10 common mistakes made by clients

This week on the Boagworld Show we travel back in time to September 2005 to investigate the 10 most common mistakes made by clients.

Paul Boag:
This week on the Boagworld Show, we travel back in time to the 3rd of September 2005 to revisit the top 10 client mistakes.

Add your top client mistake or skip to the links mentioned in the show.

Hello and welcome to Boagworld.com, the podcast for all those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. And I am being joined for the first time by Marcus Lillington.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s not true, is it?

Paul Boag:
Well!

Marcus Lillington:
This is 20,000th time or something.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, but we’re time traveling back this week. It’s very exciting. I am really in this – this was an idea from Brian again who suggested the podcast we did on forms.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And he’s obviously revisiting the classic shows. And there’s a lot of people that don’t know about the classic shows, right?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So basically, we now do seasons and we are on season 10, aren’t we? But before that, we did, what was it? 250 episodes?

Marcus Lillington:
Not quite that many but nearly, year.

Paul Boag:
Of kind of just classic episodes. So these are the original. So think of it like Dr. Who. There was the classic Dr. Who. Then it was canceled due to lack of interest, very much like our podcast. And then was re-launched, very much like our podcast except that there is no more interest now for us, while, there is in Dr. Who. But – so that’s what we did. And yeah – and so he’s been going back through the old ones and he’s obviously gone back right to the beginning and he’s just found episode number three, there was the first one you were on, Marcus. God we sound dull don’t we?

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I listened to it and I thought – well I thought I sounded fantastic and added what was required because obviously it would have – if I hadn’t joined on that one, it would have fizzled out and you would have got to maybe episode five and that would have been that.

Paul Boag:
So you are putting the success of the podcast entirely down to you?

Marcus Lillington:
Um yeah, pretty much yeah.

Paul Boag:
Okay. Well, that’s fine. I can respect that opinion, Marcus. It’s wrong but I can respect that you have a right to have a dumb-ass opinion.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s the kind of the opinion that you would have, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
It is, actually.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s why you can respect it.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. My enormous ego’s obviously beginning to rub off on you.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Well, I have always had one actually. But listening to you makes me – you did make me laugh. I have just listened back it, by the way. And you’ve got the kind of like you’ve got a radio voice on.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I know. I’ve got like a Radio 4 voice. Or a kind of late nights…

Marcus Lillington:
Hi, everyone, this week…

Paul Boag:
…late night jazz programme voice.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. It’s worth going back and listening just for that. You’re sort of like whispering into the microphone a bit.

Paul Boag:
Hello and welcome. Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Maybe you were embarrassed because other people might have been able to hear you.

Paul Boag:
I don’t know what was going on. But, we did so – I mean that show has got 13 comments on it which so, oh no most of them are me replying. Oh, no, no. There are quite a few. So even at that early day – and of course the amazing thing about it is we were the only web design podcast. And actually the news, because we used to do news every week then, the news is really interesting as well. I get really excited about there being new web design podcast, almost. And it was – I thought I had found a new podcast dedicated to web design on iTunes but appears not to be live yet. Keep an eye on Live Motion Studio. So there was like another web design – I mean now there’s bloody thousands of them.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, far too many.

Paul Boag:
I mean in the last – so on Friday, I was on Unfinished Business. So these are just ones I’ve been on, right? So I was on Unfinished Business on Friday and recording this today. Later on today, I am on A Web Ahead and that’s just in like two working days. There are so many podcasts it’s unbelievable. But there you go.

Marcus Lillington:
But yeah, first is always best.

Paul Boag:
Oh yes, absolutely. Obviously.

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
That’s well-known, you know. What was it? Beta-max came first. That was the best. And then what else came first?

Marcus Lillington:
I was thinking, like you know, first cut is the deepest and stuff like that…

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
… oldie worldie sayings…

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
… and stuff.

Paul Boag:
And the first album…

Marcus Lillington:
Often are the best, actually.

Paul Boag:
Ah see. But there’s the other news as well which is really worth looking at. So I am still ranting about accessibility which is encouraging. So how many? 300, 400, 500 episodes on I’m still going on about accessibility. But this is – I like this. A new live chat system is launched and I seem to be very excited about the fact that it’s Flash based.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
Apparently, that’s good thing which is interesting. And then here is a really good one. Here’s a real blast from the past. Macromedia had launched a podcast.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. Well, they got bought by Adobe.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
Probably about then, I would have thought.

Paul Boag:
I – can’t remember. No idea when it was.

Marcus Lillington:
I like the fact that it mentions cricket.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. Well, can’t have everything can we?

Marcus Lillington:
We had just won the Ashes back after 20 odd years.

Paul Boag:
Wow, did you remember that? Or did you hear that on the podcast?

