S03E02: A partnership of experts | Boagworld - Web & Digital Advice

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S03E02: A partnership of experts

This is a transcription of episode 2, season 3 of the boagworld podcast: A Partnership of Experts..

Paul Boag:
Hello and welcome to Boagworld.com, the podcast for those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. My name is Paul Boag and joining me as always is…

Marcus Lillington:
Marcus Lillington.

Paul Boag:
Insert name here.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. I had a little daydream there.

Paul Boag:
That’s a nice professional introduction to the – so we are season 3, episode 2.

Marcus Lillington:
Indeed.

Paul Boag:
And you –

Marcus Lillington:
Are hung over.

Paul Boag:
Indeed. So I’m going to be talking very loudly throughout the whole show, why are you hung-over?

Marcus Lillington:
Because England beat France yesterday. So it’s – actually when – this podcast probably will go out in about a month, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
I know, it’s ages until this podcast goes out. So it will be massively…

Marcus Lillington:
Today’s date is the 12th of March?

Paul Boag:
Yes and this isn’t going to be going out for over a month actually.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, so yesterday England – the young England side, their warriors beat the old experienced French side in –

Paul Boag:
And what we’re talking about, rugby, football?

Marcus Lillington:
Rugby and I was watching it in the pub, drinking beer. We won: hurray, hurray, hurray let’s drink more beer.

Paul Boag:
Right. You are far too old for this now, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
No, I’m not.

Paul Boag:
Takes so much longer to recover. Do you remember those days when you were a student, or – not in your case because you went off and had a pop career instead. But you could drink and then, get up the next morning and you’d be fine. Now I’m like hung-over two days later.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I’m – that’s okay. But I can deal with it.

Paul Boag:
I’m here talking. You are here. Yes, your normal chipper yourself. Hurrah!

Marcus Lillington:
But – yeah, a bit of a headache.

Paul Boag:
I have so much sympathy for you.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
No. None whatsoever. So there you go. So that’s the news of Marcus and his latest ailments.

Marcus Lillington:
Ailments?

Paul Boag:
Ailments.

Marcus Lillington:
But anyway you can talk, sick boy.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. No I’m better this week.

Marcus Lillington:
You’re not.

Paul Boag:
No, I know but we’re going to pretend I am, at least for – do I sound is as horrendous as I did last week.

Marcus Lillington:
No, you’re better on that front.

Paul Boag:
That’s good.

Marcus Lillington:
You don’t sound so nasally.

Paul Boag:
I’m not nasally.

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
That’s good.

Marcus Lillington:
Coughing a lot now.

Paul Boag:
There’s nothing like sickly people when – there’s nothing like having one hung-over and one sickly sounding person in your ears.

Marcus Lillington:
People will have switched off by now.

Paul Boag:
They will have.

Marcus Lillington:
You did say we have an interview to insert at some point, maybe now would be a good time.

Paul Boag:
Before people – no, I’m going to randomly insert it halfway through when they’re bored of us.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. Well I was kind of making the assumption that they already were.

Paul Boag:
Oh, right. Yeah that’s more than possible. So we are at episode 2 of season 3. If you haven’t listened to episode 1, do so.

Marcus Lillington:
Right now.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Turn us off.

Paul Boag:
Turn us off, go find episode 1 and listen to that. We are looking at the subject of client centric web design. The idea that actually working with clients could be quite good fun and can be a satisfying relationship –

Marcus Lillington:
Rewarding.

Paul Boag:
Yes, rewarding, that’s it. And produce better websites at the end of it all. So we introduced a topic in the last week and we kind of explained the basics of what client centric web design is all about. There is a book associated with this season of the podcast. If you go to boagworld.com/season/3 you can get to the outline for the entire season and get to the associated ebook, which I highly recommend because it’s beautifully written and wonderfully edited.

Marcus Lillington:
I see, it’s beautifully written now.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Now you have edited it. It is by far the best thing I have ever written.

Marcus Lillington:
Really? I don’t know actually.

Paul Boag:
So there we go. So last week we talked about a happy smiley world or didn’t we, where, clients and web designers work in perfect harmony to produce super successful websites to transform the world in which we live. I suggested that this utopia could be achieved when we come to a realization that our clients have real things to contribute to projects and are super talented and wonderful people and we need to love them deeply. So that’s what we completed last week.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Well involve them.

Paul Boag:
Involve them, yes. Because they’re special and have things to contribute, but lets say to I know what everybody is thinking. It’s all when in good for us to recognize our client’s abilities isn’t it, but what if they don’t recognize ours? In the real world a lot of clients seem to frown upon us, don’t they and treat us as mere pixel pushers where we want to be considered experts in our field, that our world is law and everybody should listen to what we’ve got to say. So that’s what we’re going to talk about this week, is how to become that expert, how to be that really leader in the field of web designing and be taken seriously by your clients.

Now, I think to be honest this thing to be taken seriously by our clients, lies at the heart of the relationship between web designer and client and the tension that often exists. Often as web designers, we feel like we are experts in our field and yet are not always treated as such. And we need to change that.

So to be taken more seriously, we need to kind of change the dynamics of that relationship. We need to become a partnership of experts where we recognize the expertise of the client and the client recognizes our expertise. However, there is a problem with this. And the problem is, is we cannot change what clients think. Much we would like to, we can’t do that. We can only change ourselves and so we’re going to look what we can do to change ourselves and make ourselves appear as experts.

To the reality is that there are lots of experts out there that aren’t recognized as such. There are physicists with more experience than Stephen Hawking and there are web designers with more talent than Paul Boag:. I know it’s hard to believe –

Marcus Lillington:
In this building.

Paul Boag:
In this room.

Marcus Lillington:
No that is pushing it too far.

Paul Boag:
So being perceived as an expert is often different to being an expert, is my point there. You know that you can be an expert in something and nobody recognizes you as such. And I do believe, I make a joke about it that there are more talented web designers than me, but it is actually true. There are lots of really good people that don’t have that kind of reputation that I have even though they are far better web designers than me.

