18 Questions that Drive Web Developers Crazy (and How to Prevent Them)

Web developers don’t have the easiest job. It takes flexibility, agility, and the ability to accommodate an expanding workload. Developers can encounter technological obstacles, deadline and workload problems, and a host of other issues. As if that weren’t enough, they also have to deal with clients who sometimes unwittingly make the developer’s job harder. Clients can ask a lot of questions, and sometimes this puts the developer in a very difficult position. Here are the most common and problematic questions, the issues they create, and how to avoid or fix them.

1.  “How much does a website cost?”

What the Question Really Means:

“I don’t know how to budget for this,” or “I’m just gathering information but will likely choose the cheapest since I don’t know any better.”

Problems It Creates:

Ignorance of website costs causes customers to settle for less than what they really need.

How To Fix It:

  • Create FAQs and qualifying questions. Put those who don’t qualify in a marketing funnel to nurture and educate them.
  • Help clients consider how visitors will use their website and what things are most important to them. If they want to attract the right traffic, and position their offers for lead generation and/or online sales, they’ll want to think about how their site will be utilized.
  • Include educational content. For example:
    • Examples of well-done websites, though not necessarily from your design portfolio. Consider targeting specific examples by industry, such as 10 examples of sites in the finance industry or 10 sites in the retail industry.
    • Available features in web design and examples of live sites. Which features are more important than others? For example, Content Management Systems are incredibly helpful, because they can make many changes and updates without requiring you to pay a coder to do it.
    • Worksheets to determine who their audience is, the information the audience needs to know to address their need, and the action they want the audience to take.
    • Checklists, such as how-to’s for writing compelling web copy, necessary steps before putting a site online, things that must be accomplished after launch (eg. SEO, social media, and other traffic-building activities), or ways of quantifying web presence (traffic, tracking conversion, optimizing for conversions, etc.).

2.  “I want my website to look exactly like [insert domain name here]. Can you do that for me?”

What This Really Means:

“I lack creativity,” “I don’t care about my own branding,” or “I don’t know or care about the consequences of plagiarism.”

Problems It Creates:

  • Ethical issues relating to plagiarism, copyright infringement, brand theft, etc.
  • Brand confusion
  • Failing to target/communicate to the right audience
  • Lack of functionality for your site’s true goals

How To Fix It:

  • Ask questions. “What do you want your website to say about you and your company? Who is your audience, and what are their needs? What’s more, what do you want them to take away from a visit to your site? What core functionality do you need, and what functionality on other sites in the industry do you want to incorporate?”
  • What specifically do they like about the site in question? What functions of the site do they need on their site, and what specific functions do they want their site to have?

3.  “This design is nice but it needs more [insert generic adjective such as feminine/masculine, powerful, soothing, professional, etc.]. Don’t you think it needs something more?”

What This Really Means:

“I don’t like this design,” “this design needs modifications,” or “I haven’t been clear about my expectations/you haven’t asked me enough questions about what I want in a design.”

Problem It Creates:

  • Increased expense
  • Project delays
  • Excessive revisions

How To Fix It:

  • Processes: Ask better intake questions, and don’t start working until you’re confident you know what they really want. Request examples of sites they like, and determine what exactly they like/dislike. Make mock-ups and wire-frames, and always get approval of a design concept before you start coding.
  • Questions: “When you say [insert adjective], what does that mean to you? Brighter colors, more natural images, a different font, etc.”

4.  “I don’t know what I’m looking for but I’ll know it when I see it. Is that enough description to get started?”

What This Really Means:

“I lack the clarity to define the kind of website I want” or “this is my first time working with a designer, so I’ll need some guidance.

Problems It Creates:

  • Unclear scope of work
  • Fluctuating costs
  • Project delays

How To Fix It:

  • Processes: If the customer doesn’t have any ideas in mind, don’t take them on until they know what they like and dislike. Ask them to check out sites in their industry or complementary industries and look for things they like. Or, even better, provide a list of websites that you feel showcase a sufficient variety of styles, colors, designs, etc.
  • Qualifying: Make sure you know who they’re building the website for—who is the audience? What are their target demographics and psychographics? What information does the audience need to know, and what information will help sell your client’s product or service?
  • Questions: Ask very specific, open-ended questions, such as:
    • “What do you like most about this example website, whether colors, features, or functions? What do you like least? What do you think could have been done better?
    • “Tell me about your audience. What problems, needs, or discovery points would bring them to your website? What do they need addressed, and why?”
    • “Tell me about your competitors. What do you think they do well with their website, and what could they do better?”
    • “How important to you is branding? What about your brand do you want your website to communicate (‘fun and youthful,’ ‘compassionate and caring,’ ‘motivated and results-oriented,’ etc.)?