Marcus Lillington:
No, I saw the date of the podcast.

Paul Boag:
And you knew from the date?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So this is September 2005. My word! So this is very early days because it was when we went to go and see the @media conference, must have been – was that in the early summer?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I think it was.

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know exactly but it was certainly that year.

Paul Boag:
May-June, something like that I think it was.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
And then I came back from that all fired up and tried blogging for a little while and realized that that was hard work, so started a podcast because obviously I had the radio voice already set up.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. You had to let it out of the bag didn’t you – I’ve got this voice.

Paul Boag:
It was a voice that I’d never got to use in any other situation in my life.

Marcus Lillington:
Your wife kept looking at you funny every time you used it.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. So I had to create a podcast to let out this special voice.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
You still sound like you, but I don’t know what I was doing. Oh, dear, I am horrified. So anyway – but that said, the actual topic of the show which was 10 client mistakes is actually quite good. And actually the mistakes still stand pretty much.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I can’t remember what they are now. I did look.

Paul Boag:
Don’t worry. We’ll be going through them in a minute.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
It’s interesting how some of them evolved. So yes, it’s quite interesting. So we are going to go through those. Is there anything else that’s been happening that I need to know about, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
It’s cold this morning.

Paul Boag:
It was. My heating came on for the first time.

Marcus Lillington:
Everyone – what it actually came on.

Paul Boag:
Well, yeah, because my heating’s got this – I use a To Do app thing. So actually you don’t ever turn your heating off. So – but it doesn’t heat up because the thermostat goes, “Oh, it’s not hot enough” and things like that and…

Marcus Lillington:
I prefer to sort of – I am not – it’s not November yet, so I can’t have the heating yet.

Paul Boag:
Oh right, you’re one of those.

Marcus Lillington:
Put a coat on kind of thing. Just – I don’t – I’m not like that really but it just – I felt like saying it. Yeah, it was just shockingly cold, I thought. But lovely day now.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, so…

Marcus Lillington:
Everyone loves to hear about the weather. We’re Englishmen, we have to talk about the weather.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. We should talk about the Scottish referendum.

Marcus Lillington:
Well! Exactly. Yeah, well though dangerous ground.

Paul Boag:
Why is it dangerous ground?

Marcus Lillington:
Because it’s one of those things where as an Englishman, I kind of feel like – because I am really pleased that they’ve decided to stay with us…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
And then – but you can – I can imagine that someone might say, “Well why do you think that? What, you just wanted to keep your empire or whatever?” It’s just, it’s not dangerous ground but it’s just something that – it’s divisive.

Paul Boag:
Yeah well, yeah. I think it depends on what you choose to say. All I was going to say over it is I am really pleased.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, so am I.

Paul Boag:
And that for me, my identity as a – it isn’t as an Englishman. It’s – you know, Scotland is part of my identity. It would have been really weird to have lost Scotland.

Marcus Lillington:
And also, well I consider myself to be an Englishman but I also consider myself to be British. They are – they can both exist.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, and I like the British part of it and it’ll be sad. That’s…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
That’s the level of my political debate. It will be sad.

Marcus Lillington:
I would have been genuinely sad.

Paul Boag:
They’re my friends.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, you know I lived there when I was a little boy. I holidayed in Scotland every year when I was a child.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, so did we. And of course, all my family originally come from Scotland.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So it’s like no, stay. And I’m glad they did.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. Although I can understand…

Paul Boag:
Oh I can as well.

Marcus Lillington:
I can understand why people wanted to vote “Yes”. But I don’t think it was realistic, I don’t think it was practical. I mean it – if the idea of living in somewhere that had more of a kind of socialist viewpoint like say the Scandinavian countries, I think that’s really quite attractive. But I don’t think it would have worked out. I think it would even – they would have ended up with the very similar government to Westminster but based in Edinburgh, but hey ho.

Paul Boag:
But I mean I think the key now is that they are given more power and the whole system’s got to be sorted out. Why are we talking about this on a web design podcast? Nobody cares.

Marcus Lillington:
You brought it up.

Paul Boag:
I know, it was a mistake.

Marcus Lillington:
The more power thing though is quite an interesting one because even – yeah, I think everyone agrees. Even the political parties agreed, at Westminster agree with that. But there now – the Conservatives and Labour are now using it as ways to kind of knock, basically to kind of fight against each other over these different points because if they allow certain laws to come in, it will affect either one of their parties badly.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
And all this kind of stuff. Yeah, who cares?

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I care. But maybe people listening don’t care.

Paul Boag:
I care for Scotland but it’s not really something for the podcast necessarily.

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
Although I have discovered nobody else seems to care about staying on track either. I think we have essentially, because we were the first you inevitably kind of set a template, don’t you?

