321 – Thinking the unthinkable (TTUT). Episode 5: Website clients are impossible!

“Thinking the unthinkable (TTUT). Episode 321: Website clients are impossible!” with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

These shows notes are best read in conjunction with the podcast audio. Also, it’s worth noting that David’s audio sounds a little strange this week. Nothing too bad, really though.

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Welcome to the 5th episode of our “Thinking the Unthinkable” series, where we attempt to rationalise controversial views on WordPress and web design.

Today’s topic is… Website Clients are Impossible!

This could have been called “Web Designers are Impossible”, as it’s about the sometimes tense relationship between those who commission websites and those who build them.

In our last series, we went through the process of building a site for a fictitious client.

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In it, we contrasted “agile” approaches to project management with a more traditional project-based method.

Throughout, our client was happy to go along with anything we suggested, but this so often is not the case.

Talking points:

  • Lots of griping about clients. Facebook groups, the (now changed) “clients from hell” website. The Oatmeal comic from way back.
  • Polarised approaches? “Give the client what they want,” and “they hired an expert, so must follow that expert.”
  • Many get out of client work (some to tell folk how to get in to it. Some do their own projects).
  • Web design is creative and multi-disciplined, making it both subjective and beyond the expertise of any one person. Claiming expertise tends to be a defensive action.
  • It’s also a service industry where the “customer is always right”. If they are wrong, have we not failed them?
  • There are processes for web designers both traditional and agile, but they don’t themselves get clients on-board. Relying on the contract only helps with legal matters, it does not help the relationship.
  • Agile tackles the need to be flexible and collaborative with clients, but is also less easy to understand and implement for freelancers working with a single client. Agile is “sold” mostly to enterprise clients.
  • Off-the-shelf project-based processes for managing clients are often planned by marketers selling packages on how to make money in web design.
  • Much “the client does not need to know this,” and “the client does not know how much this cost,” etc. Is this about establishing power over the client?
  • Forced processes without shared clarity over their values leads to pushing square pegs through round holes. Getting the principles of design understood is key.
  • Designers spend a lot of money buying ways to force clients through complex working patterns.

Agile and UX reduced my client friction, but now my traditional clients need redesigns.

They come with the solution (what needs to change on their websites), not the problem (why and how this connects to their business needs). It’s guesswork sometimes backed with what their customers have said, but they are not aware of this.
First Rule of Usability? Don’t Listen to Users

How do I reset this?

If I go their way, the client effectively takes the role of lead designer. They have to balance the interplay of SEO, conversion, copy and UI. It sets them up to fail. They will only look at the tip of the UX iceberg.

I don’t want to blindly implement ignoring issues. Nor do I want to claim expertise in all the things we ought to be considering.


Focus on UX. Get the client’s agreement that understanding the behaviour of the target “user” is the key to a successful website. Simply explain, I was not as professional as I should have been in the early design. I ignored industry leaders.

No one person can be an expert in what design will work best for particular business aims or problems. There are too many facets, but there is research and systems to help us check we are on the right track.

Plus ways to monitor the effectiveness of work done (the selling point of the medium!). A scientist does not have expert knowledge of the outcome of an experiment or it is pointless. They seek to falsify.

Design principles keep both designers and site owners from speculating and making common mistakes. If they work together respecting these, they can make the best use of their combined skills and knowledge.

If they agree UX is essential, they banish personal opinion and move to team work around finding evidence and problem solving.

A bill payer can believe they know more than the hired help, but is less able to fight leading academics in the web design industry. If they think they do, they know much more than me, making my appointment pointless.

There’s much short content around to get the client thinking more like a UX designer: For example:

Agile, Nielsen Norman Group, Lean UX: Jeff Gothel, and then there’s this:

Top 15 UX influencers you should be following in 2022

and this:

You ≠ User (UX Slogan #1) – YouTube


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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Now welcome your hosts David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.

Hello there, and welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast. You've reached episode number 321. It's episode five in our Thinking, the Unthinkable series, and it's entitled Website Clients Are Impossible. It was published on Thursday, the 6th of April, 2020. My name's Nathan Wrigley, and I'll be joined in a few minutes by my good friend David Worsley, to have our chat.

Prior to that though, just a few tiny bits of housekeeping. There's a few things going on this week. Something a little bit special on the main page of the website, so the homepage of the WP Builds.com website. We have a little caption, a little section at the top, all about Michelle Frache. Now, Michelle Frache has been a great friend of the WP Builds podcast.

