Today I was asked a very good question, and my answer ended up being so long, I figured it might as well be a blog post.
When you start advertising website development, how will you advise clients on the content portion? I’ve gone through $$$ on websites because no website developers accounted for the marketing and the content. … it’s the number one complaint from all my CEO collabs.
Shana Del Grosso, Credit Shrink USA
I think it’s a question that all developers should ask themselves at least once. It’s one we need to know the answer to, because we can’t manage client expectations otherwise. And it’s a discussion that should be had with every client, before any job is agreed upon.
Here is my take on this rather controversial topic:
The easiest way I have found for explaining this, is to put it in terms of building a new house.
You need an architect, a builder, and an interior designer. The architect and interior designer work with the client to best design a home that meets the client’s needs and interests. This plan is given to the builder, who creates the structure for the paint and furniture to go into. The interior designer won’t help lay plumbing, and the builder won’t help choose your sofa. Sometimes the interior designer and architect can be one person, and sometimes your architect will be a building foreman. But you’ll almost never find someone who can lay bricks, and wants to help you choose curtains.
Websites work the same way. You’ll have a marketer, a graphic / web designer, and a web developer. The marketer and designer will work with the client to design content, logos, and colour themes that portray the client’s message and products while also meeting their users / buyers expectations. The developer will take these layouts and content, and build the structure that it all sits on, and the magic that goes behind the scenes so that shopping carts, contact forms, videos etc actually do what they need to do. Sometimes you’ll find designers who like marketing as well, or developers that like to be involved in the design (logos, colours, etc – not content) process. But you will almost never find a developer who does marketing.
Marketing requires knowledge of product and advertising trends. It’s very involved with knowing what everyone else is up to, and into. It’s a very demanding and fast-paced role. Design needs to know a little of these trends, but is more concerned with aesthetic appeal, and requires creativity and patience. It may look easy when you watch a pro, but design is hard, meticulous work. Development is very structured and mathematical. It’s all about working within the limitations of coding languages, as well as browser and hardware constraints, in order to make the beauty dreamed up by the designer come to life, and interact with the user.
Whether it’s a house or a website, all aspects need to work together in order to create an end result that is both functional and appealing. They need to collaborate with, and understand, each other. But understanding these other puzzle pieces, and their impact on your part of the puzzle, doesn’t mean you can be all the pieces.
Keeping up with the fast paced changes in any of these areas also takes a lot of energy. Marketing, design, and technology trends and developments are happening constantly! It’s not like brick making which has probably changed very little since the first bricks were created. Finding someone who enjoys all three aspects, and has the energy to stay current with all three, is probably about as likely as spotting the fairy who lives in your garden.
What designers & developers get wrong is not explaining this adequately to clients. We don’t want them to expect us to know everything about their industry or product without any discussion or knowledge share. So how can we expect them to understand us, if we’re not going to share our knowledge and discuss what we can and cannot bring to the table – in terms the client understands?
Discussions like this are a welcomed learning opportunity, and hopefully make me better at what I do.