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
And I think essentially we have ruined every web design podcasts because they are all as rambling and nonsensical as ours now.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, more than once, probably two or three times. I even think we took votes about should we lose the rambling and everybody said no.

Paul Boag:
No, they didn’t. They were very split over it.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s the way I remember it.

Paul Boag:
You just remember, choose to remember it as – and now, I actually don’t care and I’ll tell you I don’t care, is because I’ve realized nobody listens. So what does it matter?

It was interesting I was talking to – so I am going on A Web Ahead…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
…and they’ve got, yeah, we were just chatting about how, I made some joke about nobody listens to our podcast. And I’ve discovered that in comparison to them, really nobody does listen to this podcast. And I’d never even heard of A Web Ahead. That’s how bad I am. And so, we are, we’re basically, we’re just wasting a bit of time now, aren’t we? On work time. It’s great.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I do quite enjoy this little break every week.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. So shall we talk about top 10 client mistakes, are we ready to get on to that?

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
So, our top 10 client mistakes, we – I am sure we should clap or something. That’s another thing that I have noticed grown up podcasts do.

Marcus Lillington:
Clap?

Paul Boag:
You clap before you start to sync the audio.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, no. I can do it.

Paul Boag:
Oh you’re magic, see? You’re so clever, Marcus. I don’t know. Why do you…

Marcus Lillington:
All I do is listen to them and it sounds natural then that’s done.

Paul Boag:
So you’re like one of these people, are you one of these people that hang pictures by eye rather than with a spirit level?

Marcus Lillington:
You have to.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I agree because the walls are wonky.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. It has the look right, rather than be right. Yes.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. Much more important.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Good. We are in agreement.

Marcus Lillington:
And audio is one of those things definitely.

Paul Boag:
Yes. What, it has to look right?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Sorry, that’s pedantic of me. Right. So top 10 client mistakes. Number one, the first one on the list. By the way, apparently, according these notes I wrote in 2005, these are in no particular order. This is outrageous, isn’t it? I will get going in a minute. We have joked for years about we never repeat ourselves knowing damn well that we do terribly.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
And now, we’re just being blatant about it, aren’t we, right?

Marcus Lillington:
We were asked to.

Paul Boag:
We were asked to, that’s a good excuse.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I think we were asked to repeat the whole of the classic season.

Marcus Lillington:
No, no. We so weren’t. Don’t make me do that.

Marketing departments gone mad

Paul Boag:
So anyway, right, number one in the list. Marketing departments gone mad.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Well, you can see that I was just as delicate and carefully spoken back then as I am now.

Marcus Lillington:
I know. It’s kind of like we work for people who do this. I think you started off by saying none of our clients have ever done any of these things. These are things that we – other people have told us about. Is that right?

Paul Boag:
Good to know that we were lying from the beginning as well in the podcast. Right, so number one is marketing departments gone mad. So this is when marketing departments become obsessed about collecting personal data at the cost of alienating potential clients. So I don’t think there as bad at this anymore.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, you say that.

Paul Boag:
Oh. Okay. Have you had an experience recently?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Tell me about your experience recently bearing in mind nobody ever listens to this podcast.

Marcus Lillington:
It was with a client who we haven’t worked with for a while but we’ll be working again with soon on a particular project where he has been asked by others within the team to make sure that they collect email addresses, blah, blah, blah, that kind of thing. And he and I were both saying, “don’t really need any of that here, do you. Might put people off”.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
Doing what they – because it was like, make sure you put it in before they get to do the, whatever it is that they’re meant to be doing. And I said, well maybe add it on in the end as a kind of like you could help us out by…

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
…blah, blah.

Paul Boag:
But that wasn’t good enough.

Marcus Lillington:
We don’t know yet.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
We’ll be kicking that one off soon.

Paul Boag:
But at least the client now realized that that wasn’t a good idea.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So that is progress…

Marcus Lillington:
Well, the webbie guy.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, the webbie guy. Oh, dear. It’s terrible, isn’t it? I mean I always remember – do you remember Asta Development we worked with?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I mean theirs was the worst example, I think, I have ever come across.

Marcus Lillington:
Do they still exist?

Paul Boag:
Yeah. I think they do actually.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ll go and have a look.

Paul Boag:
And so basically, what the scenario was that they are a software company and they – so they sell project management software…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
And so one of the things obviously on their website is that they wanted to demo their software and we allow people to try is out and use it. And here so – but they insisted that people registered before they could try out this software which obviously alienated users massively. But worse than that – well, not worse than that, as bad as that is the fact that it also sent all of these dummy crap leads to sales – the sales department. So there was like Donald Duck signed up and people put crap in there. And even those that put their real email addresses, they were nowhere near ready to buy. And the problem was, actually wasn’t the marketing department’s fault. The problem was the system because the marketing department had targets about the number of leads that it had to create, right? But it didn’t care about the quality of the leads. And the sales department had to convert X number of leads. So the marketing department ended up looking really good because it generated all of these leads even though they were shit and the sales department looked bad because it couldn’t convert any of them because people weren’t ready to buy.

