Dealing with concerned clients can be a challenge for numerous reasons. I liken it to running around with a fire extinguisher, desperately trying to put out blazes large and small. But it’s not just the panicky ones who need the occasional dousing. And it’s not necessarily their fault.
The web can be a scary place – even for seasoned designers. Trying to wrap our heads around privacy issues, security, accessibility and new technologies can make anyone’s head spin. So, just think of what they can do to the people who depend on us for help.
In some ways, it’s even worse for our clients. Why? Because there are any number of bad actors out there who are constantly trying to trick them, hack their site or otherwise extort a few extra dollars. Not to mention the perfectly legitimate things that, while innocent enough, can put a non-techie into a cold sweat.
With that in mind, here are a few items that tend to put even cool clients into panic mode. But don’t worry. Each one includes some tips for talking them off the emotional ledge.
Mysterious Spam Invoices
If you own a website, or even a domain, odds are you’re going to start receiving all manner of nuisance messages. Whether they appear in your inbox or your postal mail, their aim is to get you to spend money – often out of fear.
One of the more famous examples of this are phony domain registration renewals. A company (if you can call it that) will send a letter that looks like an invoice, claiming the client’s domain name is about to expire. It will probably mention all the terrible things that can happen if they don’t renew this instant. And, oh yeah, the cost is massively marked up.
The only trouble is that your client has never heard of this company. So naturally, they’ll ask you about it. They may wonder if they’ve missed the deadline and why the price is suddenly higher. Have they already lost the domain? What will happen to their business?
Honorable mention goes out to those great “let me fix your website” emails that show up regularly. But they’re only kind of scary.
What to Do
When your client comes to you with a scam message, tell them so. But also tell them, if necessary, who their domain registrar is and why it’s important to have that information on file. It’s a great chance to educate them.
Red Alerts from Google Search Console
No, it’s not just spam that gets a client’s heart racing. The emails sent out by Google Search Console can be even more frightening.
The search/email/operating system/home device/phone/world-dominating giant has been known to inundate our inboxes with all sorts of “helpful” messages about our websites. Sometimes it thinks buttons are too close together or text is too small. In other instances, it complains about missing attributes within breadcrumb links.
That’s not to say these messages can’t point out some legitimate website issues. But often, it’s more likely to cause the recipient to worry about something that is realistically harmless. Worse yet, it gets forwarded to a web designer, who suddenly needs another glass of wine.
What to Do
Whatever rubbish Google sends, it should still be looked into – just in case. Still, it’s worth mentioning that these messages need to be taken with a grain of salt. Clients shouldn’t worry that their site won’t be indexed or that they’re somehow being punished by an algorithm.
Let them know that Google’s automated tools can often focus on the minutiae. And, while you’ll be glad to review the issue, it most likely isn’t a major concern.
The Cache Trap
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a client request a change, which you make, and receive a message back stating that they “can’t see it”.
Even though I can’t see you (Google probably can, though), I’d expect many hands to be in the air. That’s because “cache panic” is probably as old as web design itself. For years, it’s been a game of cat-and-mouse where we attempt to help our clients clear out browser cache – a sometimes painful experience.
I mention this because it seems to be more prevalent than ever with certain website configurations. Managed WordPress hosting services have been particularly difficult in this area. With some, it’s not just browser-based cache, we also need to worry about server-based as well. The result is a lot of wasted time, trying to get everyone on the same page.
What to Do
First, get a stress ball. Next, teach your clients about the wonders of cache and how they can clear it from their browser. In most cases, that will do the trick.
If you find that your web host has tough-to-clear server cache, it may be worth trying a staging environment. This would allow you to make changes on a non-cached location, while enabling your clients to see updates before you push them to production.
Change is difficult – especially when it comes to software. And it seems like, just when we find a comfortable routine, it all gets blown up by what vendors like to call “UI enhancements”.
This can really throw a monkey wrench into the lives of clients who update their own website. After all, they’re not web designers and don’t have time or interest in keeping up with the industry. They simply wake up one day, log into their website and find that their whole process is turned upside down.
The most recent example of this is the WordPress Gutenberg block editor. It looks and functions quite differently from the old Classic Editor. Not to mention that early versions lacked the polish we see today.
This led to a lot of confusion, frustration and, yes, even a little fear that things would break.
What to Do
Frankly, it often falls on designers to stay ahead of the game with these kinds of changes. If we see major developments coming along to the sites we manage, we should act to make the transition as smooth as possible (or delay it indefinitely).
In the case of Gutenberg, that meant educating clients about the new editor. And, in some cases, perhaps installing the Classic Editor to keep the status quo. It’s all about minimizing discomfort.
Web Designers: Lifting the Fog of Fear
It seems like just about every day, there’s something to put a scare into our clients. Whether it’s a crafty scammer, a nitpicking search giant or advancements in technology – we web designers are bound to be asked about it.
Certainly, having to calmly explain these situations can become tiring. There is no shortage of other things on our to-do lists. But on the bright side, it can be very satisfying to help clear up misconceptions and bring even a tiny level of comfort to someone else.
That in itself is a reward and it also helps to build a high level of trust between designer and client. And, looking like a superhero isn’t so bad, either.