She's been on the this Weekend WordPress show countless times, and she wants to go to Word Camp Europe this year. And I'm trying to get a little bit of donations going on. So if you go to WP Builds.com, click on the, let's get Michelle Frechette to W C E U Word Camp Europe. In other words, Then you can donate.

There's actually no transaction taking place. We're just getting pledges at this point, and if we reach the goal, then we will get you in touch with Michelle so that you can give her your kind donation. If you feel able to do that, go and fill out the form and we can then hopefully get our little target moving closer and closer to what we need.

So that would be really kind if anybody feels that they want to do that. Thank you very. The other thing to mention is that we have our deals page, WP Builds.com/deals. It's a bit like Black Friday, but every single day of the year, searchable, filterable, listed deals, go check it out. And the last thing I want to mention this week is of course, if you feel that you want to, boost the show.

Please go out and share it in whatever way you want. But having a podcast review on something like Apple Podcast or Google Podcast, or wherever you get your podcast would be really helpful.

The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain ssl and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by going to go.me/WPBuilds. That is go.me/WPBuilds. And we do thank GoDaddy Pro for their continuing ongoing support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay. What have we got for you today? As I said at the top of the show, this episode is really called website. Clients are Impossible. I'm sure that your website clients could probably say the same thing in reverse, so web designers are impossible, but it's just a conversation with David and I about the.

Bits and pieces that can go wrong. What is it that we are doing to infuriate our clients? Are we bending over backwards, giving them everything they want, and then moaning about it later? Are we sticking rigidly to our approach? What exactly are we doing and what is frustrating us about our clients? I hope that you enjoy the podcast.

[00:03:56] David Waumsley: Welcome to the fifth episode of Our Thinking, the unthinkable series where we attempt to rationalize controversial views on WordPress and web design. Today's topic is website. Clients are Impossible. Which we also could have called web designers. I Impossible cuz really? Oh, we're just talking about the tense relationship that there often is between those who commission websites and those who build them.

Yeah. Or

[00:04:20] Nathan Wrigley: alternatively you could have just called it humans in every scenario

[00:04:24] David Waumsley: are impossible. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:04:27] Nathan Wrigley: Any interface of humans, there's bound at some point to be some, yeah. Difference of opinion,

[00:04:34] David Waumsley: shall we say. Our last series when we were looking at these kind of contrasted approaches, agile and, traditional project management we had this client and she was happy to go along with everything we suggested.

I guess we're just picking up on that because that's so often not

[00:04:52] Nathan Wrigley: the case, isn't it? By the way, just so that, I heard back from Madame, she's a, she's done very well out of that website filter.

[00:04:59] David Waumsley: It's really high return on the investment. Okay, so what we've talked about, so you know, the basis is there is quite a bit of griping about clients.

Am I right? Oh my

[00:05:12] Nathan Wrigley: goodness. It seems to be the topic of the. Three or four years. I don't know if it always went on, it probably went on in everybody's head, I imagine prior to people being involved in Facebook groups and things like that. I imagine really you'd end up just slamming the phone down and then going and murmuring to people in your house about, oh, just.

Dad, this client, they won't listen. They don't know that I've got all these years of experience and they want me to do foolish things with their website. But now that sort of histrionic seems to get played out, wri large, doesn't it? In Facebook groups where people come and they post about this client who's been really unreasonable and.

Sometimes you can sympathize and other times it, it does feel the way they've explained it as if perhaps you are being a bit hotheaded and not really paying enough attention to what they're saying. It's difficult. It's

[00:06:04] David Waumsley: really difficult. There's a lot of self-loathing I think comes with it cuz you do, hate the fact that, certainly I have griped quite a lot and I remember, just getting into.

There was already sites like Clans from Hell where people were sharing these kind of stories. And there was always that classic oatmeal comic, which goes through a design process and how it goes to hell at the end. But and then of course, some of these Facebook groups can quite quickly become quite toxic really, cuz everybody needs to pour out their frustrations and or their, I guess also they want to share how they've overcome them.

For me, I think, and this is why I wanted to talk about it, cause I've been caught in this kind of polarized approach, this part of the self-loving and it's I think you basically got the two counts, which is the one is give the client what they want. They're paying for it, you can advise them, but if they don't listen, fine, it's their money.

Yeah. And then you've got the, they hired an expert. They must follow what the expert says. And that's me. And I think, you've got these kind of two camp. But really, I guess what I wanted to talk about is that I think maybe. The root of the problem, or it has been for me. Yeah. I have


[00:07:24] Nathan Wrigley: slightly different take on it.

