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How to be a good client when working with developers

Web & Mobile

Josh Winkles wrote this article


As someone who reviews every lead that comes into Chop Dawg, I see the gamut of requests.

People who know exactly what they want.

People who want something, but can’t put their finger on it.

People who just have an idea and don’t know what to do with it.

People who want to build the next Facebook for $20.

You name it, I’ve seen it.

There is one type of email that comes up more often than I would like. That is the email about how a person has worked with someone in the past, but it wasn’t a great experience. They are hesitant to work with a development firm again because they are scarred by all of the problems they had last time.

They wonder if this time will be different or are companies like ours just a constant headache?

These are valid concerns.

No one wants to write a large check in return for endless stress and frustration. You can get enough of that in life for free!

There is a responsibility from companies to put you at ease and make the process as stress-free as possible (you can see how we do that here), but there are things you can do to make yourself a great client as well.

1) Be prepared for when you are meeting with dev firms

This goes for that initial consultation as well as any weekly or monthly meetings. Your time is valuable, and so is everyone else’s. The more prepared you are, the more efficient and effective the meeting is and the more value you get out of that time.

One piece of advice I gave to a client was to know what things you are willing to let the team decide (colors, fonts, etc.) and what things are non-negotiable and make those known up front.

I kid you not, having your thoughts and questions laid out ahead of time, having answers to previously asked questions, and being ready to make decisions can shave weeks off of a project.

2) Details. Details. Details.

You always hear that the devil is in the details, but so is the gold!

Whether it is websites or apps or branding, the details matter. We have developed a lot of great skills over our time in business, but mind-reading still evades us.

So until we can crack the code on that, developers need your help. If you have a drawing of something you want in your designs or an example of the type of font you are looking for, or even better an example of a feature you have seen in another tool that you want to include, those are invaluable in the design and development process.

It is easy to think that if you say, “I want the menu always to be visible and to be dark blue” that everyone knows exactly what you want. WRONG.

Don’t believe me?

Hold up your hand in front of someone and describe it to them. Then have them describe your hand to you. You’ll quickly see how differently you both describe the same object.

3) Ask for clarification

Have you ever been in a group conversation where everyone else is a part of the same company or profession, and they keep using all of these industry terms or acronyms? You usually just smile and nod even though you have no clue what is being said, right?

Well, we don’t recommend you do that with your projects. Ask questions.

Ask what the letters stand for or what a Laravel framework is if you think it is important.

Uncertainty around what is happening in your project starts to cultivate a sense of, “I don’t know what they are doing, so if I’m unhappy it’s their fault. They were just off working on who knows what.”

Stay an active participant in your project from start to finish. Asking questions about concept shouldn’t make you feel stupid. You don’t deal with this stuff all day. That’s why you have hired someone. A good company will explain things to you without talking down to you.

4) Keep the communication flowing

Things are going to happen. You’ll forget to review the updated wireframes before the meeting. You’ll realize you didn’t respond to that email from two weeks ago. You won’t like the first set of mockups you see.

The important thing is to keep communicating with your project team. Own the occasional mistake, and it doesn’t become a big deal. Stay silent, and that is when the tension starts… and boy does it snowball quickly.

Let me give you an example. You’ve had a busy week and didn’t get to review the mock-ups. Rather than saying that you got bogged down and didn’t finish looking at them before the meeting and maybe asking for a 30-minute delay you look quickly at them and say, “Well that’s good enough.”

You go into your meeting and approve the mock-ups. Development starts and goes for a few weeks. The team brings you back a near completed app for testing and what happens? You start noticing design issues that you really can’t live with but didn’t catch when you just gave the documents a quick glance.

You’ve spent thousands of dollars and weeks of time on something you don’t like, and there is little the team can do for you.

See what I mean?

Whether it is a client of ours or some other company, we don’t ever want them stuck in this kind of scenario.

These are just a few tips that will help you be a client that teams love to work with!

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