Webmaster Secrets

Clients Always Say… Webmaster Secret #2

“I want a clean and simple looking website.” Another thing they say, but which means different things to different people. I’ve had dozens of clients say this, and you never quite know WHAT they mean by it. Here are some translations:

1. I want lots of white space.

2. I want a design with a white background and very simple accents.

3. I want a design with sharp edges, no shadows, no background graphics.

4. I want a design that has very little navigation.

Now, usually they mean just one of those things, sometimes more than one. But every client means something different when they say it, and if you assume they mean the same thing you do, you’ll strike out on the first attempt.

A clean design means their interpretation of order and simplicity. Sometimes that conflicts with the needs of their site – it is increasingly common to have a client who needs an incredibly complex site with multi-layers, to want only a single navigation bar, or for someone with a combination infosite and cart to want a two column layout with big boxes and large text. They simply do not realize how much space things take, and that if you want to put hundreds of things into a site, you have to have a place to put it all.

Sometimes good site organization, using multiple menus in uncluttered ways for sites with a lot of content is the key to making it appear simpler than it really is.

Achieving a “clean” look, then, becomes a blend of understanding what the client means, and working with their needs to balance what they want, with what they actually need.

It ain’t always easy… But it is usually possible to achieve a satisfactory result.

Clients Always Say… Webmaster Secret #1

“I just want a simple website.” They almost all say that. But they rarely mean it. This is not a negative thing against clients, rather, just an attempt to explain one of the psychological oddities you run into over and over as a webmaster. Understanding this can help you gauge a client’s needs more accurately, and to not make assumptions that will cause you to get it wrong.

They say it because:

1. They don’t understand what they really need to promote their business. Many business owners still think they just need one page.

2. They want to make sure you understand that it is a small budget project. Almost a subconscious manipulation tactic, if they can make you believe they only need something simple, maybe you won’t charge a lot. They tend to say this even when what they need is really very complex.

3. It looks simple because many other sites have it. They have no way of knowing what went into those other sites, or how complex many things really are. “Simple” to them means that they see it enough that they think that it has to be commonly and cheaply available – though this is often not true online.

So when a client comes to you and says, “I really just need a SIMPLE little website.”, don’t start pricing and planning until you find out what they really need, and do some education about what works online, and what does not.

Because almost every client says it – but only a small fraction actually know whether they mean what they say or not.

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