My, my take on it is that I suffer a bit from self-doubt, so it's not really self-loathing so much. It's that I'm, I was very often never a hundred percent sure that my advice couldn't be bettered, if so imagining a scenario where some other designer was in the room, other person who built websites was in the room.

And then it, we get to take it in turns to say what we want. Always got that little nagging down in the back of my mind. Would the person next to me once I finish, would they come up with something better? Is there a better way? Have I thought it through enough? And so there's this sort of imposter syndrome f a little bit, and that makes me nervous and I think on balance.

Yeah, I think it's true to say that I probably fell more into the category of give the client what they want as a result of that. I never had that complete certainty that what I was doing was gonna be a hundred percent the best thing and there was an element of. Let's get this project finished.

We've agreed the budget. Yeah. That's really at the end of the day, that is the thing that I'm most interested in. I need to get paid for this. And so if me standing my ground and saying, Good grief, no, we, I really, I'm gonna say in very strong language, we're not doing that. There's that fear of will they become frustrated and walk away?

Ultimately, will I lose the project? Will I draw out the amount of time that I'm spending on this? And whilst I'm sure that isn't the best approach, and people will be yelling at me saying, oh, why didn't you stick your ground? I, it worked for me in the end, it kept the, yeah, kept the meetings friendly and happy.

To be honest, nobody really in my career ever came out with something so jaw droppingly, stupid that I refused. It was mainly a set of aesthetics and pallets and branding things, so not really much to report there. Yeah.

[00:09:29] David Waumsley: George Oly stupid was your role, wasn't it? Yeah, that was it. That

[00:09:32] Nathan Wrigley: was what I had to do.

I would come in as the

[00:09:34] David Waumsley: clown. Yeah, no, but I'm the same as you on that one. I particularly earlier on the key important thing is to have some work and get through it and the client's paying for it. You have to give them what they want. And I, I didn't have.

Confidence to say I'm the expert. Particularly, yeah. Yeah. What happened is that as I kept learning, I got more into that role. So I ended up moving away from giving the clients the want to arguing with them. And I think what I've learned now, I've had to go through, both sides of this a little bit, and I think the conclusion I come to is the fact that a web design is creative anyway.

So it's difficult because people are going to have subjective opinions. The key thing is, as I've gone on, you've learned out, you learn how multidisciplined the whole thing is to build, as just maybe you and the client. The idea to bring in all of these separate skills that make up something which is so fundamental to their business is actually beyond the expertise of any one person, I think.


[00:10:44] Nathan Wrigley: It's interesting you used the word argument there, or you said, I argue with them or something. Did it ever come. Or not by argument, do you mean I stuck my ground and we had a slightly heated conversation.

[00:10:58] David Waumsley: Yeah. I'm thinking more argument as in making, putting forward an argument rather than, ah, that's it.

Having a huge disagreement. Yeah. So yeah, so I would argue why you might want to do stuff. And most of the time, all I was doing is I was referring to people who know, knew more than me to put them on my side. But the problem I think then was the fact. I'm bringing that in later in the project.

So if you like, it's the same as what clients sometimes do. So you know, if you say, okay, I'm going to design it as the expert, the client goes along with that and says, fine, that's how you do it. You are the expert. We'll let you do it. That's what I'm paying for. But then there's going to be some point where they might doubt it.

It doesn't fit in with what they expected, cuz you didn't explain the process. And then they start to pull in their own experts. They get somebody who's in design to check it out and then they start coming in to the designer and saying, this person's also a designer. And they say contrary to you. So I think that's always the problem, isn't it?

I was doing what clients sometimes would do. They haven't done it to me, but have done to others, in terms. Pulling in expertise from elsewhere to make your case. Yes. Yeah I

[00:12:11] Nathan Wrigley: guess it really does depend on the kind of client that you've got as well. So in my case, it was often local clients.

The budgets were never gigantic, it wasn't like I was dealing with a hundred thousand pound websites or anything even approaching that, and so they really. Didn't have that wealth of people to bring to bear on their team. This was usually somebody who was given, either they had their own business, which they needed to promote, and they had no experience on the internet except for using the internet.

Yeah. Or it was a business, they've got various employees and somebody has been tasked with the website, but again, it was typically that they weren't an expert and they just needed to offload that expertise. So I never ended up in. In the room with people who have obviously been building websites for the same length of time as I have.

And so thankfully I never really had to confront that n Yeah, I think never is the right

[00:13:07] David Waumsley: word there. And you and I both. Started in the same way where you had a designer would show some designs for the client to pick and then that would get Bill. I would be saying that, yeah. And I also kicked off with Maria, who was effectively doing the same.

