by Elliot Christenson on September 20, 2016 - 7:38am

If you're anything like me, you've spent a few years in the freelance/agency world performing work for clients. If your clients are anything like the ones I've had, they come in with preconceived notions, "wives tales", and many, many things that are just not in their best interest.

I know there is a tendency to say "the customer is always right." I would prefer to say "the customer is entitled to the best product possible."

Part of that product is you - their developer - and your knowledge.

In this post, I'm going to attempt to show you a piece of what I mean when I say "Giving Clients What They Need - Not What They Want".

WordCamp Milwaukee 2016

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking at my first WordCamp, where I presented on this very topic! (See the end of the article for my slides)

Coming from a Drupal background, I didn't know quite what to expect. First off, being that it was in Wisconsin, I think I knew half the people there! So, I was among friends. More than that, however, these are friends who became instant friends. These are individuals who are experts in their craft but also are welcoming to outsiders.

Inside the "Enemy" Camp

From the outside, one would think that Wordpress aficionados would be antagonistic towards Drupalers - and vice-versa.

I am telling you that could not be further from the truth. In fact, the users of each platform are more familiar with the shortcomings of their weapon of choice than the other side! I was among friends.

For the most part, I was speaking to freelancers or Wordpress developers at agencies. They face the same challenges those in the Drupal world face. I'm sure it's identical in other segments of the web development landscape.

Giving Clients What They Need Not What They Want

So, the executive summary of my talk is that: Web Developers are Experts.

They (we) deserve respect. We deserve the respect that is given to Lawyers, Doctors, Electricians and Plumbers. Our professional opinions matter. We have a wealth of knowledge - as demonstrated on the slides - that we often take for granted.

The average client believes that since they can publish content on Facebook that they are qualified to tell us how to do our jobs. That is usually wrong. It's as wrong as it is for a non-surgeon to explain to their heart surgeon how to make incisions.

Content Types

A great example of this is: Content Types.

With Drupal 6, Content Types (through the CCK module) really set Drupal apart. It allows in a "WYSIWYG" fashion for a developer (or website "site builder") to quickly and effectively create different classes of content. This is crucial for usability, re-usability, stability and SEO. Drupal 7 brought that into Drupal core. Drupal 8 fulfilled the promise of Content Types through the integration of Views into Drupal Core.

What clients think they want, is to be able to customize each page to be unique and have a particular appearance.

So, of course, we can leave the default settings in Drupal (or Wordpress) with what I call "a big old box where you dump random stuff". This is not easily maintainable by end-users - who are the ones who must keep the content up to date. They shouldn't need to understand HTML (even on a basic WYSIWYG level) to get their information across.

I believe Content Types with very specific fields are the key to giving them what they actually want - and Drupal 6/7/8 make this easy! Use the end-user's terminology on their website rather than "post", "page" or something equally cryptic. Create fields that make it much more error-proof. For a "staff page", make that a view that works off of the Staff Content Type which holds fields like photo, title, and contact information. This has the side benefit of creating very semantic HTML that is great for search engines!

Of course, my talk was geared to a Wordpress audience, so my slides also have some reference to some possible solutions to allow for this approach in Wordpress.

It Sounds Like Clients DO Want that!

That's the funny part. Much like I wouldn't know what pipe to fix to repair my sink, clients will make a guess as to what it is they want to control in their own website. "Everything" is a common answer. Another one is "These Three Pages".

That's closer, but really, they want to be able to add new content, delete old content - for things that happen frequently like events - and they want to be able to quickly reach their development team for things that happen infrequently like address changes.

myDropWizard acts as the support and maintenance team for Drupal agencies, Drupal freelancers and even Wordpress agencies who inherited a Drupal website or two. You make great looking and great functioning Drupal websites, and whether you follow my line of thinking or not, you want your clients to have the best ongoing experience with your product.

We support hundreds of Drupal websites, check out this page to learn how we could do the same for you.


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