So what is it? How do you not just – it’s not just about being an expert, it’s about being perceived as an expert and how do you get clients to that point where they perceive you in the right way. And of course, the key to that is to present yourself in the right way. It’s about how you present yourself and presenting yourself as an expert. And I think a really good starting point for that and a technique that, to be frank, I’ve used myself, is to be an expert via association.

So what do I mean by that? Well, a client when you first start working with the client, they’ve got really no idea whether your opinion is credible or not. You know they’ve got no way of gauging how much of an expert you are. So, it’s kind of pointless relying on your own experience to justify your position. You know, so you know how it is. You should listen to me because I’m the web designer.

Well, frankly, why? So you’ve done web design for a bit, does that really mean that you know what you’re talking about? So, instead a technique that I’ve used before is I will instead refer to sources that my client knows and respects. So one option here is to use statistics and research because everybody loves statistics and research, don’t they? 75% of people do this, therefore it must be right, you know the kind of thing.

Marcus Lillington:
Refer to Jakob Nielsen.

Paul Boag:
Yes, refer to Jakob Nielsen, refer to – I mean, for example I often use this when the client comes and goes on about the fold, right. Oh, everything must be above the fold. Well, I could say, well I’m telling you that you don’t need to worry about the fold well – yeah, but why should I listen to you, it’s your opinion versus mine. But if I turn around and say refer them to some ClickTale research on scrolling and how users scroll, now that’s got a lot more credibility than just my opinion or as you say, Jakob Nielsen has written a lot on scrolling and the fold. So again refer to him. So…

Marcus Lillington:
It’s often worth finding out who – if they’ve heard of Jakob Nielsen or Steve Krug or the famous people early on. So that you can use – you can basically refer back to the experts that they’ve heard of.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Rather than just…

Paul Boag:
Random.

Marcus Lillington:
Data says.

Paul Boag:
But what’s quite interesting is, you’ve got a point there, but I know of course the immediate problem then is well if they haven’t heard of any of these people, what do you do? But I don’t –

Marcus Lillington:
Wave a book at them.

Paul Boag:
Well, yeah exactly. And I think there is also, it’s alright for me to go this is Jakob Nielsen, he is really clever. This is why he is really clever, pay attention to him. But it’s not alright for me to go, this is me, I’m really clever, you should pay attention to me. That sounds arrogant and annoying. It’s kind of alright to say about somebody else that they are the expert, but to say about yourself just sound arrogant and people won’t listen to you. But they will listen to you if you say Steve Krug is an expert or Jakob Nielsen is an expert.

I mean I think there are kind of three benefits really to quoting statistics and studies and that kind of stuff. First of all, they prove that you’re knowledgeable and well read, so that automatically increases your credibility. They support your argument with empirical evidence, so that’s worthwhile. And they add to your credibility through association because you know about these things therefore you get credibility.

But as we’ve already said, this only works if the person that you’re talking to your client actually knows and understands the abilities of the person you are quoting. If they don’t, then you have to enlighten them, but that’s okay. It’s okay to talk – to say about how great Steve Krug or whoever.

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
You’ve established the expert’s credibility, they are a useful tool in justifying your suggestions. And also I think there is a degree of reflected glory. And I think this works really well, for example, especially if you can say you’ve met the person or you’ve spoken to the person or you’ve heard them speak, I think that’s real reflected glory there. And to be honest, that’s why we started doing interviews on this podcast was because then I can say well, we interviewed Steve Krug about this issue and he said I think the reflected glory thing does make a difference. And me being able to say I’ve spoken alongside these people as well always a really good thing. So anything you can do to strengthen that association between you and other experts is really worthwhile.

Marcus Lillington:
I just think going back to the three points. I think the first one is the most important one. It proves that you are not just a nine-to-fiver…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
… that turns off and plays games at 5 o’clock or whatever.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
You are willing to read up and research on stuff that might be valuable to your client.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, of course.

Marcus Lillington:
And that shows down so well.

Paul Boag:
It does. Of course, the trick here is you have to do that.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, yes, absolutely.

Paul Boag:
And I think this is some – this is quite a big point because when you’re a freelancer, and you want as much of your time to be billable as possible and so it’s very easy to get into this mentality of not setting aside time to go to conferences, to read up on stuff. But it really is so massively important because it is really powerful. And ultimately, I think it does provide real tangible returns. If you’re able to quote a client – sorry, quote an expert with – to a client, then it does add to your credibility and it will make it easier to get signed off. And so ultimately that makes you more profitable.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So it’s worth the effort. But you do feel like, I even feel like it now, I feel if I’m sitting around for a couple of hours just reading stuff you don’t feel like you’re doing proper work, but it’s got to be done.

Marcus Lillington:
Of course, it’s part of your job.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
Otherwise you will never move on.

Paul Boag:
Otherwise I wouldn’t have a legitimate job.

Marcus Lillington:
We might make you do real work, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I mean, that’s – sorry, that’s the other – you were making a serious point there before I undermined it which is that you need to do this as well to keep up-to-date and keep on top of stuff. So, it is important from that point of view as well. But yeah, so often we don’t kind of give it the time that I think it deserves.

Marcus Lillington:
Work gets in the way.

Paul Boag:
I know, it’s disgraceful really. The only way you stay up-to-date is this podcast really.

Marcus Lillington:
I know it just means I’m horribly out-of-date.

Paul Boag:
Because you don’t do them as regularly as you used to.

Marcus Lillington:
No, South by Southwest this year.

Paul Boag:
Oh, dear.

Marcus Lillington:
Which is going on at the moment.

Paul Boag:
I know. Well, it isn’t, because everybody is listening to this a month later.

Marcus Lillington:
But we’ve already made the point that it’s March the 12th, the date today.

Paul Boag:
Oh, yes, we have.

Marcus Lillington:
So it’s okay to say that.

Paul Boag:
I forgot that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, don’t think you miss it. Do you not – I look at the speakers list and I reckon there was a thousand speakers…

Paul Boag:
I know.

Marcus Lillington:
…and just thought this is insane. It was also looking at where all the talks were. There are – remember the very first year we went, we stayed in a hotel way out.

Paul Boag:
Oh, yeah, yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
There are talks going on at that hotel.