They said, she did them some homepages, did they like it? And then I helped her to build that out. And now it's funny because I've. Realized that many of those people who were objected to that kind of approach and saw the web as different of now surface as dominant people who have been around since the late nineties, academics talking about how the web is totally different.

They've now started to influence me. So now I think that's entirely the wrong way of doing it because it's, the. It's a user interface for the user and the user, like customers is key to any business. And if you don't understand how the user works and is going to interact with your thing that you've built, you are really on the wrong foot.

So somebody saying, I like that design is really subpar for what it primarily needs to do, which is to. Help users to go through certain actions. Yes. I guess

[00:14:19] Nathan Wrigley: The web has moved on more, hasn't it? It's become such a integral part of our lives. When we both began the internet really was, it was a bit of fun that you did in your spare time.

And I don't mean that from our point of view, I mean that from the user's point of view, typically. Yeah. If you went onto the internet, you were checking emails maybe, but outside of that, you were probably just browsing, finding out information, and now it's become an essential tool for everything.

Say selling your business. I can't think of a single more important asset than the internet now, especially if you're selling. Products and services and what have you, it's just a tool that anybody can access from anywhere on earth at the drop of a hat. And so that, that conversation has changed and to talk to the clients about the importance of this as a crucial business asset.

It's definitely more important than it was before because before when we both began, it really was, it was just a bit of window dressing. It was, I've got a place on the internet, I've got a website. Look. Come and see. Look, I've got a website. And I remember some of my clients literally doing that. They would email their customers to say, we've got a new website.

Come and have a look at it. No, no thought of Why would you go to look at it? Just we've got a website. We're important now. But that's definitely changed and I think having those conversations and bringing to bear your expertise and years of experience and, okay, why are we doing this is way more important than

[00:15:49] David Waumsley: it used to be.

And I think it's really tricky for the clients. It's taken me what, it's 16, 17 years to get to realize what some of those earlier people were talking about. The key importance of the user experience and UI design, which really is not what we're thinking about when we show somebody a visual markup.

And just also with the agile approach of the way that, you can build into the fact that you can't possibly know at the beginning until you've really seen it in use that you're doing the right thing. No one can be an expert upfront in everything. So the fact it's taken me all this time to catch up with, if you like some of the leaders in the field on this one, I.

It's really tricky for clients to do that because, in terms of ux, the website is that tip of the iceberg. What they see is literally


[00:16:41] Nathan Wrigley: worried about, I guess it's possible to come to them with a Figma design or whatever tool you're gonna use to do that and have had those thoughts in your head.

So I guess there's, it's not always the case that if you just present them with a bunch of templates for this is what we think your website is. Can we now go off and build it please? If you can then explain, okay, the purpose of this bit is this, and this is the purpose of this bit, and you've told us that you want to sell as much of this as possible, so that's why that's there.

If you can have that conversation. I guess that's not really out of the remit of decent design. No,

[00:17:17] David Waumsley: I think, one of. One of the things about dealing with clients is usually getting a process, and that's what most people talk about, but that itself is problematic. As we talked about before. There's two contrasting approaches out there.

If you try perhaps, project based off the shelf process for managing clients through it, they, it's, most of those have been formulated by marketers rather. Designers, if you like. And they're about getting people through a system, aren't they? About, buying some software or something that takes the content off them and pushing 'em through these various stages.

At least it's something you can sign clients up to. But the problem with that one, it always feels like you are banging kind of round pegs into square holes. Yeah, which should be the other way round. Copy mix the next metaphor. Yeah, and but then if you tried, the thing that I've been trying recently with the Agile thing where you say there isn't really a budget, we're gonna learn it as we go along.

We're gonna collaborate, we're going to test it, we're gonna put up the minimum amount. It's really difficult for clients to get that, cuz they go. Oh, a website mate,

[00:18:33] Nathan Wrigley: yeah. Yeah, cuz you don't, it's not basketball. Give me a price. Come on. Yeah. There's virtually nothing in the world where you do that.

You don't go into a car dealership and say, would it be all right if we just if, can I get the wheels today? And then we'll try those out for a bit, and then maybe we'll just bolt the engine onto that and we'll see how that goes. And then maybe the chassis, we can add that a little bit later.

There's just, you buy the thing, right? You just buy the thing. You don't buy a half finished book, a half finished pair of shoes. In fact, I'm struggling to think of anything which you buy and it's half complete except

[00:19:07] David Waumsley: this.

