How to Deal with Clients That Aren’t Designers (But Think They Are)

Look, you’ve spent years honing your craft, learning the tricks of the trade, and working hard to set yourself apart from the competition and make a name for yourself as a real expert in your field.

That’s why it can be particularly frustrating to encounter a client that doesn’t see you that way – or, at the very least, thinks they can do what you can do without half the training or talent.

Sure, they appreciate your portfolio and they know what you have to offer is probably better than what they can do. Yet whenever you send your designs for approval, they always have something to tweak. There are always one or two things they want done differently.

That’s when you politely remind them that there’s a reason for everything you’ve done, and changing it would significantly impact the work as a whole.

But what happens if they insist that you make changes, even though you know those changes will ruin your work?

Well, there’s good news and bad news…

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The Good News: You’re the Expert

There’s a reason they hired you, and it’s because you know what you’re doing. The trick is convincing them that you see a perspective they might have missed.

Be Prepared

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Source: BoredPanda

Make sure that every time you present your work, you’re fully prepared. Common issues that come up with design work in particular include logo sizes, choice of fonts (anything but Comic Sans, please), and content location.

The best thing you can do is to have a solid explanation for why you chose the size/font/placement that you did, and include those reasons when you submit your work. Sending a file without context is simply begging for unwanted commentary.

Don’t forget that designs get passed around too, and clients may not always include your explanation when they share your proposals with others. Be ready to rehash your reasoning as many times as possible, if necessary. Yes, it’s annoying, but it may save you from having a major headache later on in the process.

Choose Your Battles

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Source: Smashing Magazine

Remember, when it comes to their business, your clients are just as protective of their creative vision as you are of yours. Your clients are not the enemy. They’re coming to you because you know what you’re doing, so you want to make sure you present yourself as an expert without belittling their approach.

If changes they suggest aren’t absolutely vital to your design aesthetics or aren’t time consuming to make, you can let your clients win. If, however, you find yourself fighting the urge to vomit when you think about tweaking your design, stick to your guns.

Act Like An Expert (But Not A Jerk)

Sometimes “sticking to your guns” will mean telling the client that their ideas are terrible, which may or may not go over so well depending on the client. But there are a few ways you can frame the conversation so that you both walk away winners.

#1. Reframe their concerns to solve a problem. Every client has an underlying reason they want a project done a certain way; maybe they have a specific audience or goal in mind. Assure them you really are acting in the best interests. Let them know that you were really listening during their proposal, you’ve done some research of your own, and according to that research, your approach may actually improve their desired results. If you really want to go the extra mile, have some studies on hand that back it up.

#2. Make sure to include them in the process. You’re an expert in your field, but they’re also experts in their respective fields. If they have certain colors they want to use or content they want to include, do your best to incorporate what they want it in ways that work for you too. Again, if something they suggest is just too far out there and you simply can’t make it work with the current project, suggest another project or solution and help them understand why it won’t work with the current design.

#3. Use the right language for the right situation. Telling your clients that they’re terrible people is a lot different than suggesting that a design strategy may not work as well as they’d hoped. But it’s incredibly easy for frustration to turn an innocent suggestion into an actual insult. Remember that words can start wars as easily as they can solve problems, so choose your words carefully. (Mike Michalowicz over at Amex’s OPEN Forum wrote a great article about using the right language with difficult clients.)

The Bad News: The Client Is “Always Right”

Of course, at the end of the day, what really matters is what the client wants. As much as you’re an expert and a highly valuable member of the team, they’re the ones writing the checks, so what they say, goes.

But what happens if you just can’t come to a feasible solution that works for both you and the client? Well, you may either have to do a little conflict resolution, or you may have to straight up dump them as a client.

Handle Conflict Like a Pro

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Source: Millo

The absolute best thing you can do is to remain as professional as possible. No matter what, keep your cool.

Let’s say the worst has happened and you’ve done hours of work only to have the client reject everything and ask you to start over. Maybe you’re even willing to do so, but when you tell them how much a new design will cost, they freak out. The last thing you want to do is add fuel to the fire by blaming others or being rude.

Listen to what they have to say, admit any faults from your end, offer any alternative solutions you see, use positive language, and if things get really heated, walk away.

Not only will keeping calm potentially save your relationship with the client (should you choose to continue working with them) but you’ll also save your reputation in the industry over the long haul.

Make Your “Dear John” Sweet But Swift

Of course, having a high level of professionalism on your end doesn’t mean that the client will respond with the same attitude.

Sometimes clients will come to you because you’re just another creative type who can get things done, and not because you specifically have skills they want. If you can’t do what they want, they might throw a fit or – worst case scenario, decide to withhold payment or otherwise make your working relationship a living nightmare.

