sometimes a project with a small budget or a client with a demeaning attitude is not necessarily a deal breaker. You have to use your judgment and analyze your own opportunity cost. What else could you be working on?
When writing this post, I realized that most clients are actually good and that you should maintain a positive outlook in your project screening process. With that thought, I decided to amend my post to include a way to think positively about each warning sign.Keep Reading
November 12, 2009
Web sites are intricate platforms with many moving parts. Every time I develop and launch a new one, my biggest fear is getting the dreaded client phone call that something isn’t working. We all have that fear. It’s our baby and it’s also a vital tool for the client. Any failure could have potentially devastating consequences.
Unfortunately, that dreaded call is inevitable. Something will go wrong and when it does, you will be the first person to know.
Of course, the best defense to a client crisis situation is to double or even triple check your work to ensure everything is working. A thorough pre- and post-launch checklist can help you remember all the nooks and crannies for last minute fixes.
When the inevitable does occur, be prepared. Regardless of how the client is reacting to the situation, you need to have a cool head so that you can understand what’s going on and how to resolve it.
Below is my 10-step action plan that I try to follow every time a client crisis situation arises.Keep Reading
November 5, 2009
Let’s face it, web design is not a very predictable service. Sure, the extent of the service is to furnish a working web site (one would hope) along with any hosting and maintenance needed to keep it going. The issue is that the specifics of the project change with almost every client interaction.
Keep in mind this isn’t a problem. Web design must be a flexible and fluid service that changes to the varying needs of the client as well as the quick pace of the internet. What is a problem is scope creep.
Scope creep occurs when a client keeps piling on requests for additions or changes to their project that are outside the scope of the project. Some clients are mindful of this and will explicitly ask if it will cost more. Others, unfortunately, are not this considerate or knowledgeable enough to know when they’re pushing it.
How can you combat scope creep? I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of it completely, but there are some ways to prevent and reduce it.Keep Reading
October 29, 2009
The best part about being a web designer is that I get to keep up with all of the new online tools. It also means I can check Facebook during the day without feeling guilty (right?).
Facebook is a powerful tool. No other tool in the history of human social behavior has been able to give people the mass level of connectedness that Facebook has. You can locate pretty much anyone on the network these days. Hell, both my mom and dad are on Facebook.
You can also find clients on Facebook.
Many people, especially those who lead a nightlife of questionable character, might find this concerning. Facebook is a tool for connecting with friends, not clients, right?Keep Reading
October 22, 2009
The web design client is an interesting being. They are cut from many different clothes, and they come from all walks of life. Some are tech savvy and others seem like they’re stuck in the Stone Age. There are clients who need their hands held during every step of the web design process while there are others who are on top of everything.
No client is ever the same. And each client presents different situations and exercises that can really test your will.
How far will you go for a certain client? What level of service will you provide even if it falls outside the scope of your agreement?Keep Reading
October 15, 2009
Sometimes it seems like a web design project can drag on forever. How often are these delays caused by clients? It could be content, authorization, input or a slew of other things that you’re waiting on from the client. The unfortunate fact is that delays are inevitable.
That’s why you need to prepare.
Preparing before even taking on a project can shave off loads of time. Remember, most web design clients don’t know the ins and outs of the web design process as well as we do. They need guidance and they need to be pushed along.
I’ve compiled my own set of guidelines that I’d like to share for sending web projects down the right path.Keep Reading
September 25, 2009
One of the biggest shortcomings to web design is communication, or lack of it. Most web designers just plain suck at it most of the time (I know I’ve been there).
We’ve all seen it before. Nothing gets done. Milestones are missed, projects aren’t finished and clients aren’t happy. These are the telltale signs of poor communication. Communication is perhaps the most significant part of the web design process, too. You can be the best CSS coder or the most talented graphic illustrator, but if you can’t hone in on your communication skills, you’re at a loss.
How can we be better communicators? These are some of the things I’ve done to improve my own communication abilities.Keep Reading
August 28, 2009
Contact forms are the lifeblood of the internet. They offer the most basic way to communicate with an organization and they’re pretty much here to stay.
While contact forms may be a clumsy way of communicating, they can get the job done. The problem: are they getting the job done effectively?
There are three common problems with contact forms. The first problem occurs when a form is too daunting for a user to complete. Usually, the form is either too long, confusing or asking for information deemed too personal. The second problem occurs when the user does fill out the form but the information provided is not useful. This is typically the result of an ill-prepared form that asks all the wrong questions. The third and final problem is technical in nature. If there’s a problem with the server and the form doesn’t submit correctly, not only could you lose the form data, but you’ll also have one annoyed user to deal with.
How can we improve the effectiveness of our forms? Here are a few guidelines that I try to follow whenever I create a form.Keep Reading
August 26, 2009
About 16 days ago I prophesized the death of web design in my oh-so verbose post. In hindsight, I do think many elements of web design are going to die, but I also think in death will be a transformation.
In many regards, web design has not changed significantly since its founding days in the ’90s. Most sites are created as static presences with text that users can consume and perhaps a contact form that can be used to transmit a simple message. This method of communication has become so branded on the internet that it seems almost routine to set it up for any organization.
That’s not a bad thing. Organizations should communicate with people online. The internet offers the ability to communicate with the most people at the cheapest rates.
However, I think web design is due for some death and transformation. No longer can organizations just idly post content. They must engage. They must reach out to their market and actively communicate with people. They must build a brand online that can be accessed, discussed and followed with ease.
Right now, much of the web is passive. There is little interaction and few ways to connect with most organizations.
Web design as a concept won’t die anytime soon, but the methods that have engulfed it will — they must — and a new breed of communication will emerge. I look forward to it.Keep Reading