So, yes, that was the worst one, I think, I’d ever come across.

Marcus Lillington:
But yeah, I mean basically it’s people not thinking about the user journey, it’s thinking about what their boss is saying “you must get blah, blah, blah”, that’s what it comes down to.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
And that’s perfectly understandable, human nature.

Paul Boag:
So do Asta Development still exist?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Ah, probably shouldn’t have. Are we going to get sued now?

Marcus Lillington:
No, I think you – well I don’t know, maybe they still do the same thing.

Paul Boag:
We didn’t sign a non-disclosure agreement or anything then?

Marcus Lillington:
I have no idea. It was many, many, many, years ago.

Paul Boag:
Okay, that’s good. Right. Shall we move on to point number two?

Unrealistic deadlines

Okay, number two is unrealistic deadlines. Do you think clients still do this?

Marcus Lillington:
Not as badly, no. People are much better at understanding how long these kind of projects take. I suspect they do appear – I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but I think people are fairly – I think people do have unrealistic deadlines but when you say to them, we can’t do it in that amount of time, is this set in stone? They say, well no, not really, that’s alright.

Paul Boag:
There have been occasions…

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
…with like – I think the difference, yes, I think that clients still have unrealistic deadlines. I think the difference is, is we say no to them.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So I see you turn away a fair number of leads because they need something done by October.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Paul Boag:
So I think that’s the difference.

Marcus Lillington:
I think you’re absolutely right and I think there are, certainly, certain types of business and I think I am referring to kind of – if an ad agency is doing a campaign and they want a web bit part of it, they always want it, well can you do it by the end of next week? And it’s like, no. So, yes, I am thinking about it. You are right, we just say no.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. That’s the difference. We are cooler now.

Marcus Lillington:
And interestingly, look at that. You still have to sign up to get a demo from Asta.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
Download Asta Power Project and try it completely free of charge for 30 days by – oh right, okay download…

Paul Boag:
No, that’s a bit different.

Marcus Lillington:
…yeah, that’s fair enough.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. No this was to get – back in the day, this was to get like a video of it or a screencast or something.

Marcus Lillington:
If you would like a web demonstration, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah please fill out the form below.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. That’s still – they’re still missing a trick there.

Marcus Lillington:
I think so. Just show people.

Paul Boag:
Idiots! Oh I shouldn’t call people idiots should I?

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
You’re very nice. You’re just wrong in this particular area. So yes, unrealistic deadlines. Still happens but we don’t take the work anymore. That’s quite encouraging. I am quite encouraged by – well, I am not encouraged that it’s still happening but I am encouraged – sometimes I feel like we haven’t learned anything over the however many years we have been in business, but we obviously have.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, and it goes on. I was having a conversation similar to this with – about something else with Chris the other day. And it was just like, we’ve recently read a brief that came in and both of us were kind of, over a couple of points in there were saying, what does what does that mean? That’s just mad. Or, that must mean something else, blah, blah, blah and it came up in the pitch, this strange thing again and I said, look, we just need to – when alarm bells go off, listen to them because we both kind of knew that this was a strange request.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
And we just carried on.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. You really do have to listen to those alarm bells, don’t you?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
But you don’t. I don’t know, it’s difficult isn’t it? It’s a balancing act the whole time. But even – you just think when clients make – do things like set unrealistic deadlines, it’s an indication the client doesn’t understand the process and that the project is going to be a lot of work, isn’t it basically?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, exactly.

Paul Boag:
Very scary. Talking of things that often demonstrate a client’s lack of knowledge, we come on to number three.

Barmy Budgets

Budget. Yes. Clients need to be willing to discuss budget with their web design company. So it’s not just having unrealistic budgets, it’s being unwilling to discuss them.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And that, I think, is still a problem, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
No, again, well, I said, on the last one that it has changed and it hadn’t, but this one I genuinely do think is better.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
The vast majority of briefs, RFPs that come through have a budget outlined within them.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
And even those that don’t, if you ask people or you say, well, it could cost between X basic up to Y luxury, you will get a response from the majority.

Paul Boag:
Okay, oh that’s better then.

Marcus Lillington:
Not always, some people say, well, you tell me? And then you have to decide either well, I am not going to respond or I reckon – then you are kind of I reckon that client would be willing to pay.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
And it’s guess work.

