Spending plenty of time working with potential clients is important. Note the word potential: this is before a client has decided to sign up for a website designed and developed by me.
Websites can be very personal and clients need to verify that x is the right person for the project.
So how can this be accomplished?
Well, each client is different, as is each website project. A constant is that both parties need to establish some common ground. This comes about by discussion (by ‘phone or by email – I prefer the latter but do both), and the obvious topic for discussion is websites:
- in the client’s own area of business, which websites does he/she like?
- which websites doesn’t he/she like?
- what aspects of these sites do/don’t work for them?
Exchanges along these lines are pretty ‘safe’: neither of us needs to stray too far from our comfort zones (the client talking about their business specialism, me talking about websites).
Once the discussion moves from the general to the particular, it’s easier to make specific points. This is fundamental to tuning in to a client’s preferences. Some clients know more or less how they want their website to be structured, its layout, its appearance. Others are less certain. Tuning in to these differences is essential.
The information flow can work both ways. Clients can sometimes find it valuable to ask me what I think of sites X and Y. Visually-appealing site X may be a disaster in terms of search engines, whereas site Y is plain, search-engine friendly and perfectly accessible. There’s more to websites than meets the eye and clients appreciate an introduction into some of these finer points.
Brief discussion about 3 or 4 websites might be all it takes for me to appreciate someone’s key individual preferences. It may also be all it takes for a potential client to decide that I am (or even am not!) the right person to work on their website. I’m happy to engage with potential clients in this way – without them being under any obligation.