Many agencies try to communicate with their clients about what kind of website they plan to build using absolutely any means possible other than the web. They make site maps and wireframes using sticky notes, PDFs, spreadsheets, power point presentations, binders full of paper—you name it. The flaw in this approach is that it tries to describe a product that will eventually exist in the nonlinear web medium with an inherently linear paper medium. When the media are at odds, miscommunication is guaranteed. What can be so frustrating about this process is that, despite trying their best to communicate with their clients, agencies frequently recognize that miscommunication is taking place, but they are just not sure where. These types of projects are marked by a tense buildup to the time the site is almost complete, at which point the client can finally interact with the site using a mouse, screen, and keyboard for the first time. It is only at that moment when the agency knows for sure if they were successful or not. This is a scary and precarious way to run a web project. Websites often take around three to five months to complete, which is a long time to live in this kind of fear. In this scenario, though, the agency is not the only one who has been afraid for the past five months.
Almost all of your prospective clients have been through at least one or two web development projects, and chances are good that those projects did not go well. Why should they believe their experience with you will be any different? You said the right things in the sales meetings, but so did the last agency. Your client can sense if you are not genuinely confident about what you are doing, and if you do not have faith in your process, neither will they. From the moment they sense your fear, every conversation you have with them will be increasingly unproductive and contentious.
This dynamic plagues the majority of web projects and is the number one reason they fail. In web projects, you can only lead effectively if you are confident that you will get the job done right the first time. You cannot have that confidence unless you know you are effectively communicating with your client. If your communication is not perfect—especially at this crucial information design planning stage—the web project may be in jeopardy.
This post is an excerpt from my book, "A Website That Works."