There are good and bad ways to communicate with WordPress web designers and developers. If you're a client working with a WordPress agency, here are some tips on how to communicate. They'll help you work together to get the best possible results.
Isn't good communication the WordPress web designer's job?
Good communication goes both ways. WordPress web designers and developers should have good communication skills. They need to relate to clients on their level - without confusing them with technical jargon.
Clients also have a role to play in communicating well with their WordPress web designer/developer. You can provide active input into the website planning process and feeding back in a constructive and appropriate way. This will help the project to run smoothly, with everyone working towards a shared goal.
Getting WordPress web design quotes
It all starts when you first contact a WordPress agency for a quote. We receive many initial enquiries and quote requests and it's interesting to see the different ways in which people communicate. Here are some tips to get noticed and get the best price.
Show you're serious about the website
If you're sending an initial enquiry by email, word it in a way that shows you're serious about the website. Your aim is to present yourself as a client that the WordPress web agency will WANT to work with - not a time-waster. They probably receive many enquiries each day, so you need to get noticed and be taken seriously.
Don't send a one-sentence message saying "I want a website like eBay, what's the cheapest you can do it for?" (I'm not exaggerating, we receive a lot of these!) This sort of enquiry shows that you have had an initial idea for a new business and are fishing around for potential costings. You don't have a proper business plan and have no understanding of how complex - and expensive - your idea will be to achieve. Strangely, most WordPress web designers and developers wouldn't be too excited about an enquiry like this!
On the other hand, you can grab the WordPress agency's attention with a sensible, well thought out enquiry. Send relevant information about what you want to achieve. Mention the aim of the website, the number of pages, the functionality required, examples of similar websites you like, plus a link to your existing website if you have one. This shows that you're serious and will be a good person to work with.
This is equally important with telephone enquiries, but phone calls are more personal and involve giving more information, so the problem is less likely to arise.
Don't tell them how much work it will be
Don't tell a WordPress web designer or developer how long the work will take them. You're asking for their input as WordPress experts, so don't undermine them by saying "It's only a small job", "I JUST need you to..... [insert long list of complicated tasks!]" or similar. Something may look like a small job to you, but WordPress professionals are best placed to decide how to achieve your requirements in a way that meets the latest best practices.
It's surprising how many people think we'll charge less if they tell us it's only a quick job. This isn't how it works - instead of taking statements like this at face value, we use our professional judgement and experience to assess each requirement and quote accordingly. Most people with this attitude simply don't know what they don't know ("unknown unknowns") which is fair enough so I'm not blaming them.
Here are some examples to explain why you shouldn't pre-judge how much work is required:
- Some people don't realise that "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing". In an attempt to reduce their costs, they do some research on Google and send us links to discussion forums with code snippets that may or may not be relevant to their requirement. A professional WordPress web developer does not work by hacking together random code snippets they have found elsewhere. Yes, insights from other developers is important - we're all part of the global WordPress community, after all. However a true WordPress expert takes a holistic view and develops software in a way that uses WordPress in the best possible way, taking account of the latest web standards and best practices. They don't work in a hacky way that involves copying and pasting code from online forums and hoping it works.
- It only takes a minute to install an off-the-shelf WordPress plugin, but there are lots of hidden tasks that need to be budgeted for. This includes quality-checking the plugin beforehand; configuring all the settings; making any styling changes to visually integrate the plugin into the rest of the website; thoroughly testing to ensure everything is working correctly; sending support requests and queries to the WordPress plugin developer; and snagging any conflicts or issues that arise.
- There may be complexities you haven't thought of that will add time to the project. For example have you considered the extra time that is needed to test the website on mobiles, tablets etc.? If your website is multilingual, have you considered how your requirements will be achieved in the other languages too? And so on.
The WordPress web agency's role is to know what's involved and quote accordingly, so telling them it's a quick job is a barrier to effective communication.
Tell the WordPress web agency your budget
Being open about money is vital to good communication. How can you communicate effectively with WordPress web designers or developers if they don't know how much you can spend?
