How to Effectively Communicate With Web Developers
“I’m totally overwhelmed by websites and technology. I don’t even know where to start!”
If you took the “How tech savvy are you” quiz on this website, you may relate to feeling a bit of DREAD when it comes to creating, updating, or overhauling your website.
Or you may be a tech whiz! Either way, often there is a big gap between how tech-savvy and non-tech savvy people communicate.
As someone with both a “left brained, logical ” side AND a “right brained creative” side, I’m going to give you a little “insider’s glimpse” of the LEFT side of the gap. (More about the RIGHT side in my next blog)
How to communicate effectively with web developers and “tech” people when you are a creative type
In this blog, I hope you get some great insight about tech in general, how to communicate with tech professionals, and 3 things to look for when working with them.
Flaws in the system that make it frustrating for “non techies” (and tech – savvies!)
First, let’s talk about some of the flaws in the whole system, as in how certain systems are not always well designed, and the “techies” that are immersed in these systems.
Regardless of whether you are a creative, visual thinker or a logical, verbal thinker, systems should be designed with simplicity and ease of use in mind.
If something is overly complicated, over-engineered, or requires a half hour of explanation to achieve a simple goal, there is a problem not with the 2 people interacting in the moment, but the way the entire SYSTEM is set up or designed in the first place.
It can be annoying, when something that could be simple and elegant, just isn’t, even if you like tinkering with things like websites.
There are clunky systems, and elegant systems. There are systems that really need to be completely re-designed, and systems that make using technology surprisingly easy. There are systems that for the most part, function pretty well but still have a few “bugs” to work out, which is normal.
That’s why I design websites the way I do.. so anyone can step in and pick up where I left off, regardless if they know anything about coding or not.
For the kinds of websites I build and the people who need them, this is the most logical solution for everyone.
Bad Tech Support
I”m going to talk about something most web designers and developers never talk about, because many are too busy blaming the client for being “dense.” Bad tech support.
Even the tech savvy can have bad experiences
Over the past few days, I’ve been talking to a lot of tech support people. I would describe myself as being about average when it comes to “tech.” Maybe a little above, since I have more experience under my belt, but I wasn’t born knowing most of this stuff.
There are also tech support people, developers, designers, and such that are fantastic at communicating with clients, others that are slightly above average, and some that are downright abysmally bad.
I’ve been “mansplained” to and talked down to more times than I care to admit, and sometimes I feel crabby when I know I have to reach out to tech support.
Still many more do the absolute bare minimum that their job requires. This often involves copying and pasting obvious answers. This happens even to those of us who are experienced. We may ask a question about why something isn’t working, and (I’m theorizing) as women, instead of getting a real answer, we’ll be directed to the basic instructions that we have already done a billion times.
When we say that this option doesn’t work, and neither does any of the other troubleshooting/code tweaking/workaround options, we are told that “we are not paying attention” to what is being said and dismissed as not having a clue.
We have to ask someone else to get a real answer, like a backend problem or a piece of CSS code. So there’s MY rant.
I’m not saying this JUST to rant though. I want you to know that I get it, and I actually WANT to hear about your experiences, regardless of what level you are at. Of course, the idea is to transform any problem. Being that we can’t always control how others behave towards us, I’ve done a whole talk specifically about how to effectively work with tech support in the most graceful, educated, kind, and empowered way possible.
Inside the mindset of a “Left Brained” Web Developer
Let’s talk about web developers. Most are good at what they do, but there are also many who are terrible at communication. Not only is there no onboarding process, but clients are left completely on their own when it comes to envisioning and creating their website.
They are not TRYING to be jerks. Being left-brained doesn’t always mean one is a rigid asshat whose job it is to hinder the creative flow of creative types, drive them crazy, or arbitrarily put up roadblocks to creating a dream website.
To be fair, right-brained creative types can drive people crazy, too, by taking up a LOT of people’s time. I’ve been guilty of doing this myself.
Without some kind of structure, a developer could spend HOURS reacting to everyone’s whims, while still being confined to the restraints of the systems one is working with. This can create a LOT of stress. This still isn’t the client’s fault. It’s ours, or at least the people who are making the promises.
I’ve worked as a prepress technician in the past. I learned that working with things like code, technology, and large projects with parts contingent upon OTHER pieces and functions being properly built and executed… HAS to be exact and precise.
Otherwise it simply won’t work.
As in, it won’t work AT ALL.
If we can’t build a site because we didn’t get any content from a client, if we run into a CSS glitch and have to do some coding to make the desired styling changes, or can’t create that dream opt in form because your current email service won’t integrate well with your plugin or website platform.. we aren’t being jerks because we say something isn’t possible or will require a lot of extra work.
