Show 73: Drone

Paul Boag

Marcus makes sweet love to our clients. I fiddle with my captions and our lead developer drones on about setting up a development server.

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News and events

This year saw some of the best April fool technology jokes around and so I do my best to convince Marcus that they are real news. Spot the real from the fakes:

Dutch to revert to table based layouts

According to quirksmode.org, the Dutch government has been forced to revise its accessibility guidelines due to an estimated € 20 million it would cost for government sites to make the move from table based design to web standards.

WCAG 2.0 finally here

Accessify has announced that WCAG 2.0 has finally been released. This extremely controversial revision to the WAI gudelines has been pushed through despite strong objections by the web design community.

Amazon to become accessible

Amazon has always been held up as an example of quite how hard the web can be for those using assistive technologies such as screen readers. Nevertheless a press release on the National Federation of the Blind site seems to indicate that Amazon maybe willing to change its ways as they announce a partnership with the NFB to clean up their act.

Google TiSP

Google are finally releasing their much-anticipated free wi-fi network (Google TiSP) that will span much for the USA. Rumours of this network have been circulating for some time, however nobody anticipated the innovative way the network would be laid.

@media 2007: Antarctica

Following the failure of @Media Hong Kong, which was cancelled due to lack of demand, the guys at Vivabit have decided to launch @Media Antarctica. Like Web Directions North, this conference will combine web design talks with outdoor sports in probably the most ambitious project of its kind.

Get Naked Day

Dustin Diaz is once again encouraging all website owners to get naked on the 5th April by exposing your HTML to the world. This superb publicity stunt is a great way of demonstrating the flexibility of web standards. Good on you Dustin!

Making love to your clients

Marcus continues his series on selling web design services by looking at the process of managing your clients:

You may build the best websites in the world but if you do not know how to sell your services then nobody will hire you. Web design, like nearly everything, is a competitive marketplace and simply being a good designer/developer is not enough. You also need a sales and marketing hat.

That said, it does seem that there is more work out there than agencies to do it.

Play to your strengths
Don’t bite off more than you can chew when pitching for work. Do not pitch for contracts that are too big for you and avoid relying too heavily on outsourcing, as many clients are uncomfortable with this. Also, from personal experience, contracting or partnering can end up being very expensive – don’t make everything you do a loss leader! In particular don’t promise something unless you are 100% sure that you can deliver on it. Failure to deliver can seriously undermine your company’s reputation.

In summary, be honest with the client. If you can’t deliver by a particular deadline or you don’t have the skills in-house, tell the client. Try and find a workaround e.g. splitting the work between you and another agency. In the end, you will gain more respect from the client.

Love your clients – old and new
With existing clients, if you pay attention to them and care for them, you will have a very small cost of sale for a significant proportion of your work going forward.
This gets harder and harder the longer you are around and the bigger you get. I haven’t really needed to chase work for a long time now (because we’ve been so busy!) so I try to make sure that when an existing client contacts us to discuss further work we are responsive and helpful. For most clients I would recommend carrying out annual review meetings – both parties are encouraged to think about new features for the site and the meeting is used to discuss the merits of the ideas, likely budgets, timescales etc.

From listening at SXSW… with new clients you should try to befriend them (get drunk with them one Swedish guy said) before working with them. This is great if they want to be friends and I expect quite a lot do. However, we work with a lot of public sector clients who get nervous if we offer to buy them an ice-cream, let alone lunch.
I guess the message was ‘put the effort in, not only will it be appreciated, it will make your life easier going forward’.

Question the client
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about a brief supplied by a client. You may even be in a position to help the client write their brief. Asking questions and making suggestions is a great way to build a relationship with your clients and make you stand out from the crowd. Of course, ultimately it will allow you to put together a better proposal that meets the client’s needs even when they are not fully expressed in the brief.

Also, stand up for yourself! If you think your idea is just what they should be doing instead of the daft stuff in their brief – tell them. Again, this will probably bring a lot of respect your way.

Ask an expert: Rob on setting up a development environment

Rob Borley the lead developer at Headscape talks about how to go about setting up a development environment to allow you to work on dynamic websites. He talks about some of the potential dangers, recommends some great resources to get you started and reviews some different development tools.

Easy styling of images

Here is an interesting problem that keeps cropping up. How do you balance the need for easy update by web editors with the desire to make a site as visually appealing as possible? Take for example the images that website owners inevitably want to add to their site via a content management system. They don’t have the skill to add captions or add styling so how do you make the process simple for them.

A while ago I wrote a post suggesting one solution to the issue. Recently it got dugg and has since proved very popular. In this week’s show I talk through the process and explain some of the benefits.

Review: Oxygen XML editor

In last week’s show I suggested it would be great to receive some reviews from you the boagworld listener. This week I received the first one from Tom and so we have included it on the show.

He reviews Oxygen an XML editor with some quite remarkable features. If you work regularly with XML you will definitely want to check this out.

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