Don’t blindly do what your customers ask you to do just because they asked you to do it

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FaceYesterday I had the audacity to say that customers are not always right. I suggested that we, as professionals (and this is true in any field, I think), have a responsibility to first ask why before doing what our customers ask us to do just because they asked us to do it.

(Both yesterday’s blog article and this one were inspired in part by an online discussion started by a fellow Web builder who wanted to know the best way to automatically remove old blog posts. Several colleagues chimed in with solutions. I chimed in with Why?. More about that here.)

Several years ago, when one of my clients insisted upon micromanaging nearly every aspect of our Web-site project, I drafted what I called an Open Letter to Web-site Clients. I never intended to publish it. Writing it was simply a way for me to blow off some steam.

But that client is long gone, probably doesn’t read my blog, and probably wouldn’t figure out he was the inspiration for the letter anyway.

Plus, I’ve learned over the course of the years that I’m not alone. Chances are that many of you have had your fair share of clients who micromanage.

So, at the risk of betraying the inner curmudgeon that is sometimes me, here it is. It’s not really what I’d ever actually say to a customer, of course; but the spirit of the letter might not be such a bad basis for a good working relationship.

If any fellow Web builders (or professionals in any field, for that matter) experience a vicarious twang of relief by reading it, so much the better. (If you copy and paste it in your own welcome letters to your customers, please don’t attribute it to me.)

Open Letter to Web-site Clients

Dear Valued Web-site Customer,

I look forward to working with you on this project, and I hope this is just the beginning of a long and mutually rewarding business relationship.

Let me say a few words about the process we’ll be going through, based on many years of experience working with a variety of clients.

Many of your ideas about what to put on your Web site — as well as how and where to put them — will be based on your personal preferences and your own personal experiences using the Web. That’s all well and good, and it’s to be expected.

If I’m doing my job right, my decisions for implementing your ideas will be based on fundamental principles of Web-site design and development, on the known limitations and capabilities of the medium, and on your Web site’s goals and objectives. They’ll be informed by decades of experience in the field of systems design and development and by almost twenty years of analyzing Web site trends.

By all means, tell me what you like — and what you’d like me to do. But be prepared to justify it. I’ll ask you questions. I’ll share with you what I understand to be the pros and cons of doing what you want me to do the way you want me to do it. When appropriate, I’ll recommend an alternate plan.

Know that you’ll win every battle. But I won’t go down without a fight. I figure that’s why you hired me.

Your Web Guy

PS: If you’re so inclined, kick back, put on your noise-cancelling headphones, crack open your favorite box of wine, and read the original (much longer) version of the open letter, entitled, Let’s see how the couch looks against the OTHER wall…

As always, comments welcomed.

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The nSiteful Tech Blog (the official blog of nSiteful Web Builders, Inc. since January of 2013) is where I (Jeff Cohan) and (occasionally) associates will be posting articles of potential interest to like-minded techies, nSiteful clients who are playing active roles in the maintenance of their own Web sites and blogs, and pretty much anyone interested in how Web strategies and tools can help them reach their goals.

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About Jeff Cohan

Jeff and his wife, Margie, are the proud parents of Sarah and Jake. Jeff is the founder, president and chief cook and bottle washer of nSiteful Web Builders, Inc., a Web development and Internet Consulting firm. In his spare time, Jeff builds Web sites and Web applications, plays guitar, putters around in his basement woodworking shop, mercilessly spoils his grandchildren, and creates videos from more than two decades of home movies. His current video project is an extended montage of people (mainly family members) asking him to stop filming them.

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