Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 11

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 05/13/2021 - 10:18
Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 11

The last area in which you must manage client expectations to enable a successful long-term outcome from a webdev project is what will happen post-launch.

The unfortunate fact is that, despite all precautions, websites can get hacked. If you’re not going to be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of your client’s site, protect all the work you put into building it by making sure they know:

  • In most cases, hackers usually want to deface a site with activist messaging or simply embarrassing content, just to prove they can. But some will use hacking to launch and cloak nefarious activities.
  • A site that has been hacked can be rescued, but that’s an expensive, too-long process. A hacked site can be disastrous where Google rankings are concerned. Real damage can be done to the client’s business and reputation in the meantime. It’s far better to be proactive about keeping it safe in the first place.
  • All CMS software must be kept up to date to prevent security loopholes from being exploited, and HTML-based sites must constantly be monitored for hacking by proven site security software and/or security monitoring service.
  • Who’s in charge of their security/CMS updates. (If your company will be responsible, agree on monthly or annual maintenance fees.)

As we stated in an earlier post, a successful website is never “finished.” It’s a living cyber-representation of the client’s business.

  • The client should commit to keeping its site up to date with news—either via an inhouse or contracted content editor—or by you, if content is designated as part of a maintenance contract.
  • Training for the CMS should be costed into project, if someone in their organization will be responsible for that task.
  • If it’s an HTML-based site, that means it’s likely large and complex enough to warrant hiring someone whose only job is maintaining the site.

A website is subject to Laws of The Land, and the client should be aware of these. Some include:

  • Website accessibility recommendations for physically challenged users
  • U.S. requirements for Terms of Use and corporate transparency statements
  • U.K. GDPR compliance, regarding the use of cookies 

Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 10

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 05/06/2021 - 11:54
Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 10

Regardless how wonderful your execution is of their website development, the relationship can sour due to a lack of expectation management on the back end. Most often, this scenario can be brought about by technical issues.

Since this is an area largely unknown and therefore misunderstood by many clients, make a special effort to get out in front of any such landmines. Here are some major ones you should be aware of regarding a new website launch:

Even after a successful launch, sometimes websites go down for reasons beyond anyone’s control. Be prepared by:

  • Finding out who hosts the client’s existing site (if there is one), and getting contact details for their tech support
  • Making it clear to the client that site hosting is a separate function from site development. Be sure they understand that hosting fees are a recurring annual charge and will need to be monitored and ensured that they are paid by someone in the client’s organization. You may, alternatively, offer that your firm will continue managing all aspects of the site on a paid annual contract, if you offer such services.

It may be that you’ll need to make a domain transfer, which can sometimes go off the rails if their current domain manager is miffed about losing the business and isn’t inclined to be cooperative about enabling the changeover.

  • Make sure the client understands that, in this process, you’re largely at the mercy of the registrar and possibly someone who’s currently managing their domain.
  • Get contact details for the current domain registrar’s tech support, and find out who currently controls their domain.
  • Let the client know that domain registration is also a recurring annual charge, and will either be someone in their organization's responsibility, or that your company can continue managing all aspects of the site, if you offer that service.

If the client’s email accounts are embedded in their current web hosting account, their email could possibly go down for 24-48 hours. Prepare them for this possibility, then:

  • Find out who controls current email accounts within your client’s organization, and get contact details for that person.
  • Ascertain how many email accounts the client currently has, and whether or not they will need more.
  • Ask if they require a VPN, which may mean you have to configure a different email server entirely.

Make sure the client is aware that a public website launch doesn’t just happen all at once. Explain that several processes are going on to enable the launch, and sometimes—after all the buttons are pressed on your end—it’s a matter of being patient and waiting until the site propagates to the Web.

  • Understand that “going live” is not the same as “launched.” Going live happens when those responsible for user testing can access it as needed, launch is when it becomes “real”—ready for anyone to use, for the public to see and respond to, for the marketing department to use as an active tool.
  • Decide what expectations are for the launch from all parties, and agree among you what constitutes “launched.”
  • Agree on what activities will be undertaken around the launch—news releases, a related blog post, social media notifications—and make sure they are properly timed to allow for this lag. 


Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 9

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 04/29/2021 - 10:44
Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 9

Regardless what is agreed upon in the interim deadline establishment, there will inevitably be changes to the creative brief, which can happen for any number of reasons. These should be communicated with timings considered and costs agreed upon in electronic form. Email or via your chosen project management software is best. Texts are too easily lost or overlooked.

This is the point in the project where things can get tricky. Here are a few landmines to be aware of:

  • Expect Evolution – As a creative, you may not realize that some people have difficulty visualizing things that don’t yet exist. Most people don’t really know what kind of website they want until they see it starting to take shape. Then they get ideas, and want you to implement them. This is fine, but remind them that they must agree which is the priority: More/better features and functionality, or budget.
  • Avoid Incremental Scope Creep – No Favors. If the client wants to control costs, you must all agree on a scope of work, then stick to it. But any additional work performed outside the original project scope (this is why it’s important to have it in writing) will be charged out, agreed upon and accountable. The closer any changes occur to the beginning of the project, the less costly they will be, because they affect less other work that’s already been done. 

Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 8

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 04/22/2021 - 10:07
Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 8

Having established a good system to track deliverables in your webdev project, ‘milestone’ dates for interim deliverables should be agreed upon.

You’ll need to communicate to the client that missing any milestone date for supplying initial content or adding new content will have an impact on launch commitments and costs. Both of you have businesses to run, and your schedule depends on them holding up there end of the bargain. If you have to shuffle personnel from one project to another and/or pull in help off of other projects, there’s a cost to those delays that the client will have to bear.

The best way to make sure major milestone dates are met is to set interim deadlines for each portion of the work. These would include setting dates for:

  • Initial content delivery
  • Site Architecture approval
  • Site Functionality approval
  • Site Design approval
  • Draft site internal “go live”
  • Site Owner and User Testing
  • Public site launch

Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 7

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 04/15/2021 - 11:23
Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 7

Last time, we discussed the importance of establishing the content creation process for your clients webdev project. Once that’s out of the way, the next challenge to keeping clients happy with a smooth process becomes tracking all those elements.

Asset Tracking & Management

You’ll need to create a content gathering platform that works for the client and your creative staff. Without such a system, the entire process can go off the rails: Email gets lost. Attachments get lost. Version control becomes a nightmare.

Google Docs is a free and ubiquitous tool, but you’ll need to decide if it’s adequate to the project’s needs. As a text processor, it can work okay, but doesn’t track changes as well as Microsoft Word.

It might be time to explore asset tracking and management tools. There are many out there, most now available as SaaS or subscription platforms. You’ll want one that allows for meta tagging, categorization and adequate titling. Your particular needs may vary. Let’s look at a few possibilities:

  • Gather Content is a low-end platform that works fairly well.
  • Flowmapp is a user journey designer that can be used to prototype content.
  • You can find other, more sophisticated Digital Asset Management (DAM) tools online. Here are places to look for free and open source products. Freemium and paid tools can be found here.


Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 6

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 04/08/2021 - 11:21
Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 6

Client expectation management must be done at all points along the way in the long webdev process. Content and functionality provide two potential friction points. To head them off, a sitemap needs to be developed based on client input. This is usually part of the wireframing process. The client needs to specify any specific functionality required at the outset, before the sitemap is completed, since some of that functionality may affect how pages are built and linked.

One of the stickiest points in the webdev process, responsible for much client dissatisfaction, is the lack of clear understanding by both parties about how content will be created. Clearly, content basic points should be supplied by the client—the expert in their field—in a form that can be easily used. But the devil is in the details from there on.

To begin with, you must get the client to supply all text, photographs and video in electronic format. If they can’t or don’t know how to do that, have your project manager work with their liaison to find a resource to help them.

To make things clearer for everyone, you’ll need to ascertain and make all parties involved aware of:

Text Content

  • Who is supplying the text?
  • In what Web-ready format?
  • How will it get to your copywriter?