Paul Boag:
No way.

Marcus Lillington:
And they are all over the place, they’re not all in the convention center, and I just thought this is

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
…horrible. I do miss the evenings, the lunches…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
… and meeting up with people you’re going to see once a year, I miss that.

Paul Boag:
Well, the one thing – I mean, hopefully, I think this podcast comes out before this conference happens, but the one I’m speaking at this year which is a big one. It’s the Future Insights, which is arranged by Carsonified, happening in Vegas. And that is a big conference, it’s a week – about five days conference, over 100 speakers and that looks like to me, I mean, I haven’t been yet, so it might be awful for all I know. But it looks like it’s going to be what South by Southwest used to be, which is much more focused on design and development and that kind of thing. Rather than now where South by has turned into this kind of marketing fest…

Marcus Lillington:
Definitely, yes.

Paul Boag:
… of social media experts.

Marcus Lillington:
The social media expert, yes.

Paul Boag:
So which is fine, I mean…

Marcus Lillington:
That has its place.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, but it’s not what I want to go to, so I’m quite hoping to…

Marcus Lillington:
I think I ought to go to this Vegas one.

Paul Boag:
You want to go the Vegas one?

Marcus Lillington:
I think I should.

Paul Boag:
Do you?

Marcus Lillington:
Don’t you?

Paul Boag:
No, I don’t.

Marcus Lillington:
Are you sure?

Paul Boag:
No, I think me going is enough.

Marcus Lillington:
Are you sure?

Paul Boag:
So it’s in Vegas. I’m so excited about this. Absolutely. Because I’m taking my wife and you’ll be a right gooseberry if you come too.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, there might be other people there I know, but anyway whatever, move on.

Paul Boag:
Oh, yeah, we were doing a podcast.

Marcus Lillington:
We were.

Paul Boag:
That was it.

Paul Boag:
Right. So, yes, we talked about expertise via association, but fortunately there are things you can do to directly establish your own credibility without coming across as super arrogant. Look at me, look at me, I’m important. Listen to my opinion. Right, so, I think the important thing to remember is client wants to know you can deliver, right? That’s what everything is about.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So they want to believe in your abilities. They wouldn’t have hired you if they didn’t. So, you’ve already got kind of an advantage there that they want to believe in you. So you just need to give them that confidence. And a big part I think of giving a client confidence is how you speak and how you present yourself.

Marcus Lillington:
I think this is the number one point in gaining credibility.

Paul Boag:
Do you? Do you really?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Why?

Marcus Lillington:
Because it’s the reason why I think a lot of people have the problem in the first place. This kind of like they don’t take me seriously blah, blah, blah…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…and I think it is about confidently speaking…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…confidently standing up for your – for what you believe in but also being willing to kind of give and take a bit. It’s about more than just knowing how to do your job.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s communication.

Paul Boag:
It is. And I think it’s also – it’s that a lot of people come across as, well, you could do this or people – that some people within Headscape are quite rude to me and Marcus, right? Because we will go in and we will make these huge sweeping statements, won’t we?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes and we can’t stop talking.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Take over meetings, et cetera.

Paul Boag:
We do. But we – but we make these huge sweeping statements and absolutely everything’s in black and white, isn’t it? It’s either, either it will work or it won’t work or it’s either it’s going to be brilliant or impossible, but to some degree that is what confidence is. But it’s interesting because I think Chris does it in a different way. I think he comes across as very confident, but he does it in a – well, here are all the different options, but this is the one we’re going to go for. So he is still confident, but he does it in his own personality and I do think that there is an element of that, that you can’t be somebody you’re not.

Marcus Lillington:
No, absolutely.

Paul Boag:
And he couldn’t stand going into a meeting saying this is what we’re going to do without letting the client know all of the other options.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I mean, if you say, for example, we will come on to this later, so I won’t go into detail, but we’re going to talk about running – kick off meetings and…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…and doing wireframing. Chris would never want to pick up a pen and start scribbling…

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
…it’s just not the way he is, but actually, he is methodical and he would have prepped things before and said we’ve got this option.

Paul Boag:
Yes, but that gives confidence as well.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, probably more.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, because his way of doing confidence is look, I’ve looked at this in far more detail than you ever will have.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So therefore, you can trust me. So, it is finding the right way to do about – to do things.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. I think the important point here is we’re not telling everyone to go out and be a joker.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
Just stand up for what you believe in.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
Don’t dither.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, don’t dither, that’s the thing. Even if you present, because what I tend to do is only present the one option. This is the way it should be done. There is nothing wrong with, I think, presenting multiple options or you could do it this way or you could do it that way. As long as you give a recommendation at the end of that and you know, this is what I feel. I think if you speak with authority, it really builds the client’s confidence and your ability to deliver. However, speaking with confidence, I do think it’s harder than it looks because it can come across as arrogant. I can speak…

Marcus Lillington:
I can’t believe that of you, Paul.

Paul Boag:
I can speak with authority on this subject because I often come across as arrogant. It is something I have had to work really hard at. I think I am better than when we started Headscape.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, we all are – we were all more arrogant when we were younger.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Yeah, I do think…

Marcus Lillington:
Humility comes along with age.

Paul Boag:
It does, I do think there is that element to it. Yeah, I wish I could go back in time and tell my 20-something version of me that –

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah but you wouldn’t end up – that’s part of growing up.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I guess that.

Marcus Lillington:
…part of life.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. So anyway being an expert, I think the point here that I’m trying to make, and perhaps I am trying to teach a load of 20-year-olds some things that they will only discover with time, I don’t know. But I think being an expert is about not just being confident in your opinion. That is a part of it, but I don’t think it’s the whole thing. I think there is an element where being an expert is about saying I don’t know or admitting when you’re wrong. True experts rarely feel the need to prove themselves because they’re already the expert.

If I look at someone like Jeffrey Zeldman, right, who is perceived by a lot of people to be an expert, he can quite easily turn around and say, no, I’ve changed my mind over that or whatever because he is an expert, he has got the confidence to do that. And I often see people – there is somebody I could mention that I’ve got specifically in my head, but I won’t mention because it’s very unfair on him. But he would take a position on something, dig his heels in even when there were logical arguments to the contrary, once he stated a position he felt he couldn’t back down from it. And in my view that’s not being an expert.