Paul Boag:
I like the fact – something you said there which I think some people missed this trick is saying, well, this could come in roughly between these two figures. So you, instead of making them say the first figure, you kind of go back with a range that it might fall into. I think that’s useful especially I mean I know you do that quite a lot to kind of gauge whether they’ve – whether it’s worth even pursuing the lead.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, exactly because people will say, oh, your lowest price is way more than we want to spend. And then everybody – his – everybody knows where they stand and move on.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
You’re not wasting – neither party’s time is being wasted makes a lot of sense to try and have…

Paul Boag:
I think the other really important reason to talk about budget, is because it’s not like going in and buying an iPhone 6, right?

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely not.

Paul Boag:
Because an iPhone 6 is a set price and you know exactly what you’re going to get and it’s set. When you’re talking about a website, it’s like buying a house, isn’t it? How much does a house cost? Well, it depends on how many rooms it’s got, it depends on the level of finish that it has, it depends on its location and all of these other factors that affect it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
And a website, you don’t know how much does a website cost? Well, it depends.

Marcus Lillington:
I mean literally, I mean you could hire an agency to work on your website for a year everyday of that year. And that would cost you hundreds of thousands.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Or alternatively, you might want to spend a less than 1% of that on using those peoples’ talents for a week or two.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
So it doesn’t make either of them wrong or the right approach. Which is why it’s a good idea to have conversations about budget.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. It’s almost impossible not to, isn’t it really?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Oh I forgot to put the sign on the door that says – I’ve got sign on my door now that says whether I am busy or free.

Marcus Lillington:
I keep telling you that you need a red light, a recording light.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I said this on the last podcast, we’ve had this conversation, haven’t we? And once again, I forgot to put it on so people are wandering into the room. It’s disgraceful. I think they should just leave me in complete isolation the entire time or I need a glass door like you’ve got.

Marcus Lillington:
I have, I am in the office today.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I know. Right. Shall we move on to number whatever number we’re on? Number four.

Design by committee

Okay. Design by committee, this still happens.

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
Lots and lots. Web steering groups and even kind of unofficial committees as well, you know where it’s, well I just need to pass this by so and so and so and so.

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely. Yeah, it does happen and some people listen and others don’t and they just go this is the way it is.

Paul Boag:
I mean we’ve become – I think we’ve become cleverer at dealing with this. So a couple of ways that we deal with it now is, one is that if we’re, say, talking about design and we’re presenting a design, and if we cannot present it to the entire – all the people that need to be covered in the first place in one go. If we can’t present to everybody, we produce a video of what it is that we’ve done, that way we ensure that everybody that sees it gets the background and the right story and that kind of stuff, so it doesn’t become Chinese whispers. That’s very effective.

The other thing that we try and do is divide and conquer. So we will talk to people individually in order to get the feedback rather – because what happens is we – if you get a committee all sitting in a room together making a decision, what inevitably happens is that they try and reach a consensus in the room. So they end up designing it on the fly trying to fix it. What you want is everybody to tell you what’s wrong with it, give you the feedback about what’s wrong with it and then you go away and fix it in your own time. So dividing and conquering and talking to people individually allows you to do that. Also, structuring the feedback you want as well is an important part of dealing with it.

So instead of asking people what they think of it when they fall back on their personal opinion, ask them how would the user respond to this particular aspect of the design, et cetera?

And the final thing we do is we introduce something called RACI, a responsibility assignment matrix and I will put a link in the show notes to an article I wrote about that for Smashing magazine and that basically replaces a committee based structure with responsibilities and in different areas. So it avoids the problem in a committee of the head of IT commenting on design when he is not really equipped or experienced to be commenting on design and equally somebody in the marketing department wading in about what – a technology that’s used to underpin the website because again, they are not skilled in that area and so shouldn’t be making decisions about that.

So there are alternatives to committee that still kind of give oversight and still give everyone a say without it kind of being this group decision in the room.

The other thing that I hate about committees – I’m now ranting aren’t I? The other thing I hate about committees is the fact that no one is ultimately responsible for anything. So you kind of have this weird situation where you don’t know who does the buck stop with, who ultimately signs this off. So, yes, committees bad.

Shall we move on to the next one?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Or do you want to rant on this too?

Marcus Lillington:
No, not particularly.

Paul Boag:
Alright. Number five.

Copying the competition

This is an interesting one; copying the competition. Although it’s good to keep consistency of terminology and navigation with the competition in order to help users – make it easier for users to shop around, I think it’s also really important to stand out from the crowd…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Does this still happen? Yeah, it kind of does.

