I've been reading WPMU's article 4 Ridiculously Obvious Mistakes I Made Building WordPress Sites for Clients. This has made me reflect on my own biggest mistakes as a WordPress designer.
I decided that my biggest mistake has been to show a new WordPress website to a client before it's ready. I have done this a few times and it has never worked out well!
There are many reasons why a WordPress designer might be tempted to show a work-in-progress to a client:
- The client is excited to see their lovely new website
- They may be reluctant to provide content until they have seen the first draft of the website, for example because they're struggling to visualise how it will look
- There may be genuine business reasons for launching the new website as quickly as possible
- They want to make sure they're getting what they paid for, especially if they haven't worked with a web designer before or have been let down in the past
- The client is chasing you for any other reason
All of this makes it very tempting to show the draft website to the client as soon as possible. It makes sense - after all, surely the client will understand that it's not 100 polished yet and we still need to make the finishing touches?
What I have learned is that if you show an unfinished website to a client, they panic. They don't read your carefully worded emails about what is still on the 'To Do' list - they see the website as the end result and an indication of your ability as a WordPress designer. If something isn't lined up properly then they don't see it as a work-in-progress - they see it as a sign that your work lacks attention to detail and you're not the perfectionist they were hoping for.
When a client starts to lose faith, they lose the ability to sit back and let you get on with the design work. As a result, they start requesting tiny, petty changes. They start to micro-manage the design process, making suggestions that aren't always appropriate and are better left to you as the WordPress designer.
Even if the second draft of the website is perfect, the damage has already been done. In my experience, making this mistake at the start of the project makes the communication more difficult for the entire project. By now, the client is in micro-managing mode. They will study your work in much more detail than they would have done if the first draft had been perfect, and their lists of feedback will be much longer.
What I have learned
After making this mistake several times, I have learned to make clients wait until the first draft of the website is completely ready.
This doesn't necessarily mean that the client has to wait for much longer. As a WordPress agency, we have altered our processes so that we can achieve this without causing any undue delay. We have developed a custom WordPress plugin which allows us to show the homepage to clients while locking down the rest of the website. This means that we can present a complete homepage as early as possible. The client can feed back on the homepage while we're building the other pages in the background.
When the first draft is fantastic, the client has complete faith in our skills. They trust us to do our jobs and provide little or no feedback. This makes the website more profitable for us and the client happier with the result.