In last week’s show I promised exciting things to come in the boagworld forum, and this week we begin to deliver on that promise.
Listening to the interviews with top web designers on this podcast is interesting, but wouldn’t it be even better if you could be the one asking the questions? What would you ask one of Britain’s most talented young web designers? Would you ask him about Photoshop techniques or about what makes his career a success? Well, now you have the chance.
Elliot Jay Stocks used to be the Senior Designer at Carsonified before going freelance. His clients now include WordPress, Blue Flavor and FreeAgent Central. He produces some truly stunning work and is considered one of the best web designers around.
He has kindly agreed to take questions from the boagworld community over the coming week. So starting on Wednesday 22nd April you can visit the Boagworld forum and ask him whatever you want. This is an amazing opportunity to really understand the working practices of another designer and discover the secret of his success. It is a rare opportunity to see how somebody else approaches the challenges of building an effective website.
Website management: you can’t automate everything
Sometimes I think I have experienced some kind of mind meld with Gerry McGovern. I continually find myself nodding furiously when I read his stuff. This is certainly true of his post recent post “Website management: you can’t automate everything“.
Gerry is writing about something I have mentioned on this show many times before – content management systems are not enough to solve your content problems. Gerry writes…
The school of content management brought us such developments as portals, customization, personalization, and distributed publishing. These management-free, technology-driven solutions have led to public websites and intranets teeming with poor quality, badly organized, out-of-date content.
What do you get when you personalize crap content? Personalized crap content. What do you get when you distribute publishing rights to people who canâ€™t write, donâ€™t care about what they write, think metadata is a country bordering Outer Mongolia, and will never, ever review or remove what they publish? You get the website you deserve.
He goes on to say…
Technology is important, even critical, but we still need quality people to manage websites if we want those websites to deliver value to the organization.
Amen to that!
IE6 Update: Pure evil!
While Gerry McGovern rants about content management, I want to do the same about a terrible website from people that should know better.
IE6Update has good intentions but its approach is at best misguided and at worse evil and manipulative.
The aim of IE6Update is to encourage IE6 users to update to a modern browser. I think we can all agree with that objective. IE6 lacks the functionality of modern browsers and its rendering engine struggles to handle modern websites. What is more, its a pain in the ass for developers.
My problem lies in the way they do this. Instead of displaying a styled message consistent with the rest of the site, they choose to disguise the message as an official IE notification bar. This tricks the user into believing they are being asked to perform the upgrade by Microsoft.
This is the kind of approach you normally associate with malware or dodgy advertising. It is not the kind of thing you expect to come out of the web design community.
I spend half my life trying to explain to clients why they should treat users with respect. Something like this undermines that work by legitimising deception. If you want to tell IE6 users to upgrade then that is fine. However explain the benefits of upgrading, don’t trick them into doing it!
Where Have All the Flexible Designs Gone?
Craig Buckler asks an interesting question over at Sitepoint – Where Have All the Flexible Designs Gone?
Flexible sites are those which adapt to fill the whole browser window no matter how it is resized. As Craig points out, traditionally these have been considered good practice because they work at any resolution and the user is put in control of sizing.
However as Craig goes on to say, there has been a decline in flexible sites recently, with an increasing number of designers adopting a fixed width approach. Craig cites a number of reasons for this including…
- Their consistency with design mock-ups
- The pixel perfect control they provide
- The additional cost of building flexible sites
Although these are valid reasons for fixed width design, they are nothing new. Flexible sites have been around for years. Why then are they dying out now?
There are two reasons why I generally no longer recommend flexible sites to clients…
Although there are still reasons to use Flexible design, the argument is no longer as convincing as once it was. The return on investment often no longer justifies it.
Help your site convert
Smashing Magazine have released two posts that provide excellent advice on encouraging users to complete a call to action.
