Let’s go out on a limb here and declare that web designers are generally pretty comfortable with technology. We know our way around computers, smartphones and other assorted gadgetry.
Our clients, however, might be a different story. They may well be well-versed in these areas – or decidedly not.
You might find that, when working with those who aren’t so tech-savvy, there can be a bit of a disconnect. Even if we nominally speak the same language, we may as well be from different planets. This can lead to confusion, frustration and (potentially) hurt feelings for those involved.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Regardless of a client’s technical prowess, you can still develop a successful working relationship. It just takes some patience, ability to listen and the right demeanor.
With that in mind, here are some tips for bridging the gap.
Never Assume That a Client Understands Everything You Say
When you work with web technologies day in and day out, it all becomes second nature. This can lead to throwing terminology out there that others might not understand. It might also result in explaining concepts at a pace that is uncomfortable for your counterpart.
The rule of thumb here is to keep it slow and simple. Try to avoid complex technical jargon – at least in the beginning. When possible, explain concepts in lay terms to help them build a foundation of knowledge. Use common, everyday analogies to help your client wrap their heads around an idea.
For example, instead of saying:
“We can do that using custom WordPress taxonomies.”
You might instead go with:
“We can divide your blog posts into categories. Think of each category as a section of a newspaper, with the blog posts being the individual articles.”
At the same time, it’s also important to realize that clients might have questions along the way. Make sure to pause frequently in order to allow for questions, and even encourage them to ask. This is especially important when it comes to client training. Some folks may need that invitation to feel empowered to do so.
Of course, there is also a danger in coming off as insulting someone’s intelligence. Avoid talking “down” to clients and speak with them as you would a friend.
Build for Ease-Of-Use
If you’re building a client’s website using a Content Management System (CMS), think about the person who will be creating and editing content.
Not all organizations have a resident expert on staff to manage their website. Often times, the person who is assigned this task is facing a bit of a learning curve.
Therefore, it’s important to gauge their comfort level during the design and build processes. To do this, start a conversation about what it is they’ll be doing, determine their previous experience and find out what their expectations are.
This information is vital, as it can serve as a guide to building out the site’s various features. If, for example, you know your client will want to frequently update a slider, you’ll want this experience to be as simple and straightforward as possible.
Carrying through with that example, perhaps your client doesn’t know much about photo editing. So, crafting a solution that automatically crops images for them may be in order.
The idea is to make these tasks as intuitive as possible. Any step you can take towards that end will be greatly appreciated.
Patience Is Rewarded
Whether you’re walking a client through some technical solutions or training them to update their site, you might be throwing a lot of information their way. This can be overwhelming, and so not everything may stick in their head the first time or two.
For designers, this can be frustrating. But your client may be feeling the exact same way.
Think, for example, about a time when someone bombarded you with information regarding a subject you weren’t well-versed in. Maybe it was an automotive mechanic explaining what’s wrong with your engine, or an electrician going through the steps to fix your lights. If you weren’t familiar with the subject, you probably felt lost.
Part of our job is to help guide clients through this maze of technology. One way to do that is by remaining calm, friendly and patient. If you find that a client is struggling with a particular concept, reassure them that it can take a little time to catch on. You might even add in an anecdote from a time when you faced a similar challenge.
These little acts of kindness can go a long way towards building their confidence. This also builds a strong relationship and helps to ensure customer loyalty. It really does pay off.
A Unique Opportunity
Web design is a bit different than other industries, in that we often have long term relationships with our clients. But unlike the contractor who vanishes once your new deck is built, we may be working alongside a client for years to come.
Thus, it’s in our best interest to help even the most technophobic clients thrive online. The good news is that we don’t have to help mold them into the next Bill Gates. Rather, it’s about empowering them to do a little more than they might have thought possible.
And in building up a client’s skillset, you might just find that you’re building your own as well. This can help to make you a better designer and an even better person.
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