Featured Website Design : EeziPumps

Our client sells a variety of water pumps – pressure booster pumps, swimming pool pumps, sewage pumps and borehole pumps. This site is their third and focuses on the submersible pump range which includes sewage pumps, stainless steel dirty water pumps, borehole pumps and sewage lift stations.

water-booster-pumps.co.za and swimming-pool-pumps.co.za are some years old and, while they follow a Dynamic Drive CSS based layout, are not designed from the ground up to be responsive. The new website submersible-pumps.co.za uses a responsive grid  based on skeleton grid system. The system is very lightweight and easy to use unless you want nested cells where it battles. It seems to be eminently responsive insofar as it has been tested on small devices.submersible2

Its two other concessions to current web design practice are a slider using LayerSlider and a megamenu. I have yet to find a more flexible slider than LayerSlider although the implementation in this case is fairly straightforward. The megamenu is one from Code Canyon and is not really required with any degree of complexity.

Short descriptions of the various pumps help the visitor to decide on the one which will be best suited. Another nice feature is the built-in contact form – simple but enough for most uses. I love font-awesome but battled to find pump-type icons.

submersible3Like all our recent websites, the full contact details appear on every page, in this case in the left sidepanel but can also appear in the header. I’ve always disliked the ‘Contact Us’ page – one extra click on to a page that might or might not be understandable.

 

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.

Prospect Meetings – Pace Yourself

Get yourself informed about the prospect and what he expects before you start the pitch. You can then deliver a much more measured delivery.

carsalesman1The ‘running off at the mouth’ that is often employed by web designers both at web design meetings and on their websites is meant to impress upon the audience how much they know.  All it does is impress the audience how disorganized (and sloppy and illiterate) they often are.

It’s a balancing act. You don’t want to sit there and say nothing – the prospect does want to have an opinion about you other than ‘taciturn’ (or ‘chancer’ – even worse). On the other hand, you mustn’t dominate the conversation and sound like a car salesman.

The trick is to be friendly but sound profound. Not easy and you have to think on your feet.

Get Your Position Right – Right from the Outset

It’s important to create a hierarchy. Who are you?

Are you the guy who is going to jump at every phone call demanding yet another change? Or, are you the consultant who will dispense his manifold skills to their advantage and to whom they will prostrate themselves?

Are you the maid or the doctor?

It may sound arrogant but it has consequences later on. If you come across as weak, submissive and pliable, you may get the gig but you will get communications that will have that expectation – how high can you jump? Why are you not adding all this extra stuff to my website – now!

consulting

Alternatively, if you are the doctor, it will be – ‘What do you think of this?’, ‘I understand it may cost more but how about adding these?’ The consequence of the ‘consultant’ position is, of course that you can charge more by reason of your professionalism.

Of course listen to the prospect and be adaptable. Be pliant but not pathetic.

Webbie Qualifications

I don’t like regulations but it is a problem that there are few real yardsticks of website designers’ performance out there. Most website designers are self taught. Only a few will come through existing courses (subject of another post). Prospects in my experience pay more attention to you personally than to your portfolio.

SImilarly, this poses a small problem in that prospects pay more attention to you, your appearance, your knowledge and authority than to a piece of paper. Which may be worthless.

Tell Them

  1. A little about the company background and perhaps your own background as it relates to the business;
  2. Tell them why you love designing websites;
  3. How many sites you have designed and for which big important clients;
  4. The types of sites – marketing, database, CMS, eCommerce etc. and their uses
  5. Your SEO skills that get your clients cash;
  6. The way you go about developing your websites;
  7. Things you can do to marketing websites to increase their pull – social bookmarking, newsletters, blogs, client lists, testimonials etc.
  8. Special services like hosting;

Answer any questions promptly and then resume. Make sure that your tone is knowledgeable but informal. Cut the anecdotes – they distract people and waste time. They don’t want to deal with Victor Meldrew. Nor do they want to deal with Justin Bieber.

Bye Bye

farewel1Be aware of meeting fatigue. People being distracted, looking at their cellphones, what’s going on outside the door. Paper shuffling.

Time to wrap up and go. In my case usually between 45 minutes and an hour.

Do not make them sit there while you go over your last 9 points.  They will think that if they give you the gig you will micromanage it to death. Use the space they will give you to speak to get the main points over then talk about their own requirements.

Have a list of less than important items that can be left off if there is no time.

  • In my case – web design courses;
  • Control panel uses;
  • Anecdotes;
  • How busy – or otherwise – you are

Time to go, thank them all, get out and thank them again in an email. If you agreed to quote then follow up a few days after it’s submission.

farewell2

Prospects – First Contact

Know thine prospect! It pays to find out as much as possible about a new prospect before a) you answer him and b) you see him.  This is not possible with . . . 

… the Phone Call

Wow! you’ve got an enquiry!

phoneTypically it’ll be “I’m looking for someone to design a website – do you do that sort of thing?”

Of course we do! But you need some info before you know whether you can really answer the question in the affirmative.

Firstly, listen. Listen to what the prospect is saying. Very little probably – he’s waiting for you. But, you still need some information from him –

  1. What is the prospect’s business (a lot are reluctant)?
  2. Does he already have a website?
  3. If so what does he think the shortcomings are (other than ‘old’)?
  4. How long has he had the site?
  5. If you can, get the developer’s name from him (also reluctant).
  6. What does he expect from the new website (er, updated)?
  7. Does he have any specific requirements or just a general ‘improvement’?

Beware! You get the ‘Our website designer never answers our emails’.

Really?

Lots of reasons for this – he’s rubbish or he’s fed up with his client’s continual amendments. The latter reason is usually because he’s underquoted and not been clear/firm with his client.

The answer is usually the second reason which will tell you that your prospect may be a micromanager and will have paid little for the site (inspecting it will tell you).

… the Email

If you’re lucky, the email may have an attached spec – but that will probably be incomplete however the email is likely to have been written by the guy wanting the site. And, at least you have something in writing.

I get a high number of emails with no contact at all other than the email address. If there is a phone number, ring them and see who it is you’re talking to. You’ll also get a good idea of want they want and they have had the opportunity to talk to you – and you can give them tips over the phone.

Time Wasters

bored-man-300x230Sometimes you’ll get the written equivalent of the phone call – ‘Can you give me price on a website please’.

Someone has been told to get three quotes – ‘Give me a price – any price’ – although they have someone in mind anyway.

Worse you travel 50kms and get – ‘Oh, Brandon has just stepped out’. How interested can he be? He may have delegated but the guy:

  • has no idea what Brandon wanted and
  • couldn’t give a shit.

starYou’ve just wasted two hours that you could have done something else in.

I now try and do some digging on the phone before a site visit is brought up. From the digging I can get some idea of the extent of the prospect’s interest so when it arises I can tell them I’ll see them or that I am too busy but they can come around (subject of another post). I usually get it wrong.

 Is there Already a Website?

badsiteI try and establish if he already has a website – sometimes the prospect will tell you that in the email signature. If he does, I go to it and take a look and appraise the website objectively.

It may be crap but the reason for the crappiness may not be the webbie’s fault. He may have been told to do things the way they are. However, it is possible to see shoddy implementation of standard functionality – which is a webbie problem.

The name of the web designer may be below the footer. It may be hidden so do a Ctrl-A and see if anything magically appears.

The more informed you are before you see a prospect, the better the questions you can put and the more readily you will have how you can help him at your fingertips.

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