Marcus Lillington:
It does but has it ever really been an issue? This feels like you’re padding, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Don’t you not think it’s an issue? I think it’s an issue. Don’t you think – alright, take universities, we do a lot of work in the university sector. Do they not just blindly follow one another?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. But is that a massive problem is what I’m trying to say. I am not sure it is. To use an alternative example, I did a competitive review as part of a kind of general review. So it was just sort of like an opinion piece of half a dozen different law sites this was, and the first one was a case of a law – because law firms are very guilty of this, they all want to look exactly the same. But this first site I looked at was kind of a bit wacky and it was kind of like, well give them points for being wacky but the design was awful. So it’s like if you’re going to go out on a limb, you need to do – it needs to be flawless. So…

Paul Boag:
Yes. But on the other hand, nothing ever improves. Right. So for example, let’s go back…

Marcus Lillington:
But I do – no let me finish on that one because…

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
…I also had a – I met up, I think it was for lunch with a – people who work for a law firm and basically the people I was meeting, one of them said that she’d worked previously for a kind of a boutique law firm and they were very kind of like let’s be different, let’s be different and they went out of business. So you’ve got to be careful, I guess, is what I am saying.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. But on the other hand, if you say look at the education sector, we would have never got the kind of simplicity and elegance of navigation that you see on something like the University of Surrey website, link in the show notes, that has very simple top levels of study and discover or whatever it is.

Marcus Lillington:
It used to be subjects. Much better.

Paul Boag:
Subjects, yeah. And so, instead you end up with these kind of organisation – bad practice can get handed on as well as well good practice, I think, is my point.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And so often in sectors they, oh look, they’ve got this for the top level navigation, so we’ll have it too without actually thinking.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I’ll put – putting News and Events on homepages is a classic example even though maybe there is some value in them. But people just think well, you’ve got to have your news on your homepage.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely. And then you also get things like in e-commerce sites and the – oh we’ll just copy Amazon. And just because something is right for Amazon doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly.

Paul Boag:
So I think this is a problem. I think you are you being unfair to my 2005 self.

Marcus Lillington:
Does that hurt?

Paul Boag:
It does. I’m insulted. That’s nine years ago. You’re being rude to a…

Marcus Lillington:
That’s how I felt for nine years, and you didn’t know.

Paul Boag:
A 33-year-old, no 34-year-old.

Marcus Lillington:
Nine years ago I was in my 30s.

Paul Boag:
I know.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s quite scary.

Paul Boag:
So was I. I was near the beginning of my 30s. It’s a long time ago, isn’t it? I think these have, stood the time of very well so far. Let’s see if the second half is as good.

Creeping specifications

Alright, so next up is creeping specifications. Do you think this still happens?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I am sad to say…

Marcus Lillington:
You don’t know.

Paul Boag:
…that I don’t know. That it’s been so long because I do mainly consultancy projects now which are basically set deliverables and the client doesn’t really kind of interfere with them very much. You do what you’re supposed to do…

Marcus Lillington:
I think they creep as well though.

Paul Boag:
Do you?

Marcus Lillington:
I think that, oh, can you add this, so and so we forgot from the whatsername department, we forgot to interview them, can you add them on?

Paul Boag:
Oh yeah, I suppose they do.

Marcus Lillington:
It does happen.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
And you have to kind of take a view is my view.

Paul Boag:
That’s really useful, good advice there, Marcus, for everybody. So how do you assess whether it’s okay for that – for the specification to creep?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t have a formula. I guess, if you are, what is the American term? If you nickel and dime your clients, i.e., oh, that’s not part of the contract, that’ll cost you X.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Then chances are your relationship with them will end more quickly than it would have done if you didn’t do that, in which means you potentially would lose more revenue. So it’s just about being reasonable and that varies from example to example. If for the one I just gave, oh can we do another – can you do another interview over the phone blah, blah, blah, blah? Yeah of course. It’s going to add another probably less than an hour to what we were originally charging. So, yes, you just got to take a view and be sensible.

Paul Boag:
This is where Agile works well, of course.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
It’s because essentially they’re just paying for X number of sprints and because the client is actively involved in doing the work too, they’re able to make much more intelligent – it’s not an us and them environment as much.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, sure.

Paul Boag:
Which is good. Oh and of course, the other thing that I was talking to Mark Bolton about recently is that when they were work, before he sold up to sit on his big pile of money. If you don’t know about that, Mark Bolton ran a design agency and they got quite acquired, so he’s not actually running it anymore, which means he is suddenly really open about all the things that they used to do which is fascinating because he’s happy to talk about it now.

And one of the things that they used to do is they had accounts with clients, a bit like an ad agency would have an account.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So they just buy a person’s worth of time for a year or whatever. And so that kind of gets around all of these because you don’t have a specification. You don’t have a specification really with Agile, really either.

Marcus Lillington:
No. And that’s why it’s quite hard to sell – because I think if I was in a client situation, I would feel much more comfortable knowing what I was getting for what I was spending.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. But I think you still do know what you’re getting. You’re getting a process. See the trouble is moving away from the mentality that – which we bang on about all the time – it’s moving away from the mentality that you’re delivering a site or you’re delivering a certain thing, a solid deliverable because that implies that you’re then done and you’re not done.

