Long story short - General Contractor, been in business for 30 some years, wants a website. I wrote up a proposal, went over it with him, told him I would need vital content from him such as pictures and referrals. So now I'm getting the run around that he hasn't taken pictures for years etc. I was like I'm sure you've done friends and families remodeling - have them take some pictures on their digital cameras and send them over...
With home remodeling, pictures of work are basically the most important content on your pages. I really want to make him a truly quality site, the design I'm very happy with, but the content is going to be lacking if he doesn't find a way to help me out. I'm not exactly comfortable getting stock images of house remodeling...that's like getting stock images of websites for promoting your web design.
Do I just use what he gives me and just put the site up even if the content isn't the greatest (given I tried my hardest to get the information from the client), get paid and get out?
Make sure to give him the best advice you can, and let him make the choice. I would encourage him to get a proper photographer in to take some shots. But don't just tell the client to do something. It's better (I think) to be proactive and offer to help out and organize this sort of thing for him. Offer to come in and help get content together, get a photographer in, etc. etc. Of course, make it clear that you have to charge for your time on all this.
Well said. He's probably just to lazy or busy. Anyways since its your job to make the site and your job to get results you must do your best. Because if he doesn't see the results he's probably going to pounce back on you. So tell him that and do the best you can.
Just like in design, getting good content all starts in the proposal. Seems to be too late this time, but next time be sure to put together a needs list and make it a condition of your proposal. If you need photos, put it in your needs list with explanations of how you will use them. In fact, before you write a proposal you should have a questionnaire that includes questions on what his goals and expectations are for his web content. And most importantly, does a photograher fit into his budget?
I've written quite a bit of content for General Contractors. Some want pictures, some don't. Although they are a great help, they are not critical to good content. For this project, get together with your client and find out what he thinks his website needs in terms of content.
If he wants photos, explain to him that, if he prefers you can certainly use stock photos but they will undermine the credibility of his business since they all appear in several sites on the web. You might also remind him that valid testimonials are a big benefit to web sales and there is no better testimonial than pictures and a description of them from a satisfied customer.
At the proposal stage I did note that I would need pictures and testimonials from him. He seems to be one of the most least technical savvy people, even lacking very basic email skills...smh
Anyway, I would be interested in hearing how pictures are not at the very top of the list for general contractors's websites. I know if I was shopping around for home remodeling I'm not sure I'd even consider looking at a site with no pictures. I want to be able to see the type of work the company does and what the quality of it looks like. After I know they have the skills, then I would look into testimonials, length of doing business etc.
I guess if they don't supply images, it's their loss. Just do the best you can with what you've got. Base your wireframe on the content they have.
Have a cut off date and after that use lorim ipsum. Surely they will get the idea when their site goes live then. So long as copywriting has been cited in the contract to be the responsibility of the client by such and such date.
The days I used to wait for clients for perfect content before completion are over. I now work with Lorum Ipsum text, once I've done this, I get complete payment until they finish their content upload which I help them with the technical side of the CMS. I am not sure if this is the best way to go about things, as I am certain there are better possibilities. In terms of content / proof-reading, I help them with this after they have initially lived their content, and likewise with any SEO on-page factors. There are so many dependancies for any web design project, and if you're not careful you can wait for endless content, and changes without recieving any payments for your efforts.
I hope this helps.
Here's the problem with that: A website should be built around the content, not vice-versa. I really commend Bades for trying to do things right, but the sad truth is that many of us (me included) are lacking in selling the value of good content to our customers. We need to spend more time showing and selling them on the idea that content is an investment, not an expense.
One idea that I use (when practical do do such things) is I offer to go to locations customers recommend and take photos and even interview customers. I structure this into the payment. I am careful to let the customer control whether this is a comfortable idea or not. The truth is that many contractors don't have time to do these things, they have a hard enough time getting ontop of their everchanging schedules and unless they believe that this website will make a significant difference then they won't put much stock into it. However, if you can say 'I know that you are busy, but I am offering to
- Take photos in locations of your choice I will need you to give me those contacts now
- Have content written by a professional for you; better for search engine rankings and better for your customers
- I will interview customers that you have a good relationship and edit these interviews into testimonials
- Yes it costs a little more, but why bother investing anything into the site if it is not going to drive new customers to you? These steps take pressure off you and I can get what we need to make your site do its' job.
