Managing Expectations – Knowing my client’s client

Managing Expectations – Knowing my client’s client

25 Feb

Author : Brad Muncs, Categories : Web Site Development

We regularly work with communications agencies and freelance designers as their web partners.  What’s special about this is that the “end client” is the client of my client – this means we have to deal with two different parties whose goals are sometimes aligned, other times not.

Aligning potentially conflicting goals

For example, suppose we are hired by a graphic designer to build an e-commerce website for a retailer.  For the designer, making the website visually creative might be the priority.  For the retailer, it’s probably his Google search engine ranking and the ease of use of his sales process.

We have to satisfy both by finding win-win solutions and minimising compromise.  Attaining this is all about being aware of expectations and being able to manage them accordingly.  To do so, we use several methods and documents.

Project specifications checklists

An important tool we use is the “project specifications” document.  We list all the website’s features in it (in plain English, not techno-babble) with our recommendations about how to create them, and the retailer and designer have to approve its contents before we start programming. 

We also specify how each of those features will work, with as much detail as possible, in checklist format.  This way, everyone is “on the same page” at the start of the project.  It becomes like a blueprint: at every step of the way, we refer to the checklist to see what has been completed and what is left.  This is a great way to get a feel of the mandate’s evolution. 

Client approval process – based on agreed feature details

The checklist format allows the client to go through the document and puts a checkmark beside each feature he has tested and is satisfied with.  This simplifies the approval process and helps the client understand what he is looking for when he is testing the site prior to launch.

Planning for the unexpected

Obviously, the list’s level of detail will vary depending on the complexity or novelty of the feature in question, but the goal is to minimize surprises.  And since almost anything is possible and everything moves so fast with the web, surprises and modifications can lead to unfulfilled promises.  Documents like these help us minimise uncertainty, but it can never totally be eliminated. This is why we always add a “contingency” budget in our estimates.

Wouldn’t life be boring if everything always went according to plan  ;-)

Tags : expectations, specifications

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