3 important expectations to set in website design

First, a quick quiz.

What is a custom designed website?

If you picked B, you’re on the money.

There is a big discrepancy in the web and app design and development industry between what a lot of clients think they are buying and what you guys are selling. In so many cases, you are selling a service, but your clients think they are buying a product.

What we’re talking about here is that your clients think they are buying a fully working system that has absolutely no bugs, no problems, works on every browser, every phone, every tablet, displays perfectly on every projector screen, may make them coffee in the morning, and that they will never have to touch again after it is built. They think that when they buy this thing, it’s like buying a car. If there’s a problem in the first couple years or within the first 30,000 hits, whichever is longer, they can go take a look at the manufacturers warranty, make a claim, and send it back in for a fix; at no charge of course.

A lot of the time, they think they are buying a product because of they way you are selling it to them. This is a concept you must either break them of, or break yourself of, because you are not selling a product…

You Are Selling A Service.

You are selling your expertise, a relationship, your ability to take their vision and bring it to life. Now there are ways to make this into a product, but for the most part, if you’re custom designing and building a website, web-based application, or an app, you are selling your time or your value, which is not a product, it is a service, and it pretty much always comes back to time in one way or another. No custom designed website that has just been built has ten thousand hours of user testing, tons of feedback and changes, and all the other things that enable a product to have a warranty or guarantee. So don’t offer one! You’re selling your services, not a product!

Now if you misspelled a word on the big home page promo, yeah, you may need to fix that. But if there is a page that isn’t loading correctly, a system broke, or something else went wrong and the client has already signed off, you need to charge for your time to fix it. After all, you’re selling your time, and your clients need to understand that they are not buying a product, they are buying your time. Of course there are always exceptions, but for the most part, you need to charge for your time to fix things.

There Is No Such Thing as a Bug-free Website.

A common misconception is that newly minted websites are problem-free, never go offline, and never need an update. There’s a misconception that they are a product.

Here’s the reality check: a website is in continual flux, and this is an important expectation to give any client. There will be bugs, their browser will change, the use of computers in people’s daily lives will change, and what you use today to convey information will be different tomorrow. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. If you let your client buy into any other concept about the web, you’re the one who is lying to them. You need to be upfront and honest about what the web is, how it changes, and what their actual costs are going to be, otherwise you are setting yourself up for some angry clients.

A Website Is Like a Home Improvement Project.

It’s helpful to think of web design like any other service, home builders, for example. Perhaps when you first built your home, you told the electrician you wanted the light switches on this particular wall. But once you moved in, you realized that that first switch should turn on the top lights, not the fan. Now you have to call the electrician back in to change how your switches are done. You think he’s going to come back and spend 3 hours fixing those for free? Not a chance. So if someone who is selling their time is going to be charging for that work, shouldn’t you? This is actually the exact analogy that we give our clients a lot of the time.

Websites are like homes—there are going to be problems, clients are going to want their switches changed, and stuff is going to break. The longer you have one, the more problems there will be. You need to be sure that your clients know that there are going to be problems, and when there are, they will be responsible for paying you to fix them. After all, they are buying your services, not a product.

Thanks to Ryan Mcguire from Bells Design for letting us use your awesome photography!