The first, imaginatively titled Design To Sell: 8 Useful Tips To Help Your Website Convert, covers subjects such as…
- Subliminal Suggestion
- Preventing Choice Paralysis
- Try before you buy
- The Gutenberg rule
The followup post 7 More Useful Tips To Help Your Site Convert goes on to cover…
- A/B Testing
- Scannable Feature Lists
- Streamline The Sign-Up Process
Both articles offer lots more tips than those listed here, providing explanations and examples for each.
It is easy to believe only ecommerce sites need to convert. However, that is not true. All sites need some form of call to action, so these two posts should be required reading for all website owners and designers.
Interview: Mel Kirk social media for marketing
Paul: So I’m very excited today to have joining me, Mel Kirk. Hello Mel, how are you?
Mel: I’m very good thank you. How are you?
Paul: Very good. It’s good to have you on the show. Feels like I’ve had so much to do with you and yet we never had you on the show and that is a sin and I am truly sorry.
Mel: No problem. We have known each other for years now I think so…
Paul: We have, haven’t we. Let’s start with a little bit of an introduction for those people out there who maybe don’t know you as well as myself. Can you tell me a little bit about your background and where you come from and what kind of stuff you’re involved with, that kind of thing?
Mel: Yeah, absolutely. So I moved into web space about four or five years ago when I started work at Carsonified, which was Carson Systems at the time and what was arranging their events, Future of Web Apps and Future of Web Design. And from there I heavily became involved in promoting the apps that they were building and then eventually moved on to communities manager before I finally left, which was about eighteen months ago. And then after that joined Aardman Animations, Wallace and Gromit…
Paul: Aah, yes
Mel: Everyone recognizes it when you say Wallace and Gromit and my main project there was to work on a video platform called Formations. Which was a joint venture with Channel 4 which was in effect, it’s like a YouTube for animation…
Mel: …which was brand new when I joined so my work was really around building a community around the new site there and getting that to launch, which we did. And then most recently I joined WhiteLabelDating.com as marketing manager of, so I see some very interesting sites.
Paul: Yes, that’s an interesting career move. I didn’t know about the last one. That’s fascinating. Ooh, we’ll have to come onto that one later.
Mel: Absolutely. Um so yeah, now I’m kind of responsible for researching our target audiences and their behaviors and reviewing user perspectives and brand building, all of that kind of stuff.
Paul: So is it fair to say you describe yourself as a marketeer?
Mel: Absolutely, yeah.
Paul: So, that’s good because we haven’t had a marketeer on the show before and I’ve gotta say I think that there area lot of web designers out there that are a little bit snobbish when it comes to marketing and so I think it’s a good subject for us to cover on the show and talk about, a little bit about online marketing and how to approach that kind of thing, so it’s good to have you here.
Mel: Thank you.
Paul: Right, where to begin. Um, OK let’s start at the beginning. Let’s say that somebody has got a really good product or company that they’re very proud of, they’re very excited about but they need to generate some kind of awareness online of who they are or what they do. Where do they start? Where do they begin that process?
Mel: I think for me the main thing before you implement any kind of strategy is research. So knowing your market inside out. Taking the time to work out how those people communicate and where are those discussions taking place. And then becoming a part of that conversation but doing it genuinely with something to offer. So don’t be afraid to say that you’re bringing something new to the table and that you’re obviously there to promote what you have to offer but in return being able to go into forums for example and answer questions for people, to be seen to have an opinion on current topics so that gradually you build yourself up to be seen as an expert in your field so that people have confidence in the service that you’re offering or the product that you’re trying to sell to them.
Paul: Sure. So it’s about establishing yourself as an expert more than it is pimping your product or service.
Mel: Absolutely, and I think nowadays people are used to being marketed to so they turn off as soon as you start to kind of start to heavily sell a product to them so you have to really be going there with a genuine interest and wanting to help those people in some way and they’ll be receptive to that.
Paul: Now you talk there about researching and going and finding out where people congregate and where they are online. How do you go about doing that process? You know, what’s involved in researching?
