Saturday, May 29, 2010

On Being a Bad Client

On Being a Bad Client: "

I love these posts. But the thing is, they always come from the agency or designer's side. Here, I intend to give you a little insight from the bad client's side. Because even though I think most of my agency partners find me pleasurable to work with, I sometimes see myself in these 'bad clients' posts. I thought maybe I could help bring some perspective to the relationship.

Bad Client Behavior #1: They Want a Ton of Changes At the Last Minute

You, the designer, probably did exactly what you should do. You went through a business requirements gathering exercise, then talked to some actual users (yes, you were that lucky) and delivered an amazing set of wireframes (on time!). And what did you hear from your client? Crickets.

So you pressed ahead. You sent over the visual comp of the homepage expecting everything to go smoothly, when BAM! Suddenly Mr. Bad Client's feedback is flowing and he's telling you, 'We're way off track here!' You get more and more frustrated as the delivery date looms heavily and you have to cancel your plans to see the Human Centipede movie this weekend.

Here's the problem: Most of the time, your bad clients are super busy and just can't wrap their heads around a wireframe. In fact, they probably scanned it for about two minutes and declared it good. The visual comp is the closest thing to a real site in their heads, so that's when they begin providing the feedback you needed earlier in the process.

The fix? I recommend getting to the visual comp phase as fast as possible, and allowing room in the schedule to deal with feedback on the design.

Bad Client Behavior #2: Ugh! They Want You to Build a Site Without Content!

Ok, I'll admit it. I'm guilty of this. I've actually read Kristina Halvorson's book, Content Strategy for the Web. But I've been in situations where I was the primary contact with the agency, and my stakeholders just didn't have the content ready before putting together the site. Sorry Kristina!

After I apologized profusely, the great agency I worked with did the next best thing: They asked what kind of content would go in the various content blocks, and tried to use existing content instead of lorem ipsum. It actually worked out pretty well.

I was able to give them some guidance and examples of content we used in the past. For example, Microsoft is notorious for using long product names, titles of posts and titles of session for our events. So the typical 'Lorem Ipsum' filler text wouldn't work for us. We were able to plan for that.

I believe that you should have your content prior to building a site. But sometimes reality sets in, and you have to adjust to the situation. This agency has a special place in my heart for working with me vs. lecturing me.

Bad Client Behavior #3: They Want To See 10 Different Comps

As a client, I have to admit I like the idea of having choices. And yes, I will always want a Frankenstein of a web site that combines the best of the three you have shown me. Sorry!

But you have to remember: Most clients are not keeping up-to-date on the latest design trends. Helping give them exposure is a good thing.

Also, remember there are a ton of stakeholders (especially in a large company) that have a say-so in the design (or at least who sign my paycheck). So although you may have created one concept to rule them all, it may be more fruitful in the end to let me choose from different concepts.

Bad Client Behavior #4: They're Obsessed With 'Above The Fold'

First of all, let me just say: I'm with you on this one. Also in this bucket is:

  • Can you make the logo bigger?
  • It just doesn't 'pop' for me.
  • Can you make it more clean?
  • Hey! You left some empty space! Can we put a blog roll or a puppy picture there to fill it up?

These are critical moments for educating the client. Explain the 'why'. Another great agency I worked with was really good about explaining what was not on the page, and why. This made it very easy to go back to the stakeholders and explain why something was done (or NOT done).

Bad Client Behavior #5: They're Just Idiots

First, your clients are not idiots. They probably know their knowledge space just as much as you know yours.

That said, I do believe in firing really bad clients. If they don't pay up, if they don't respect you, if they burn you—by all means, you should never do anything for them again. I recommend Zeldman's 20 Signs You Don't Want That Web Design Project.

But take time when you are frustrated to look at it from the client's side.

Now Say You…

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Please let me know what you think in the comments below. I would be particularly interested in bad clients you have dealt with. Did you 'fire' them? Did you have a Jedi-trick you used to get over a rough patch? Please tell me about it below!

Also, follow me or MIX Online on Twitter if you like.


No comments:

Post a Comment