Meetings – What to Take

Documents

I see young web designers always carry a laptop/tablet to meetings. What for?

I have loaded my portfolio onto a laptop with the idea that prospects will be able to browse through them. Or, I can quickly lay my hands on a specific example of the sort of website they might be wanting.

It doesn’t work. However, I still take the netbook to show that I am something to do with computers.

I used to print screengrabs of my portfolio and put them in transparent pockets. The screengrabs were printed on coated paper for colour density and simply glued on the page.

The folder of screengrabs always gets attention if you remember to leave it out on the table. And you can still lay your hands on that site.

DSCN1355Pic Folder

Lately, I upgraded the folder. I either printed my own postcard sized screengrabs or got them done at a Postnet. And stuck them on black card. And bought a plastic comb binder. And put a transparent sheet as the front and back cover.

Now they look presentable. I also made sure that the visually appealing sites were at the front. As new sites arrive, I can print grabs and add them.

What else? A company profile is worth putting together and leaving behind. One thing that is useful is a file of AWStats printouts to show the prospect what he can expect both in terms of traffic and general information.

Also take any relevant emails – they’re more useful than you think.

I also take an exercise book and couple of pencils. I bought a very fancy plain paper, leather bound book in India. Very striking. I usually make notes in it and prospects do remember that book. It’s got a huge clasp on the front that presents a massive lump that is almost impossible to write on. But they remember that book.

Pic Books

Your Bag

As long as it’s not shabby and unprofessional, anything will do – even an old leather briefcase. I use a black nylon laptop bag that will take the laptop and also has a bunch of pockets for things like a laser pointer, the cellphone (ALWAYS turn it OFF) and car keys (don’t have them bulging out of your pocket). I also have a simpler document bag, also black and nylon for short non-prospect meetings. In both bags is a supply of business cards. I also put one in my shirt pocket so that it can be produced with a flourish.

Pic Bag

OK, You’re cool and out the car. Carry your bag in your left hand. You’re going  to shake hands. Prospects will not like to shake hands with something that’s hot and very sweaty.

Prioritizing Website Design Enquiries

Enquiries for website design come in several categories.

The full spec – an attachment with either an outline or spec for a website. Sometimes you can see that the spec is actually several, cobbled together.

The short descriptive email  – not anywhere near enough information and requires fleshing out.

The simple ‘I’m looking for a website’ email. Completely inadequate.

Finally, the ‘Do you do websites?’ ‘Sent from my Blackberry’. Worse that useless and never replied to. If he’s considering a website whilst sitting in a coffee shop, he’s not serious.

Often the best is the initial email enquiry. The ‘full spec’ folk often get it wrong and will not change. Also there’s probably a preferred supplier but they had to put out the spec so don’t hold your breath.

I always phone back – or ask for a phone number if there is one – because the prospect can hear me (may not be a plus!) and I can hear them and get a much better idea of what they want as well as some background information.

Also forget those people who give you their email address over the phone – it’s always gonna bounce!

 

 

 

 

The Website Development Window

Here’s a problem I don’t have an answer for.

Any website designer will agree that a web  design project that proceeds smoothly from start to finish results in a superior website to one that stutters piecemeal over a long period.

So, how to get clients to organize for website development and what to do if they don’t?

No matter how much encouragement they have to paginate their website, get their content refined and graphics ready, there is always a point where you have to accept what they have at that time.

Sometimes it will be pretty nearly perfect and others – mostly – will be largely imperfect even if they had years to prepare. My experience has been that however substandard the content is and however much you want to create a first rate website, the client may end up arguing with you over edits you’ve made so leave his mess alone.

The only sane approach I think is to make it clear to the client that a website ‘development window’ will be created for his site development. Typically, for the small business website, about four weeks which allows for the to-ing and fro-ing needed to complete the website.

The client should be aware that if the content is late arriving the development window will shut to permit the development of other websites and their site may be delayed. One might go a step further and inform the client that he may be charged for the allocated time whether or not the content has arrived unless he has asked for a rescheduling with due notice or that he will be kicked out of the queue completely.

The clients who cannot get their act together are usually those which have several personnel adding to the website, one or more of whom is always late. Still, that is their problem and not yours. As soon as I hear that there is a ‘website team’ which expects to be consulted at every step, the quote doubles.

I have just finished two websites. One has taken 15 months for fairly straightforward work (the contact went and had a baby in the middle – and there was a ‘web team’) and the other, four months. All web designers hate to have to go and find files, edit them and repost them time after time. I eventually lose interest in the project and it turns out often to be mediocre. Occasionally I have refunded deposits and told the client to go elsewhere.