Mel: So, first of all you need to know kind of who you’re targeting your product at so know your product inside out before you go out there to start to try to find where those people are. Then once you know the kind of topics they’re likely to be discussing or the types of people that you’re after, looking for groups. User groups, Google is fantastic resource that should be used fully. I know it’s so simple, but so many people don’t spend enough time fully researching on Google kind of the different sites that are available or the different social networks that they can join so the first thing that I do, I know that everybody kind of mentions it now but having a look on Facebook, seeing what kind of groups are out there, checking LinkedIn, seeing what activities are taking place already. Setting up Google Alerts, using TweetDeck with alerts on there so that you’re currently being updated with the conversation as it’s taking place and then you’re kind of in a position to join that and to have something that you feel will be valuable that you can contribute to that.
Paul: So those alerts and things that you’re setting up aren’t necessarily alerts
directly related to your own brand or your own products but alerts to what things that your target audience might be interested in?
Mel: Yes, so for me I would set up alerts that were dating specific so that I know the current issues that are going on. I then may set up alerts thinking “OK, well our target audience is 18 to 35. Generally, what’s of interest to these people?” And setting up alerts, it can be completely abstract, searches out there. For example, if you’re targeting guys, I know it’s stereotypical I guess, but um, new beer brands, new video games. Things that you know that they’re likely to have an interest in that you can start to build some commonality there.
Paul: So you’re not even, in that situation you’re not necessarily, I’m guessing with dating you go after guys quite heavily. They’re a big audience to you so you wouldn’t necessarily go after alerts for dating related stuff, it could necessarily be kind of alerts for anything your target audience are interested in, just so you can work out where they are I’m guessing.
Mel: Absolutely. I mean if you look at the dating industry as an example. If we’re targeting guys, we may know that guys in that age have certain interests whether that’s gaming or socializing with friends that may not consider going on a dating site but if you’re already talking to them and raising your own brand awareness then when they get to the point they’re considering a dating site, you’ve already built that brand with them and they recognize you as a name so.
Paul: Sure. I think the thing that often strikes me that both clients and web designers maybe aren’t involved in in marketing is that they often underestimate how long all this stuff takes. To build that relationship and that brand takes a considerable time. It doesn’t kind of happen overnight and often people seem to expect instant results which surprises me. I saw one other thing as a use of Twitter that kind of grabbed my attention and I wondered if you did the same thing was that he would create alerts on questions, whether it be whatever, so that when somebody asks a question, you can go in and respond. Is that the kind of thing you do as well?
Mel: Absolutely. It’s not just about going in and leeching off the community. It’s about going out there to give them the answers to their questions so that you are actually providing a service and some value to them rather than just spamming them and I think that really is the difference. It’s about wanting what’s best for your users rather than just trying to sell your service.
Paul: Yeah. I’m guessing that people can kind of see through anything that’s more direct these days and are uncomfortable with it.
Mel: Well there’s so much of it, unfortunately.
Paul: Yeah, there is. Let’s talk about techniques then, or techniques and tools. You’ve already talked about TweetDeck, you talked about Twitter, you know you mentioned alerts, Google Alerts and that kind of thing. What other kind of tools do you use for reaching people that you, your target audience? What other tools are available to you?
Mel: Um, so for us a big thing is the blog. Being able to have an open conversation with our community. Whether that’s with partners that are using us or the end members that are signing up to the sites. I think for me one of the biggest things with the blog was probably with Formations when we didn’t actually have a product, but we already had people waiting to use it by the time we launched it. And that was purely by going out there saying, “We’re going out as a new venture. We totally want your opinion. We want to know what it is that you are looking for from our service.” And then when you finally go out there and you roll out your new service or your product and you’ve built in their feedback then all of a sudden you give them a sense of ownership and they become your brand advocate so I can’t talk highly enough about the blogs but that’s assuming you actually listen to the feedback. Having a blog and just having it be one way would never work.
