What You Can Learn from Us Being The Client From Hell

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Written By Maureen
Thanks to www.clientsfromhell.net

What you can learn from us (well, it was me really; sorry Dominique) being The Client From Hell

Maureen Shelley shares what she’s learned through redeveloping the company’s website

As a writer, I spend a lot of my time shaking my head over other people’s grammar or their attention to detail or their basic inability to keep to deadlines. Generally, there is a lot of muttering over all the things that humans do that means we turn to a professional for assistance with writing.

I was determined that, when we set about engaging a website designer, we were going to do all the things that an ideal client does to make the job of redeveloping our website as simple and straightforward as possible. It was going to be a pleasure, really.You are ahead of me, I know, because you know we did everything that the perfect Client From Hell does.

The Brief

We wrote a beautifully, detailed brief – and then we changed our minds. When we changed our minds we did a 180 and then a 360-degree shift in our thinking. I think we ended up back where we started from but I could be confused. Having a very clear idea of what you want the website to do/be is a very good idea and it is one you should adhere to through thick and thin.

The Deadline

We developed what we thought was a realistic deadline – three months. We’d created that beautifully detailed brief, set out the timeline and milestones, said what we’d provide in that time and when we’d provide it by – and then ignored the lot.
We were late with copy (we didn’t have time to write copy – we are too busy writing for other people, we had to employ a copy writer and, fortunately, we know about 50), we didn’t supply stuff we said we would, we forgot things, we changed our minds on the site architecture plan after we’d signed off on the design and the site architecture plan. Yep, we committed all the cardinal sins that a client could possible commit without being struck by lightning.
We extended the deadline to six months and backtracked to four, back to six and – in the end – it took what it took, which was eight months from concept to “go live”. Be realistic in your deadlines. Don’t fix a date based on a Ministerial launch, the calendar or financial year or any arbitrary nonsense such as when the moon is in the 7th house or Jupiter aligns with Mars.

The Rabbit Holes

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice keeps disappearing down rabbit holes pursuing some fantastic idea or creature and going completely off track[i]from achieving her ultimate purpose. In website redesign, there are an inordinate amount of rabbit holes to tempt you – even for the strong willed.
We decided – mid-way through the process – that we wanted to achieve integration of our customer relationship management (CRM) software with our website’s content management system (CMS).
We thought it would be a good idea that if we were collecting data from our website, it should funnel that data through into our CRM, so we could serve our customers better. We also wanted to be able to update the site ourselves for minor things without having to go back to the web design company.
Well, it is a nice idea in theory and you can do it if you have a spare $28,000 floating around (and I know by writing this I will be instantly pursued by every web designer/CRM/CMS software sales person in the world with a workable, cheaper solution – big tip, don’t bother; I’ve already spoken to you).
Pursuing this particular rabbit hole delayed our “go live” date by about three months. Decide what is really important for the website to do – from the outset – and stick to that.

The Budget

How to Create (and Stick to) a Realistic Budget with Mint

We set a realistic budget, I know we did. We worked out how much time it would take and how much it would cost to write the copy, design, develop and collect all the images and illustrations, film and edit the videos, obtain permissions and testimonials from clients, take the photos of the staff (we had to do that three times because we kept hiring more), purchase the CMS licences and approve the design from the designer. I mean, this is our business; we know these things.
Unless I’d been there, I’d say we plucked some number out of the air that had no reference to anything. In the end, I decided the best way to establish a budget for a website redesign is what I’ve been doing with renovating houses for years. 
You take the biggest, most ridiculous number you can think of (based on what you know of costs through the most expensive builder you have ever met), you then double it and then you add 20 per cent. If it comes out to be less than that, you will be happy. This isn’t to say our website designers were expensive, they weren’t. It’s just that, like shopping, when you add up all the different product elements, the total makes you cough a bit.

The Design

Some of our clients instantly become experts in copywriting after they’ve engaged us to do their copywriting. It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed before.
Well, I suddenly became an expert in web design. It was clever of me really, without any training or experience I became more expert in design than our long-suffering designers. I fiddled, I suggested, I offered specious advice about fonts and positioning, I consulted other designers (who I hadn’t entrusted with my money) about the ‘flaws’ in the design.
After a few tears, too many glasses of wine and wringing my hands a bit, I turned to my very sensible son (he must take after his father) who said: Don’t listen to other designers, they will always find flaws and faults and they will be negative and you will lose faith in your designers. Go back to the designers and tell them what you would like changed and see if it works. And, realise, that you don’t know everything and what may look ‘wrong’ to you is perfectly fine for your audience because – after all – you’re not an expert in web design” (Well, I did something right). You’re paying for expert advice – take it. 

Thank you Beena and Nupur at Blazing Designs. We made it.