To me, part of design websites for customers is adding value to what you bring. If you have a customer that is unable/unwilling/unknowing why it is important to get you these things then it is our jobs as web designers to ensure they get a good quality site. You can position it too General Contractors like you are a General Contractor for the web; you bring the right materials and the right people together to get the best possible site. This is language contractors generally understand.
If you know that you are not a decent photographer then hire one and budget it with your client, same it true for the writing/content editing.
@Shyflower;. The last time I did not I waited 8 months before the site was completed, and even I was kept being changing the content, up until they decided to proof-read it themselves and did not opt to get it professionally checked. I feel, from a business point of view it's best to work on the content last, that way you get paid, whether or not they have the content in place. What is a requirement before the I start a website is the logo, the content unfortunately never goes first as this would be incredibly hard for me to complete a site.
IMHO it is far easier for clients to refine things rather than create things. This is why I have the site content written for them based on my customer research, current marketing material and discussion notes. Once the first version of the content is created I schedule a client to read through the content with me. Often times they will like most of what is there but they think of things they should also be included. I will explain to them how adding these things will affect their budget but generally they are ok with it as they feel it is important. If in their eyes changes are too expensive then they don't get made and I let them know that we can do this as a subsequent project or iteration of work. This process has worked very successfully for me.
I like your style. Too often I see remarks from developers that look at websites as pieces put together rather than a composite, as you suggest. When you put focus on any one part of development, rather than the big picture, you end up with piece-meal instead of a well integrated web-presence.
IMHO, one of the major bugaboos of web development is the idea that a business -- whether off line coming online or a web entrepreneur -- is capable of writing its own content for the web. They leave out the fact that, even if the domain owners are good at their job, they are not familiar with writing for the web or what a website needs to succeed in this highly competitive arena. I know a lot of successful business people who are totally clueless when it comes to writing and a lot of great writers who are clueless about selling on the web or anywhere else. The successful web writer is well-grounded in salesmanship, writing principles, and especially the specialty of knowing what works on this medium (the web) and what doesn't.
Bottom line is that it takes a combination of all three -- web savvy, writing skills, and salesmanship to build a competitive web presence.
:tup: And if you are not great at all these things then contract things like photography and writing, build it into the price - make sure to include money for your time to mange contract work. Become well versed in adding business value (ie. learn the things the customer is good at, and take off their hands things that are not). Sell these 'offloading of responsibility' ideas to them in a way they see you are trying to help them rather than fleece them and most of the time they realize that what you are positioning to them has sound reason and weight their decisions on it.
For example I will say
With businesses that I have done similar work, if the customer writes the content then it can take 20 or more hours of their time - most times the customer did not have this time, and I don't think you do either. In addition, web content is written differently than books or magazine content as people scan rather than read web pages. Writing for the web is a critical skill, because your site design will be based around this content. A web writer I work with can get your content written in 8-12 hours. They know how to pull the important information out of the assets we are preparing. We will need to allocate $xxx.xx dollars to the project; however, the content is the most important aspect of your site, only second to people finding your site. If they find your site and the content is not good, they won't stay or come back. In other terms it is important to get this done right.
Definitely go with advising him and stating your "professional opinion" on why his website is not the "ideal" site you and your customer have in mind. You could discuss about his target market's preference and the ongoing online trends in creating web presence. Tell him how originality works in building a website especially on the content department.
After working with really huge clients / rich people i can tell there are basically two scenarios:
1. They have 100500 managers and a 500 pages brand book.
2. They dont have anything and director will let you speak to him for around 10 minutes before he needs to go. Although he is sure that YOU need to know what his business needs.
