10-Step Plan to Handle Client Crisis Situations

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

Ten Ways to Stop Scope Creep in Your Web Design Project

scope-creepLet’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

Speeding Up Web Design Projects Before They Begin

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

Control Your Client Communication

Control Client CommunicationOne 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

Who’s the designer? You or the client?

I experienced two separate incidents this week in which I had a client complain about pretty significant things with my designs. Normally, during the mock-up stage, I’m all ears for critical feedback but these complaints surfaced after the sites had been designed and built. I guess that was just the frosting on the cake.

The more important thing is deciding who the designer is on the project. I’m serious. Is it the designer or the client? The client brought the designer on supposedly because they need a web site created. That’s the purpose of the designer and the job they have been paid to do. I can appreciate client input during the design process — in fact I wholeheartedly welcome it — but there comes a point when I just want to say, “Why did you hire me? You’re obviously a very capable designer.”

But then it strikes. Why are they doing my job?

There are a number of reasons I’ve discovered. Sometimes it’s because they’re a control freak and can’t let any detail escape their approval. Other times they just don’t know better. Actually, I guess those are really the only cases I run into.

There are different solutions I apply to these two situations. For the control freak, I have to stroke their ego. It sucks and I hate it, but if it gets the job done, then I’ll do it. These people are typically overbearing and at times annoying. The best way to deal with them is by reaffirming their status and — unfortunately — by running every little thing by them. I try to keep them in the loop every step of the way so that they feel involved and important. Usually, if I do it this way, I don’t get the major complaints at the end of the project. And if I do, I just explain the decision processes that we both went through.

The other type of client who doesn’t know any better just needs a little hand holding. Typically, strong communication and clear explanations of “how it is” will get them to calm down.

Finally, I find it important to just hold my own at times. If someone’s complaining about a design decision I made, I’ll look at them pointedly and say, “Look. This is my job. I designed it this way because I want to maximize the potential of the site. Here is the methodology behind my approach.. yadda yadda..” Well, I wouldn’t say it as bluntly as that, but you catch my drift.

This isn’t about feeling insecure because a client doesn’t like my work. This is about defending my profession and not letting someone who frankly doesn’t know anything about creating web sites take control of the project and destroy it. This is the cold reality of it.

Besides, would you ever tell your doctor how to do their job?

50 Ways to Get Web Site Content From Clients

One of the biggest pains in web design and development projects is getting the content you need. Content is no simple task. It needs to professionally crafted in a fashion that will communicate a meaningful message to visitors. The big problem, though, is that many web design clients just don’t deliver content at all. Or, at least not in a timely manner.

Below is my list of the top 50 tactics I use to assess the need for content, collect the content and communicate with the client about the content. This list has helped me finish more projects on time and develop web sites that not only look good, but deliver a strong message as well.

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