If things just aren’t working out the way you’d like, you always have the option of walking away. Here’s what to keep in mind while doing so:

#1. Finish any work related to your written contract or verbal agreement. The last thing you want is to get sued by a vindictive client who paid you money to do a project you didn’t finish (at least finish from their perspective). Make sure that you’ve fulfilled any obligations that you signed up for, or that you have an escape clause in the contract that you signed before you start working with them (an ounce of prevention…).

#2. Set a firm “leave by” date and stick to it. Let your clients know that you’ll be moving on and that they can expect to receive any remaining files from you by a certain date.

#3. Try not to burn a bridge (if at all possible). If you can, include a few positive statements in your “Dear John” email about why you liked working with them and let them know that you’re available for other work in the future (if you’re open to that, obviously). Remember that referrals are a great source of business, so if you can salvage the relationship professionally, do so.

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Final Thoughts

Dealing with clients can be tricky, especially when they feel like they can do your job as well as you can. But remember that you’re the expert and you know what you’re doing, and they’re coming to you for your design prowess.

If the time comes where you need to convince a client that your way is best, remember to backup any suggestions with resources, use positive language, offer alternative solutions, and try to incorporate their ideas as much as possible (without sacrificing your time and talent, of course).

If things just aren’t working out and you simply need to move on, be professional, be quick, and don’t burn a bridge unless absolutely necessary.

Why You Might Want to Ditch Your CMS If You Have THIS Client

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: “Can you build me a website?”

If you’re a web developer or designer, at some point in your career you’ve probably been asked to build someone a website, whether it’s a high-paying client or your mom’s neighbor from down the street. If you can build it, they will come.

The go-to solution to building said website is usually to choose whichever CMS you’re most comfortable with – WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc. – and start building from there. After all, that’s what CMS is designed for: building websites with ease.

But, depending on whom you’re building the site for, a CMS may not actually be the best choice. In fact, depending on the client’s needs, you may want to consider building a static site instead.

[content_upgrade cu_id=”274″]Don’t Miss – Quiz: Should Your Client Use a Static Site or CMS?[content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

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SSG vs. CMS

CMS platforms, like WordPress and Joomla, are popular for a reason: they’re multi-media friendly, SEO-friendly, and most importantly, contributor-friendly, at least for the non-technical folks out there.

But, static sites have many benefits that a CMS can’t offer, especially for devs and designers, like lower development costs, simpler hosting, greater security and markdown support.

The best part about static sites is that you can use a static site generator, such as Jekyll, to help you manage your site – which is similar to using a CMS but with more access to the code – but you can also build a static site on your own using a handful of HTML files, too. This, along with the other benefits, makes static sites a great alternative to using a CMS, especially for devs and designers.

Static sites may also be helpful for certain clients, too, depending on their needs…

Which Client for Which Method?

At the end of the day, building a website isn’t really about what you want, it’s about what the client wants. Unfortunately, clients don’t always know what they want, or sometimes what they want isn’t the best option. That’s why it’s important to know which clients might benefit most from a static site and which should probably stick to using CMS sites.

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Clients that Benefit from Static Sites

Here are the types of clients that should probably let you build a static site for them:

They’ve put you in charge. If they want nothing to do with the website and are more than happy to pass off the management to you, then you might want to consider creating a static site. If they’re not messing around with the code, you might as well have full control. Nothing lets you do what you want easier than a static site, because you can hand-write anything you need directly into the text editor quickly and easily.

They don’t plan on updating the site often. Maybe they’re just using their website as a virtual business card, or they don’t have content that frequently changes. If this is the case, using a full blown CMS to build a simple, unchanging is a waste of time and energy. A static site will give them everything they need with less hassle on your end, especially if you do decide to use a generator.

They’re bloggers who know what they’re doing. Static sites are great for bloggers, even if the CMS (cough – WordPress – cough) holds a fair share of the blogging market when it comes to advertising. Static sites have less security issues and generally load much faster than CMS blogs, which makes them great for traffic. The only caveat is that the blogger must know how to work in a SSG, or at the very least know how to pass things off to you to get posted.

They’re have a limited budget. If they don’t have the money to spend on developing a fully hosted, fully CMS powered site, then a static site is seriously the best bet for saving them money. That also means that more of their money is going to you and not the CMS.

If your clients fall into any of these categories, consider switching them from a CMS to a static site and save yourself some hassle.