Marcus Lillington:
But your agency might be done and your internal team might be able to pick up. So they – you can’t draw lines.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. I just don’t think it’s very effectively to draw lines, to be honest. And the longer I do it, the more time I spend on it, the more – it kind of – specifications, outlining a specification makes a lot of sense when you are a salesperson or you are a client trying to – a procurement department or something like that, they like things in black and white. But the reality of building websites on a day-to-day basis, the reality of running websites on a day-to-day isn’t that neat. You can – specifications are largely a bit pointless because I don’t think you know what you want going in. It’s the process of discovering what you want as you go and that’s why specifications are always creep, because it’s not until the project is underway that the client begins to really see the shape of it – of what they want to build. And also you’re not going to have done all of your user testing and understanding your users upfront and all of that kind of stuff. Do you see what I mean?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag:
So actually, I think the industry has matured a lot since 2005. I mean if you think about the way that we run projects now. The way that we get around this problem and trying to find a kind of middle ground is that we almost always start with some kind of discovery phase, don’t we?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
And the client pays for effectively us to write the specification. To work out what needs to be done based on research, of talking to users and stakeholders and all of the other stuff, and then that kind of defines the next stage of it really. But I think hard and fast lines between internal and external doesn’t work very well either. So, yeah. Bleh. That’s my, considered response to this one.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I’m not going to argue.

Paul Boag:
Right. Should we move on to the next one?

Failing to consider the breath of platforms

Yeah, so the next one – this is really interesting that I was talking about this one so long ago. Failing to consider the breadth of platforms. Now I’m going to read you what I’ve actually written in the show notes here from 2005.

Marcus Lillington:
Alright.

Paul Boag:
Many clients only care that the website – what website looks like on their own PC presuming that the site will be the same for everyone. It’s important to remember that resolutions, monitor types, devices, operating systems and even video drivers all affect the appearance of your website. So this is like more true today than it was in 2005 because of course now there is mobile and people are accessing on games consoles and all kinds of different stuff. So it’s like an expanded version of what we were talking about back in 2005.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. And this is almost like I am not sure but I think you might be taking this from a point of view that the client’s view of their website would be the best back in these days and you’ve got to sort of bear in mind that people are using Netscape Navigator V1.1 and things like this. Whereas it’s kind of almost gone full circle around the other way now when many clients are – they are still having to deal with IE8 and the like.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. No, I don’t think I was saying that. I was just saying – which is, your point is completely valid, I just don’t think it was the one I was trying to make. I think what I was saying back then is that, that people didn’t think beyond their own computer.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
They looked at it on their PC and that was their view of what the web looked like. They didn’t kind of consider that there were other browsers whether they’d be better or worse, they just didn’t think about them.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s certainly still the case. I’ve received a brief recently that is basically – there were lots of examples of things we like, other sites we like. And it’s all based on a desktop view.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
Because every single one of them wasn’t responsive and it’s kind of like, fair enough that you like certain aspects of these designs but what about if you were looking at them on your iPad?

Paul Boag:
That’s interesting because I would say, generally speaking, that’s relatively unusual these days because everybody’s got multiple devices, do you know what I mean?

Marcus Lillington:
They have but I think if you’re sat – sitting down to write your brief for your new website and you’re thinking right well what would I…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…you would do it on your main computer, wouldn’t you? And it’s just making that step between the two.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, making the connection that people don’t always make it. So, yeah, I mean it’s still a really good point. More relevant today than it was in 2005 because there are so many different devices.

Marcus Lillington:
You could see the future, Paul.

Paul Boag:
I always like to consider myself to be prophetic or pathetic, one or the other. Right. Let’s move on to the next one.

Not considering site promotion

Not considering site promotion, this is interesting.

Marcus Lillington:
What do you mean?

Paul Boag:
Well, I’ll read you – again, I’ll read you what I’ve written. I don’t think this one is in the slightest relevant anymore. It’s the first one I think that isn’t. It’s amazing how many people still do not consider promoting their site but rather expect people to magically find it, still more believe that search engine placement is all that matters. A website should be integrated into your overall marketing strategy. I think everybody gets that now. Don’t they?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. I mean maybe if you’re the local plumber. Well I’ve got a website, people will find me, maybe but I think organisations understand marketing strategy, social media, supporting website, et cetera, all that kind of thing, year.

Paul Boag:
Wow! We finally found one that doesn’t apply anymore. Hurrah! Good, right. Well, let’s move on to the next one then.

