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Communication – a key to customer satisfaction in web development

English communicationIf you are working in the web development field you have probably come across the situation when you have created a nice new web page – it has the looks, it has the functionality, it has everything you’d wish for and most importantly everything the customer wished for but yet the customer rates it 3 out of 5 if not worse. You have put a lot of effort in creating the web and getting a good result so customer disappointment can be really frustrating not to mention bad for the business since happy customers recommend you to others and return to you whenever they need services offered by you, unhappy ones tend not to or may even spread a bad word about you. So how to avoid this – read on.

A few posts earlier I talked about written planning – the two main reasons it is important is to eliminate the risks to fail and to avoid arguments with customers on whether or not they’re getting what they paid for. OK, so you sat down together and wrote down every single little thing the web is supposed to do and are safe now on that side. But it is impossible to define what the web will have to look like. Of course you can put down the main design features like what colors should be used, whether to use top or side menus and so on but when you draw up the design solely based on that information it may look not so good to the customers eyes because tastes differ and what looks amazing to one’s eye may look appalling to other’s. A common mistake made is having the customer show you a website they like and creating a new one based on that but you want to create something new and eye catching not to copy someone else’s work and produce something you can already see all over the web. To avoid this it’s best to get the customer to do some homework and find as many webs as possible they like something about. Since people tend to be lazy by nature you have to encourage them and explain that they don’t need to create a full feature list for all the designs they find nice but make just a short list with one or two sentences about every site. For example:

www.example.com – I like the top menu on this site

www.example2.com – This page has a neat clean look

www.example3.com – The header looks smart and the usage of photo fading is great

If you get something like this it’s already a good start. Then it’s time to do some homework on your side – go through all the sites and have a look what was considered good and tasteful, try to combine the features from different sites in your mind or if you are not very talented designwise have your designer do that. After that you can go back to your customer with questions and suggestions. Now you can already put down quite a good plan on what to use and what can be discarded as not suitable with other ideas. At this point it is a good idea to compose an e-mail to the designer with as much information as possible. Include all the links with the customers initial comments, your own understanding of the comments based on discussions with the customer, the addresses of all available materials, the deadlines and everything else you have. Why an e-mail – the designer sits ten feet away from me? While IM chats and Skype/phone calls are good to discuss things not to mention face to face communication it is harder to track everything discussed later on. Things may go unnoticed or chat logging may play tricks and correcting mistakes later on is always more expensive than avoiding them.

Now that you have that plan your designer can draw a mock-up of the site to be. After such preparation it is quite probable that you can get it right or almost right with the first try. Since most projects have limited budgets it’s a good idea to show the design to the customer as often as possible to avoid having to redo large amount of work.

Don’t be afraid to make suggestions for as long as you are able to explain why some ideas are not that good and why something else might look better the customers usually take your ideas into consideration. Even though customers initially tend to have a “clear vision of what they want” they aren’t designers themselves and just putting all their ideas into a design usually results in poor designs no one will be satisfied with. All great products are born in collaboration and by the end of the day – that’s what you both are after.

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