It’s the second you stop thinking about what the problem you’re attempting to solve, and start mindlessly doing what the client wants, just to get the damn project closed. I call it flicking the switch.
- You want your a big red “BUY NOW” button on every page?
- 15 marketing questions in your contact form?
- You want your advertising jingle on played on each page?
Abso-fucking-lutely. Howsabout we loop it too?
It’s not consulting, it’s just bad theatre. You’re no longer providing the service you were hired for. You’re simply dragging boxes around a page until you get a green light from the client. It’s the easiest thing to do. You too can deliver mediocrity, on time, on budget, every time.
But good designers will fight the fight. Great designers win.
Alan Cooper would, I imagine, argue that these fights aren’t necessary. That “organisational change”; he refers to should mean that the clients are seeing things from your perspective. Unfortunately the organisational change isn’t always in scope, especially for the smaller projects. As Stevie Wonder would say:“Ya gots to work with what ya gots to work it”.
Avoiding the switch for consultants
I find it very useful to explain to clients initially what it is that I do: what their input is, how I work, and how I make decisions. I explain to the clients that their expertise lies in their business, and mine lies in solving their problems. I explain that if and when I push back on their requests, it’s because I care. If I just wanted their cash, they’d already be looking at their flash based mystery meat homepage, and I’d be off making the logo bigger for my next client. So why do I argue? Because I care about the quality of the solutions I deliver. When the client knows all this, the switch is less lightly to get flicked.
Occasionally you might lose your enthusiasm for a project, and when the tricky requests come in it can get pretty frustrating. “I know we’ve already agreed on the site map, but we looked at it again over lunch and…”.
It’s really tough, but it’s important to stay professional. Remember, you will be judged by this work, you want to launch this site with pride. The arguments can be tough but they’re what make you. Do bear in mind that sometimes the client is right. There is no shame in that. Your goal isn’t to be 100% correct about everything. Your goal is to deliver the best website possible.
Avoiding the switch for clients
If you’ve hired a company for x hundred per day, of course you get to dictate what happens. It’s the level at which you dictate thats important here. You shouldn’t be talking about dropdowns, radio buttons, or page hierarchy. You should be talking about business goals, customer goals, company messages, that sort of thing.
Good web consultancies are experts at understanding the requirements of you and your customers and delivering a solution that meets the lot. Hopefully you’ve hired a good company. A good acid test is this:
“If you’re able to make significant changes to the I.A. or wireframes without discussion or debate with your consultancy, you’ve hired the wrong guys”
When you want something changed, and your consultant isn’t just a lapdog, you’ll need to explain why. A good explanation will help you (and your consultant) make the right decision.
A good explanation is something like: “Our most profitable product line is our footwear, so I’d like to see the homepage give us an area where we can promote this, with the goal of improving profits.” That explains the problem well and will be well received. Conversely none of the following will work well…
- “I want shoes on the homepage”
- “Our competitors have shoes on their homepage”
- “My brother works in banking and he says his golf buddies are looking to buy shoes online, so…”
Combining a bad explanation with an aggressive “I’m paying you €X per day dammit!” is a sure way to turn your consultant into a crowd pleasing monkey, complete with Gantt chart goodness.
In any good project I’ve worked on, there were tough times, hard meetings, tough decisions. But without them, the sites wouldn’t pop. They’d be the epitomy of mediocrity. Embrace the debates, no matter how heated. They can lead to greatness.