5.  “I don’t have any photos or graphics to use. Can you just use some stock photos or pull images from Google of smiling office people or something?”

What This Really Means:

“I don’t have any photos,” or “I don’t know how to differentiate my website from everyone else,” or “I don’t know the basics about branding.”

Problems It Creates:

Issues with brand recognition. Their site will look like millions of other sites that rely on the same pool of stock photos, so visitors and even customers won’t remember them. You may also run into issues with copyright infringement, since Google Images isn’t free to use and many images are copyrighted. Furthermore, you may incur the extra costs associated with hiring a photographer.

How To Fix It:

  • Processes: Qualify your opportunities. If the prospect doesn’t have any photos, this should be built into the cost of the design.
  • Questions: Learn more about their audience and brand. What impression do they want to make? ‘Fun and playful’ would call for different images than ‘serious and professional.’
  • Talent: Get creative. Hire a photographer if it’s in the budget. Purchase stock photos that don’t look staged or cheesy, and be sure the photos are well-lit. If necessary, create custom graphics.

6.  “I have tons of images we can use! Do you want to see them?”

What This Really Means:

“I have a bunch of photos I’ve either received from customers or taken myself, and I don’t know which of these many photos to use.”

Problems It Creates:

Time management issues and extra costs, since someone has to sort through all these images. Maybe they’re done poorly, with poor lighting or tacky product placement. Or maybe they’re formatted incorrectly, or are the wrong file type. Then there are the copyright questions—who is the source of the image? Do you even have permission to use it?

How To Fix It:

  • Clarification: Determine copyright and liability issues. Does the client have ownership or a license? How are you, as the developer, protected if you use the images? Make sure this is covered in a written agreement.
  • Qualifying: Ask to see photos they may want to use, and ask them early on in your process. Don’t ask for too many, just enough to get a feel for the quality, size, and file type of their images.
  • Processes: How frequently will they be adding in photos, and who will be adding them? What are the guidelines for submission and adding to the website?
  • Checklists: Make a how-to for taking quality photos, detailing the characteristics of a great photo. Address the ways to stage products for great ROI. Also ensure to validate the rights of others who submit photos, and detail where you can find photos the ethical way.

7.  “Creativity is more important than functionality. Can you build me a site that is really different?”

What This Really Means:

“I’m building this site because I want something cool. It needs to look impressive but doesn’t need any substance. Also, I’ll probably complain later that my website hasn’t done anything for my business.”

Problems It Creates:

A creative website that doesn’t achieve a worthwhile, measurable goal is not worth the investment. A website that’s all flash and no substance will not produce loyal customers.

How To Fix It:

  • Transparency: Start with a portfolio of creative sites you’ve developed, as well as other materials that showcase your best creative work. Or, if the creative side of things isn’t your strong suit, work with a local artist or designer to help fill that gap. Whatever you do, be clear about the difference between creativity and functionality and why it’s important to balance the two.
  • Qualification: Is this prospect even a good fit for you? What is the purpose of their site (generating more leads, customers, etc.)? What are they looking to accomplish—bragging rights, more sales, more opportunities, or what?
  • Questions: Be clear about what ‘creative’ means, and get examples. Define the website’s objectives—is it just to be creative and impress people, or is it to find new business/generate revenue? Ask the questions in the ‘I don’t know what I want but I’ll know when I see it’ section (above).

8.  “I saw something on this site [insert URL here]. Can we do this on my site?”

What This Really Means:

“I’m into whatever is trending and popular, so I might need frequent updates and may challenge your coding/design expertise.”

Problems It Creates:

  • Increased costs
  • Having to add functionality or features that are not needed or budgeted
  • Change orders

How To Fix It:

  • Processes: Clear scope of work. What’s included for technology? What will it cost hourly otherwise?
  • Qualifying: Why do they think they need it? Would it enhance the site? What’s most interesting to them about this functionality? Anything can be built, but it comes with a price. How much are they willing to pay to get it?

9.  “I checked out the site and I know you’re working on it, but can you add/fix/change the following [insert to-do list here]?”

