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This blog post is a personal bugbear of mine when it comes to people working in the digital industry and with technology. The scenario generally plays out as follows;

 

Client: “We’ve seen this really amazing flashy whoosh thing on {insert big brand website here} and we want you to do this on our website“

Or

Client: “I’ve had this amazing idea, hear me out, {insert the craziest wackiest idea you can imagine that is trying to do something non-website related on a website}

Digital Person / Agency: “Sure, we can look to do that. What a great idea.”…. They then scramble off to talk about how they go about doing this. Internal discussions, questions on Stack Overflow or Facebook WordPress groups or other digital groups before rushing into implementing this idea as quickly as possible to please the client.

 

This is such a destructive attitude to take and one which not only shows your lack of understanding about the digital world but also the lack of confidence the client has in you to recommend the right solutions. In my experience, whenever a client asks us these similar questions on a regular basis we put a halt to their thought process straight away and get to the bottom of what they are actually trying to achieve.

What do they actually want? When a client comes to you with a solution to their idea, they often haven’t shared with you their initial idea in the first place. It is your job as a digital expert to get to the bottom of what they actually want before blindly jumping into delivering a preconceived solution. I can guarantee that if you just blindly implement what the client wants, you will end up in a very sticky situation further down the line which will result in the client blaming you for implementing their ideas which were ultimately flawed. It is your responsibility as a digital expert to help the client turn their ideas into realities by using the best possible solution for their needs.

To name just a few real world situations recently to highlight this point and why you should not just blindly implement what the client wants. Below are several examples when digital people have been asking us advice on how to implement various requirements from their clients and haven’t had the guts to tell the client no;

  • Requirement: Client wants to use WordPress as an intranet (which is certainly possible), and they want to have a directory structure like they see on their computer so it’s easy to find files to use.
  • Why this is a bad idea: WordPress doesn’t work like this. Dropbox and other cloud based document sharing facilities do. Don’t go re-inventing the wheel. Tell the client why their solution isn’t the best setup for their requirements and keep telling them until they understand and agree. Blindly trying to implement this kind of file directory style setup in WordPress is just going to cause problems in the long run.
  • Requirement: Client wants to use this fancy font from Photoshop on their website. So we implemented this as an image for all headers. Now they’ve said they want to translate their website. How do we go about this?
  • Why this is a bad idea: Sorry, things now have to be rebuilt correctly. Images should have never been used for headings as they don’t work very well on mobile devices, aren’t SEO friendly and don’t work from a translations point of view. Not to mention the inherent challenges around which browsers support which fonts on different devices etc. Keep things simple.
  • Requirement: Client wants to use their AOL account to send emails from their WordPress website but the emails keep going into people’s spam folders.
  • Why this is a bad idea: Emails aren’t meant to be used like this, particularly AOL accounts. Seriously, who still has an AOL account? As a business owner you need to be using suitable email technologies and when sending emails from web applications, there are specific technical aspects that need configuring to get this working correctly.

 

You get the drift. Blindly implementing requests from clients is a fool’s game. If you are working in the digital industry, please, stop doing this. Instead, take a step back whenever a request comes through and start to think strategically about what they are ultimately trying to achieve and what the best solutions truly are.

Every single website is restrained in some way based on the web hosting setup, the technologies in use, the frameworks that are used and lots of other moving parts. You cannot simply implement something that you’ve seen on one website into another website without fully understanding the technical implications of what this means. Don’t go re-inventing the wheel and quite frankly if the idea the client has come up with is hair brained, tell them, it will save you endless problems in the future. Start to recommend the best solutions based on their requirements instead of simply blindly implementing everything they want.

Remember, the client often has no idea about the finer details of the technical and digital world. All they often see is the visual side of things and don’t understand what goes into creating functional, scalable and reliable systems that are capable of growing with them. We get a lot of work coming through to us when people have gone down this route in the past, with clients working with digital people and agencies who have blindly implemented what they wanted, only to then by told by us that everything needs rebuilding. Hey, I can’t complain, this generates a lot of work for us, but let’s be honest, from a client’s perspective they are paying, two, three or four times for things when digital people keep implementing everything they want blindly and wondering why things aren’t working for them.

Managing client projects is actually relatively simple. Assume they know nothing and question everything that they say. Start to really get to the bottom of what they are looking for, then use this information with your knowledge and expertise to recommend suitable solutions. Please, stop blindly implementing what clients want. In the meantime, we’ll happily keep picking up failed projects and getting thing working correctly. It’s what we’re best at.

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Michael Cropper

Founder & Managing Director at Contrado Digital Ltd
Michael founded Contrado Digital in 2013. He has experience working with national and multi-national brands in a wide range of industries, helping them achieve awesome results. Michael regularly speaks at local universities and industry events while keeping up with the latest trends in the digital industry.