Browsing articles tagged with "client-relations Archives | april.holle.blog"
May
18

Self-Inflicted Undue Pressure

I’ve been speaking to several colleagues lately within the web design community, and I’ve come to a harsh realization. I think that as a whole, our industry creates it’s own self-inflicted pressure with deadlines and customer relations.

Granted, some customers can come into the relationship wanting the impossible, but often, with a little enlightenment, customers can grasp how Rome cannot be built within a week. But I feel often, instead of investing in this conversation, we instead push ourselves to build things quicker, faster, and cheaper.

Sometimes we can just have a simple conversation with our clients, and often they’ll be totally accepting of our need for more time to create the desired product. Many times when I talk to a client, they themselves are not prepared for the product to be finished, they don’t have the content ready yet, they still need to gather all their product photos, etc.

Why do we tend to forgo these honest conversations that can strengthen our client relations and really give us a better working relationship in the long run? Is it our need for deadlines? Perhaps our procrastinative nature drives us to seek this adrenaline rush that is the last-minute push? Maybe a way to curb our creative natures that drive us to constantly expand the scope of possibilities for the project?

This issue has always frustrated me, why push ourselves to slam something out when there’s always more time to work? Sure, things have to get done, but does the quality of work have to suffer? We quit trying to achieve the best possible, and start undercutting to hit some date that really isn’t anything more than a spec of time in the span of the universe.

So I thought I’d toss it out there and see what you guys thought, why do we do this to ourselves?

Mar
11

SXSW Day 1 – Respect Panel

Alright so I thought that I’d have time between sessions and parties to really capture everything I’ve done while I was at my first SXSW, unfortunately, that was not the case. However! I took really great notes, so sit back and relax as I tell my story of one girl, one conference and thousands of geeks with great ideas.

I packed, I got into a cab, I stood in security, I boarded, I flew, I landed, what now? Taxi! Hopped in and jetted over to my hotel, while my room wasn’t quite ready I got to check in and have them hold my baggage which was nice. Stayed at the Radisson, which was alright, but next year I’ll definitely be staying at the OMNI, it’s just more… well… COOL. Anyhow, off to the conference!

Walking down to the conference center I’m already spotting people with SXSW badges and gear rolling down the street. The conference center was swarming with geeky peeps all excited and not quite sure what to do or where to go yet. Instantaneously greeted by the Integrumlins hacking in the halls already working on some new inspired SXSW twitter application. I am directed to the check in line, which spans AROUND the corner of the conference center, estimated wait time, 40 minutes. Vaguely reminded of college registration, I step in line and begin my journey to check in. The line moved surprisingly quickly and before I knew it I had a new shiny badge and my very own SXSW bag of swag.

Met back up with the integrum peeps and proceeded to elimnate about 98% of the paper products in the swag bag, poor trees!  Chilled for a bit before the first session, Respect! by featuring team members of Happy Cog and Douglas Bowman of Google.

Respect!

The main premise of the panel was how to gain respect in our careers, from our colleagues and our clients, by developing concepts on how we can translate what we do in a way they can understand and respect it, as well as interpreting the value of what we do.

The Client

The important message here is getting the client to understand what exactly goes into the process of great web design. As Jason Santa Maria put it, “[It’s] difficult to respect something I don’t understand, you have to get what went into it to respect it.”  To have the client get what gets into it, you have to involve them early, letting the client draw and express what they really would like to get out of the website and giving them ownership of ideas, making them part of the process of initial strategy.

Having all the right research of what the client really needs is important. Happy Cog conducts extensive client research, going into their client’s office and really discussing with everyone regarding what they really need. “It’s the tipping point when you’re in individual meetings and they go to shut the door, you know they’re going to open up to you and trust you”, Liz Danzico stated, “creating an understanding with them that they find valuable.” If you feel you usually don’t have time to really get to know the client and their needs, start to make time within your proposals.

Another way you can gain client respect for you and the work you do is to not nickel and dime them on small changes and corrections. It’s awesome that the client wants to make it perfect, just make sure you’re consulting them through the process.

Also, when you help clients through the process remind them of the WHOLE process and what they’re doing right now at this very step. We sometimes forget that clients don’t have the website on their minds at all times, they have other business issues to worry about as well, how the company is doing, if they have to hire or fire, what about those health benefits their employees want? So remember that while their website might be forefront in your mind, they have other things going on and they need you to remind them what they’re doing in the web design process and why it’s important to the website.