Paul: I mean it’s interesting there that you talked about having an open conversation through your blogs…
Paul: …and using the feedback that you receive. How do you go about that? How do you stimulate conversation? I mean I’ve had clients that have set up a blog and they’ve written a lot of article and never a comment will appear, you know. What kind of ways do you use for stimulating that conversation?
Mel: OK, I probably shouldn’t say this. Oh, no, it’s all gonna go down hill, but poking friends, I know it sounds bad. Poking friends to try to get them to spread the word for you. You never know what contacts those people will have. You will have built up a network of people yourself and it’s about not being afraid to ask those people for help. Everybody needs help at some point so asking them to spread a link if they can. But then also when you’re going out there and you’re talking to people that you think are going to have some interest in your blog don’t be afraid to go into conversation, add something and drop your link there, but that’s not going in and purely just linking, like link baiting at all. Have something valuable to say, but don’t be afraid to link that to your own site.
Paul: But what if you’ve kind of got people that are coming to your blog but they’re not engaging, they’re not posting comments? So you’ve got an audience but they’re a very passive audience. Is there stuff you can do to encourage them to participate more?
Mel: Very much. I think the way that the blog is used can be critical on how many comments and how interactive that then becomes. I think Gary Vaynerchuk does a fantastic job on his blog where at the end of each video he tells you to comment. It’s very very easy to see as soon as you hit his page, what you need to do to leave a comment or to contact him on Twitter. The call to action there is very very clear. And similarly the videos that I do at Random Mel, the first and last thing I do is to put the URL at the start and end of the video and then if I want someone’s comments on something specifically then I make sure that I tell them what to do. You can’t just assume that your users are going to know, or want to comment, so you have to really prompt that from them.
Paul: Yeah, I mean I’ve seen that a lot in blog posts where the blog post has been written as this diatribe of “I’m the expert. I know what I’m talking about. Here’s the stuff,” and you’ve got nowhere to go as far as responding to it. It’s almost like the person doesn’t want a response. They’re certainly not asking for feedback, or they’re not asking any kind of question you can respond to.< /p>
Mel: Absolutely, and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how senior you may be within your industry or how much you know. There’s always something that you can be learning from these people. And being able to get feedback from those, that’s information and data that these huge organizations that aren’t up to speed with social media yet would pay thousands of pounds for. So it’s a real advantage if you use it properly.
Paul: I mean there’s a kind of follow on issue here that you’ve kind of built some excitement around whatever your product or service is, you may have done enough work to get in the position that you’re currently in of actually having a group of passionate people there waiting for your product to launch, and creating that initial buzz is easy, or easier but it’s maintaining that buzz over a long period of time and maintaining that engagement with users so I’m interested in how you go about keeping that relationship going over the longer term. What kinds of things do you do there?
Mel: So one of the main things here I think is having content available to them. Having something new so they have an incentive to come back. You can’t just expect to launch and for that high wave to be maintained. But I also think that it’s worthwhile bearing in mind that you should be there just to facilitate the conversation between them. If it’s some kind of website that you have, for example, for people to communicate with one another. It’s not necessarily for them to communicate with you, but you’re helping them to achieve whatever it is that they want to get out of your service.
Mel: So continually trying to update your service to make it the best that it can possibly be and to actually have a look back and to not be afraid to change it if you can see that users are using the service in a slightly different way than you thought they were going to. Not being afraid to go, “OK, well it’s not quite what we had planned, but let’s go along that route.” Just as flickr was born I guess.
Mel: So being able to change that and giving the users a sense of ownership. I can’t stress how important that is. Because they become your advocates and no matter how well you communicate with these people, you’re always going to be the person that is promoting a product or service, whereas your users are doing it because they genuinely believe in you.
Paul: There’s a kind of interesting potential problem in that, that if you as a marketing person is the person that is engaging with the community and if the community is feeding back ideas about the product and service and you’re wanting to take those on board, there’s gotta be a very good relationship between marketing and the people actually developing the product or service. How has that worked in the past? Have you found that people have been very receptive to that?