And i can tell you that i enjoy the second type more. Its like solving a math task where X is defined by something like 400 < X < 10432 (instead of X = 3). Work turns out to be creative and even though they might not have images you are free to create / draw it.
Do have to admit your approach is way better. When you said this affects the budget, could you explain in what way? How much more does it affect the price. I have a ere feeling that if I tried to do the same clients would decline so that they could save money. From experience they always prefer if things do not cost much?
A main drawback to my approach is that granted I might get paid, however, clients always leave their website's half-finished from a content point of view. I do send frequent reminders, but many fail to understand the importance. Maybe they feel that because I got paid I should no longer ask anything from them.
Yep, I really like your approach, I think I might (will) have to steal that one!
Bottom line is that it takes a combination of all three -- web savvy, writing skills, and salesmanship to build a competitive web presence.
I think this is the main problem. Not one of those professions is a master or can survive on their own.
For me content is a priority, the days of SEO magic and died to good quality content and web design. Clients never understand this, I always do stress it from the beginning and now I am hoping to positively influence more clients into understanding this. Content should be written naturally but with a point of view of what is commonly searched for. This way we can create good business. Clients however, fail to understand the combination, and many don't want to get themselves in a huge debt as are sceptical if there will be a return on investment. It's increasingly difficult to give them what will work if clients are 'scared' to pay a little more.
Apart from good on-page search engine optimization and unique well written content, we have to focus on the security as well as supporting existing clients.
I had one big client, did not exactly go to plan, in the end I let the client go. I find that the bigger they are the more demanding and harder they are to convince, comes without say that the less appreciative they are for your efforts. It astonishes me how many try to cut so many corners that in the end they end up spending x2 the amount to try to correct their mistakes. Now I deal with not-so-rich people who just want a simple or medium size website. Big business with big directors are hard to please and even though you can make a living from them, in the end they want your soul
so you're better off with the smaller guy.
It affects the cost because to get good contractors where I live, I have to spend between $60 to $80 per hour; typically $60 per hour for people I give more than 20 hours a month (this rate can be negotiated; although I know that my writers need to make a living so I don't negotiate this). So typically for a 20 page site it would cost around $800 to $1000 which make the project 25% more expensive, if I would do this myself (shudder). The main thing is that after I show examples of what content customers versus professional writers have written, the customer very clearly knows which one they like better, even if we don't get into the 'why people don't read on the web' talk. So to me I expect as a cost of doing it right and confidently position its' worth to the customers and given that most companies where we are don't update their business designs within 5 year cycles then it works out to be about $200 per year or about $17 per month. Most times I don't have to get to these discussions as they understand it is part of the cost.
I think they may be a missed opportunity? If your customer opts not to write content, it's partly completed, or is not written well for the web then the next conversation I would have with them "Is your site driving business the way you want? Are you getting the returns you need to feel this is a good investment?" Often this conversation opens the door to 'Lets fix the content so it works better for Search Engine placement and reads better. We may also consider building in a couple of hours a month where we walk through the Google/Web analysis and I help you understand where you have better traffic, what content seems to be most visited and then we focus more on those or we improve other important areas so we also will encourage more traffic. My company got many of these types of monthly web maintenance type tasks and they really helped our customers; we made sure the customers realize that our efforts where driving this increase in traffic/sales. This further increased our business value to them and opened additional opportunities for new business with the same customer.
You can't steal what is gladly given
Those skills are just as important for the developer to have as it they are important for the developer's client. If you aren't selling the complete package, you need to up your game. I guess to start you need to ask your clients if they want the complete package that will help them pre-build a good web presence or if they just want a design.
You're completely right!
Thanks for helping me see something in a completely different way. So from a content gathering point of view you ask clients for all their material first, prior to developing a sitemap and having a professional content write it? Is there a procedure you take prior to doing this.
For the Google Analytic I can completely see your point of view. At this time I simply letup Google Analytic to email the clients without my involvement, however, content and social media would be ideal if more traffic is desired.
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