Also be aware of how web savvy your client is. If they’re pretty good at knowing the small stuff, don’t be lazy, use that to your advantage by being able to teach and push their knowledge farther regarding some of the more advanced techniques that are involved. Remember, understanding is the key to respect.

Copy is one thing, visual representation can be the sticking point in a client relationship. “Visual representation is VERY personal” Jeff mentioned. Happy Cog gave us some solutions on how to get over this extreme hurdle in the relationship unscathed by giving the client two completely seperate solutions to their problems offering them up as “this says this about you, that says that about you” Jeffrey Zeldman recommended. Jason Santa Maria suggested “have the client focus on the problems rather than solutions” since the solutions are your specialty and your clients problems are their specialty. This gives the client a feeling that you’re holding the keys and they have to consult you on “the best way” to achieve a solution.

Awards

Jeffrey raised the question regarding awards and whether awards really  provide any metric to our clients regarding how good we are at our jobs. The panel concluded that while awards may have some impact as a metric on how clients respect you, that it’s both small and perhaps deceptive since there are so many awards out there that don’t really attest to great web design at all.

Within the Team

Within your team it’s important to have a certain amount of respect as well. To do this the panelists suggested to make sure everyone on the team was somewhat cross trained or familiar with what each staff member contributes to the project and how their job is also vital to the project completion and success. As said before, it’s hard to respect something your teammates may not fully understand.

Other Interesting Thoughts

I found that during the course of this years conference a reoccuring theme appeared with content collection and creation, lots of shops are demanding content be provided before the design process ever begins, which is great because we’re shifting focus from the aesthetics to the real reason the web began in the first place, CONTENT!

Happy Cog team members also stressed the importance of good content, they make actual editorial documents regarding the voice and use of the content throughout the site to really define and bring life to the brand. Also, the content needs to really be informative, as Jeffrey cautioned, “Sites [are] reading too marketing and not enough web.”

Overall a very interesting session and a great way to start off the conference. I’ll be posting more take aways from more sessions as I have the time today and tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled. 🙂 Now I have to hop in the shower for the last day of exciting SXSW action!

Dec
1

Lots to Do This Week

I just wanted to make sure you were invited to all the awesome web and design happenings this week in Phoenix!

Tues, Dec 4th – Refresh Phoenix

Refresh Phoenix meets every first Tuesday of the month to discuss current internet issues and trends. The topics range from becoming your own boss to css frameworks to make your work more efficient. This month the topic is results from the 2007 Web Design Survey that was put out by A List Apart. This should be a very interesting conversation since there really has never been a survey of the internet industry.

When: Tuesday, December 4th 6:30 – 9:30 pm (come early to get some networking in)

Where:
Inza Coffee
8658 East Shea Blvd, Scottsdale

Fri, Dec 7th – 16th Annual AIGA Art Auction

AIGA Arizona is holding it’s annual Art Auction event in Downtown Phoenix at MonOrchid Studios during December First Friday! AIGA Arizona is pleased to present over 100 original works of art (paintings, mixed media, photography, digital art, sculpture, jewelry, and more) displayed on sale in live and silent auction formats. Plus bid on a selection of special packages that include dining, entertainment and recreation. This year’s art auction will also feature the Mohawk Show.

When: Friday, December 7th 6-10 pm

Where:
MonOrchid Studios
214 E. Roosevelt Street, Phoenix

Sat, Dec 8th – BarCamp Phoenix

BarCamp is an ad-hoc un-conference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees. All attendees must give a demo, a session, or help with one. This is great because you can both speak and be an audience member.

When: Friday, December 8th 9 am – 5 pm

Where:
University of Advancing Technology (UAT)
2625 W. Baseline Road, Tempe

Nov
2

The Long Wow: Keep Your Clients Coming Back

I subscribe to the Adaptive Path newsletter, and I suggest you do as well if you’re interested in user experience in the slightest. I’ve continously enjoyed the articles they write regarding users and how to keep them around.

The most recent article was The Long Wow by Brandon Schauer, an experience design director for Adaptive Path.

The Long Wow is a means to achieving long-term customer loyalty through systematically impressing your customers again and again. In other words, you have to keep up the awesome user experience all the time, not just the first time. Revising your product or service to continually introduce new features and examples of how this product can make your users lives amazing.

