Web design is a new and poorly understood industry. Everyone has opinions. Sometimes you get criticised by the client, your peers and the bank manager.
On the other hand, life as a web designing business owner is brilliant. You get to work on your own terms, you can be creative and there’s a lot more good stuff besides.
Because it’s a new industry and because of the freedoms, web designing has unique challenges. And one of these challenges is to decide when the client is right and when the client is wrong. It’s not all black and white. Sometimes I hate to hear designers slagging off their clients.
It’s an easy trap to fall into. Just have a look at ClientsFromHell.com. OK, it’s funny. We can all laugh about it. But that doesn’t help us. What do we do when the client makes a suggestion that we think will be detrimental to their business? You can’t just poo-poo someone’s big idea.
And, look at it from the clients viewpoint. You’ve heard the joke, haven’t you?
“How many web designers does it take to change a lightbulb?”
“Does it have to be a lightbulb?”
Sound familiar? Now get off your high horse. Some client ideas are original, great, fantastic, inspired.
Others aren’t. You don’t see Flash intros, background music and vertical navigations these days. Why? Because they don’t work! But you can’t just say that to the client. They can, understandably, say: “if no one else’s doing it, that means we’ll stand out for being original and thinking outside the box!” Which is a good sentiment. But still wrong. So how do you square the circle?
I’ve had many of these situations and, luckily, clients aren’t from hell and they are actually reasonable human beings. So here are some practical things you can actually say to clients when you believe their ideas are a little off.
“Nowadays people expect to find a horizontal menu across the top of the website header. Doing something else is likely to result in higher bounce rates, less pages per visit and less conversions.”
Too many items in navigation
“Seven is the magic number when it comes to short term memory. Remember you’re competing against all the distractions of the modern day. It’s great to keep things simple.”
“Use this color, my wife/son/aunt likes it”
“That color won’t show up against the background and will make it hard for the visitors to differentiate and therefore this would make the website harder to use.” (Say this even if the color will show up against the background. You’re the expert!
“Background music, to me, seems unprofessional. Streaming music can cause the website to load slowly which is bad for visitors and looked on unkindly by Google. The antidote to this is to loop a shorter music sample but this gets repetitive and is annoying for the visitor. You want visitors staying on your site for hours not a few seconds.”
“Plus there’s a problem with people already listening to music before visiting your site as well as people visiting your site from public places where they won’t appreciate the sound.”
“You want your visitors to perform a desired action on your site (typically, leave their email address, buy a product, contact you, etc.) You should do everything you can to remove barriers from the path towards this and facilitate this desired action. A flash intro or splash page is one more barrier. We should work towards removing these barriers not putting them up.”
You can do it
You can communicate with clients to build them a website they are happy with that meet your usability standards. I’ve honestly hardly ever had the “clients from hell” that everyone talks about.
Realise that this is a new industry and half our job is one of education and communication.