Clients that Benefit from CMS Sites

Of course, not all of your clients will fall into those categories, which means that you might want to stick with a CMS – or at the very least use a static site generator instead of hand-coding – if your client is like this:

They’re bloggers who don’t know what they’re doing. While there’s a big case for using static sites over CMS for blogging purposes, most bloggers are not expert-level developers and designers like you. If they want you to build the site but they plan on managing it afterwards, a CMS may be a better option since it gives non-technical people the upper hand.

They need a large site or blog with frequent updates. If the blog or website is large – like enterprise level with many pages and complex site structures – then a CMS will save you more time than having to code a static site. Plus, if you have to be in it making changes every day, you don’t want to dig around code, because there are CMS plugins for that.

They have a need for dynamic applications. If they really, really want “cool” features on their website like Disqus for comments or specialty plugins for different functionality, there’s probably no way to get around using a CMS.

They have the money, but not the time frame. Building a website is always going to be expensive (for a good website, anyway), and if they want something good, they should be able to pay for it. If budget is of no concern but they need a quick turnaround on a big site, then a CMS is probably a better option.

If your client falls into these categories, your best solution is probably to stick with a CMS, since they tend to be easier on non-devs and designers.

[content_upgrade cu_id=”274″]Still not sure which to use? Try our quiz: Should Your Client Use a Static Site or CMS?[content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

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How to Suggest Static Sites to CMS Clients

So what happens if you’ve figured out that a static site will benefit your client more than a CMS, but your client absolutely insists on using something like WordPress, because it’s all they know? What’s the best way to suggest an alternate option?

Reassure the client that you’re after the same goal. They know their objectives better than you do, so make sure to listen and ask plenty of questions first before you start giving your opinion.

Speak like an expert. They’ve come to you for your expertise; don’t be afraid to speak with expert authority. Tell them that you’ve assessed their situation and their goals and you feel the best solution might be to use a static site. If they’re not sure what a static site is, explain it to them the best you can in non-technical terminology.

Present the benefits. People want solutions that help them move forward, so instead of arguing about why a static site is better than a CMS, tell them what makes static sites so great and how those solutions will help them achieve what they want. Especially tell them if using a static site will save them time and money.

Have a plan in place for building the site. People can be wary of anything that sounds too good to be true, so if you’re going to suggest a switch for their website, show them that you’ve really thought it through. Have a plan written down for timeframe, needs, requirements, and options for SSGs should they choose to use one. Show evidence of other static sites you’ve built with success, if possible.

Be professional. Above all, don’t start arguing with the client. Even if they know less than you about static sites, they’re still the ones in charge. If they decide to use a CMS, just work with it or point them to another dev or designer who can help.

12 Pre-Fill Tools You Can Use to Improve Form Conversions

If you’ve been on the Internet for any length of time, you’ve probably filled out a form.

It’s inevitable. Forms are everywhere – from online shopping, subscribing to blogs, and even logging in to your favorite sites. And if you’ve spent any amount of time filling out a form, you know that they are seriously tedious.

But that’s where you – the developer and/or designer extraordinaire – come in. Your job is not only to make those forms functional, but also to get users to actually want to fill them out.

One of the best ways to do that is by making forms as fast to finish as possible. Enter scene: pre-fill.

Also called autofill, this tool allows user information to be automatically populated on your form, so that users don’t have to waste time filling in standard details like name, email, or home address.

Pre-fill can also store more sensitive data like credit card information for quick checkout using e-commerce forms. While this can pose some inherent security risks, some users still prefer to have information at the ready for forms and other data-heavy processes.

Whether pre-fill is used simply for remembering names and emails or more complex personal data, it’s still a great way to help users have a little fun amidst the tedium.

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Pre-Fill and Conversions

Of course, more importantly than fun, pre-fill tools are also good for conversion rates.

Studies show that up to 86% of users will leave a page instantly when they’re required to fill out a form. Part of the reason for such a high number of abandonment is energy preservation; simply put, users don’t want to spent copious amounts of time filling out forms.

One study actually tested the effects of pre-fill on social media forms and found that conversions increased by 200% when businesses allowed forms to be autocompleted.

Basically, the less you ask users to do, the more inclined they’ll be to fill out your form.

Pros and Cons of Pre-Fill

However, as we mentioned earlier, all of that hassle-free, conversion-boosting fun doesn’t come without its own set of risks. Here are a few pros and cons of using pre-fill features in your forms.

Pro: Browsers can be programmed to store information for quickest time filling out forms, which can improve conversion rates.

Con: Some browsers can be buggy, and often put the wrong data in the wrong fields. When that happens, users have to perform an extra step to delete the wrong data in order to put in the correct data. If you thought an 86% abandonment rate was bad before, then you’ll definitely want to run multi-browser testing before implementing pre-fill.