Usually though, we are compelled to make something work, even if it’s a workaround. This happens, and we’ll do our best to “make it so,” but we must also know that we have a business to run and there needs to be boundaries, just as in any coaching or holistic practice.
It’s the nature of working with technology.
This is why websites can be so expensive, and why many DIYer’s get frustrated. The solution: To me, taking as much of the risk out as possible for both the client and the developer via:
• A flat fee and clearly spelled out tasks and objectives that are mutually agreed upon.
• Working with systems and platforms that have a good track record for flexibility, functionality, and reliability (WordPress, ActiveCampaign, etc) Adding services on later is not a problem!
We also don’t like to have to GUESS. Many developers also don’t want to have to guess what a client wants. Neither do I. It’s frustrating and a waste of time and money for everyone.
Again, often it is the developer’s fault for not providing any kind of guidance or communication that can eliminate this problem, on the FRONT end of the project. This is mostly our responsibility.
So let’s talk about what makes it a pleasure to work with someone in getting a website built.
3 things to look for when hiring a developer or designer for your website
1. Knowledge of the following:
• The technical aspects of building a website
• A solid sense of design and aesthetics,
• Marketing specific to your industry. I dive deeper into these skills in this blog.
2. A THOROUGH intake process.
If there is no intake process or even questions ask, walk away. Just as I wouldn’t even consider working with a patient when I was practicing acupuncture without a thorough intake, I won’t do this with a new website or marketing client.
A website is far more than just a fancy electronic brochure and some generic pictures and a few blogs to make it “look legit.” Your branding, which is how your business is presented to the world, is “baked in” to the website.
It’s also far more than a collection of clean and elegant code. This is also a vital component of any website, obviously, but great code is just a start.
For a small service-based business, it’s possible to build a site with only a bit of HTML and CSS knowledge. In other words, you don’t need to be a black belt coder.
The FUNCTION of the site is very important, and sometimes not well-thought out. It’s a team effort. This means that it is essential to determine the PURPOSE of the site, which is also done in the intake process.
If the intake only consists of you saying: I want my website to be the same shades of pink as my favorite coaching site and yeah, I guess I will need a blog, and the developer says “Ok, ” there is going to be a problem. They need to be asking waaay more questions. It’s not YOUR job to know the right questions to ask.. it’s THEIR JOB!
3. Good communication skills
Of course, if you encounter “mansplaining,” I recommend moving on. As a bit of a nerd with a strong left-brained side, I know we can be NOTORIOUS when it comes to speaking in jargon. We often forget that not everyone speaks our language.
Many are also very, very good at what they do and have a great portfolio, but are absolutely awful when it comes to interacting with people.
In order to create a big project like a website, it’s essential to be able to communicate with real people.
Look for testimonials or get referrals to find out if the developer is easy to work with.
Side note: Keep in mind that introverts aren’t necessarily shy or awkward, but often have a strong dislike for small talk or irrelevant chitchat. Once you get us going on something we care about though, we are very passionate and engaged. We DO care, a lot. Authenticity is something that comes naturally to us. Many of us are also creative!
Also look for developers who are able to provide insight and education during the process. I’m not suggesting that they spend extra time sitting down to teach you about digital marketing, but there should be resources like blogs, onboarding guides, training videos, and everyday encounters that make it easy to learn and NOT feel stupid for asking.
That’s why I like to have tools like the glossary of digital marketing terms you will find on this website.
And this is why I’m offering individual coaching in addition to, or as an alternative to, the classic intake and onboarding process. I provide a lot of extras and help clients get “unstuck” whether it’s a technical glitch, or a deep-seated mindset block that’s resulting in a lack of clarity and flow in defining your unique offerings and your brand.
Look for developers and designers who can speak in plain English. Clients should be able to say “I like the big picture on the front page of my site, it’s striking. Can we change the color of the bar up top?” without feeling silly.
In fact, one of the things I like to do is have a client show me visually what they like.. and what they don’t like.
It’s also great when you can learn the lingo along the way so that you can say: “I love the HERO image, but can we change the font on the heading? The subtitle looks great. I like the navigation bar, but would it be a CSS nightmare to change the color and adjust the padding on the bottom, maybe 10 pixels or so? *wink* Actually, no. Just speak to us in English, and leave the pixel tweaking and nitpicking to us.
Bottom line: I want my clients to be.. to use an overused word.. Empowered clients. I love it when a client has a shift in their relationship with “tech” so that it no longer feels quite so much like a necessary evil.
I hope this blog helped you navigate the “left side” of the gap. I’ll be talking about the “right side” in my next blog in this series! Meantime.. if you need some extra help and guidance from someone who knows BOTH sides of the gap and you need a bridge.. I’m here. You can book a call for a free 30 minute consultation by clicking on the burgundy button below.