[00:19:09] Nathan Wrigley: So it is a hard

[00:19:10] David Waumsley: process. It's difficult. Yeah. No. I had some experience.

If you like, what was professional design? I worked for the government and it had its own communications department who had its own web team in there to do jobs. And they were following at that time what were the common processes. And it was quite good because everybody was an employee in the company could actively get take play some part in the.

Site that they were building at that time because they had a procedure in place that was basically card sort in and all that kind of stuff. How you would structure stuff and what it did. And I think this is where we have difficulty when we're more like freelancers dealing with clients.

It had a procedure with the gravitas to be able to put it through. So no one's opinion could ever come through on this. There's not really much room. If you like aggressive argument, there's, you obviously can put a case forward for why you want something, but everything has to be at a nonpersonal level because it's a procedure we're going through in order to meet the end goal.

And I think that's mostly why the designers and the clients can be odds with each other. Cuz often a designer may be visual and is committed to something they've maybe upfront put some work into it that excludes the client when the, if somebody wants to change it, it's really ruining everything.

They, their thought process and how they put it together is gets ruined. So there's friction there. And it's the same if the client is excluded as well? No. The other way round. If the design has been told what to do by the client, Then the client has set themselves up in an impossible situation in a web design because they've said, okay, I'm a visual designer.

I'm a UX expert, I'm a UI expert, I'm a copywriter. I'm all of these things. And that's quite hard for many of us who have picked up a lot of these skills along the way to kind listen to. So yes, I think process is always the way. Yes. Yeah. Which was sadly

[00:21:20] Nathan Wrigley: something that I was never particularly Yeah, me too particularly good at is more flying by the seat of my pants.

But it the conversation that we're having is around whether web cli website clients are impossible. I genuinely didn't find that I had. I had proper moments of exasperation, but we were talking before we click record and essentially, I think it comes down to being able to have a conversation.

I think once you get to the point where you've fallen out and you disagree, I think that's really a difficult thing to repair. You may have your entrenched opinion. You may think that something that they suggest is clearly from the 1960s. You've gotta have that conversation. You can't let this thing fall apart.

Obviously if they are utterly belligerent and beyond hope, perhaps there is scope for just saying, look, we're not working with each other. But my contention always would be that is the rare thing, not the norm. And to be, I guess if you're in this business, 50%, 60% of your clients are doing your head in.

You maybe need to start asking what? Why is that? What's the common problem here? And it may be that you are the common problem, and I definitely think that I avoided dodge that bullet, shall we say?

[00:22:48] David Waumsley: That's two ways. Yeah. If you're always having, there's always a friction in the relationships you have with the clients, then you're probably in the wrong business cuz you do need to get on with people.

These soft skills are really important I think in something like this. But also I think there is a danger with the, if you are the I believe the client is always right and if they are wrong, which they can be because they, if you like the claiming expertise for things, they are not expert.

It's our fault that they are wrong. And if we

[00:23:22] Nathan Wrigley: just say, you're gonna have to explain that. I go on. That's interesting.

[00:23:25] David Waumsley: It, yeah. If we go with the client is always right, which I think you and I instinctively want to do. I think it's the, it's the foundation of good service, isn't it?

Yeah. But sometimes the client is going to be wrong, and that's because the responsibilities they've taken on are beyond their abilities. In fact, they're beyond our own abilities as the web designers. They're actually bigger than, And if we allow them then to, put forward what they want and go with it and say, the customer's always right, they may not be right, it may not be good for their business.

And then if we just keep going with that, we're also not serving them in the long term. We're actually just going. Yeah. I've given up. I don't wanna fight. I just want my money. Yes. Yes. Yeah. It's, and that also is pretty lazy, isn't it? It's

[00:24:12] Nathan Wrigley: Like that whole cruel to be kind thing, isn't it?

Where yeah, you, yes, you may very well know that their judgment is going to harm their business, or maybe harm is the wrong word. Maybe you know that if we. X, we would grow their business. They would get a much greater return off this investment than they would if they go with their own thoughts, which are y.

But you have to, there is a little, there's a tightrope to tread there, how attached are they to y And just before we started the call you mentioned that you have a project ongoing at the minute where it seems that they are clinging to why and they're not gonna let that come out of.

Their hands until they're under the ground. So what do you do in that situation? And my scenario was always, look, if I've, if I've explained what I wanted and I think this is what you were meaning, it's our fault if we haven't explained it enough. If I've explained what I want. And why I think my idea is superior in want, for want of a better word than their idea.