Mel: Um, so we’ve had something very very similar here at White Label where we are now positioned with the development team, because as far as I see it, marketing and development very much fit as one. And marketing now own all of the projects that we’re doing so that we were able to take our users needs to drive that forward and to prioritize that. Development is incredibly important, but it really does have to be the users’ needs that drive forward what’s most important to them. And so we have regular updates with the development teams but like I say we very much take responsibility for new features and functionality which is added there.
Paul: That’s very interesting. There’ll be a lot of people that’s listening to this podcast that are probably deeply uncomfortable with the idea of new features being driven out of marketing.
Paul: Why do you think it should be marketing where that’s based rather than the development team?
Mel: I say marketing simply because in terms of my role I very much kind of look at the usability of the site…
Mel: …so trying to increase user experience so maybe that’s kind of somewhere in between I guess, rather than traditional marketing. But if I can see conversations that are taking place and I can see how users are kind of functioning on the site and how we might want to implement changes then it’s kind of easier to get buy in from the development team when I can go to them with hard evidence as to what it is our users actually want.
Paul: I mean that’s quite a quantum shift in the way that marketing operates. Do you get a sense that marketing as a discipline is changing quite radically and if so, in what kind of ways?
Mel: Absolutely. I guess when you introduced me as a marketeer I cringed slightly because I did marketing years back when I worked in a bank and things were very very different back then. But I would say that marketing now has very much come along the lines that it is grass roots and that’s what I feel comfortable with. It’s not necessarily acting as a marketing function but it’s about being a user advocate and working out what can we possibly do to make their lives as easy as possible and to delight them? So not just give them the service that they’re expecting but that little bit extra as well. And I think that’s where marketing comes in now because then as soon as they’re happy, there are so many tools out there for those tools to vocalize whether they’re happy with the service or not, they do the rest of the work for you.
Paul: So do you find that largely it’s about creating a passionate, enthusiastic community that then does peer to peer word of mouth marketing rather than sinking large amounts of money into banner advertising or whatever else?
Mel: Totally and we find that it’s sustainable whereas if you pay for PPC and as soon as you stop that you’ll tend find that traffic to the site will stop as well. Whereas if you’ve got an active community out there that are truly engaged with what you have to offer then that’s going to be sustainable in the long run.
Paul: Of course the downside to that is that you’re not in control of the message in the same way as you would be with traditional marketing and that you are very dependent on the good will of your community for that to succeed. So the question then arises, what do you do when things go tits up? What do you when things go wrong and there’s negative publicity and people are bitching and moaning online? How do you manage that ki
nd of situation?
Mel: I think from my point of view it would be to not be scared to hold your hands up and to admit when you’ve made a mistake. If you can be totally transparent in what you’re doing and you can explain why something hasn’t gone quite right. If you look at Facebook and how they took a step back not that long ago I think that was quite a brave move for them, but then you become an approachable company that people realize it’s humans behind the brand and as soon as you have that they become a lot more forgiving. Obviously there are going to be some people out there that bitch about you no matter what and unfortunately they are going to exist but all that you can do is kind of educate them as well as you can so they’re portraying the right message for you and then if it is as case that you’ve done something that your community don’t agree with, holding your hands up and not being afraid to change that to their demand.
Paul: I mean it’s interesting there that you talk about exposing the humans behind the brand, that increasingly seems to be the philosophy of a lot of companies, to encourage their employees to blog and to twitter and to do all of these kinds of things. But I think in a lot of other companies there’s quite a high level of fear again about losing control of the message and that traditionally that’s something that marketing want to do and the idea of opening it up to everybody within the company seems quite horrendous. How would you reassure people that are having those kinds of doubts?