Revealing your budget will not encourage the WordPress agency to increase the cost. Instead, it will empower them to design the best website you can afford. Read my post about Why you should always tell a WordPress web agency your budget for more about this.
Most good WordPress web designers and developers will refuse to haggle. You should respect them for this. Willingness to haggle rings several warning bells:
- Are they desperate for the work? It's good that they want to work for you, but if they need the work this much then there might a reason why other clients are steering clear...
- Did the WordPress web agency over-inflate the original quote? If their first quote was over-priced then this may question their integrity. This could cause you problems in the future.
- If they take on the work for a lower price, will they regret it half way through and lose interest? Can you trust them to prioritise you over their more profitable clients?
Why is this a problem?
Asking WordPress web designers or developers to work for a lower-than-usual hourly rate is not the way forward. However there is a more effective way to encourage them to reduce the cost. Instead of asking for a discount, you can ask them to reduce the services that are included in the quote.
A good WordPress web design agency will provide a fully itemised quote which lists exactly what's included. This makes it easy for you to check you actually need everything in the quote. If you don't need something, ask whether removing this will reduce the price. For example, this week a potential client asked us to remove the SEO (search engine optimisation) service from our quote because they have an in-house SEO expert who will be doing this. We were instantly able to knock £200 off the price.
Checking the quote is a good first step, but it doesn't always work. Clients often ask to remove quick but important services such as adding Google Analytics, which take literally 5 minutes to set up but can make a big difference to a WordPress website's conversion rates. The best approach is to ask whether anything in the quote could potentially be removed or compromised. They're in the best position to advise on whether the website can be brought closer to your budget. For example they may have quoted for a bespoke option when an off-the-shelf alternative would work well if you're willing to make a few compromises.
The benefit of this approach to haggling (which isn't really "haggling" at all) is that everyone wins. You win by getting a cost reduction, bringing the website within your budget. The WordPress web designer or developer still gets to provide the website for their usual rate, even if the overall project is smaller.
Think through the detail at the planning stage, not after the work has been done
Sadly, many WordPress web design projects work like this:
- At the planning stage, the client provides very little detail about their exact requirements and asks us to make these judgements.
- We build the first draft of the website.
- When it's time to feed back, the client provides intricate detail about how the website should look and function. AFTER we have done most of the work. Groan.
Why is this such a problem?
With WordPress web design, it's almost impossible for the average client to know which features of their website will take 5 minutes and which will be weeks of work. As a result, it's important that you give WordPress web designers and developers as much detail as possible about your vision for the website. This allows them to plan the website in a way that will meet all your requirements.
It may feel like overkill at such an early stage but the more detail you provide, the more accurate the quote will be. What seems like a minor detail to you may require a fundamental change to the architecture of your website that will completely blow the budget.
Some WordPress web designers and developers will swallow the cost of these changes, even if they have to redo most of their work to accommodate new requirements. We have learned from experience that this is not a productive way to work. If your feedback shows that we have misunderstood your requirements then of course we will make the changes within the original budget. If you introduce new requirements that weren't mentioned earlier then we would have to requote. You can easily prevent this by providing clear information before the website is built.
How to feed back to WordPress web designers and developers
So far I have talked about how to communicate with WordPress web designers and developers in order to achieve accurate, cost-effective quotes. Good communication continues throughout the project and the next step to think about is how you provide feedback on their work.
Good communication is about mutual trust and reliability. You have trusted your WordPress web designer or developer to meet their deadlines in building the website. Now they need to be able to trust you to feed back promptly.
This doesn't go without saying. I've lost count of the number of projects where we have worked hard to meet a challenging deadline, only to wait 3 weeks for the client to feed back. When the ball is in our court, the deadline is crucial. When the ball moves into the client's court, for some reason the deadline often starts to slip.
Of course you are the client and if you're not in a rush then that's fine. You just need to be aware that WordPress web designers and developers tend to leave time aside to implement feedback within the first few days of providing the work. After that, they will need to move onto other projects that are booked in, so there will be more delay in making changes. If you're fine with this then that's great, or if you need the changes making quickly then you need to feed back promptly. Either way, a good WordPress agency will keep you up to date with their timescales and warn you in advance of any possible delay.