Under estimating the clients role

Right. This one, I think, still does apply. Underestimating the client’s role. It’s easy to forget how much the client has to contribute to a site’s development. From copy – from writing copy to review and testing the client’s role is vital and they need to set aside sufficient time to focus on website development. That still applies.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, this kind of is – it steps on nicely from your previous rant about Agile is the best way to work and…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…and it’s – yeah, for something to be truly useful to the client, then they need to be a part of the process.

Paul Boag:
And I still think they leave it too late to look at content, they say oh we can come back and worry about that later, they don’t actively engage enough in the process. They don’t expect to have to actively engage. They do see it very much as you go away and produce this thing.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. Some are like that, others less so. I think…

Paul Boag:
Oh, yeah, yeah, it does vary.

Marcus Lillington:
… it’s not as bad as it was.

Paul Boag:
Oh, it’s better. Yes. Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
But it does still exist.

Paul Boag:
Okay. So should we skip on to the very last one? We seem to have sped up and I don’t care.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. Well, you know I think we’ve been rambling on for, oh shall we see how long we’ve been rambling on for? Probably about 45 minutes I reckon.

Paul Boag:
Oh well, well it’s okay to come onto the last one.

Marcus Lillington:
We’re allowed to stop now.

Paul Boag:
Alright then. Let’s do the last one then.

Failing to keep content fresh

This one still very much applies as well. This is a great one to finish on. Failing to keep content fresh. Many clients allow their site to stagnate once it goes live. By doing so, they undermine the company’s credibility and fail to provide motivation for users to return to the site and see what’s changed.

So, yeah, keeping content fresh is still a huge area. Clients still think you launch a website, then they leave it to decay for three years and throw the whole thing out and start all over again. Yes, they are getting a little better, but they still – I think today’s modern equivalent of this is, oh we’re just going to distribute it across the organization to update. So, yeah, it does get updated, maybe, sometimes in theory because everybody’s got access to the content management system. But in reality, it’s the bottom of everybody’s task list and so it never quite gets done and there’s weeks and weeks that go by between new stories and there’s just nothing – nobody looking after the website and nobody nurturing it, caring it, giving it direction and focus. I think that’s still a huge problem, don’t you?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, definitely. Well, I think those clients, those organizations that have dedicated web teams that include content people, then no. I think they have grasped it and…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…they understand that it’s this kind of live publication that they need to look after. But those that don’t, then no, it is still very much a problem, or yes, it is still a problem.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I know what you mean. Yeah so that’s a – it’s a good list. It’s stood up fairly well since 2005. I’m quite pleased.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Well done me. Aren’t I wonderful?

Marcus Lillington:
You are absolutely.

Paul Boag:
So, Marcus, do you have a joke?

Marcus Lillington:
Ian Lasky sent me some jokes.

Paul Boag:
Oh good.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ll go for the first one. Although this won’t – in 20 years’ time or maybe in 10 years’ time this won’t be funny. But there you go. When the inventor of the USB stick dies, they will gently lower the coffin, then pull it back up, turn it around the other way, then lower it again.

Paul Boag:
That’s quite good. I like that one. I was playing Last of Us. I don’t know whether you’ve ever heard of this.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve heard of it, yeah.

Paul Boag:
Right. So when it came out on the PS4, they do a little side downloadable content game that you can play which is you play – there’s a couple of young girls in the game. And they find a book of puns, and you can just stand there going through all their jokes endlessly and it’s really good fun. One that I particularly liked was, what did the triangle say to the circle? You’re pointless.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s awful.

Paul Boag:
I like that one.

Marcus Lillington:
But my kind of level.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
It was very much your kind of jokes.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So I may go through a few more of those just for the fun of it. I sat there for about 10 minutes and then got bored. Right, anyway that wraps up this week’s show and it was a good one. Thank you very much, Brian, for suggesting that. So next week, we will be moving on to episode four then.

Marcus Lillington:
No, no, we’re not.

Paul Boag:
No? I wonder what episode four is. Shall we see if we can find out?

Marcus Lillington:
We can have a look. But I’m not redoing it.

Paul Boag:
Episode four. My pearls of wisdom about search engine optimization. No, that’s not good. In the news there was Dreamweaver 8 is out, very exciting. Firefox 1.5 is in beta.

Marcus Lillington:
1.5? What’s it on now? About 750 is it?

Paul Boag:
Something like that. And a little bit about – oh more big names adopting web standards. The Gap and Slashdot have jumped on the bandwagon and…

Marcus Lillington:
There you go. Well, that really was the time when it was…

Paul Boag:
It was all happening, wasn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Definitely.

Paul Boag:
Oh, got all nostalgic now. So we won’t be doing that next week because Marcus has banned me.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So there we go back to the normal boring old stuff then I’m afraid. Sorry. Speak to you then.

Marcus Lillington:
Bye.

Boagworks

Boagworld