Mel: I think if there’s a small-scale project that you can start that on to prove that the fear is often a lot worse than the actual reality behind it then that’s always a good way to begin. I would say that enabling your staff to have a voice is always a great way if they’re able to blog or to tweet. That’s not to say that you don’t go out there and say, “OK. If you’re going to be associated with the company, you need to be careful,” for their own rights as well as ours. You still have to be sensible with what you’re doing out there, but at the end of the day people buy from people they don’t buy from big companies. And the most successful companies out there are the ones where their employees truly believe in the products and they kind of do a lot of the work for you rather than just marketing function.
Paul: Very interesting. I mean to some degree mind these days, increasingly all of us online are having to be marketeers to some extent. We’re all managing our own personal brands and our own personal identities and who we are and how we’re perceived online. I’m quite interested in your perspective of that, because I know that you have been amazingly honest and open online and that that’s come back to bite you on some occasions. So what kinds of hints and tips would you give to people that are trying to manage their online identity? I hate that phrase, that sounds awful, but you know what I mean. You know what I mean.
Mel: Yeah. So, I think my biggest word of advice would be to be yourself. I think at the end of the day, if you can go to bed at night and you can sleep knowing that you’ve been true to yourself and you haven’t gone out there and tried to scam anyone or anything like that then I think that’s the biggest hurdle. There will always be some people that will question or criticize whatever moves you make but that’s a sign that they’re actually paying attention so although that may not be positive, it’s kind of the old PR way I guess, that any publicity is better than no publicity. And I guess for me, work with companies that fit your ethos. So, I’ve been approached by companies before where I’ve felt really kind of uncomfortable around the product that they’re offering. I don’t feel that I could sell it whole heartedly. I know that that will reflect personally on me so I will only associate myself with products and services that I truly believe in. I think that then kind of maintains people’s perspective of you I guess. But yeah, being honest is the main thing I think.
Paul: What about in regards to how open you are? I mean we’ve talked a lot about open and transparency. Is there a line do you think? Is there a point where you should just shut your mouth and not speak, so to speak?
Mel: I think that there is, and I think that that varies for each individual and it really depends on how comfortable you feel online. Some people are quite happy putting everything out there, and so that’s absolutely fine for them, that works. I’m probably among one of those. Exhibitionist, if you will. And then there are other people, they don’t want everybody to see what’s going on on Facebook. They don’t want everyone to know what’s going on in their personal lives. And that’s absolutely fine too. So you have to do whatever fits with you best. I mean, for me personally, I’m very very out there in the space and that’s just because that’s the way that I choose to lead my life. That said, you generally, apart from me on Twitter saying that boys smell, won’t find me talking about relationships or stuff that’s hugely personal to me. It will be about my lifestyle, it will be about my work, but it won’t be incredibly personal stuff. That’s my line, so. What’s your line?
Paul: I don’t know what my line is. I knew you were going to say that. That’s just because I’ve just posted on Twitter that I’m chronically depressed and don’t want to work anymore. So you’re picking me up on that. No, I think for me, I tend to say everything slightly tongue in cheek, but then there will always be a kind of element of truth in it. So I perhaps am more personal than I think I am online, but I just dress it up in humor to kind of cover it up so, I mean that comment, for example. Yeah, I’m a bit pissed off today and I’m not really in the mood for working, so I’ll exaggerate it and make a joke out of it and make a bit of fun out of it. Sometimes that can be really dangerous. Humor does not translate very well, especially into text format. So yeah, it’s difficult isn’t it? It’s kind of, you have to feel it out and work it out for yourselves I guess. Anyway this is supposed to be me interviewing you, you’re not allowed to ask questions to me.
Mel: I’m sorry.
Paul: You’re breaking the rules Mel. OK, one last question to wrap up with. Which is that, let’s face it, social media has become a little bit of a dirty word at the moment.
Mel: I hate that now.
Paul: I know, it’s horrible, horrible, horrible. And there’s so many people out there that are kind of piggy-backing off of the back of it and I’m fed up. If I have one more person decide to follow me on Twitter that’s got the words “social media” in their title I’m gonna scream, but underlying all of that, actually there is something of value there and it’s this whole, you know, what we’ve been talking about really, this whole kind of community driven aspect to marketing and to our product development and all of that good stuff. But, here’s your chance to rant Mel. Give us some of the things that really anno
y you about social media. Some myths maybe that surround social media that need dispelling.