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
You know I think being an expert is being willing to say I don’t know or admit – a classic example…

Marcus Lillington:
He is not communicating either properly.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I will give you a really good example and I can give it as an open example was RAF Benevolent Fund, alright? RAF Benevolent Fund, we’ve done this design and we were really happy with it and we presented it to the client and there was one particular element which was on a text page we had, graphics which were in a certain – kind of a circle shape, it doesn’t really matter what it was, but the client said, I really don’t like this, I don’t think we are going in the right direction. And I wanted to support the designer that did it, who was on the call as well, so I dug my heels over it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And I was wrong.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I screwed up on the phone call, right, and ended up antagonizing the client, and I know I screwed up on the phone call, but at least I had the intelligence later on down the line to turn around to the client. When we did what the client wanted and it was better and it was obviously better and I had the guts to say to the client you were right, I was wrong and I think that is a sign – as much a sign of being an expert as it is, this is my opinion, I’m going to stick to it. So it’s a fine line, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, it’s a difficult one, very difficult one.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
I mean, I don’t know, we’re talking about ex – being perceived as an expert here, but that is an example of good communication.

Paul Boag:
Yes, and being a nice human being as well.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, and recognizing – and recognizing that your clients have – they do have valuable inputs to the process even sometimes on your turf…

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
…but that’s something we may probably come on to.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, and I do agree with that. Yeah, because you were concerned – when you read the beginning chapters of this, when you were editing it, you were concerned that I was saying clients have got nothing to add to the design process, they should stick to their areas and not.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, yeah I mean there is very much – I’m not disagreeing with the idea that – clients should supply you with…

Paul Boag:
Problems and not solutions.

Marcus Lillington:
…yeah this is the problem, yeah and so can you fix it this design. But sometimes they will come up with great solutions as well.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
And they do and that’s an example we’ve just…

Paul Boag:
And you don’t let your pride to get in the way and say well because I didn’t think of that, therefore we’re not going to – I’m not going to accept it.

Marcus Lillington:
Dealing in design in particular, I mean not coding because you don’t find clients…

Paul Boag:
Clients don’t care…

Marcus Lillington:
There are lots of clients particularly those have been in a job for 20 years, and do print as well…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…we all deal with marketing departments and they – they’ll be signing off design work every day…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…and being asked for opinion on design work, look and feel, visual design, every single day. And some certainly designing in print, their opinion on the blue or the green is valid and it’s expected. So if we turn around and say well it won’t work, we don’t necessarily want that, we want a different opinion from you. That can confuse some people.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s about educating clients at the start about your processes.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, yeah. Absolutely I agree with that. And I think that nothing wrong with being willing to show some weakness and to go along with what the client is suggesting when what the client is suggesting is good. I think in flip side of this is well when the client try to ask a question and you start bullshitting basically as you don’t know the answer. You know, I think that is so transparent. It is so obvious, you can tell instantly when someone is BS-ing you.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
And I think you’re much better to say look I don’t know the answer to that, but because I’m an expert I know how I can find that out. And I think that’s the key, is to say look I don’t know, but I can find out. And I think that’s perfectly valid choice to be able to do that.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, if you may think, they will come back and bite you.

Paul Boag:
Oh, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
Every time.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. And I do often tell clients their idea is better than mine or if I need a second opinion on the issue I’m not confident about, I don’t believe this undermines me as an expert in any way. I think instead it shows I’m confident in my own abilities and I know my limitations. It shows up nothing to prove. Because I think you can’t come across this, he protest too much.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag:
I’m trying to kind of prove my worth. Sometimes we try too hard to show our expertise and a quiet confidence is more effective. However, an expert is confident enough to make suggestions and propose alternative approaches. So, I’m not saying here that you should rollover whenever a client suggests something. I think the way you need to go into that relationship and treat that relationship, if you want to be perceived as an expert, is going as a peer-to-peer relationship, rather than a supplier-client one. So don’t go in doffing your cap and say, what I can do for you, sir? You know go in as okay, this is a project, we need to solve it together. An expert will be willing to challenge a client, but when he does so, he does so with gentleness and tact. Don’t smile, Marcus. I know what you’re thinking. Do as I say, not as I do. I’m getting there.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, some clients like to bullied, Paul, I’m sure.

Paul Boag:
There is always bullying. I always give – I don’t know whether I cover this later, I probably do, I always give clients that get out of jail card, that I’m the client card. I mean take for example that meeting with – oh, I don’t know whether I can say, the meeting that we had recently here at the barn, you remember that?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Again, I dug my heels in quite strongly over something. But eventually you back off that and you do give the client the out, and okay they’ve got this way of doing stuff and what I was suggesting, although I was right from a web point of view required too much organizational change. It was just beyond their ability to do. So, I think you do need to consider that kind of element in it as well that you don’t always know the whole picture and it’s not just all about the website. There are other factors involved.

Marcus Lillington:
Including politics that you will at abhor…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…but you still have to…

Paul Boag:
That’s still life.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, exactly.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, these things do exist.

Marcus Lillington:
I think going back to your point about it being a peer-to-peer relationship is really important. And some clients just can’t do that. They will see you as the supplier who you should do basically – should do as they are told.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And that’s, I’m going off on a bit of a tangent here.

Paul Boag:
No, I’m interested in this, but as to what you think a solution to that is?

Marcus Lillington:
There isn’t one. You walk away, basically.

Paul Boag:
Right. Well that’s what – that’s what I would say, you – before you even get in the project. I think oftentimes you have a sense that they’re going to be one of those clients.

Marcus Lillington:
Otherwise you’ll end up just redoing, redoing, redoing and…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…and these are the clients that people moan about.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
The ones that will view you as basically just a pixel pusher. That – the term pixel pusher annoys me a little bit and I may go onto why that – why that’s the case later, but it’s just this idea of I’m paying you therefore you do as you told.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
And if that is the attitude of your client, then you probably don’t want to be working…

Paul Boag:
Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
Even if there is no other work, because chances are you will lose money on that project.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, you would do. You’re better off spending the time marketing and selling yourself…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Paul Boag:
…than you are working with someone like that. Why don’t you like the term pixel pusher?

