Whether you’ve been put in charge of your corporate website, or you’re a freelancer who’s been hired on, designing a website for a corporation is never routine. There are turf wars, inner-departmental battles, upper management issues, and precedent that you must deal with.
Typically with freelancer jobs, there is only one client. However, in a corporation, there are many clients that you will have to deal with. These clients could be head of certain departments, divisions, or offices.
Listed below are ten short tips for coordinating clients in a corporate environment. These tips are listed in no particular order.
Sometimes you will have to remind the clients that there is a reason that you are the web developer and they are not. There are times you will have to deal with a client that might actually know something about web development and questions you on a particular design decision. During these intense moments, it is crucial to listen and state your logical reasoning behind making a design decision.
The problem with dealing with multiple clients is that each one has a different idea of how a website should behave. You need to be empowered to make the final decision, however. Design by committee is never a good thing. Establish your authority to make the design decisions and make sure the upper management will back you when your client screams that web sites should never scroll.
Get Upper Management Cover
When you inevitably step on someone’s toes, it is important that the upper management has your back if a client strongly disagrees. One of your first jobs is to assure the upper management that you are the expert in web development. If a client then starts a fire, the upper management will be able to quickly put it out.
Get to Know Your Clients
In any working environment, it’s extremely helpful and beneficial to get to know people outside of work. Go out to lunch with your clients. Get to know them. If you start to get to know them on a personal level, the clients will be more willing to help you do your job.
Establish a Style Guide
Establishing a style guide is crucial. Style guides not only define the look and feel of the site, but also the behavior. A style guide will also force you as a designer to think through your decisions from beginning to end. The corporation may already have some kind of style guide. If that is the case, use that guide as a foundation for yours. The web style guide should be different, but do not venture too far away from the corporate style guide if there is one.
An example of a good style guide is A List Apart’s style guide.
How you do your style guide is up to you. If the style guide has upper management approval, you’ll have a standard to fall back on when someone disagrees with a certain part of the design.
Establish Single Points of Contact
When dealing with departments or divisions, it is absolutely critical that there is a single point of contact for each one. If you don’t have a single point of contact, then there will be nothing to stop dozens of different people from contacting you and flooding you with content changes, design “suggestions”, and the like.
Get the Clients Involved
Allow the clients to see your progress. It’s one thing to constantly ask the client for information and the client has no idea why he/she is doing the extra work. It’s another to show the client the work you are doing so that the client knows what the end result will be. It’s an extra way to show that the client’s feedback and contributions matter.
Get the Right Tools
Make sure you communicate to your upper management the tools you need. If the corporation does their own hosting, make sure you have the privileges to build the website. If the corporation needs to make a hardware/software purchase, make it very clear that without these tools, you will not be able to do your job. The point here is to get what you need up front.
Know the Key Players
Get to know the names and locations of all of the key players in the corporation. These key players will be upper management, the database administrators, the IT people, and the department heads. These key players can either make your job easier, or make it a living hell. Make sure each of these key players knows why you are there and what job you are trying to accomplish.
Educate Your Clients/Upper Management
While it is important to not overwhelm your clients with techno-speak, it is also important to educate them as to the benefit of the latest design techniques such as web standards. Since most of the clients won’t know the difference between MS Outlook and Web 2.0, educating your clients is more of a “show and tell” type thing. Show your clients why you are doing things rather than telling them about it.
The last tip doesn’t necessarily have to deal with coordinating clients, but it is important to stay on top of your industry. If you are a freelancer, make sure you take the time to learn new skills. If you are a corporate employee doing webmaster duties, try to convince the upper management of the importance of giving you time to learn new skills (such as training and seminars).
I hope you found these tips helpful. If you have your own tips for working within corporate environments, please share them in the comments.
Thank you for reading.