As a Web specialist, the most common request I receive from clients is for a flexible website that they can control. The level of control can vary, and the amount of flexibility changes depending on the client’s needs. Determining that optimal level of control to allocate is a crucial consideration for developers.
Based on what clients want to control on their sites, developers try to build tools to make the site management easier for them. However, what the client may not understand is that the more features we add, the more complex a tool becomes. Non-savvy clients requesting intricate tools can often lead to errors or bungled content—and an ineffective site.
Teaching a client how to use the website is a short-term solution, but what can be learned in a few hours can change or be forgotten over the next few years. Written instructions can prove lengthy and impractical for clients to consult every time they want to update their websites.
So what’s the solution? The best way to guide clients is to limit their creative control, which makes the Web tools much simpler to understand and use effectively. This isn’t to say that clients can’t have what they want, but they should first want what they need.
The primary website need is effective communication. Working backwards, developers should create flexible tools that allow clients to explain their brands within their comfort zones. When a client is given just the right amount of flexible control to create usable, well-designed content, they will do just that—and they will do it more often. Clients will not use complicated tools to refresh their content, and their websites will slowly become outdated and dull.
In my experience, initial meetings with clients often revolve around determining their level of knowledge, and thus what Web responsibilities they can handle. With that understanding, I make recommendations for what tools should be built and how a client will be able to use them.
Often, through the development process, I will give clients tutorials of how they will manage and create new content to ensure they will be comfortable managing their new website. That way, it’s easier for clients to actually experience the difference between wanting what they need and wanting what they want.