Web development is a unique profession. It requires technical ability, creative prowess, psychological expertise, and superb communication skills. To launch a website that really tells the story of a brand, and gets users to act, you need all of these things. But the most important part of the web design and development process is the communication between the brand and its agency. I’m not talking about responding to emails in a timely manner, or answering the phone at all hours of the night. I’m talking about how an agency gets the right information out of a client, and then takes that information to create something unexpected but also close to perfect.
“This site is so much better than our competition’s.”
“The look and feel of the site is exactly what we were after.”
“I’m thrilled that you were able to pull this off.”
These are all fantastic testimonials from clients. The website project measured up to their expectations, and that’s great. But as web designers and developers, we should be striving for more.
“You took what was in my head before I even knew it was there, and then put it on the screen.”
“You gave us what we didn’t even know we needed when we started this process.”
“I never knew our website could solve these problems we had.”
When we get these types of compliments, we know we really knocked it our of the park. To get to this point, the very first meeting with a client needs to set the stage. There are a few things that need to be present in that first meeting (or meetings) to get there.
Chemistry sort of feels like an arbitrary word for “we like each other,” but it is still important. If you don’t feel a connection with the agency across the table, it’s worth figuring out why. The questions you ask yourself could lead you to another issue that needs to get sorted out before you start working together. I recently spoke with a marketing director about what they look for when they are choosing an agency. “Someone I can see myself having a beer with,” was one of the first things he said. If you don’t have that chemistry, everything that follows could seem a bit forced.
The Right Questions
It’s the agency’s job to ask the right questions when you discuss your website project with them. In my eyes, this is the absolute most important part of my job. In every discovery meeting, I search for the answers that get to the bottom of their needs. My main goal is to uncover a real challenge that they are having, even if they think it’s unsolvable at this moment. It’s more than having your list of questions prepared. It’s reading the client or prospect and getting deeper into things that might seem unrelated to the website.
It’s the agency’s responsibility to earn a client’s trust early on in, preferably well before any contract is signed. An agency should never have to twist someone’s arm to get them to sign a contract. The day that contract is signed should feel like a happy moment, because that trust is there. A website project isn’t something you buy off the shelf, so a company really has no idea what they are going to get when a project starts. So they have to have a deep understanding of how the agency works and really why they do what they do, and trust that process for their own brand.
When an agency understands the client’s needs, they need to take ownership of the project to get there. The agency’s #1 goal should be seeing that client succeed. And if everything is working the way it should be, this sense of ownership will be automatic.