My client does not know what he wantsWednesday, July 29, 2015
AGES ago I wrote an article about the fair price for a website, to which there was no hard conclusion. The fact is the price varies as widely as the ideas you have for your website.
What you think is simple might be complex and expensive. At the same time what you think is complex could be really easy in this day and age and affordable too.
The best bet is to get a few quotations to compare and become familiar with some of the questions you need to ask to satisfy yourself that you are getting value for your money.
While there is a responsibility for the person commissioning a web designer to do their due diligence, there is equal responsibility for the web designer to break things down in terms the client can understand. The web designer needs to ask enough questions to pull information out of the client. We have to remember that people seeking web design services may not have a clue what it costs or what web designing entails.
Designers frequently tend to ask what the client's budget is, whether they want content management, or if they will be hosting videos or need e-commerce.
But as much as a client should have an idea of what he can afford, and an idea of what he wants, more often than not clients only know what they don't want when they see it.
How do you get the information you need as a web designer if the clients themselves don't know? After all, you are not psychic. Well, here is a simple strategy that works more often than not.
Firstly, if your client has no budget, avoid giving him a ballpark figure without details. From their point of view, they can only understand what they see. So show them three different websites, preferably some you have created, but not necessarily, and let them know how much they cost and briefly explain why.
The websites do not have to look vastly different, but they need to represent low, medium and high costs so the client can appreciate the range of possibilities. You are selling a product they might not know much about. Just like a car on the lot, you have to explain the features of each car so the customer can appreciate the price difference. That will help them to determine what they can and can't accept at a given price point and whether they need to up their budget or not.
Secondly, use design jargon -- but explain it. Use design jargon, because they need to use the right terms, as using layman terms can get confusing for you both. However, you must explain what the design jargon means.
So say: "Would you like the ability to make changes to the website on your own? If so, I can provide you with a what's called a Content Management System" as opposed to "Would you like a content management system?".
Say: "Would you like people to make purchases from your website with a credit card? We could add e-commerce to the website to facilitate this?" As opposed to "Will the site need e-commerce or a payment gateway?"
Don't ask them how many pages they will need. No one knows how many web pages they need right from the get- go. In fact, no one wants to limit themselves to stuffing everything on one page. It is better to explain that a basic website can consist of 4 - 12 pages containing a Home page, About us, Contact, Articles, Gallery, Product, etc. Help them figure out how many pages they need by working with them to determine what needs to go on the website and determining how to categorise everything.
If there is a cost to add any additional pages that come up with afterwards, let them know up front.
The most important questions are: "Will I be expected to create the content?" and "Do you already have web hosting?" These questions may sound simple, but believe it or not, some people do not refer to the words and images on a website as content, nor do they understand what web hosting means. These are terms web designers have become familiar with in their career that they sound like regular terms. The very same way "equity" and "hedge fund" sound like regular terms to a finance professional.
Still, use the terminology, because you need your client to refer to apples as apples with you to avoid confusion. But the moment you see hesitation on his face, freely explain what you mean by content. "Will you and your team be providing me with the images -- pictures, graphics and logos -- or will I be acquiring or creating that content myself?" Explain that it drives up the cost if you do.
Also ask: "Do you already have a domain name -- as in the website name -- bought and in your possession? Have you already purchased web hosting space on the Internet for the website, or will I have to purchase that?"
Even if this feels tedious, it is your responsibility to understand your client and make him understand you. It puts him at ease and avoids confusion early.
Nothing is worse than asking if he will provide the content and by content he thinks you mean the title for each page similar to what you would find in the contents of a book. When the time comes he will ask, "Why is the website blank?" you will then stare at him in confusion because he has not provided you with anything to put on the site.
In closing, yes, your clients should know what they want, but in the event they don't, do not panic. Ask some direct questions to try and help them paint the picture. At the end of the day this will benefit you both in having a good relationship, and relationships are all about communication.
Kevin Jackson is an animation, design and technology professional. He's also the public relations director of the Jamaica Design Association (JDA). Contact the JDA at email@example.com.
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