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Clients always have a lot of questions, don’t they? They ask a lot of questions because they just don’t know how things work on this “Internet thing”. They just want their pretty site online and with Comics Sans, please.
So, guess who will have to tell them the bad news, and teach them the basics? Yeah, I’m looking at you.
We, at 1stwebdesigner, are nice guys so we’ll help you with a few common things that clients don’t understand, but they really need to, because when they do, everything will be much easier and more pleasant to do.
So, let’s rock.
Here you should tell them your complete process including parts that aren’t covered by your current contract. For instance, even if you weren’t contracted for SEO consulting, you should tell them where you’d put this, if they want to contract you or another person for doing so.
You should explain the big development blocks, and even break them up into smaller ones, like breaking up “development” into “Look, first I do HTML coding, then JS coding and then I add this to our CMS, so you’ll be able to add content only at this point.”
All those explanations are important so your client will know when he will have each part of this thing done, avoiding weird things like you doing everything in a hurry and then waiting weeks for content.
The first item on this list may help you a little bit, but many clients thinks that all web designing is done with a few commands and then drawing a few fancy things using Word or Paint (thanks DreamWeaver and FrontPage).
If you think that your current client is that type, bad news for you.
I hope you are a patient person (I mean, the kind of patient that will make buddhist monks look angry and impatient) so you can do a big thing for the Web Design Community: teach your client HTML basics.
Believe me, it’s not as bad as it seems.
First you should tell them its importance. We have W3C for one reason, HTML code can be “understood” by machines, so they really know which kind of content you’re creating. Teaching them a bit about HTML is not the same as teaching them how to customize their CSS. It’s about cool things like SEO, data mining, multiple devices able to read same content.
Then you could introduce them a few quite common content tags (p, h1-6, strong, blockquote, ul, li, dl, table…).
If your client knows HTML basics they can do a much better job when they’re updating the website by themselves. They’ll know why it’s so important to do things with h’s instead of ordinary P’s with increased site (not to mention FONT tags) and why they can’t just paste content from Word of Email clients.
Many people never stopped to think about it because we really understand this almost by osmosis. But how do you get things online? I mean, why can I go to google.com and not mywife’sPC.com/hiddenfiles? Why can’t you just get [email protected], instead of boring [email protected] ?
It’s time for a metaphor, the house metaphor (no, clouds above doesn’t mean internet).
Is the building, where you can put things. Usually we just rent it from hosting companies, so we don’t need to spend a lot of money building it.
There is where you store all your cool stuff and when people walk into your house (website) they’ll see this stuff (unless you hide it from them, for sure).
Is the address, ZIP code, the directions to get to the house. So when someone asks “How do I get to your house, bro?” You say “Easy, just go to myHouseIsPrettyCoolIndeed.com, if you get lost, ask google, he knows everything!”. And the same way you can have multiple entrances for a house, you can make several domains pointing to a single domain, so you’ll give your users more ways to get to you.
Is like people’s names inside the house. So, if anyone wants to send letters to your father they’ll have to send it to your house, right? This is the same thing, if your house is mydomain.com people can reach you by [email protected] If they send to [email protected] they’ll reach the wrong “me” :)
It’s quite hard to understand why it takes even 2 days to have your site working just because you’ve moved your site from one server to another. And this headache is gracefully caused by our beloved DNS servers.
Actually it’s a little bit hard to understand (some people say that we don’t even have this DNS “propagation” thing, since it’s usually TTL caching issue). But let’s stick with a pretty simple explanation that works well for anyone with more than 2 neurons (sorry amoeboid and trolls):
Hosting servers on the internet actually don’t have a really cool name. For example, many of them have a “name” formed by 4 groups of digits, like 126.96.36.199. It’s even worse than “Rochester” isn’t it?
Look, something like 188.8.131.52 isn’t that easy to remember, right? So, that’s why we have things called Domain Name Service servers.
They’re quite smart guys that can remember the “nice name” (google.com) for each “ugly name” (184.108.40.206). So, when you type google.com in your browser, your Internet Service Provider asks DNS “bro, where is this google.com guy is hidden?” and DNS answers “Oh, you meant 220.127.116.11 , right?”.
So far, so good. Now you need to know just one more little thing, since we have several DNS servers over the web, when you change your hosting from company #1 to company #2, each DNS server has to tell his brothers about this change. So while one DNS server thinks that mysite.com is still hosted on company #1, others know that it’s actually on company #2, so a few users won’t be able to see your site in the meantime, depending on the route that they get (which DNS server their ISP ask).
Nobody needs to be a typography expert to know that Comic Sans is a really restricted font. It works pretty well, for comics. And only for that.
Google WebFonts allows you to use a lot of way better alternatives, but I recommend you don’t depend on it too much (since it’s a free service they have no obligation to keep it up 100% of the time). You could use font squirrel @font-face generator with Google WebFont fonts so you’ll have cool types and don’t need to bother using Google’s service.
Another good thing, is trying to tell your client how fonts are important, how they complete any design work, and a little of typography basics (sans-serif X serif, system defaults X @font-face imported).
Maybe IE10 will be an awesome browser. But currently, IE is far behind the alternatives. So, try convincing your client to switch to a real browser.
But the important thing here is: Forget about IE6. Unless it’s really your target (and if it is, it’s really bad for you) IE6 is hardly same as Mobiles. IE7 is really bad also, and if you notice a down market share, forget about it too.
I’m not talking about doing things that don’t work on IE. I’m talking about doing things the right way, and don’t lose time trying to get same effect in old and outdated software, move on.
One thing that I really hate is when people say “Well, but I’ve seen it on google.com, facebook.com, anotherbigwebsite.com, so it’s possible to do. Do it.”
Assuming that you know everything that can be known in the Web Design field, we have 3 key points that define how our final work will look:
I’m pretty sure you’ve been asked a few great questions from clients that just don’t quite understand what goes into designing and launching a website. Share it with us!
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I'm a web designer and entrepreneur from Itajubá (MG), Brasil. I love writing about obscure topics and doing some cool stuff. And also I do some FREE stuff, check it out: http://www.roch.com.br/