Marcus Lillington:
Because I don’t like this assumption that people who – aren’t designers can’t come up with good ideas about design and the term pixel pusher assumes that everyone who isn’t a designer doesn’t know anything about design.

Paul Boag:
No, that’s not how I – well personally –

Marcus Lillington:
I know that’s – yeah, right –

Paul Boag:
So – yeah, so when I use the word pixel pusher what I’m saying is you’re reduced to a Photoshop technician where the person – the client is saying move it to the left, move it to the right, change the colour –

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
That’s a pixel pusher.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s a very – but it’s a very black and white – it paints a very black and white image, either people are – clients are like that or they’re not? But actually that’s not the case.

Paul Boag:
No, there is…

Marcus Lillington:
Sometimes once – once in a project they might want to do a bit of pixel pushing…

Paul Boag:
Yes, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
…which is fine.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. Yeah. No, I agree with that. Yeah. It’s not on either or…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
…it’s not a black and white situation.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s just that – it’s one of those things that annoys me.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I can understand that annoying you, but I do think – there is a danger here. The worst scenario that I hate and the reason that I try and discourage clients from suggesting design solutions is because you can get into this vicious cycle – and I’ve seen clients do it, which is understandable and I can see why it happens, right. So they make a suggestion that – to change the design, I don’t know, change the colour let’s say. So you change the colour, let them see it and they can get into this mentality, which we can as well, anybody can, of okay, they know that’s not working, right. But instead of saying that hasn’t worked, they’ll now try and change something else to make it work…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
…and that makes it worse and then they’ll change something else and so on and so on. Because they’re not willing to do what I’ve just said we haven’t – we should do, which you say, no I got it wrong.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag:
So, that’s the potential danger there and that’s what worries me.

Marcus Lillington:
Generally speaking, I think the approach of, this is your responsibility, Mr. Client, and this is – these are our responsibilities is bang on.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. It’s just – don’t be so black and white about it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, exactly.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. No, I totally accept that, I think that’s true. So, yeah it is about what we were talking about was this idea that we need to have the confidence to suggest and propose alternative approaches to stuff. And I think that even starts – this is really hard to do, but even when you receive a brief from a client and you haven’t won the work yet, I think sometimes if there’s stuff in that brief you disagree with, you need to have the confidence to say I don’t think you should do it this way, I think you should do it that way instead. It will either win or lose the work.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah and – exactly. And I mean that’s – and if it does win the work, chances are you’ll get on great with the client.

Paul Boag:
Yes. So, it is worth being challenging in that relationship but of course do it with gentleness and tact, as I said before. It’s not about forcing your point of view, but it’s about expressing an opinion and allowing your experience to speak for itself.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
And that’s a really good point, and I want to move on to that. It’s this idea of letting your experience speak for itself. We’ve already established that it’s damaging to blow one’s own trumpet and say, ‘you listen to me because I’m an expert’, kind of thing. Because that’s – people just write you off as being arrogant and opinionated. But there is a question there, how do you let a jittery client at the beginning of a project know that you are capable of solving their problems. How do you not blow your own trumpet, but allow your experience to kind of talk – and speak for itself? And I think there are kind of three tools that are available to you to do this.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. I think this is how you win the work.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I guess it is. Yeah, absolutely, but I also think they still also carry on after…

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, of course.

Paul Boag:
…even afterwards. And the three tools are process, project history, and presentation. So I’m going to look at each in turn. First one is process. I think it’s really important to have a rock solid, clearly explained, and proven process because I think it’s one of the best ways of demonstrating to a client that you are an expert, that you know what you’re talking about, and it instills that client with confidence. And I think a process implies a well-considered approach that you’ve done many times before.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s often worth referring to how you used to do it as well and experience has shown…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…the testing we did on this project made us realize that we should be doing X now instead of Y.

Paul Boag:
Well, that’s kind of project history…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, okay.

Paul Boag:
…but what did kind of spring out – you made me think there is also I think sometimes it’s worth saying, well we used to provide three different designs, but it caused a problem, so we changed our process to be this. Because even showing that your process has evolved or that you’ve rejected maybe some things that other agencies do and maybe the client expects to see but you’re not going to do is worthwhile as well.

Talking to the client and talking the client through the process from your kind of initial sketches through to final website makes it clear that you’ve done this before, that you’re confident and you can apply your process to the project. You know, where they will have no clue where to begin on a project, you have experience, you’ve done it before and actually we do get a little bit more into process in the podcast, but we certainly cover it in a lot more depth in the book; really getting down to what should be in your process. So check out the book for that.

The second area is this project history, which is what you were just talking about. It’s always good to mention other projects, when working with a new client. For example, when you – when they express that they’ve got a concern about some particular aspect of the project, refer to earlier work that you’ve done that solved a similar problem. Refer to past projects – reinforces your experience and makes it clear that the challenges of this project are nothing new to you, nothing particularly complicated; a stuff that you’ve done with before. So, this will give you kind of – give them confidence in your ability to deliver despite what appears to be a very daunting project to them, from their perspective.

And then the final thing is presentation, the way you present your solutions to the client is crucial. So whether you’re discussing the best approach to a specific call to action or presenting initial design ideas, the way that you present those things will influence how confident the client is in your ability. And presenting design is something we’re going to look at later on in the podcast and it’s something we cover in a lot more depth in the book. But for now, it’s enough to say that confidence – giving a confident presentation will give the client a real insight into the breadth and depth of your experience and your knowledge.

So, we’re going to move on in a minute to talk about how to deal with things – with a relationship that’s already gone wrong, but I just want to pause at that point, we’re 35, 40 minutes into the podcast, you’re probably bored of listening to me waffling on. So what I’ve done is I’ve grabbed Dan James, who we’ve interviewed before.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag:
He’s a really cool guy, runs an agency called silverorange over in Canada and I wanted to have a chat with him about how he establishes his expertise with his clients. So, for a few minutes let’s just hear what Dan’s got to say about becoming that expert.