Mel: Oh my goodness, and this is to wrap up?
Paul: Yeah. Something light and breezy to end with.
Mel: OK. So, for me, everybody saying that social media is really really easy would be my biggest thing. It’s easy enough to do, if you know what you’re doing, but not everyone can do it. Some people know how to communicate with communities, other people don’t. And it’s kind of about knowing your strengths so, for example, some people may be hugely technical, but when it comes to knowing how to market themselves they aren’t always that forthcoming. And so it really does depend on the person that you’ve got doing your social media for you I guess. My next big one would be that giving away ideas and content shouldn’t be free, that you should be charging for that in some way. I know there are plenty of people out there that say that. But if you’re going to be seen as an expert, you have to prove yourself. You can’t walk into a space and kind of stamp your feet and say, “OK, look. Pay me as a social media expert because I know so much.” You have to provide something to people, show that you know what you’re doing and be prepared to do a lot of work for free in the meanwhile and then gradually those paid projects will come along. Next one would probably be viral campaigns. Easy. They’re very hit and miss. Everyone now thinks they can upload a video to YouTube and now hit the big time and it’s really not the case. It really does depend on the audience and how they react to each piece that’s put out there. And then I guess my last one, and it’s my last one, I promise, will be that there’s now way of tracking the effectiveness of a social media campaign. I just don’t believe that at all. I think that no matter what you’re working on you should always set yourself targets. Now whether that’s a number of comments that you want to appear on a blog post or a number of members that you want to sign up, search engine optimization. There are so many things that you can track, but everyone still believes it’s slightly fluffy, and are nice to have and I couldn’t disagree with that more. So…
Paul: I like that one. That’s a really good one. I totally support you in that, that I think that making things measurable, even if you don’t meet those targets, I think having targets and aiming towards them is vitally important.
Mel: Absolutely. And anybody who comes in and says that they can do social media for you without those, I wouldn’t trust in a million years.
Paul: Excellent Mel! That was really interesting! It’s really good for us to kind of branch out and look at these things. You know the Web is becoming so much more than just putting up websites and we need to be talking about this kind of stuff more so it’s great to have you on the show. Thank you for your time.
Mel: Thank you for inviting me.
Paul: We’ll have you back again soon, no doubt. Goodbye!
Mel: Thank you.
Much thanks goes to Todd Dietrich for transcribing this interview
In this week’s listeners section, Marcus answers a question about handling criticism from clients and we hear from Japh about Internet Explorers future.
The need for having a thick skin
This question in from Bill:
Currently my working life seems to be one long string of criticism and rejection. I try to get involved in debate as guys like you recommend I should, but my ‘real-world’ take on things usually gets shot down.
Trying to win work is even worse. I try to make sure that I don’t give too much away to potential clients up front and I try to discuss sensible budgets with them, but their expectation is that I will redesign their homepage for nothing to ‘see if I’m good enough’ and any budget request is met with ‘you tell me’.
Even though Paul and I pretend to be big and tough, nothing-can-touch-us types, the truth is rather different. My constant need for adoration and Paul’s megalomania mean that we both take criticism very hard. Ok, I’m joking, but there is a grain of truth in there.
No-one likes criticism or rejection, so what’s the best way to soften any blows?
All of the people
If you decide to lay your soul bare in a blog or regularly provide advice in a forum or through articles, then chances are someone will disagree with you. Quite often they’ll be rude and destructive in their criticism as well.
Try and take any positive criticism as an addition to any debate and get wholeheartedly involved. But, be prepared to accept that, sometimes, you might just actually be wrong.
To those people who are intent on using you as a punch-bag – ignore them. Getting into any kind of argument will almost certainly end up with you looking and feeling worse. You will tend to find that you have a lot of allies in situations like these – let them fight on your behalf.