And they still won't budge. That. That is just, that's just part of human nature, isn't it? We've all got our little bits, which we won't budge on our own set of morals or our own proclivities, which we think actually this is a bedrock of the way I am. And. It may be that they want to be stuck in the 1960s.

It's just, okay, fair enough. And I, at that point do tend to back down. I just can't see the point in having an argument from that moment on. I'm viewing it as a, okay get through this. Move on to the next one. Get paid.

[00:25:49] David Waumsley: Yeah. And I think you have to do, I think if you are, long term when you're thinking about it and how the web's changed and how we view it long term, you have to adjust to keep the work that you're gonna be happy with.

You're obviously not going to, you've gotta win the war, but not necessarily each of the battles winner. So some of them Oh yeah. Like it, and I think, and that's really where I'm going. I use this podcast really as counseling for me. So I mean my, put the reason this topic's hit.

Yeah. Because I'm very happy with how I've moved, if you like, in the direction of this kind of agile and UX centered way, because I'm working with the clients in collaboration, not claiming e. And asking them to come with the problems first. And we'll work out using the expertise that's out there in UX to work out how we might go about solving those problems.

And because of it, it's collaborative. We're working together and I've been really happy with my recent projects. They're I'm not getting caught into that sort of power battle, if you like. That goes on between one person's opinion and another we try and raise it. What's come to me as a problem recently is the old clients who I did the traditional.

Who are coming, needing changes to their websites. And of course they're coming to me with something I've now got used to not being there, which is they're coming to me with the solution, not the problem. They say, I want this changing on the site. And you're thinking, Actually, that's really not going to benefit you in your all goodness, or at least you'd want to test it.

And I just think, how do I switch these people Yeah. Into the new way, which seems to be working much better for me. Can

[00:27:27] Nathan Wrigley: I ask you a question? It's, I don't know that we've ever. Ask this question, but this is really crucial. How much time, like maybe this is a percentage or you could gimme a number of hours.

I don't know. How much time now do you spend thinking about the website before you do anything? Because I. I never really gave a lot of time to just sit and think and browse the internet and look for alternative solutions to the same problem that my clients has got. It was more okay, I've got the brief right.

Let's grab the tools and get on with it. Whereas it sounds to me as if you've entered a period of time where you've gotta put a lot of thoughts. There's, you're not. Necessarily even at a computer, you're just sitting and mulling this through your head and then getting onto the computer, seeing how other people have tackled similar problems.

So yeah, simple question. How much time do you spend thinking?

[00:28:28] David Waumsley: That's a really good question. Actually, no one should listen to me. They'll go outta business. Because yeah, you're absolutely right. I'm, what's happened instead of where I used to have these kind of one day builds and stuff where I get everybody to focus on the one thing, so you didn't get too distracted, but we had the job to.

Two, this now thing where I still book the same sort of time, but I'm saying give it two weeks because half of the thinking that I'm doing is out of the paid hours. So I'm taking on a bit more of a burden for what I'm not being paid for. In a way, be very expensive for every client to. Really go through all the considerations that you might do if you followed someone like the Norma Nielsen Group about how they would do ux, how you really Yeah.

They've got some very key fundamental principles and I, I said to you earlier about, I think what saves you is process, actually, process doesn't, cuz everybody has to understand it. I think what has to happen, I think for clients and. Designers to get along together is that they have to agree the principles in which they're working to, and I think that's the key thing with a UX design is that it sets it forward.

In fact, if you look at the YouTube channel for the. The N G group. You'll actually see they've got these key principles of UX design and I, it is now something that I would share with clients. Please go and have a look at that because that's the kind of principles we work to, if we assume, if you come to me and agree that happy customers are important to your business. Happy visitors are important to your website. If you agree that principles, let's work to the principles that other people who have been at this, for 30 years academically talking about it, let's work to those. And that's been quite a good way in because it gets them thinking and gets me thinking.

And we're problem solving together rather than trying to, if you like, put forward our own ideas. You

[00:30:23] Nathan Wrigley: mentioned that you. Spending quite a bit of time. Then thinking about it, again, this is a little bit off piece, but do you do that sat at the desk? I don't mean literally sat at the desk. Are you in office hours or are you, is this just the sort of thing where you daydream into it, you've had a chat with the client, they've given you some of the things, you've had a, an initial scoping idea and then, I don't know, you're sitting, eating your meal or something like that and you're.

These ideas are percolating. Cause I do like the idea of just having a couple of weeks or something just to let the ideas percolate so long as you are consciously involved in it, as opposed to just hoping that inspiration comes whilst you're playing a game of tennis or something like that.

