We’ve all had it. That dreaded feeling that creeps over you like a very dark cloud when you’ve spent two days working on something that should have taken you two hours. Or so you thought. Then comes the strike of panic as you quickly calculate how terribly you’ve underestimated the scale of the entire project. What seemed like a tiny, insignificant requirement in the client’s brief has turned itself into a whopping great thorn in your side. This project is now eating into your time like a fat kid eats cake.
And dare we mention budget? You’ve undersold your services so much that you’re practically paying them to employ you.
Fear not – we’ve taken it upon ourselves to compile a trusty checklist that will help you get the initial communication right, saving everyone time and money.
Quiz me, darling
Client or developer – who’s to blame? Well, you both are. But mainly you. Sorry – we don’t mean to be harsh – but the truth of the matter is that you’re the expert and if you don’t ask the right questions initially, you won’t get the right answers. Or any answers at all. What you will get is a continuous stream of emails with long lists of ‘tiny’ things they’ve forgotten to tell you about, probably because you didn’t ask. Did somebody mention thorn?
Say no to vague
Create a briefing template for your business that you regularly review and update. Ask the client to fill it in and send it back to you before your first meeting so that you can jot down additional questions for the sections where they haven’t been specific enough. Tedious as it may seem, writing detail down and sending multiple versions of the spec back and forward until everyone is happy can save you hours and spare you having to backtrack or query later on in the project.
Do you speak Geek?
Avoid bombarding your new client with techie questions until you speak over the phone or in person. Don’t forget that seemingly ordinary lingo like CMS, API and Java can be daunting to the less informed. Check that they understand the basics of what you’re delivering and save the jargon for the water cooler.
Content is king
Spending an hour getting the right amount of padding on your paragraph is pointless if your client decides they need you to put twice the amount of text into half the amount of space. When your design relies heavily on text or image content, don’t be afraid to request final copy versions before starting the project – it will make for a much better end product if you know what you’re working around.
Be like Bridget
No, we’re not talking giant pants. Keep a diary of your hours, even if you’re billing for the project as a whole. It’s the only way you’ll truly get to know how long you actually spend on certain elements, which will help when assessing future project budgets – the likelihood is that it’s a lot more than you think.
Do look back
When you’ve completed a project, don’t just hand over the keys and walk away. Make use of your captive audience and try to arrange a quick ‘exit interview’. Not only is this an opportunity to get a client’s opinion on their sparkly new website, you can ask for honest feedback about your business process (e.g. customer relations, communication, overall service and support) and make adjustments to areas that are proving ineffective. Be brave with questions and try sending an email survey – remember your aim is to get negative feedback that will help you make changes rather than compliments to inflate your ego!
Got it? Flaunt it!
If your customer is happy with the site you deliver, encourage them (that’s code for pester!) to leave a review on your WWDC profile page. Customers will take time to research before picking a company, so a few recent testimonials alongside a showcase of your previous projects can be the difference between winning that new client pitch or losing out to another company.
Annoy, pester, badger. Repeat.