[Music]

Paul Boag:
Okay, so I’ve got Dan James from silverorange joining me today. Hello, Dan?

Dan James
Hey, how are you doing today?

Paul Boag:
Not too bad, not too bad at all, it’s been a while since we’ve caught up with one another.

Dan James
It has been, I think we’re going to bump into each other in Vegas in the spring.

Paul Boag:
We are indeed, yeah. I’m really looking forward to that.

Dan James
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
The Future Insights looks really interesting. So, I’m looking forward to it.

Dan James
Absolutely, yeah it should be a good gig.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely. So as you know, I’ve kind of been working on this new principle of client-centric web design. This idea that working with clients is fun and is good and exciting and there is a lot of potential to it. So I wanted to get different people on the show to talk about this, and you’re one of the guys that I know that runs a very successful web design agency. So I think the first question I want to ask you is why client work, why haven’t you run off and kind of built loads of web apps and done a 37signals thing? What is it about client work that you love?

Dan James
Well, we’ve actually wrestled with this question internally in our shop over the – we’ve been running 12 years now. And we’ve kind of seen all of the agencies – you know the really well known ones and the ones that aren’t quite as well known, who have gone on to build their own products and become uber-successful and sleep in piles of money, I can only presume. And we’ve wrestled with that ourselves, we’ve actually dabbled in the area of starting our own things. Early on, it was kind of we had two business models that we ran in parallel, one was to be a client firm and the other was to try and build those big ideas and it was kind of – almost we treated it like an insurance policy that if one failed we could hopefully lean on the other and – and on the same side treat it as a lottery ticket that if we built that next great web app, we could become the billionaires.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Dan James
We gradually in over the last five years have come to realize that in our DNA is the client services, the client design, the client work. And we’ve actually abandoned the other side of the business model entirely. And it’s been extremely refreshing and it’s really set in really well with us and the reason that we love client work we’ve concluded is kind of twofold. One is that you’re actually helping people solve problems. And often these are people who they’re not in the tech industry. I mean we work with a company in Connecticut and they’re a third-generation brass reproduction furniture hardware manufacturer and they have very little IT or Internet knowledge and we’re kind of the people who come alongside them and help them out in this space. And that’s really rewarding and satisfying work.

The other reason that we really like client work is that we’re working on something new every day or every project is very different than the last. Our concern with web apps and our experience with what we’ve done is that it gets really boring working on the same thing all the time. And having different clients in different industries and different areas of the world really allows us to not get bogged down in kind of the boredom of doing the same thing every day and one day we’re working with some of the greatest emergency room physicians in the world, the other day we’re working with tulip gardeners and things like that. So it’s really diversified and that keeps us really interested. And the problems that we face are very unique for each one and it’s really fun to come in and solve those problems for those particular people.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean I guess the problem is, and I suspect the reason why a lot of people are kind of getting a little bit nervous about client work or find it difficult and working with clients difficult is that you know, you talk about drawing alongside somebody and helping them in this area. The trouble is some clients really just want to treat you like a pixel pusher and they’re not really treating you as an expert in your field that is going to make suggestions and bring things along, so I’m interested in how you avoid that scenario, how do you avoid being just reduced to a pixel pusher, and how do you ensure that you’re seen by the client as an expert that’s got lots to offer?

Dan James
Right. I think we’re in a pretty unique position in that we don’t really take in a lot of business off the street. So, most clients we have are ones we have long-term relationships with or have come to us from word of mouth from – and they know us fairly well that way. But my first piece of advice would be don’t pick those clients as your clients. Be very particular about who you do business with as a client, because you’re probably, no matter what the contract says or the project says, if it says it’s going to be over in a month you’re still probably going to be doing business with them in three years.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Dan James
And so be – protect that just like you would protect who you’re going to hire into your own staff, and make sure that you’re getting someone who has mutual respect for what you do and I think that mutual respect is also really important. We have to really respect what they do in their industry.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Dan James
So, we’re looking for someone who sees us as experts and we see them as experts and we can kind of work together. The way we ensure that is actually we do a lot of e-commerce work, and we actually – we do and we’ve talked about this before, we do it on a commission, we do kind of all their e-commerce side of their projects in exchange for a commission on sales made through the site. And we actually write into our contracts that we get final decision on look and feel, functionality, that type of thing. They get final decision on contents and some other things that are pertinent to their industry.

Paul Boag:
So, how do you deal with it where you and the client, okay, it’s written into the contract, but in the real world when you’re actually working with the client…

Dan James
Well, you don’t look at your contracts every day, Paul?

Paul Boag:
Well, I’m just saying that what’s written in the contract and what actually happens, sometimes can be different things and I’m interested in how do you deal with a client that wants something very different from you on a site, how do you get them onboard with your vision of things?

Dan James
It’s – a lot of it we find is education and I think what we early on in our careers, we kind of were a little bit pious or a little bit self-righteous than that that we would look down on someone who didn’t understand where we’re coming from. I think we’ve matured a lot and grown up a lot. And I’ve come to the realization that, in general, people are very good and they want to know why you’re making these decisions and we’ve found that being very patient and explaining those decisions to people and showing them how we got there often is enough to persuade them over to our side of the argument.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Dan James
The other thing we’ve learned is that we don’t know everything and even though we’re “experts” in what we do, often there are people who we work with that don’t work in our industry that suggest something that it turns out it’s actually a really good idea. And if you’re consistently in that defensive mode of how are we going to convince them our ideas are best, you miss some good opportunities to kind of broaden your horizons and develop good ideas. So, we’ve learned to listen really well. And we’ve learned to be really patient and show the clients what we’re doing.

Paul Boag:
That’s so incredible, listening to you talk about that, it’s like you’ve kind of read the book that I’ve written in advance. This whole thing we do get into this very defensive mentality with clients and also this quite patronizing mentality of – we’re so much more knowledgeable and we underestimate their contribution to the process as well. So, yeah it’s fascinating.