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Pro: Pre-fill can save passwords for quick login, saving time having to fill in form data every time a frequent user returns to your site.

Con: Pre-fill saves passwords, making them less protected (unless users have tools like LastPass).

Pro: Address validation can be a big plus for forms with pre-fill enabled, like e-commerce sites (think Amazon). This is especially helpful for users who might not remember their postcodes, because the validation tools fill those fields in automatically. Other features like geolocation can be helpful both for e-commerce and other sites that require a location.

Con: Address validation might be buggy and input the wrong information (see above).

Pro: Search engines often use pre-fill to allow users to select the most popular searches, and shoppers who use internal search are six times more likely to convert.

Con: The quality of search results affects a searcher’s ability to find what they want, so unless the pre-fill does a great job of finding results, it most likely will have minimal effect on search.

There are many different ways to apply pre-fill to forms to achieve the desired effect, but the biggest concerns to watch out for include safety concerns for saved passwords and buggy browsers that input the wrong data. So if you’re going to use pre-fill, make sure you’ve tested on multiple browsers and that you have a protection system in place for keeping passwords secure.

Another important thing to keep in mind when it comes to pre-fill tools is that they aren’t naturally accessible for many users, especially those using mobile or older browsers that don’t have extensions to help autocomplete their forms.

Pre-Fill Tools

But let’s get into the nitty-gritty of why you’re actually here. If and when you do decide that there are more pros for your users than cons, here are a few ways you can incorporate pre-fill tools into your forms.

HTML Form Autocomplete

This pre-fill attribute can be incorporated into your form’s code to trigger a browser’s natural autocomplete function. Just make sure to do some extensive cross-browser testing to ensure your forms work across multiple platforms.

Form Filler

This is an extension for Chrome that lets you fill in forms with dummy data. While not useful to your users, it will help developers test form functions and pre-fill features without having to go live first.

Form Auto-Completion Tool

GitHub has another tool for inputting dummy data quickly for testing purposes. According to the website, you can run this simple JS code by using Scratchpad or in a console.

Google Developer’s Autofill

This site will help developers implement Google’s Autofill add on for Chrome. It has a set of autocomplete attributes to help control how the browser will populate data for your users. They also have an autofill feature for Firefox, too.

Other Chrome Pre-Fill Add-Ons

Besides Google’s Autofill extension, there are several other browser add-ons you can use that are designed specifically for Chrome:

[content_upgrade cu_id=”269″]Don’t forget to checkout our list of 6 Pre-Fill Apps for Mobile![content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

Final Thoughts

Pre-fill tools can be a great feature to add to forms in order to help users actually fill them out. Some of the places they can be particularly helpful include e-commerce forms or those that require a user to constantly login, like social media or membership sites.

One of the primary concerns surrounding pre-fill is the need for security, so you’ll want to make sure any browser extensions are encrypted and that passwords are stored securely using appropriate password management software.

You’ll also want to test any pre-fill forms in multiple browsers to prevent bugs, but you can use tools like Form Filler to populate dummy information for easy testing.

But don’t forget that pre-fill has the potential to significantly increase conversions and help users follow through on registering for accounts, events, and more.

The Quickest Ways to Modify and Optimize Your WordPress Themes

Do you remember the good old days when creating a website meant spending countless hours coding everything from scratch? Of course not, because you’re a WordPress developer, which means you have access to themes.

The great thing about themes is that they come pre-packaged with thousands of lines of code someone else spent time developing, which is truly life saving when it comes to time management. The downside to themes, however, is that someone else created them, so if the theme doesn’t match up with all of your needs, you’re going to have to put in a little extra work.

But the great thing about WP is that you don’t have to sacrifice your precious time to customize and optimize those themes. In fact, depending on your needs, there are several quick ways to make sure your theme has everything you need.

[content_upgrade cu_id=”261″]Don’t miss: Theme Optimization Checklist for WP Developers[content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

Pre-Optimization Cleanup

Before you really get into the nitty-gritty of optimizing your WP site, you can save quite a bit of time by going through your out-of-the-box theme and cleaning it up. (Actually, you can do this at any time of the process, but it’s arguably more helpful before you start working on a new theme).

Clean Up Messy Code

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Developers and programmers have a reputation of using messy code. But, to be fair, they often have a lot to do in a short period of time, and going back through hundreds of lines of code isn’t always on the agenda. It’s a “code first, ask questions later” sort of approach, which saves time but isn’t always the most productive in the long run.

