Your average client who hasn’t got a company website by now is a late starter. The web is well into its higher gears and they’ve got a lot of ground to make up. Yet many companies still put faith in a website being the cure of all ills in double-quick time.
It’s the wonder-pill to many of them, the one last commercial step that will bring them untold wealth, so many customers they’ll not be able to cope with them and an early retirement is guaranteed.
It isn’t your job to tell them that their business plan may be flawed, nor is it really your job to say they’ll not achieve what they want. Instead, you have to manage expectation.
Why tell them?
Well to begin with you’ll be the company or individual they blame when they don’t get the yacht moored in Monaco next year. It’ll all be your fault. You designed their road to riches online so you’re the one they’ll come searching for.
What do you tell them?
Try not to get technical. Keep it commercially based and try to focus on their sector in particular with any examples you give. If you’ve seen an opportunity to take advantage of poor optimization by their competitors then it’s rather different – but in most cases you’re going to be culturing a mindset of patience.
The 10 point reality check
We use this list. It’s one we drew up when putting ourselves in clients shoes and then coming back to our own world. It’s not a list that runs in any particular order because all of the points are salient and valid, no matter who your client may be.
1. The One Stop Wonder – explain to them that the internet and their new website will be just the start of their online adventure – not the end. They need to know of the effort that needs to go into it from the moment it goes live, not just before.
2. Advertising Alternatives – just because they have a website now doesn’t mean they should reduce advertising spend. In fact they should be doing precisely the opposite to drive customers to their new portal for business.
It is common for companies to think they shouldn’t advertise their website directly. Adding the domain name to their press advertisements isn’t good enough. They should be thinking of an online marketing strategy long before you’ve finished the site – and the strategy should be a long term one.
3. Time Overhead – a website, or at least a successful website, demands a lot of time from its owners from the moment it goes live. If they think they’re going to sit back and do nothing, let them know that the website will probably do the same.
4. Patience is a virtue – and there is no better application of it than online. It is vitally important, in our experience, that you explain to your client that for all you can submit sitemaps, ensure content is appropriate and promote a site accordingly, that you can’t force the search engines to visit and rank them immediately.
It never ceases to amaze us how many people expect to be able to find their site via major search engines on the day it has gone live – by their keywords. Manage expectation.
5. Online versus offline – the habits of your online browser and offline browser vary. The approach needs to vary with it. Point 6 (next) explains one of the biggest issues surrounding this particular item, but it is vital that your client understands that they’re opening themselves up, potentially, to a new audience with different tastes.
Branding is something most companies (or at least those with any common sense) take very seriously and they won’t want it compromising – but the online branding approach, presentation and aesthetic needs to be considered very carefully and not just a carbon copy of their offline activities.
6. Taking advice – strange as it may seem, a lot of people commission a website yet have no interest in taking the advice of those they are paying to give it! You can’t force a client to take your advice, but you can at least emphasis and justify why you make the points you do and that experience shows they might want to listen.
Some companies will have seen a site they like and will want you to reproduce it in some way or form – whether it is appropriate for their business, well written, navigationally appalling or search engine unfriendly – and they won’t have you tell them different. It isn’t easy to tell a client you feel you have responsibility to inform them of X, Y and Z – but it is essential if you think it’ll compromise their project. Because ultimately, that will compromise your reputation.
7. Everything and anything – some clients feel the need to pack the contents of an Encyclopedia onto every page of their website (and we’re not talking about Wikipedia here). It is important to stress that whilst content is key, that the quality of content is the most important factor of all. Try to ensure they don’t dilute a good site with irrelevant rubbish.
8. Domain names – they don’t need to buy them all. They really don’t! Buy what they need to, not what their best friend has told them they should do. Relevant domain names do count, but its not the be-all and end-all. We don’t need to tell you what you should be looking for, we’re merely pointing out that you should educate your client about the myth that buying thirty domain names that bear any relevance to their company really isn’t necessary.
9. Web design is easy – ah, this is a good one! Any web design company or designer reading this will know exactly what we mean. The client comes to you with a budget of X when the real cost of developing what they want will be X multiplied by a factor of ten and more.
It is imperative that you explain the hours and methods that go in to designing a successful website. Justify your price by keeping their goals in mind and explaining how they will be achieved. It is now a common myth that good websites can be had for very little money. No. What you get for very little money is very little website.
A client might argue that a part-time freelancer can produce something for less than a company, but they’ll also contribute less in the long run in most instances. You really do get what you pay for and the old adage is a strong argument where websites are concerned.
Like anything worth having or worth doing well – the best of products doesn’t come in the cheapest of budgets.
10. Images – most clients think that any photographs or images they have will be suitable for the web. If they’re not, they think you’ll wave that Photoshop Magic Wand and make them perfect in seconds.
There is also a myth that anything found online is fair game. You need to emphasis the importance of quality images on a website and the effort that can go into securing them. Check the copyright of any images you find or that the client wishes to use. Don’t forget to account for the use of purchased stock photography when you’re compiling your quotation too.
In our opinion you’ll find a wealth of good websites ruined by poor imagery – let the client know you don’t want theirs to be one of them.