But yeah, just the idea that, you'll give some thought. You'll spend 10 minutes a day introducing new subjects into your own head and see what Classifi. Yeah.

[00:31:19] David Waumsley: Do you know what? Honestly, percolating is perfect for you. Do need time for these to per, it's often when I'm going on the walk or something will just enter into the head.

I'm not consciously thinking about it and you just suddenly think of the website from this point of view. And I, but I think it's happening a little bit with the clients and I quite like it because There's another thing that we forget. I think with web design, if we come in and say, we are the web design experts we are designing for somebody else's target visitor.

And we can't possibly, without the client understand the motivations of those. So in some ways, we need a UX procedure to go through or lease those princip. Enable to gain insight to be able to represent somebody else's business. So it'll be very arrogant of designers to say, leave it to me.

I know what your business needs because if you are really thinking about the user, you don't, it's impossible without the client's input. Yeah, it's

[00:32:15] Nathan Wrigley: interesting. I had several clients where I think the target audience was basically me and that yes, conversation. The whole process was just a much more straightforward, and then I had a few clients where I was really alien.

These were high level. Engineering types and the language that needed to be adopted was very scientific. And honestly, I really struggled with that because I just didn't, I didn't even know on what level they were thinking, are they thinking about money? Are they thinking about the technical details?

Are they thinking about the time that's gonna be saved, blahdi, blah, and that kind of stuff. I found, I, I really did find difficult. So yeah, getting into the head of the end user. Is something that I probably still would struggle with, and I never really made that part of my mission. It was more about just getting the project done, making the language seem correct, but never allowing myself to percolate and have that kind of game in my head, if you like, of Okay.

What would it be like if I was that engineer? What would I be

[00:33:25] David Waumsley: looking for? Yeah, exactly. And the clients, it's really funny, we're talking about. Now I've got a bit better at asking the right kind of questions earlier on, clients will often, when you try to get the copy together with them and everything and you point out what, how a copywriter might approach this and how it might need to look.

So it's scannable on a webpage, you can bring that. But when it comes to actually what you're communicating to their target users, it's quite interesting in the conversation cuz you learn a little bit about their business and the people that they. Which is always fascinating. But also, it's quite funny how, when you put the right questions to 'em, they go, oh no, that doesn't mean anything to them.

So did I recently, it's been somebody who's a psychoanalyst who, you know, when thinking about their business is going to be as counseling and they say there's a big difference between the two actually. Yeah. And they go, but do your clients know this? Oh, no. Okay. So we could, in that way, we'll just think.

From the user's point of view, yes. Then it's not relevant and we can get rid of, we'll try and make it as easy for them to understand as possible.

[00:34:28] Nathan Wrigley: So did your psychoanalyst client in that scenario, did they immediately latch onto, That we're not really that interested in what you think the job here is to worry about what your possible clients think.

Did that L lock in place? Were they like immediately? Yeah, straight away. Oh, brilliant. Yeah,

[00:34:47] David Waumsley: but because of the, and I think it wouldn't have done before, but I think only because, and I think this is now my starting point to get out of the F cuz I hate it. Like you, we wanna get on with people and do them a good job that they're happy with, but they will make wrong decisions.

They're not cleverer than the experts. They might think they're cleverer than you, and that might be the case, but they're not going to be cleverer than these kind of big thought leaders about how we might approach this. None of us are. And I think by linking everybody up and say, can we just agree to the one principle that the user comes first on this I think most people are going that direction, whether it's Agile or UX or whatever.

That is the way that the web's going. It's a user interface for people to be able to manage their. And I think if you agree that. Then a lot of the conversations sort of slot into place from that. Yes. It's the principle to which you work together on, yeah.

[00:35:39] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. That's really interesting. So tell me this is a candid moment.

Have you ever had a website client, which you actually regard. As they were impossible. That literally was a project which I could not achieve. I had to just run away and moan in a Facebook group about their Yes. Clear lack of

[00:36:01] David Waumsley: intelligence. Yes. Oh God, too. Yeah, too many. And that's why, we're talking about this cuz I, I.

I've got through them. I've really hated a lot of the projects cuz I, because of the fact that I've hated along the fact that I've gone and said, okay, let's just get through. We'll do what they want. Particularly if I'm now hosting them and they're coming back for redesign, I think I can't do that again any longer.

I have to lose them. Because yeah, I just can't say, yes, they're right, but it's my fault I set it up in the first place. If I'd have just found a non friction way of communicating from the first place, let's establish some principles which work together. It would've been, yeah, you are gonna, I'm sure, so much

[00:36:43] Nathan Wrigley: different.

