prototype of a web design
Making clients rely on you for what should be easy website changes is a sure-fire way to ruin your working relationship PHOTO: Rawpixel

You’ve been brought in to design a website for a client. You take the time to do it right, modeling the content, understanding the strategy and goals for the site, and working closely with their team to make sure the resulting design is technically possible on their selected web content management system.

You deliver a polished website that suits your client's current needs. But did you set your client up for success? 

Too often, a design can be brilliant, but also rigid. As the market shifts and the organization grows, the site requires more and more technical help to make what should be minor changes. It is more important than ever that as you help your clients prepare for success today, you also prepare them for success tomorrow.

The One Constant Is Change

The one thing we can all depend on is the rapid pace of change. New technology is released. Regulations, and the political environments that create them, are continually evolving. Organizations are having to shift constantly to stay in front. That means always being ready for change.

With every change, there is the primary work and the secondary work. When creating a new product, the primary work involves developing the product, supporting services and education for staff. Secondary efforts involve updating marketing material, contracts, employee skills tracking and financial tracking. Given the rapid shifts in the market, the importance of these changes being simple updates to a framework rather than a rework of the underlying systems, both technical and procedural, cannot be understated.

Clever, But Rigid Design

When it comes to implementing a web design, developers are often too clever for their own good. They break things down into components that, when assembled, create the website of your dreams. The problem is that what makes sense to a developer won’t make sense to a content creator, or sometimes even another developer.

Let’s look at those product offerings. A developer could create a mechanism where the parent product page assembles itself from the content of the children products. Dynamic page creation is great until the client wants to set a priority order. Now things can’t be dynamic unless you built prioritization in from the beginning.

Many would say that it is an easily fixed problem requiring only a couple of developer hours. But little changes like these can quickly add up. When a client is unable to make changes themselves because the technical design is not obvious, or they do not have the skill, simple changes can become hurdles to success.

Prepare Clients (and Yourself) for Success

When building a website, or any system, assume everyone working at the organization the day it goes live will be gone in a year. Ask yourself, what would enable their replacements to effectively manage change? Are they able to make changes to all the content and effectively add or remove content objects without destroying the design?

This requires documentation and a flexible design. Sure, if a consulting services firm decides to start selling products, they will need significant work done. They may need to bring you back to model the new content types and determine how they fit into the website’s flow. But if they simply want to add, remove or rename content objects, pages or navigation links, you need to make that easy.

This isn’t just a plea to be kind to your clients: This is a strategy for keeping them. When clients have to call you for what should be simple changes, they will eventually tire of the process and cost. Before you know it, their next request will be to some other firm for a website they can maintain and evolve themselves.

Empower your clients to evolve without you, so when they do have another growth spurt, you are the first one they call.