Educate Your Stakeholders!

by Shane Diffily

34 Reader Comments

Back to the Article
  1. Glad to see some people are going through the same headaches; but I am still afraid to ask, how do you avoid looking like a fool, since nobody else but you seem to understand what reality is?


    · · · — — — · · ·
    Cheers

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  2. I do believe in educating my clients, generally because I want to earn their trust. It has been my experience that the more “magic and mystery” I can remove from the design process and the more I can demonstrate rationale behind what I’m doing, whatever it may be, the more my client tends to let me do what I’m going to do.

    On the flip side of that, however, is reminding myself that it isn’t merely my website. Building a website is a collaborative process between me and my client. If my client could create the website himself, he would. But since he can’t, he’s relying on my skills, my background, my knowledge etc. to breathe life into his vision. While I don’t play a silent role in this process—it is certainly co-creative—I don’t generally allow myself to play the prima dona card, either. I will guide him and make suggestions and offer my expertise, but ultimately he gets to decide.

    I have two children, and I find that my role as web designer is often very similar to that of parent. I educate my kids and give them advice, guiding them and influencing them, but for the most part they have to make their own decisions. It’s their lives. It’s the same with the website. I love it when my client gives me the go-ahead to do whatever I want, but when they don’t, remembering that is is a co-creative process is very beneficial to my own sanity.

    So educate then, yes. Offer your opinion. Hell, be aggressive if you’re very passionate about the situation. But also know it isn’t merely your baby. It’s important to learn when and how to let go.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  3. Since the client has the ultimate decision authority, (s)he might be upset if you try to explain whats right and whats wrong. I get many queries everyday where clients are asking for a clone of ALIBABA.COM or EBAY.COM and yes they have the money (well, I know that the budget that they have is not enough to stand anywhere close to these biggies – say about 10-15K dollars).

    But the issue is that, if I try and educate them, they contact someone else who sells them an off the shelf software with their logo placed on top for 10K and makes the website to go live. They spend the balance money on advertising and the website goes off-line in an year or two at the most.

    So, eventually.. I have lost 10K business and my competition has that as easy money in his pocket. So who stands to loose if I educate the client?

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  4. I’m not so sure about xhtml being the markup of choice. Seeing as how it can’t be served correctly (to IE) I don’t see why it is the best choice. A better choice would be HTML Strict.

    Otherwise, I totally agree in the education of one’s clients, where possible. I try and evangelise to them myself. Sometimes though, it’s just not possible and you have to go with what they want, even against your better judgement.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  5. HTML is the preferred markup language, not XHTML. You have to break standards to serve it to anyone other than the most modern of browsers. 4.01 strict should be the preferred markup choice.

    I don’t think educating clients about “emerging technologies” will help in any way, at least not in the manner you seem to present in the article. There needs to be education on the negative side of “2.0”. About how it can break accessibility and how usability goes out the window on anything but the most modern of browsers. I think these are decisions best left to the designer. Have the client describe what they want and then the designer takes care of figuring out how to deliver it. The designer should have a far better grasp of the pros and cons to “2.0” than the client and be able to make those judgement calls.

    I think choices made “in ignorance of new trends” could actually be a very good thing. Very basic pages (no javascript, basic css, well structured markup) are going to have a high compatibility rate not just on desktop systems but handhelds as well.

    “Finally, if your employer operates in the government sector, you should not forget about accessibility…” this was disappointing to read. Accessibility is treated as an afterthought, something only very specific clients should bother with. Accessibility should be key on every client’s mind. If it isn’t it’s the job of the developer to educate them on why it is important.

    I also didn’t see anything about usability in the article. You might think this is a topic that only the developer need be concerned with, but I think the client should as well. Certain design choices will be made to create better usability. These choices might go against a particular design choice the client was really hot for (like hiding all navigation behind a single dropdown list). If you’re going to educate clients you need to include all areas that affect design choices so that they understand or can at least follow arguments when questions about why a particular design choice was made.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  6. So, eventually.. I have lost 10K business and my competition has that as easy money in his pocket. So who stands to loose if I educate the client?

    Everyone stands to lose. You’re l*o*sing a contract. The client is l*o*sing the opportunity to get a good website and is instead being ripped off. The pixel monkey who did build the site is l*o*sing credibility in a world that is ever more focused on standards and compliance.

    But what happens if you take the contract? The client will be no better off, and you will have lost credibility. You will be the one with a dodgy site in your portfolio, that makes potential clients think you’re just a rip-off merchant.

    Yes, I understand financial realities. I understand that there will be times when people can’t afford to turn down a bad job because they need the money. That’s the way life goes. But if you do have principles, stick to them whenever you can and make the world a better place.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  7. Does anyone have a good link for a place to stay on top of the legal issues that pertain to U.S. web creators? The ideal would be some sort of advocacy group that tracks issues, translates them into layman’s terms, and discusses the ramifications for real-world builders who have enough of a task just staying on top of things like technological/tool changes.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  8. I really agree with what Amber had to say on the power of compromise in creating a sense of ownership for various stakeholders.

    “Mapping Dialogue”:http://pioneersofchange.net/library/dialogue/ is a great compilation of methods for creating dialogue in communities or between stakeholders. Great for more complex contexts, but parts and pieces are useful for smaller scale projects as well.

    My favorite part of the document was the idea of strategic compromise; talking about compromise not in the context of a dilution of the soul in a project, but an active search for synergy in two seemingly opposing viewpoints.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  9. Great points in the article and I totally agree with you about the need to “Educate Your Stakeholders”. In my experience that education has to start even before you win the bid and often times that can seem counter-intuitive. Not, that you go into all the nitty-gritty details you mentioned before you have a signed contract. But you certainly need to set the stage. In essence, you need to educate them in one simple truth, they are hiring you because you are a credible expert in your field. If you don’t the project can be headed for big trouble.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  10. I just wanted to say that i loved this topic, it is really a great read!!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  11. I just wanted to say that i loved this topic, it is really a great read!!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  12. thank you

    Great Article

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  13. I’ve always felt that educating clients is a vital step. First of all, they don’t know what you know, so education regarding Web and marketing issues and website development is necessary. Secondly, consider the idea of making what can amount to business decisions without the client’s input or—if the client gives input without understanding the issues. Not so good. And you may discover that the educated client has other input and ideas that expands upon what you had in mind. That’s a win-win.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  14. But in my experience, nothing works better than to just give them exactly what they want. All those educating meetings?”

    Sure right.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.