In my 14+ years of professional website design and development experience I have seen and heard it all when it comes to client and business owner web project dysfunction. This is not to say I don’t love my clients. Did I mention I love my clients? Because I do. They pay my bills, they create business online (yay) and they mostly listen to me (more on that later).
In the realm of “things I’ve seen” I have witnessed many different actions and decisions made by clients both advertent and inadvertent that in my view adversely effected their website and it’s potential to succeed. I’m not saying I’m right on each and every point (I am), but rather this is an attempt to point out common mistakes in hopes that a business owner (and web development client) can better understand the website creation process and why certain decisions may cause a less than stellar result for their new website.
If you are a client of ours and stumble upon this article please don’t take offense, none of them are about you, I promise.
1. Design it yourself: Assuming you hired a competent design firm you should allow the experts to interpret your ideas and feedback (see #3, #4, #5, #6, ) into a suitable design that you should love. That is after all, what you paid for and you should trust that the web designer you hired will find the right path for you.
2. Ask your friend and “graphic artist” for an opinion and blindly follow any advice they give: This is tough because most people like to ask some one else they know who’s opinion and viewpoint they trust (a tactic we applaud). However, sometimes this person also happens to be a professional designer in some capacity. The problem is when said expert’s advice is followed blindly, and to the tee. Feedback is good, but don’t let friends’ advice direct your design process completely.
3. Don’t communicate and then do, all at once: This is common and I don’t fault business owners for being too busy to attend to their web project. The problem here arises when after weeks or months of limited communication, you can easily overwhelm your web team as you try to cram a backlog of feedback into a frenzied evening. Try to take regular time each week to communicate with your project lead.
4. Don’t communicate at all: I don’t really need to explain this but it ‘s worth noting that most professionals seek client interaction no matter how dysfunctional to none at all (even if we get paid).
5. Don’t say you hate the design, and then nit pick it to death: Honesty is important and telling your web designer that you hate the design (or strongly dislike it) is the best tactic to move forward and maintain a good relationship long term. Bending a bad design to fit something you originally didn’t want will never result in a final product you (or your designer) can be proud of.
6. Provide design ideas and feedback only after seeing the first design proof: This one is always a killer if the first design proof is not to your liking. Supplying feedback early in the process is key to making sure your design matches what you desire.
7. Ask your web developer or designer to write your content: Normally your web designer or developer will not be adept at crafting the copy that will fill your website. Content should not be an afterthought and if you can’t write it yourself, ask your web team to help you find someone you can assist. Good content with a clear message and call to action is key and worth the investment.
8. Tell your web developer to get the content from your “old site”: More than likely your old website was/is pretty horrible. There’s probably a reason why you hired a new company to redesign/rebuild your site and the old copy just won’t cut it. As in #7, content should not be an afterthought and should not be recycled.
9. Don’t hire a professional photographer, or copywriter: Continuing our content theme, not hiring a professional or relying on sub-standard professionals (aka friends/family) will hurt your final product when it comes to photography and copy writing two of the key elements to a great website. Photography will sell your product/service and the copy will allow your customers to find you, don’t skimp on either.
10. Don’t pay your deposit on time.
11. Pay your deposit and then disappear: We love your money and all, but as above in #4 web professionals actually enjoy creating things and interacting with their clients. Combine that with the fact that you may resurface someday demanding to complete a project that you began 2 years prior (with 2 year old rates) is never a good thing. Your website deserves your time, and you’ll miss out on every day it’s not live and building your business.
12. Provide hand written, photocopied, craft, cut and pasted master feedback document: Feedback should be delivered in small and regular amounts (see #3) to allow your web team to interpret your true intentions and incorporate them into the site or proof.
13. Set a deadline and then wing it: Many times a client will begin a project with a doomsday deadline that must be met. This is great, however more often than not the path to that deadline becomes filled with huge obstacles (see #1, #2, #3, #4, #5,#6 .. you get the picture). Work with your web project manager to set a reasonable time frame and agree to adjust it as circumstances change.
14. Take what the designer creates and make your own better version: This one personally gets me going as there’s nothing worse than having someone take what you’ve just created and make their own *better* version using crude tools (MS Paint) they’ve mastered overnight. Stick to written feedback or at most an in person discussion to communicate your vision and let the pros do the design work (and no, we will not do it in front of you).
15. Conceive your own crazy site map: This one is truly a toss up as some clients understand what a site map is and some just don’t. Worse, some think they do and want to reinvent how website navigation and structure work throwing over a decade of usability research out the window in the process. Take advice from your web team and stick with what works. Your customers want a site they can navigate easily, not stumble through and get lost.
16. Keep your old logo: Not every web project needs a new logo, but many were designed decades ago and have evolved or devolved into something that needs to be modernized. I’m not advocating pulling a “New Coke” on your brand but allowing your web designer to update your logo will pay off as old logos can detract from otherwise great designs.
17. Ask for a flash intro, or pretty much anything mentioned in this article.
18. Under pay: I’m not advocating paying your existing web team more just because your love them (although that would be nice). What I am advocating is that if the offer for a brand new website sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Worse it probably will cost 1/4 or 1/3 of what a decent website should cost and you won’t get that money back when you pay to fix it. Beware of web services advertised on the cost/feature basis alone. When choosing a web firm you should be looking for long term partnership potential and their capacity to service your company for several years to come.
19. Over pay: Overpaying upsets technology providers probably more than it does their clients. This is because we as technologists strive for efficiency and can’t stand to see a business pay more than they should have for a technology product or service. Don’t make decisions in a vacuum, shop around and get some competing quotes before making a decision. If you’re still in love with the most expensive provider, talk to them about why their competitors are so much cheaper and vice-versa.
Did I mention how much I love my clients? Because I do.