Image & Video Content

  • Who is supplying the images?
  • In what Web-ready format?
  • Will they require any editing?
  • If so, who will be responsible for that?

What method or tool do you have to capture and track these assets? 

Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 5

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 04/01/2021 - 11:16
Managing WebDev Client Expectations, Part 5

One difficulty in managing client expectations of a webdev project is not knowing the level of experience, understanding and sophistication the client has around how websites are actually built, and—most importantly—what can realistically be expected from a CMS tool and Internet technology itself.

A specific point of friction may be the fact that it’s prohibitively expensive to create a site that will look the same in all browsers. Most clients are likely not aware of this limitation of browser and display technology.

Aside from simply making them aware of it before development begins, there are a few tactics that can be used to minimize the difference in site appearance from one browser to the next:

  • Ensure that the client is aware websites look different than on paper, as well.
  • Specify which resolution / screen size the website should be designed to.
  • Specify a fixed width or responsive layout.
  • Inform the client which browser versions you support.
  • Ensure that the client is aware of website font restrictions or recommendations, and web page download considerations.


Managing Client Expectations, Part 4

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 03/25/2021 - 11:10
Managing Client Expectations, Part 4

Now let’s take a look at “hard” costs of a webdev project. These are the most easily controlled and understood pricing concepts. 

  • Web Design Costs. These are dependent on how many hours are spent working on a design, and how many times the client asks for changes to it. Take the time up front to explain to the best of your ability all the things that can affect this.  

  • Show the client your portfolio. These are the types of sites you build. Do they like them? 

  • What do they want? Has the client supplied examples of the sort of site they are looking for? 

  • GIGO – Ensure the client knows you can quote for a job only on the information you have available to you at the time. 

  • Estimate a cost for the project, based on reviewed client requirements.  

  • Valued, but appropriately. Ensure the client knows you are costing the job by hours worked, and remind them that you do have other clients. 

  • Keep that “paper trail.” Ask the client to send you an email notifying his acceptance of the project scope and cost. Make sure all your costs are approved before starting a job (remember VAT for overseas clients). 

  • Half & Half – Get 50% of total job costs before project start, and the balance on completion.  


Managing Client Expectations, Part 3

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 03/18/2021 - 16:54
Managing Client Expectations, Part 3

Last time, we acknowledged the essential disconnect between the way most folks expect a webdev process to go, and the way it actually ends up going. Here are the components that cause this schism: 

  • Waterfall: How purchasing departments do things. In this straightforward, pragmatic worldview (held by most business people), they say, “Here’s what we want. Here’s the budget and the timeline. Make something.” But nearly limitless creative options and shifting priorities over the course of the project upend that approach almost immediately.  

  • AGILE: Iterate and optimize. This is how most creative people work. We try one thing, find it doesn’t work as well as we’d like, so we try something else based on what we’ve already learned. It’s probably the least efficient and cost-effective approach, but it’s consistently the one that creates the best results because it gets tested against reality the moment its results exist. 

  • Self-Awareness: If you're better at the Agile approach—and most creatives are—you’ll do well working in two-week sprints, then having the client review and request revisions on what you've done. Meanwhile, you’re building the first iteration of what started from the sitemap and wireframe. 


Managing Client Expectations, Part 2

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 03/11/2021 - 16:52
Managing Client Expectations, Part 2

Continuing to look at the “soft” considerations of webdev project pricing, we must acknowledge that most people don’t have the first idea about how a site dev process works: 

  • Creative Variables. By their nature, software projects are unique. You can’t receive a creative brief, go away for six months and come back with a good finished product. That's just not how it works. Make sure the client realizes this and is in it for the long haul as an engaged partner in the site development.  
  • All engineers are optimists. Site developers are engineers of a sort. They are inclined to say, regardless of what they’re asked, “Oh, yeah. We can knock this out in a few days.” Then suddenly, you can end up with six months of development work based on what gets discovered in those first few days. 

  • Essential disconnect. The fact is that there is an essential schism between the way most folks expect the webdev process to go, and the way it actually ends up going. We’ll discuss that in more depth in the next post.