Messy code in your theme can make it harder once it’s time to modify major sections of the site. Messy code can be anything from mixed coding styles, spaghetti code that can only be understood by the original creator, or unextendable code that just doesn’t play well with others.

Some things to look for when it comes to cleaning up code – even in a fairly clean, freshly downloaded theme – include hiding unnecessary or unused shortcodes (the good news is there’s a plugin for that), unwanted media (another plugin), and underused tags (did we mention there’s a plugin?). You can find more easy ways to cleanup areas of your theme at wpmudev, too.

You should also continue cleaning up your code as you go along, especially if you’re one to leave yourself comments or pieces of code that you plan to come back to later (but eventually forget about). At some point you should revisit your style.css file in your Theme folder and do some stylesheet housekeeping.

Ongoing Optimizations

Of course, once you start getting into heavier modifications to the site, you will inevitably wind up with more stuff than you really need on your site’s backend. All of the clutter can really bog down your overall speed, so the best way to optimize your theme is to get rid of all the extra stuff that came with it (or that you added).

Hide and Remove

A few immediate things you’ll want to remove include unused plugins. While you’re bound to keep a few around for functionality (and to clean up your code, don’t forget), there are just some plugins that you will have test driven with unsuccessful results. Ditch them as soon as possible.

Like we mentioned above, you’ll also want to remove any code (shortcodes, tags, etc.) that doesn’t add value to your site. You can use plugins to take care of them quickly. But you should also consider removing things like certain elements from your headers and even old themes that you’re keeping around “just because.”

In terms of usability, you can also hide parts of the dashboard or the visual text editor to give yourself a more seamless coding experience. Basically, if you don’t really need it, find a way to get rid of it. For things that build up over time like new code or plugins, like your mom used to say – if you’re done using it, put it away.

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Source: WP-Optimize

Optimize Images

Images are a major part of your site, and not to beat a dead horse, but they’re important to your usability. But WP doesn’t always optimize images as well as it should.

For example, WP often adds layers of compression to their images. So, if you’re using the internal image editor to crop or edit a picture, the resulting image will be saved multiple times. Those images will also include their own attachment pages that quickly eat up space on the server if your site is image heavy.

One way to optimize is to pre-compress and crop images (using free tools) before you upload them. You’ll be saving yourself time later on when you’re trying to figure out why your site isn’t running as quickly as it should.

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Source: TinyPNG

Matteo Spinelli’s Cubiq.org blog also has some suggestions for practically handling images and removing attachment pages, among other things. And don’t forget that there are plugins that can help with a variety of optimization needs to save time.

Backup and Upgrade

Of course, one of the most absolutely essential components to optimization is backing up all of your data as you go, and then cleaning it up periodically as extra data piles up.

Again, there are plugins that can help you backup your database with little to no effort on your end.

Your database will also accumulate unnecessary data over time from things like revisions, spam comments, or even data from plugins that you’ve removed. All of this data can really bog down your site, so after you’ve made a backup, consider using plugins like WP-Sweep or WP-Optimize to remove the excess.

And you should always make sure that your site is running the latest versions of your theme as well as your plugins. You can easily update each from your dashboard, so that’s a no brainer.

[content_upgrade cu_id=”261″]Be sure to check out our Theme Optimization Checklist for WP Developers![content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

Ongoing Modifications

Finally, at some point you will probably need to make some larger tweaks to your site. If you’re working with a child theme in particular, you’ll probably end up creating additional styles and hooks. While all of that will still take time and energy, there are ways you can optimize to keep your expenditure at a minimal level.

Customization

There are generally two types of developers: one that likes to code everything by hand and one that likes to use editors and plugins to help. If you’re of the latter persuasion, you can always use WP’s built-in customizer API to give you a visual representation of the changes you’re making.

Before you go saying, “Well, duh!” you should know that there’s also a tool available that will help you take advantage of the customizer’s advanced features. Last year Redux and Kirki combined forces to create a framework that works fully in the customizer, giving you much more bang for your buck.

And if you still want to hand code, you can always use plugins like Simple Customize or Simple CSS to aide in your endeavor.

Switching Themes

Of course, there may come a time when your site is ready to move to an entirely new theme, which is a hefty task, but it doesn’t have to take as much time as you think.

Using plugins like All-in-One Migration or Duplicate, you can fully export/import your database, media files, plugins, and theme options. If you don’t mind paid options, you can also go with something like WordPress Theme Switcher.

But whatever method you choose, just make sure to follow all of the above tips by backing up your site, making sure there’s nothing miscellaneous in your code, keeping your images optimized, and using the right plugins to assist the job (and getting rid of the ones that don’t).