Brandon also explains that your common loyalty programs really don’t create customer loyalty at all. Just because you have a membership card usually isn’t the main reason you keep going back to a particular store.

For instance, I have a Basha’s discount card, a Frys discount card AND a Safeway discount card on my key chain. But I’m loyal to Safeway, but why? 50% of it I would have to say is because it’s the closest to where I live right now. 30% is the fact that I know my way around their store, I can find what I want and get in and out quickly. 10% is because I like the service there, everyone is friendly and they are helpful. 5% is because I feel that Safeway is cleaner than Frys (the next closest store) and I feel safer there. 5% is the fact that Kaleb, my boyfriend, worked for the Safeway company when he was younger. Notice the fact that I have a little card that gets me some discount doesn’t even play into that mix.

What is in the mix? Well, there’s location, ease of use, customer service, care of product, and personal connection to the brand.

So what are some new features Safeway could add to make my experience even better? Well what if they added a branch of my bank there so I could make deposits as well. Maybe they could open up another store even closer to me, since I still have to drive a distance to get to this one. Perhaps they could hire more checkers on Sunday evening since it’s always PACKED.

These types of constant user experience analysis really can make an impact on sales, marketing costs, and of course customer loyalty. Anyhow, check out the original article to read more about what Brandon and Adaptive Path have to say about this topic. 🙂

Sep
11

How to Date Your Clients and Score

So lastnight I went to AIGA Arizona’s monthly Say Anything. This month’s topic was, “How to Date Your Clients and Score.” The presenting speaker was Brian Drake and Arthur Milano of Brian Drake Design Illustration, who hosts the monthly get together.

 Brian takes a personal approach to business, and draws several takes from his personal dating experience to succeed. Brian opened with this simple remark, “Successful business isn’t businesses talking to businesses, it’s people talking to people.” Brian went on to talk about how he has personal relationships with each and every client he has. He knows when their kids birthdays are, if they’re getting divorced, or if thier dog dies. “I never call to talk about business, I always call just to check up on them, like a friend.” He said that this is what makes his company successful at closing deals, big 6 and 7-figure deals.

An audience member asked, “What if the client isn’t into that type of personal relationship?” Brian and Arthur simply replied, “Then they’re not right for us.” Brian went on to say, “It’s just like a passionate relationship, You don’t want to be with someone who just thinks you’re so-so. You want them to dig you, and if they don’t, then you’re wrong for eachother.” He went on to say, “Be excited about that moment with the client, not the future or the executable.”

Brian and Arthur also discussed the word “vendor” and why they don’t use it, or want people to describe them as such. Arthur said, “Vendors sell hot dogs, we are suppling a valuable service.” Brian piped in, “If your client calls you thier vendor, you’ve done something wrong with that personal relationship. The word vendor implies that you’re expendable, that you’re not a valuable asset.”

While personal relations are great, Brian also warns to make sure you’re staying in touch with the score, “Always ask if this relationship is good for me, and is it good for them as well.” Arthur stepped in to say, “We care about the clients success, not just about the money or deadlines, this builds trust, and with trust work goes well.” Trust goes a long way, it makes a committment between the client and yourself to make both businesses successful.

Brian and Arthur switched gears to talk about how thier partnership in thier company. Arthur said, “Brian is the Yin for my Yang, everything I’m not so great at he excels and vise versa.” Brian went on to talk about how it’s important to have a second person to bounce ideas off of. He also spoke about how to hire. “Always hire people who are better than you. Surround yourself with people who are successful.” Brian and Arthur aren’t just personal with thier clients, they also carry that vibe into thier own company. Arthur commented, “Your job effects your life, if you don’t get paid, you can’t pay your bills, that effects YOU. Your work is PERSONAL.”

I really enjoyed the approach Brian and Arthur take with thier business. I think we worry too much about the bottom line sometimes and forget about the people our work effects.

However, being a front end architect in a company I really don’t interact with our clients, however I feel the my project managers are my client. I can then take these “dating” perspectives and apply them to the inner workings of my company. Good relations within the project structure can make it go more smoothly, personal opinion is more respected, and everyone treats eachother as a professional and an expert at thier part.

Keep your eye out on AIGA Arizona’s website for more Say Anything events as well as other neat events.

What is this?

This little blog happens to be the personal ramblings of one April Holle - I'm female, outspoken, webbie, a community evangelist, and Principal of Made Better Studio. Check out the about section for more info.

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