How to be a good client for your web agency

Zeal Media tell us what it means to be a good client.

The relationship between web development agency and client can be a tricky one. I’d be lying (as would any agency owner) if I said every single project had run 100% according to plan.

good client zeal media

Luckily we’ve always got there in the end and delivered something both we and the client are proud of but I have to admit to a few moments of utter frustration and head banging on both sides.

Fundamentally, clients are not web designers or developers – so understandably they are entering a world where PHP, CSS and HTML mean very little to them. We as an agency spend a huge amount of time upfront ensuring that the client understands and knows as much as they want to. Some clients want to learn it all, some don’t have time and just want the finished product. Either way it’s the agency’s responsibility to communicate extremely clearly so the clients understand exactly what is happening, by when and why. The agency also have to take responsibility for listening to the client’s needs but also inputting their own specialist knowledge to do the best possible job. We’ve had clients before who have requested things that go against best practice so we take the time to understand why they want that and then suggest a different route.

Whilst the agency are the ones doing the invoicing I truly believe that in order for the client to get the most out of the agency they too should take some responsibility and work on the relationship to ensure happy ever after. Below are some of the top things to do to ensure you are delivered what you want, on time and on budget!

Give a good brief

The brief should be something you spend a decent amount of time on. Not just what you want but why you want it. It should detail what are “must haves” and what are “nice to haves”. It should have all stake holders inputs, but be collated by one voice. It should be concise yet detailed, whilst allowing the agency to have some creative freedom. It should give examples and it should be quantifiable: “we want it to be magical but factual” is not a helpful brief. It should have key dates and budget expectations. Writing a good brief is not easy but this effort invested up-front will help you identify what it is that you actually want.

Be a good listener

I’m assuming you’ve chosen your agency well. They pitched, showed they understood your business, proved themselves with previous experience and were all-round trustworthy people. You’re paying them because they are specialists. You’re paying them because they can do something you can’t. So listen to them if they say that a butterfly following the cursor around is a bad idea, and no you really shouldn’t have a “no scrolling” website. If you’ve chosen well they will have a level of understanding of user behaviour that you may not – listen to what they say! You may not decide to take all of it on board but it will be worth considering.

Give us your undivided attention

As you start the project with your appointed agency, you’ll likely compile a Specification Document together – this is super important. It should detail exactly what you are paying for, what’s included and more importantly what’s not. It’s the agency’s responsibility to go through this with you in detail and explain it in a way that you understand – but as the client you need to really be on the ball with this one. This document should cover you to ensure all your needs are met and it should also cover the agency to ensure they don’t quote for a Mini and then expect a Ferrari on delivery. To be brutally honest, these meetings can be tedious and hard work. Do them first thing in a morning, be prepared and ensure you are on top form so you walk away happy and with full understanding.

Be honest and kind

When it comes to feeding back on designs you have to be honest. Don’t spare our feelings if you hate something. Far, far better to fix it now than the day before launch. This is your site. You have to be happy. The design should really feel right for you and the agency shouldn’t stop until it is. Be kind though.

Constructive criticism is great and good designers expect and enjoy this. However, a half-hour session ripping their work completely apart is not good for the soul. It’s difficult to sometimes express what you like and don’t, but where possible give alternative examples: “can we try the navigation in a lighter blue” as opposed to “can we make the top of the site livelier.”

Try not to assume

Once the initial build has been completed, it’s likely you will want to request small changes. This is fine, completely anticipated and good agencies will expect this no matter how tight the brief is, how much the designs were signed off, or how many times it has already changed. The problems come when the client assumes what a “small change” is. What you may think is a quick five-minute job might actually take a significant amount of coding or re-designing. If that’s the case then you need to trust the agency in what they say. Remember – a good website is never finished, and a successful web project tends to end with a list of “post launch” ideas to expand/enhance the site in future. If you want something fundamental doing to the site before launch that wasn’t agreed within the specification or design stage, you should be prepared to pay for the additional agency time. Treat your agency how you would treat your staff. Be fair, trust them, listen to them and allow them to do the job you have paid them to do.

Mitch Finlay

Web Development Manager

Leave a Reply