The second client mentioned above wanted a revamp and submitted a list of edits which was quoted on – and more edits kept coming and coming. The final amount of course was three times the original quote and when invoices are submitted in these cases with just an amount, the queries may start. ‘But I understood it was RXXXXX’ etc. So, now I also put in the hours that were worked and if there is a query I also put the hours that were originally quoted for and the EXTRA hours that were worked. If that doesn’t work I send a full, itemised bill with hours worked for every edit.

It normally doesn’t come to this for most clients.

There’s no easy answer, particularly if it’s a redesign for an existing client who you don’t want to lose. Usually, threatening to back-burner the site gets things going, particularly if the back-burnering  extends over Christmas. It gets the client to focus on what they really want. One of the clients above wanted the site to be set to music (‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’ I thought appropriate), have a sound effect on mouseover, have a promo ticker, have a news ticker, have an exchange rate ticker and have a conversion calculator all on the same page. And they complained about it being slow.

I saw it described well on another web designer’s T&Cs. It said ‘a dynamic relationship exists between ourselves and the client’.

Excellent. It means that both parties respond timeously at all times. Perhaps one needs to invoke contracts? I’ve never needed one but it’s a piece of paper to wave when things go wrong. Contract or not, it is sensible that the client must be aware that the development window opens with the first of his content submissions and will close at a prearranged date, website finished or not. Thereafter either additional charges apply to ensure the speed of development continues or the website is back burnered.

Trouble is, us small developers need the cash.

Grief with IE8

Usually, it’s IE7 that’s the problem but there have been two instances in the last few days where IE8 has played up with problems I have never seen before.  Usually a cursory IE8 browser check requires a few CSS changes.,

Problem One

Disappearing images – nothing. All gone. Some considerable digging revealed I could put

position:relative;

into the image style and it would work. The disappearing trick affected any image with a style. Never seen it before. The hack worked. I suspected PIE but removing that from the style made no difference. Examined the rest of the CSS and it appeared fine. The images were fine in all browsers except IE8.

Problem Two

High tide body background.

I’ve had this before and add ‘fixed’ to CSS gradients and it sorts it out. Not this time. Put a plain colour on the body (or the <html>) and it’s fine. Again, only IE8.

I gave up on this one, for the time being but I will revisit it because this should never happen.

Problem Three

Disappearing background colours.  This is a problem related is CSS3PIE and when that is removed, voila!, they appear.  Don’t know why.

Problem Four

Mousing over a <div> and having the background colour show through. Strange and all IE8.

Thank you once again Bill.

Prospects – Getting to the Gig

OK, what are you wearing? There is one rule. Be the best dressed person in the room.

007I work in Durban which is very humid in summer. Wear a suit and you look like a sloppy journalist just out of the pub. Have the aircon in the car turned up high.

If you wear a jacket, leave it on the car hook. Don’t forget that the guys you are meeting probably work in air conditioned offices.There is a workaround though.

Most young male company men have a uniform. Blue long sleeve shirt, brown long pants, brown shoes. I wear something similar – a different coloured shirt – and a tie. It doesn’t hurt and you can leave it loose until just before you get out the car.

Getting to the Gig

Never be late. If I have never been to meetings there before I always allow an extra twenty minutes even if I get there OK and have to sit in the car for a few minutes. Park in the shade if there is any. I’m a Luddite and don’t have a GPS although should invest in one.

GPS or not, get a ding on the freeway and you will be 30 minutes late.

traffic

I limit site visits to within 10kms of Durban CBD. I have driven plenty further on the odd occasion but you are in no way regarded as enthusiastic, more as pathetic and desperate.

Your Wheels

vetteI know this is not an easy thing to change but the wheels should display authority and sufficient cash. Not a beach buggy.  And make sure it’s not covered in bird shit and full of baby things and supermarket bags.

I use a somewhat geriatric Audi A4. It’s enough, I hope to distinguish me as a discerning motorist. I used to have a 1976 Corvette which was guaranteed to get the conversation started.

External Evaluation

Right, we’ve done some detective work and have now arrived at the prospects. Big operation? Small? How many staff about?

Look in the staff car park. A row of luxury cars will also tell you something about the company’s largesse. Lots of Dough?

luxurycars

Maybe but the row of SUVs will all probably be on lease which may mean they have no money for a website – can go either way. But you may find out during the meeting.

Turned Up Early?

Always be on time – obvious really.  Late for a meeting may also imply late replies to website queries. I have found that if you arrive early, it’s taken as a sign of professionalism rather than desperation.

Internal Evaluation

You’ll get a good idea of what the prospect might pay by simply looking around. Expensive fixtures, plants, hardware like computers, maybe even a server will indicate that they are looking for a top end website. The boardroom, where most meetings are held will tell you a great deal.

