Things I wish clients knew

By | July 02, 2006

Over on Andy Budd’s website, he asked the question: “What three things do you wish your clients knew about the web?” There were some pretty interesting answers in the comments, and it made me want to slap together a list of my own. Some of these come from those comments; others come from my own experiences. Keep in mind that Andy’s website is geared towards Web designers, and my focus is more on overall Web development, so my list comes from a slightly different perspective. So without further ado, here are some things I wish people knew when they ask me to do their website:

  1. The Web is not print. You can design a brochure that will look exactly the same to everyone who sees it. You can design a website that will look almost the same to almost everyone who sees it, but that’s the best you can do.
  2. Just because something is “easy” for me (a Web developer) to do doesn’t mean it will be quick and/or inexpensive. On a related note, just because something is conceptually easy for you (e.g., “I just need you to take this 28 page PDF brochure and turn it into a website!”) doesn’t mean it is quick, easy, inexpensive, or a good idea.
  3. You pay a professional to create your website. That is because you are not qualified to do it yourself. You should keep that in mind when you have a disagreement with your developer.
  4. You generally get what you pay for when it comes to Web development. Your 16-year-old nephew very well may have taken an HTML class at his high school, and he can probably use what he learned to make your website for you for $50. But that means you will have a $50 website.
  5. The content on your site is your responsibility. You don’t go to a clothing store, buy a suit, and then ask the salesperson to come home with you, bathe you, shave you, and spray cologne on you. A Web developer creates a website that will present your information in the best way possible; what information you present is entirely up to you.
  6. A website is not “done” once it launches. An effective website is a living, changing thing. There will come a time when all the features you want have been implemented; there may even come a time when there are absolutely no bugs or undesirable quirks left in your site; but there will never come a time when you don’t need to update and add content.
  7. Visitors to a website have expectations. A publisher wouldn’t put the table of contents in the middle of a book; the owner of a grocery store wouldn’t put ice cream in the pet supplies aisle; and there are certain things a Web developer wouldn’t do, because doing so would betray the expectations of the user. That’s not to say that websites should be predictable and boring; they should be exciting while providing just enough predictability to be comfortable.
  8. If you don’t know what you want, I can’t create it for you. As a Web professional, I can advise you on how to implement your ideas, but I can’t put ideas into an empty head. You need to know what you want your website to accomplish; if you don’t know the answer to that question, then you don’t need a website.
  9. Following up on the previous point, please be aware that when you add something to the scope of the project — a new feature, a new content page, a complete revamping — it will require additional time and money.
  10. There are a lot of tricks and tips for good search engine placement, but the number one rule is this: content! If you have GOOD content, and LOTS of it, it helps your search engine ranking in two ways: 1) people are more likely to link to websites that have good content; and 2) once Google finds your page (often through those links) it has a lot of good stuff to index. Well-written, keyword-dense, relevant content is the key to good search engine ranking.
  11. There’s good, there’s cheap, and there’s fast. Pick two.
  12. I am a Web developer. I probably know a lot about computers. That doesn’t mean that you should call me when your can’t get your printer to work or your CD-ROM drive won’t open.
  13. I can’t teach you everything I know (at least not for what you are paying me). I have spent years (really, YEARS!) learning everything I know, so it would take at least that long for me to teach you (probably longer, really, because the fact that you want me to teach you everything I know indicates that you might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer to begin with).

Anything to add or subtract?

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