Dan James
Yeah, our industry’s evolving quite a bit. Ten years ago, when, just after we started, really people didn’t know anything about what we did. It was a lot of magic and voodoo. But now because the tools and the Internet has developed so much, there is a base level of knowledge there, and often an advanced level of knowledge on the client’s part about what they want. And often they just know enough that they know what they like on other sites. And that’s a really good starting point for us.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean you must have the occasional client where things go wrong, the relationship gets difficult. If you don’t have that situation then I’m most envious because I think it happens to everybody else. The question is how do you pull things back, if you do have a falling out with a client, if you do have disagreements over stuff, how do you repair that relationship?

Dan James
Well, I think to be really honest, first is, sometimes you can’t.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Dan James
Sometimes it’s just over and that’s – you part ways and you do your best to still be able to say hello to them in the supermarket. But the other times, the salvageable relationships I think it’s just like any relationship, whether it be clients, provider or like girlfriend/boyfriend, husband and wife, friend/friends, it takes a lot of honesty to just figure out what happened in that situation, why do people get so upset that we’ve gotten to this point.

And then try and work from there and if we’ve made mistakes then we’ll try and do our best to make up for those mistakes and apologize for them, and if our client has made a mistake or has said things that they shouldn’t, we try and point those out in the humblest way as possible and kind of get back to a healthy starting point.

And like I said, sometimes it’s possible, sometimes it’s not and often what we’re doing more of, if it’s about a specific design or feature, we’ve been able to say well why don’t we test them both and see which one’s performed better.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Dan James
And so that way, it’s kind of like neither of us is making a decision, it’s the users that make a decision and we’ve found that’s a pretty good way to take controversial decisions and defer them to another group. So we actually had a situation where the marketing department of a large client wanted their homepage to have a very stereotypical kind of two-thirds of a page be kind of the slide deck that you can flip through like Cover Flow and they thought that looked really great. We weren’t sure if it would perform very well, and it’s an e-commerce site, so we wanted to sell more and more. And so we did, we actually did eight different homepage variations and tested them all with Google Analytics, Google Optimizer I think it is.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Dan James
And it turned out that, one that neither of us had thought would work well worked the best and that’s the one we decided to go with. So it took a – what was potentially a very controversial issue and made it a non-issue.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean I guess that’s also helpful when it comes to the client suggesting, what could be perceived as silly ideas, because the client does that sometimes and for whatever reason, and so testing is one way of kind of helping with that. But is there other things you can do to avoid you becoming overly critical, because the trouble is, you want to kind of encourage the client’s contribution, if they get excited about the web project, oh wouldn’t it be great if we have this big carousel or whatever else, and you don’t want to knock them down to make them feel rubbish or come across as Mr. Negativity, so how do you kind of deal with that?

Dan James
I think it’s almost like basic human communication almost where we say to them things like that’s a really good idea and you know maybe there’s elements of that idea we can take into this and as long as they are mature enough to be able to take positive feedback and criticism, we usually just try and incorporate their ideas into what we’re doing and look at them. And, I think for most of our clients, all they want to know is that we’re seriously listening to their contributions and evaluating them. And, we need to take the time and the patience to evaluate each of their ideas, respond to those ideas with our thoughts and reactions. And, pretty much 99% of the time we do that, there’s never any controversy; they feel well taken care of.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I absolutely agree. It’s very easy to dismiss client ideas as “oh, but what does the client know”. But, I think once you recognize that, yes, they do have good ideas, they do have stuff to contribute and that they want to be listened to and they want to be involved in the process, then I think that changes the whole dynamic of the relationship.

Dan James
Absolutely. And, a client that feels cared for and listened to is going to be much more forgiving and easier to work with just on other parts of projects and clients – client work.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. Thank you so much, Dan. I think that really added an extra perspective for people and it’s good to get other people other than me in and saying the same kind of things because it shows that client work can work. It can be a rewarding relationship and it can be a collaborative relationship so it’s good.

Dan James
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
So, some great advice from Dan and really interesting that he’s talking in an identical way to us. It’s really good. I often feel this with Dan that they’ve got a really similar viewpoint to us and it shows that I’m not just making…

Marcus Lillington:
They’re a lot braver than us, though…

Paul Boag:
They are.

Marcus Lillington:
…as a business.

Paul Boag:
Yes, they are. They are braver than us.

Marcus Lillington:
About how they run their company.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
But that’s just another conversation.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. But, what it does prove is I’m not just making all this shit up. It actually works. Other people do it too so it must be working. But, what I wanted – as I said just before the interview with Dan, what I did want to do before we wrap up is answer the question “what if the relationship is already damaged?” Because I know that there are – a lot of you here that have got – are listening to this have got long-term relationships with clients. You’ve got a client that is a regular source of revenue to you, but you’re not happy with the way the relationship is working. Or, even there are people listening to this, who may be in-house designers or developers that don’t have clients in the traditional sense but do have their boss and other people within their organization, who they’ve worked with before and they’re wanting to redefine that relationship. They want to now be perceived as the expert, rather than as the pixel pusher. I’m sorry; I’m going to use that word again. So, whether your client is your boss or a long-term client that’s treating you as a pixel pusher – I am going to say pixel pusher as much as I can now – it’s often not possible to restart that relationship. So, what do you do? Fortunately, there are ways to salvage a bad relationship but it takes determination and it takes some humility.

Marcus Lillington:
Quite.

Paul Boag:
Humility, I’m good at humility.

Marcus Lillington:
You’re so good at that.

Paul Boag:
I am good at humility.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. So, when Paul’s messed the relationship up, the rest of us go in with our humility and fix it.

Paul Boag:
And, sort it out for me. Let’s see. Do as I say, not as I do. Right! So, when….

Marcus Lillington:
It’s not true really.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. When things go wrong with a client, we rarely blame ourselves. Or, perhaps we should reword that; I rarely blame myself. We normally consider that it’s the client that has been unreasonable and has caused the relationship to collapse. To be honest, this is human nature; I think we all do it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, everybody does it.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s always everyone else’s fault.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it’s never our own fault. Now, this is sometimes true. It is sometimes the client’s fault. However, I think in most cases there’s two sides to any conflict. We know this in theory but remaining calm in the heat of the situation is not always easy. At the very least, we need to remember that we’re the supplier and so it falls to us to go the extra mile and repair the relationship. Even if we’re the wronged party, you cannot allow your emotions – I feel so hypocritical saying this – you cannot allow your emotions to colour the situation, right? Often our pride and our desire for “justice” clouds our thinking and leads us into confrontations that damage the relationship, the website, and our business. So, to repair the relationship with the client, we must accept that we’re not always going to win every argument, right? We much stop digging in our heels because of our pride.

