There are a lot of design firms out there who do great work, and I always wonder, what makes a firm and a client “click” and, what makes a client “stick”?
I feel that building a rapport with a client is much like trying to build a friendship with someone from another culture. As people, we all have things in common and yet there are communication gaps that need to be bridged when two people or groups of people from different backgrounds are trying to find a solution to a common task. In the case of a web design firm it starts with trying to understand what the client is looking for both in the appearance and functionality of their website, followed by trying to find the most effective and efficient way to make that happen.
Often times, a client will get what they want from the firm at the end of what is a long and arduous process of iterations and churn which is frustrating not just for the client but for the design firm as well. One thing we have always focused on at Monkee-Boy is how best to streamline the communication process so that a minimal amount of hours are spent going back and forth trying to understand what needs to be done.
A process such as this needs cooperation and patience from both ends of the equation – for the people doing the work to walk the client through the basics of what it takes to design and build a website and to clearly communicate to the client the things that would really help them do this as efficiently as possible – and for the client to take the time to understand what is needed from them and to respect and comply with these requests as far as is reasonable.
In my considerable experience of interacting and working with a wide range of clients, I find that a majority are more than willing to do anything that will help reduce expense dissipated via wasted hours of needless churn, and that they are also willing to make the time to understand what this takes.
Not only does this exchange drive the firm to do their very best, but also leaves the client satisfied that their billable hours have been very well utilized. Also, it is a constant learning process for both parties involved. Our clients have always helped us learn and evolve – every time we are faced with a request that we have not tackled before – just as someone from a different culture helps you discover new facets to yourself and helps to constantly expand what you think are your boundaries.
To illustrate with a simple example: this past week, I had to look for a solution that would reduce the size of a print-resolution PDF file without compromising the quality of the images, and without the help of Adobe Acrobat’s ‘PDF Optimizer’ functionality. I discovered that if you open the PDF file in the program it was created, select “Print” and choose “Adobe PDF” as your printer, it does exactly this. I was able to shrink a 6+ MB PDF into a 140KB one with minimal loss in quality. There are other designers who might have already known this, but in my case it was a client’s request that pushed me to look for an alternate solution. I learned something new, and was able to deliver what the client needed.