Describe the problem, not the solution
If there's something about your website that you don't like, avoid the urge to 'solutionise'. Instead, tell your WordPress web designer or developer what the problem is and what you want to achieve. Let them come up with the solution.
There are often many different ways to solve a problem. As the client, you know your business best and are the best person to explain what you want to achieve. However you're not necessarily the best person to propose a specific solution. I have seen many clients propose solutions that appear to solve a problem on the surface but have underlying usability issues. If a client tries to solutionise, I usually find myself suggesting better ways to achieve the same result - which they are usually much happier with.
WordPress web designers and developers are much more experienced in website usability, design etc. - it's their trade, after all. Help them to understand the problem, and trust them to come up with the best solution.
Be specific and provide examples
While it's not productive to solutionise, it's just as bad to be vague. WordPress designers don't want to hear general statements such as "It's just not quite creative enough". Instead, give specific examples of areas where you feel the website is not creative enough and provide links to sites that achieve the look you had in mind.
This will empower them to make changes in direct response to your feedback, rather than expecting them to mind-read.
Test fully and consult with ALL your colleagues before providing feedback
There's nothing worse than receiving glowing feedback from a client, preparing the website for go-live and then receiving a huge list of feedback at the last minute.
Actually there is something worse than this - receiving feedback (especially contradictory feedback) in dribs and drabs.
Or receiving detailed feedback AFTER a website goes live (why on earth didn't they check the work before they approved it?!). Ok, rant over.
You can make your WordPress web designer or developer's life easier by providing a single list of collated feedback at an appropriate point in the project. Test the whole website, not just one page at a time. Be methodical and test every possible scenario. Consult with all your colleagues. Collate all the feedback into a single document.
A good WordPress designer or developer will cheerfully accept your feedback and will understand that some people are more organised than others. However, feeding back in this way is a real aid to good communication. It helps to prevent things from getting lost and makes it easier to work in a coherent way that will lead to a better end result.
Refer to the brief
When you provide feedback on the draft website, it's tremendously helpful if you can be clear about which changes you feel are in the original brief. Acknowledge which ones are new requests.
It's very common for clients to request new features at the feedback stage of the web design process. This is absolutely fine. A good WordPress web designer or developer will help you distinguish between existing and new requirements. This is important because existing requirements will be met within the original quote. Whereas new requirements will be quoted for separately.
It's always fantastic when clients refer directly to the original brief. This helps to keep everyone working towards the same goal with no misunderstandings.
The same applies if a website is being designed within any specific restrictions. If the WordPress web designer or developer is designing your website using a theme then you will communicate more effectively if you can refer to any features on the theme demo site that you'd like to replicate. This works much better than requesting features that may not be available in the theme. It helps you to achieve the best possible result without requesting anything that isn't in budget.
Planning the go-live date
Don't forget to tell your WordPress web agency well in advance of your proposed go-live date. It's amazing how many people forget to mention this until the last minute - "Oh, but I wanted to go live on Friday..."
Good WordPress web designers and developers will be committed to meeting your deadlines, but don't set them up to fail. Work in partnership to agree the timescales well in advance, and adjust these as needed as the work progresses.
Don't forget to feed back!
Once the website has gone live, it's always helpful to feed back on the service from the WordPress web agency. You can help them out by providing positive feedback publicly, for example by leaving a review on their Google+ page.
If you have had problems with the service, feed back at the time. Not at the end of the project. This allows your WordPress web designer or developer to make improvements before it's too late. This is much more constructive and complaining after the event.
Positive working relationships
Of course WordPress web designers or developers should communicate well and remain professional at all times. However the client also has a role to play in nurturing good communication. By being clear about their requirements, feeding back in an appropriate way and understanding your respective roles, everyone can work together to design a website you can be proud of.
If you don't have a WordPress guru yet, check out this guide from DART Creations on finding the best WordPress developers.