If you are ushered to a tiny room packed with product or piles of paper then it’s likely the prospect wants ‘just a web page’ and is looking for the lowest possible price. You don’t know however, often until you get to the place but when I see this sort of operation, I’ve pretty well wasted a couple of hours.

office

 

 

Prospects – Meetings 101 or Why You Were Invited

Un-ideally, and usually, the meeting  takes place after you have submitted the quotation. In other words, your prospect has shuffled a bunch of quotes together and for reasons unknown, you have ended up on his little pile.

Why You Are There

The reasons could be a low price (Ugh!) or, you hope, the professional service you offer. Or anything else. But, you need to go into this meeting with a good mental picture of what you quoted for and the amount you quoted. Take any emails because for sure, he will have them. Look through the correspondence in relation to the quote. Have I missed something?

angrymanIn most cases it’s the price that got you there and not your fancy quote form so expect some horsetrading.

At the meeting, additional functionality/pages will be brought up either by your prospect (to squeeze the quote) or yourself  (to increase the quote).

The Curve Ball

He has had the chance to look at several quotes and thought to himself – “Hmm, didn’t think of that!”, “Ooh, I want LOTS of those!’ or “That would be nice”.

He will try and get you to commit your price to this additional functionality, which may be significant – (“Oh, we thought we’d have a database driving those extra 20 pages”).

Your Response

Resist, although things may may otherwise going swimmingly. There are probably a bunch of people round the table BTW so there may be a little pressure. He may ask you there and then – “Well, how much extra do you think this will cost?”.

interrogationResist – although there may be some pressure. Tell your prospect that you need to evaluate the new spec. and you’ll submit a new quote tomorrow.

Tell him that your quotations are prepared very thoroughly. Get your breath back when you get to the office – and don’t leave it too long before reissuing the quote. I have done this and even got mixed up with what client wants what.

When You Get Back

No matter how much you impress him with the approximate-ness of the figure, this figure gets itself set in concrete between the meeting and your quote submission. What you’re going to do is have a relook at the quote, add stuff from the meeting and have a REAL thorough inspection of the existing website in case that content is going to be reused.

The devil is in the detail. Too true.  I have found some horrific stuff in the basement over the years.  Some little, weeny text link leads to a whole new 30 page website.

quote_timeOnce you have done this, put the quote together making sure that the new stuff from the meeting is itemized in there together with the unpleasant discoveries from the resent website.

If there was stuff discussed that was optional, include them and quote for them separately so your prospect has a choice.

Cover Yourself

In your quotation make sure you specify exactly what you are going to do for what fee and that extra pages/functionality will be quoted separately.

Don’t submit the new quote ‘tomorrow’ – leave it a day or two. Chances are, he will be seeing other webbies so get your quote in after theirs JUST after, before he chooses. Otherwise he may use your quote to get a lower quote at a subsequent meeting.

Next Post

What to take to the meeting.

Outsourcing Website Design Work

Sometimes, you don’t have the expertise to complete certain website design tasks – PHP/ASP is an example. The option is outsourcing this website work overseas.

If you take a bus in India, it deposits you almost inevitably at your destination on a spot of sand at the edge of the road, from whence you fight with tuktuk drivers to get the best price into town.

durban web designers - outsourcing to  technosoftI was waiting for a bus in Jodphur to take me to Pushkar on said patch of sand. I had about 45 minutes until the bus arrived and I looked around and right next to me was a small two storey office  building with the words ‘Technosoft – Website Developers‘.

Ha!

I have time to go in and chew the fat. It turned out they also had offices in Delhi and Baltimore. A couple of years later I had need to get a member login system and contacted them. They were very reasonable and after one  bit of editing got it right in about a week. I was impressed.

I got the client to deal with them directly and I just added the code.

Outsourcing to PHP Jabbers

durban web designers - outsourcing to jabbersA few years ago I came across PHPJabbers. They sell PHP scripts and will install the whole thing for you at no charge if you want. They’re based in Bulgaria.

Their selling point is their support and over the years, there have been plenty of tickets. They will come back to you typically within an hour – very efficient.

I have bought some scripts for myself to try and for clients. The scripts are just the hook because although they are standalone, they will inevitably need some modification which they are pleased to do. The modification rate is very reasonable.

They will also design a whole website around the script which is a little expensive, apart from the to-ing and fro-ing necessary to finish it.

Simple CMS

They also have free scripts. One of these used to be a Simple CMS.

This is a fantastic little system. It’s not a full architecture but can be bolted on to any part of any page. It uses a MySQL database and the FCK editor so the backend is like WordPress’s. Now, they charge $28 for it.

cmsMost of their scripts have two licensing levels – User, for a single application and Developer for up to five applications. The Developer licence is about three times the user licence.

© Durban Web Designers 2013