Podcast 34: The roles of the client and the web designer

Getting the relationship right between the client and web design agency can make or break a web design project.

In this weeks show Paul and Marcus discuss the sometimes problematic relationship between web design agencies and clients. They also cover how the line between web pages and the browser have been blurred, the evils of speculative work and a great new book by Ian Lloyd.

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The roles of the client and the web designer

Getting the relationship right between the client and web design agency can make or break a web design project. Often both parties enter into a project with very different expectations of who will do what. This is partly because there is such a wide range of approaches adopted by the web design community.

In this show Paul and Marcus discusses how clients can find web design agencies that suit their working approach and how to get the most value for money out of the agencies they choose.

They also propose some general principles for improving communication between client and agency:

Advice for clients

Paul and Marcus suggest the following guidelines for clients:

  • Recognise that the success of your web project is as reliant on you as it is on the web design agency.
  • Don’t under estimate the time you will need to put into the project, especially when it comes to preparing content.
  • Try to avoid getting drawn into subjective design discussions. Rely on the expertise of your designer.
  • Always consider the bottom line and whether additional functionality will generate a return on investment.
  • Be willing to compromise and take on board the agencies advice.
  • Clearly state your expectations up front. Don’t presume the agency will approach the project as you would expect.
  • Remember, the customer is NOT always right!

Advice for agencies

The discussion then moved on to advice for web design agencies when working with clients:

  • Use the kick off meeting to clearly understand any expectations the client has for the project.
  • Remember it is the design agencies responsibility to educate and inform the client about what works well online. If a client fails to grasp the logic of your approach it is a failure on your part to communicate it effectively.
  • Recognise that designing a web site is about compromise. It is sometimes necessary to compromise design and usability for the sake of business drivers.
  • Pick your battles! The client is ultimately paying you to produce a great website so don’t be afraid to stand your ground when their opinion undermines that objection. However, know when to back down.

Site evolution

Finally, Paul and Marcus wrap up the discussion by touching on the subject of site evolution and the need to change the client/agency relationship from sporadic redesign to ongoing site evolution.

For more on this subject see my site evolution post.

Also this week…

Also in the show:

Next week Paul interviews Andy Budd, the author of CSS Mastery, to get his take on the state of web design.

  • Ed

    Funny, I thought in the techno-buster that Paul said he test his sites with “Jesus”, but after thinking about it, I’m pretty sure he said “end users”.
    Anyway, I’ve made An image + tagline for a t-shirt that you might like to look at.

  • http://www.dotdifferent.com Marc

    You are right that there needs to be a greater emphasis on the client having a large impact on the success of their web site.

  • Simon

    I am just catching up on podcasts so have listened to this one a bit late, and thought I would share my web developers horror story with you. It is a bit of a rant, but hey, you are probably used to that!
    We had a flash configurator developed for our racking systems, and went out to tender locally in the Brisbane area of Australia. We did this by producing a 40 page document detailing exactly what we expected the application to do, and showing the interface we wanted at various stages of its functionality.
    The first time we went out we got the best deal from a company in the middle of Brisbane, who’s name escapes me for the moment. We prepared the contract, went in for signing it over and they said that they had decided to double to price as they had been taken over by someone else. I obviously told them to stick this where the sun don’t shine, and went out to tender again.
    Second time around we were most impressed with a company called WebGraf-X who showed a similar application they had done before, and came in at the best price…a winning combination. When we went in the sign the contract, there was the guy I had dealt with before, and another guy who I assumed worked for them. After some discussion I realised that in fact he didn’t work for them, he was in fact a free lancer. Seemed fine though as I assumed that he may do the interface and WebGraf-X the back end.
    What actually happened is that WebGraf-X basically did none of it, and palmed the whole lot onto what I know know as Cognitia studios, a small local developer, via another intermediate agency. Still okay with that though, as they found the right guy for the job, either by skill or accident.
    Recently though the main part of the configurator has been finished, and WebGraf-X requested the final payment. However they had not completed a secondary part which was clearly detailed in the contract for a ‘room configuration system’. I asked them to quote on a slightly upgraded version of this and they passed on a quote for the whole lot, not just changes. At this point we said, that we would go back to what was detailed in the quote, and as per our contract expected it to be finished in 28 days or the contract would be void, and we wouldn’t pay the final invoice.
    They waited 27 days before sending us a letter saying basically that they saw the contract and being complete, and we should have known that the room configuration bit was separate, and demanding final payment.
    All this time the actual developer, who I have the greatest of respect for is stuck in the middle, having to pay to keep programmers on waiting for a go ahead, so struggling financially.
    The moral of this story is: -
    If you are a client: -
    - Make sure the developer is actually a developer, and will not just outsource it, which you could as easily do yourself.
    - Make sure if you are shown something similar to what you want that the developer actually did it.
    - Make sure that your contract is crystal clear and what you expect to happen before each stage payment.
    - Don’t do what we did and treat any part of the project as a bit of a sideline, or the developer may use it as an excuse to treat it as something totally separate.
    If you are a designer: -
    - Don’t bullshit your clients. If you can’t do it, and will outsource, tell them. They might still go with you if you can find them the right person!
    - If you do outsource, at least keep an active involvement in the project.
    - Pay careful attention to the contract and ensure that you know exactly what is expected of you. If there are variations, and there will be (we paid probably as much as the contract again in variations), make sure they are clear in the contract.
    - If you do get things wrong, take it as a learning experience!

  • http://www.Johnbeckseminars.com/john-becks-teleseminars.html john becks teleseminars

    Always consider the bottom line and whether additional functionality will generate a return on investment. Not every “good idea” from others will enhance your website.

  • http://www.webteltechnologies.com Deepak Sahni

    Really useful to make some very irritating clients understand the concept behind keeping their websites with less images, most of the clients gets happy to see their competitor websites in flash but don’t understand its negative impact on search engine and when as company we try to convince they feel that we are unable to do the work in flash hence making excuses, ultimately such people has be left till the time they their self realize the point.

  • http://www.naturalherbalproducts.bravehost.com liza

    i must say If you are a designer: -
    - Don’t bullshit your clients. If you can’t do it, and will outsource, tell them. They might still go with you if you can find them the right person!
    - If you do outsource, at least keep an active involvement in the project.
    - Pay careful attention to the contract and ensure that you know exactly what is expected of you. If there are variations, and there will be (we paid probably as much as the contract again in variations), make sure they are clear in the contract.
    - If you do get things wrong, take it as a learning experience.
    http://www.naturalherbalproducts.bravehost.com

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