So, accept it, you cannot please all of the people all of the time.
Go for it
All that said, you should still get involved in debate, post questions and views and comment as much as you can. You will get yourself known and even if that’s as the ‘real world’ guy then so be it.v
I’m guessing that the work you are trying to win is fairly low-end. Getting involved in discussion is a very effective way of promoting yourself. It shows that you are keen and (hopefully) that you know what you are talking about. This should start to attract a better calibre of client.
However, this does not happen overnight, so be patient.
You’re worth it
Trust you’re ‘gut’ when dealing with potential clients. Quite often people are genuine when they say that they have no idea of budget. This doesn’t automatically mean that they are a waste of time; just that they need educating in your processes.
However, if someone is trying to manipulate you into doing work for free – and that doesn’t necessarily mean doing unpaid mock-ups, it can just as easily mean scoping out an idea (why should you not be paid for being creative?) – then walk away. You will regret it if you don’t.
I’ve said this before so apologies for the repetition but I think it’s important.
Ask people, up front, what their budget is. Explain that you need to know it to respond with the most appropriate solution for them. You may only be able to squeeze in a quick 2 or 3 page flat site within their budget or you may be able to offer a huge variety of functionality and testing.
If you don’t get anywhere by asking (and, as I mentioned previously, they really may not have a clue) then create a 2 or 3 paragraph solution with associated tasks (a mini proposal if you like) and email that to them with an associated ballpark price.
This will either stimulate discussion or get you dismissed out of hand. Both outcomes are good news.
Stick to your guns
We decided, quite a while back, and for very good reason, that we would not do any unpaid mock-up design work. In some cases this
has been seen as a positive thing (once it has been explained) but with other potential projects I’m sure it has adversely affected our chances of winning the work. However, we should stick to what we believe is right. Chopping and changing presents a negative image to both potential clients and our staff.
If you do decide to present initial mock-up ideas don’t be tempted into iterating them further. Any client who asks for is again asking for free work and is most definitely to be avoided.
Sometimes the people we have to deal with are mouth-open-wide-unbelievable in their arrogance, rudeness, pickiness, narrow-mindedness, impatience etc etc…
Sometimes we are manipulated into doing work for free.
Sometimes we are strung along through a pitch process when we have no chance of winning it.
This can be a little irksome and, at times, we may feel that an adversarial approach is the right one! It isn’t. It can only damage your reputation.
Even if you don’t see eye-to-eye with someone it doesn’t mean that they will never hire you or recommend you to someone else.
So, in essence, work on your patience, cherish your good clients and keep your skin thick.
IE6 and IE8
Hi. So, there’s been a lot of talk lately about the IE8 being moved to an important update hopefully to prompt people to upgrade form IE7 or whatever previous version to IE8. So, I just wanted to put in my two cents and specifically I guess this is a response to Paul Boag’s recent audio review about this topic. I agree with Paul that IE8 being an important update won’t kill IE6, mostly due to corporations. As IE7 was made a high security update quite some time ago and a lot of users upgraded before then and since then from IE6 to 7. I think those users will proceed as they have been and upgrade to IE8 like the good little lemmings that they are. And it will be the corporates that are stuck back in IE6. Mostly, I think, this has to do with maintenance periods and things like that and the various support deals that corporations have with Microsoft. But there is some good news there as well in as much as Windows XP’s life span is being reduced. Microsoft’s reducing support on that to be the extended support instead of their main line support which basically means you only get security fixes and that’s all. So, for corporations, even though they’ve paid up and so they get it little bit longer than everybody else it’s kind of a bit of a kick in the pants for them and telling them they need to move into high gear and start upgrading their standard operating environments to include the latest operating system which will include hopefully the latest browser – IE7 at least if not IE8. And I think that’s probably going to start happening early to mid next year. So, it’s not too far off before we would have , you know, hopefully, complete death of IE6. That’s my two cents.
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