One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with clients is determining what they want and need. Usually, some clues will be revealed during the exploratory phase of a project. But there are times when everything provided to you is unclear, leaving serious doubts in your mind.
That is not an ideal situation. If you’re not sure what a client wants, you’ll have a hard time building a website that best serves them and their users. It can also throw a big monkey wrench in your ability to progress.
Are you dealing with someone who can’t make up their mind or doesn’t know much about the process of developing a website? There are several things you can do to get the information you need. Let’s look at some ways to do that.
Read and Expand on Client Tips
When discussing a web project, there are bound to be some pertinent questions to ask. But you won’t always get the most complete answers – at least, not right away. That’s why it’s important to provide clients with some solid follow-up inquiries.
To ask an effective follow-up question, you need to listen for those little clues in the client’s response. For example, your initial question might be about the functionalities they want from a WooCommerce store. They may respond that all products will be set up the same. However, a new line of merchandise is coming out that will be a little different. The words “slightly different” are clues that you need to investigate a little more.
If you take them at their word without asking some relevant follow-up questions, you could be in for a big surprise later. Just a slight difference could mean you need to build this site with a fundamentally different approach. So, ask them about that small difference and see what it could mean for the project.
The goal is to make sure you know the full scope of how things will work. Even if you’re missing just one piece of the puzzle, it could mean having to rip things apart and start over.
Encourage a Consistent Approach
A website needs a certain level of consistency to be successful. Its design, content and functionality must come together to provide a great user experience. That’s not to say that there can’t be some variation from page to page, but things shouldn’t be too different either.
This is an area where some clients will struggle. That’s unfortunate, because it’s one of the qualities you’ll need from your client to get the best result.
Consider the areas where a consistent approach will play a key role in the development process. Customizing a content management system (CMS) like WordPress (or the decision to use a CMS at all) requires consistency. The idea behind a CMS is to make content management much easier. So, if the content and layout of the site is all over the map, it makes it much more difficult to plan and develop. The more exceptions you have to factor in, the more likely something will break down the road.
So, early in the project (before development has even started), it’s worth mentioning the importance of doing things in a consistent way. Explain that a plan for building features, as well as displaying and organizing content, will result in a site that is easier to use and more cost-effective to maintain. This is especially important for larger sites.
Another benefit is that clients may get better at communicating their needs. If they are developing content in the same way every time, it may result in a less dispersed strategy. Sometimes a little structure makes a big difference in quality.
Introducing Possible Cases
It’s never a good idea to assume you know what clients want without tangible proof. Although you can make the correct guess, there are no guarantees. It’s often a mess on your hands when things don’t look or work as expected.
This happens because the scope of our lines of communication is too general. For example, it’s one thing for your client to say you want to export data. This provides you with a basic idea. However, it is better to know exactly what data they are referring to, what format it should be in, and how they want to access it. These details are important.
This is where you could introduce some hypothetical situations into the discussion. It’s a great opportunity to find out exactly what a client’s expectations are. This will help them make the right decisions early. And it is not too difficult.
Sticking with the data export example, you might ask your client to go through what they expect during that process. Their possible explanation may lead to some follow-up questions where you both get a clearer picture of how things should work.
This puts you both on the same page. That should lead to fewer roadblocks as the project progresses.
Get to Know the Individual
The most important part of assessing a client’s needs is knowing who they are and what makes them tick. We are all individuals with our own thoughts and ideas. So, what worked for Client A might not do the trick for Client B.
All in all, it’s about applying the tips above in a way that suits the people you’re working with. Doing so can streamline the entire process and provide you with what you need to create the best website possible.
And it’s a skill you can apply over and over again. Over time, you may even notice that the design and construction processes are smoother than ever.