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Love thy client

End the nightmares. Respect the process.

Developing relationships take time. They require patience and you have to accept the good with the bad. All parties must be aware that each voice carries equal weight and the ideas they produce should receive the proper attention and be thought out. Through it all, respect and compromise are essential to crafting strong relationships.

Most of us in the design and development field have the technical skills. We understand all of the jargon, and have a stockpile of epic nerd gear at our disposal. The problem is that many of us have no ability to craft strong relationships with our clients. The ability to establish relationships and maintain them are some of the most challenging tasks in our field. Not only do they make each of us a more valuable asset, they help enhance the love and pride we have for what we do. Love your job, but more importantly love thy client.

A nightmare client can break down the joy we have in our jobs. Those projects produce negativity and anxiety which transform us into bitter lousy developers which perpetuates the problem. By carrying these sentiments into the next project we set ourselves up for another painful series of interactions. Honestly, how many of those clients could have been great? How many of those relationships never had a chance because we went into them with premature angst about those people sitting across the table?

Take some time to re-invest in building client relationships. Start fresh with your next client and reinvest time in existing clients. Ditch the bitterness, dust yourself off, leave the angst behind and find value in these relationships. These experiences will define just how far and how high your career can go.

It all starts with investing time and positive energy into every meeting with your clients. Eye contact, focusing on the important details, and heavy documentation demonstrate your passion and credibility to any client you meet with. Ideally you need your clients to understand and buy into just how committed you are to building the right experience and content strategy for the project. Maintaining an open mind and a positive mentality ease any tension and begin establishing confidence and trust in your opinions from your clients. This will help you in the future with any complex discussions and difficult scenarios.

Along with establishing this client relationship comes the task of building a vast set of data for the project. Documentation is a critical asset when it comes to understanding clients needs, maintaining their trust, finding user trends, and remembering any interface or content strategy ideas you think up. Make sure every bit of data gets crammed into a notebook or online, whichever works best for you. It will pay off huge when a client calls one afternoon with an issue or question and you are able to pull up and recall previous notes. Additionally, this information will guide clients through your decisions and make your suggestions more credible.

Without this data many of the clients requests and users needs may not come together very well. Developing a content strategy without having data at your disposal doesn’t give you a very solid foundation to stand on. Understanding and connecting the needs of your clients and the projects users allows you to solidify your proposals. Never forget your credibility can be compromised quickly by suggesting ideas with no data to back them.

As you design and develop issues will arise. It is inevitable. Be persistent, but not rude when these begin rolling in. Don’t dismiss a proposal or concept, the information you can discover from working through these is invaluable. Challenge issues a client may have by asking relevant questions. Take the time to find the underlying reasons why a client may view concepts or content structure differently. Once you understand their reasoning, you may find their points agreeable or be able to help guide them to why you arrived at an idea. Ultimately content and layout can be approached in any number of ways. Just remind yourself and your client that the goal is to guide users through these scenarios with as little friction as possible.

Never forget that any project will fail when you abandon these relationships and quit taking time to find the right answers. With this comes the understanding that your ego should never have a hand in decisions or discussions. The goal is building something to enrich the lives of those who use it. Introducing arrogance or overlooking any component concedes what is best for the project. If you cater to either of those you compromise how any client views your opinions. Being committed to stepping through every aspect of the project is taxing. But knowing you have the best answers for the project and a great relationship with your clients will ensure that every project is something to be proud of.

Start building better relationships, and get back to making awesome things.