Yeah. You're gonna weed out a lot there, aren't you? But do you think personality in any way comes into this? Do you think there is a component? You are just so different to me. The way that you talk just gets my hackles up. Every time we have a conversation, I come off and think, my Lord, what kind of a person are you?

Is there a bit of that? I definitely I would like to think that I never had those thoughts, but the truth is I did, I, I. Spoken down to, I felt belittled. People got cross with me in ways which I felt were unreasonable. And then that kind of sours the relationship. So the personality component, yeah, really I think is fairly crucial.

As much as I wish it weren't, Yeah. And

[00:37:32] David Waumsley: That's, one thing, no, no amount of agreeing principles and stuff will get around the fact that some people just not likely to get on with each other. The, polar opposite. Yeah. But hopefully you could get rid of those very quickly in the first, cuz some, I think most of us have a good instinct about the people we could work with.

What I'm more worried about is the fact that often there's good people I've worked with where it's gone wrong and I just. I got it wrong. I did. I've just had that two things. It's either me is gonna be the expert and I'm running it, or you are gonna be the client. And you are the expert.

And I think it's when good re when potentially good relationships have gone wrong is what worries me. The bad people who I just don't think I would ever get on with. I think I would rule 'em out from Yeah. First conversation.

[00:38:19] Nathan Wrigley: I guess the problem there is you cannot have a conversation with somebody that you just are, yeah. If there's that tension. You're gonna struggle to have any kind of level of conversation and at the end, The only way you're gonna get this worked on is through a conversation. Whether it's on email or slack, or in person or on the phone or whatever it may be. The conversation has to happen and it has to be at least cordial.

And if there's a sense of sniping at one another or a clear lack of empathy towards one another, bordering on hatred, it would feel like in some of the posts that you read in these groups, then maybe it is just time to shop. Cut your losses and move on to the next casualty.

[00:39:04] David Waumsley: Sometimes, with a first job or you can tell from an email the sort of, something that I would get rid of straight away if somebody came, I've got a minor job for you, I'd probably do it myself, but I don't have the time for it.

And you could do this and you would suddenly go, No, go away. Straight away because they've demeaned your occupation and they know more than you. Yeah. They're not valuing you from the outset. Yeah, that's exactly, yeah. There are few of those that come along but yeah. Anyways. That just, I don't know if that's solved anything at all, but for me it has.

Certainly. I just think now the key thing is get this. Shared principles to work to. And then I think that steer is, it's been steering me in a much better direction than previously. Yeah, I think

[00:39:48] Nathan Wrigley: in answer basically to website clients are impossible. I think in brackets the answer to that is rarely.

Yes, it's it's a, it's on both of us. If they're impossible, you probably played your part. Yeah. There may be extenuating circumstances, but you, I'm sure that in the vast majority of cases, people are coming to you. They want something from you. It's whether or not you can give it to them in a way that they can

[00:40:15] David Waumsley: cope with really.

Yeah, exactly. Hey, what we didn't do is decide what we were gonna do next time. Shall we just leave

[00:40:22] Nathan Wrigley: it as a mystery or do, yeah, let's leave it as a mystery. Let's in two weeks time we'll come back with a topic. Let's, I've got a good one. Let's do website clients are impossible cuz we haven't covered that one yet.

Yeah, we'll do that in a couple of weeks time. All right. Nice to chat

[00:40:37] David Waumsley: David. Have a good day. Yeah, you

[00:40:38] Nathan Wrigley: too. Bye. I hope that you enjoyed that. It was lovely chatting to David about that. What infuriates us about website clients, I'm sure could be reversed, what infuriates clients about us. If you've got any comments, head to WP Builds.com.

Search for episode number 321. Leave us a comment there. Alternatively, you can find us in the Facebook group. That's WP Builds.com/facebook. You could search for the same episode.

The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of a managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain ssl, and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and get 30% off new purchase. You can find out more by heading to go.me/WPBuilds. And once again, thanks to GoDaddy Pro for keeping the lights on over at WP Builds.

We will be back next week because it was a chat with David and I this week. It'll be an interview next week. Do please remember the page to help Michelle Frette get to Word Camp Europe. Go to WP Builds.com. You'll find a little caption on the very, very top of our homepage where you can click through to a form stead simple, and donate some amount. To help get Michelle there. That would be really nice.

That's it for this week. We will be back, as I said next week. You stay safe. I've got some cheesy music fading in.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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