Not all disagreements are equal. Some issues we’re going to feel really passionate about, others less so. And, allowing the client to win over the less important issues will prove that you’re considering them an equal partner, right? It’s the whole sometimes you need to lose the battle to win the war. And, I think what happens is if you get pissed off with the client that you end up digging your heels in over every single issue – or perhaps that’s just me – rather than saying, well, actually I don’t care that much about this, it’s not the end of the world if it’s blue rather than green. So, why am I fighting the corner over this? And, I think also if you’re willing to give in over those little things, not only does it show the client that you value their opinion, you’re listening to them, but also when something important comes along, you’re not the boy that cried wolf. You’re not – they’re going to see the – okay, you’re serious over this. So, I think it’s really important to be willing to lose the battle sometimes. Anyway.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I agree. It’s the – the tough one is if you’re losing all the battles, how do you win the odd battle?

Paul Boag:
Yes. That’s fair but I think – yes, there are ways of doing that. I think there you’re talking about the need to occasionally sit down with the client and have a frank and honest conversation.

Marcus Lillington::
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
Where there is….

Marcus Lillington:
Bang on.

Paul Boag:
Where there is a damaged relationship, sometimes you need to sit down and discuss that openly with the client. We’ve done that before.

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
We’ve said, look, you’re really not happy with us. How can we start again? How can we sort stuff? Notice I say it may be worthwhile to have those conversations. Depending on the client and your temperament, it could be a bad thing to have that conversation. You could make things worse. But, a lot of times I think a frank conversation goes a long way. Allowing the client a chance to express their frustrations is a good thing if we can resist the temptation to respond and just allow people to have their say and get it off their chest. I think for our part the key is to acknowledge how the client feels, and if appropriate, acknowledge our failings but certainly acknowledge how they feel, and then put the past behind you and agree to start again in some way. Done right, I think conversations like this can really clear the air and allow you a kind of new beginning; however, just be a little bit careful. The other thing I think that’s really important in healing a damaged relationship is to be positive about the relationship.

Marcus Lillington:
Yay!

Paul Boag:
Yeah, even if it’s a bit false. I think you need to try. Nothing, I think, goes further in restoring a good working relationship than a transformation in our own attitudes. We can’t change how the client behaves and how the client feels, but we can change our own attitudes, and I think being positive inevitably encourages others to respond in kind if applied with enough conviction and consistency.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And so, go the extra mile for your clients, get excited about their ideas, and praise their contributions, show that you appreciate them. And, not only will this make the client think twice about their behavior, I think it also – just going through those motions yourself – will transform your own attitude. To begin with, you might have to force yourself to be positive. However, over time, I think if you keep doing that you will transform your own thinking, and where you struggle to be positive about the client’s contribution, eventually you will begin to truly appreciate what they can add to the project and their insights. So, changing your attitude I think is really important as well. So that really about wraps up what I wanted to say.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Establishing a good working relationship with a client isn’t always easy. And, finding the middle way between being an arrogant expert and a sulky pixel pusher – yeah, I managed to get it in again – can be difficult. But, I would – just to recap on what I’ve said, I would begin with three things. Changing your own attitude, being positive, keen to help, empathetic to the client’s needs, encouraging the client to contribute and wherever possible accommodate their ideas; changing how the client perceives you using stats, expert opinion, and your own process that proves that you’re a safe pair of hands; and then finally, establishing ground rules for the relationship as well, redefine existing relationships or kicking off new ones in the right way, making it clear who is responsible for what and that the client should be focusing on business goals, user needs, and identifying problems, while you’re the one doing the design.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
With the right ground rules and attitude, projects can start off on the right foot with a good solid working relationship. However, maintaining that relationship throughout the project is hard work and for that you need some principles that both parties are working within and you need to get your communication right. And that is what we’re going to cover in the next episode of the season.

Marcus Lillington:
Cool.

Paul Boag:
So, there we go. That wraps things up. Have we got an exciting and wonderful joke to amuse everybody?

Marcus Lillington:
Of course, we have because it’s series – this is episode two.

Paul Boag:
So, you’ve still got the good jokes?

Marcus Lillington:
I have jokes.

Paul Boag:
We haven’t got to the rubbish ones at the end of the season.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, there’s usually one when I go, no I haven’t got any.

Paul Boag:
We’ve only got six episodes this season.

Marcus Lillington:
This is true. I think we had about 11 or 12 in the last one because you were designing your own website.

Paul Boag:
Yeah and it was taking me a long time.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. Here we go. A man comes home from work to find his wife propping up the washing machine with two bricks. What are you doing, he asks? She replies, doing the washing at 30 degrees, you idiot!

Paul Boag:
That’s terrible. That is an awful joke. Where did you get that one from?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know; I can’t remember.

Paul Boag:
That is awful.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s how I’m feeling today.

Paul Boag:
Oh, my word! I apologize for that. So, there you go.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s not that bad.

Paul Boag:
Well, it’s tradition that they’re supposed to be bad.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, exactly.

Paul Boag:
We ought to explain that to the new listeners by the way.

Marcus Lillington:
My jokes are supposed to be awful.

Paul Boag:
How did the random joke come about?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know. I really don’t know.

Paul Boag:
No, it’s just we have to do it now, don’t we?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Because people expect it at the end of the show.

Marcus Lillington:
And they are supposed to be bad and told badly as well.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Occasionally, they’ve been quite good.

Paul Boag:
Well that’s Marcus’ excuse anyway and he’s sticking to it.

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
There you go. Okay, so next – back next week to talk about communications, principles of ongoing relationship, and other clever-sounding stuff. There we go.

This podcast was transcribed by the lovely people at Pods In Print

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