Well, sorry! This is not a suicide saga. It is a rather funny take on a not-so-funny, yet very common experience of Web Designers and Developers around the world. As a web designer, have you ever felt super frustrated with your client while catering to his never-ending, unreasonable and whimsical demands? It is not unknown for designers to face challenging situations at workplace with difficult clients wanting to play a dominant role in the Software Development Life Cycle. However, in some cases it can affect the project cycle to an extent that service delivery leads to a disaster.
In most of such cases, the client originally appears to be the most valued participant of the project in hand. There are clients who know what they want, have a clearly laid out scope of work, communicate regularly, are fully aware of the market/ trend, provide constructive reviews/feedback and are prompt in approvals. And there are clients who are seldom happy. Even if you put up a path-breaking show, they come up with their change requests based on personal choices arising out of bias, rather than being objective to the business needs of the organization. ‘Minor change’ requests lead to overwhelming, radical modifications that go on indefinitely and ultimately the outcome is nowhere close to your original scope. Clients like these need deft handling or your project goes for a toss, and so do you. You lose track of time and resources involved, and work goes on forever.
The question is, is there a way to prevent this?
Some clients are a pleasure to work with, and its plain easy. For the rest, they can be equally well managed by professional project leads. However for the sake of those exceptional clients who can turn out to be quite an adventure to work for, it is best to have a well laid out strategy.
Questionnaire. First and foremost, before we take up an assignment, it is imperative to extract very specific and precise details of the project and the client’s expectation from the assignment. In the questionnaire, include open-ended and close-ended questions to gather every minute detail which may help you form a clear understanding of what he wants. Offer him options that he could relate to and choose from. Request examples of live projects that demonstrate his ideas. This helps to narrow down the choices and remain focused to the client’s preferences.
Scope of work. The inputs from the questionnaire help to better understand the requirement and chalk out the scope of work. Clear, documented and well defined scope of work ensures that both the vendor and the contractor are on the same page in relation to the deliverables and understand what is expected of the project.
Include Scope in the contract. This can turn out to be a life saver should things go out of hand. The contract should have the project specification laid out in details, including clear demarcation of what is included in the quote and what services can be availed at extra cost, the terms and conditions, privacy and service credits. The more precise the contract, the clearer each other’s understanding and expectations from the other.
Advance payment. Many start ups and small firms stop at this point. Having clearly laid out the payment terms, it is fair and reasonable to request an advance payment to book resources for the assignment. This is more relevant for new clients who you have little knowledge about. It ensures that part of the cost of your resources is covered, even if he were to stall the project midway. A deeper significance of this payment is, the client would know he has made an investment and will be less likely to eat up unnecessary hours with whimsical experiments.
Sign off at every stage. Right from your first mock up to further finer nuances, get them approved by the client at every stage. This will make sure that your client is in the loop about the changes being made; they approve of them, and are less likely to make major modifications going ahead.
Document changes. Once a project sets off, there are almost always slight deviations and inclusions to the project scope. Documenting these inclusions and sharing minutes of verbal conversations can save a lot of misunderstanding and miscommunication later on.
If these are followed to the T, there are less chances of a major discord in the project lifespan. With all the hype around customer satisfaction notwithstanding, bowing down to every unreasonable whim of your client need not necessarily win you brownie points or please the client. A professional, confident and a firm attitude can. End of the day, it is your credibility and quality of work that will stand the test of time and get you recognized.
Note: The illustration above is a personal account of an anonymous web designer.