What This Really Means:

“I’m not clear about your process” or “I’m micromanaging and/or am not patient/trusting enough to wait for you to finish your work.”

Problems It Creates:

  • The never-ending project
  • Communications breakdown, with each side feeling that they aren’t being heard
  • Oversights to requested changes because of ongoing changes during development
  • Increased expense for the customer or scope creep for the developer
  • Project delays

How To Fix It:

  • Scope of work: Milestones and deliverables provided in scope. Create a summary of how revisions are made, and how many changes are required. Detail the difference between a work-in-progress/beta and a live site, and how this distinction impacts editing and costs.
  • Processes: Provide a process or checklist so the client understands where you are. List what steps need to be taken, by whom, and by what deadline. Be sure all mock-ups are approved and signed, and let the client know that change orders result in extra costs after the client signs off on mock-ups. Also, don’t allow the customer to access the beta site until you really want them to see it. Finally, require all changes to be submitted in one document (not a million emails!), and implement all changes at one time.

10.  “I’m on a tight budget. Can you do it for as cheap as possible?”

What This Really Means:

“I haven’t budgeted for the website I really want, I’ve budgeted for what I think it will cost. Also, I may have unrealistic expectations.”

Problems It Creates:

  • Sticker shock
  • Client always asking for or expecting discounts, freebies, etc.
  • Increased costs, which likely won’t be covered in the budget
  • Project delays
  • Gridlock—client won’t pay until site is done within their budget, but webmaster has to hold the site hostage pending payment

How To Fix It:

  • Education: Cheaper sites usually aren’t good sites! Describe the value your expertise brings to the table that cheap solutions can’t offer.
  • Qualification: Define the minimal budget you’re willing to work with. On intake define the prospect’s budget to ensure it matches or exceeds your minimum.
  • Contract and Scope: List what’s included and what’s not. Make sure you have clear milestones and deliverables, and get payment upfront (cash only is preferred). Clarify who owns what and until what time, and don’t start without a signed agreement.
  • Processes: Get references from people they have done business with in the past. Do they pay on time? Are they easy to work with?

11.  “My current website was designed by someone else, but recently they haven’t been returning my calls or emails. I need some changes made and now I’m worried I’ll lose my investment.”

What This Really Means:

“I may not be telling you the whole story. I might be difficult to work with and may have not paid my bill. I may be in the middle of a difficult situation and will now expect you to help me.” Or, “I may have a lot of baggage because of previous experiences working with unscrupulous or unprofessional web developers.”

Problems It Creates:

  • Rocky start to the relationship
  • Trust issues
  • Potential difficulty accessing the site, domain, or hosting server
  • Files may be damaged, corrupted, or improperly coded
  • Possible copyright issues if the client hasn’t paid or is violating their previous agreement
  • Project delays
  • Increased costs due to time spent trying to find logins, get access, etc.

How To Fix It:

  • Processes: Do a courtesy backup using HTTrack Website Copier (https://www.httrack.com/).
  • Qualification: Get login and other information and stipulate the timeline when you’ll receive it, who is responsible for getting it, and holding costs/contract breach if there are delays. Verify that the login works, and if it doesn’t do a paid backup via FTP, cPanel, etc. for a small project fee.
  • Interview: Offer to help for an hourly fee instead of a flat/project rate, and ensure prepay for two hours. Get the webmaster’s name and contact info then interview them to get their side of things. Once you’ve gathered that information you can determine the scope of work.
  • Scope of Work and Agreement: Handle any liability causes. All work should be paid hourly, and be sure to determine what hours are available. Also establish turnaround times. Be sure to create a maintenance agreement, with monthly compensation for ongoing updates. Establish your project fee with milestones and deliverables, then determine the fee structure and due dates for payment.
  • Transparency: Checklists and milestones. Whatever you agree to do, do it within the timeline and budget. If that isn’t possible, be clear about why it isn’t, and get written permission. This will go a long way in establishing and building trust.

12. “Is the website done yet?”

What This Really Means:

“I know we agreed to a timeline, but can you speed it up?”

Problem It Creates:

Rushing through coding requires sacrifices. Images might be missing, content may be forgotten, and bugs or glitches won’t be weeded out properly during testing.

How To Fix It:

  • Qualifying: Get their history. Are they bringing baggage from past bad experiences, or are they just being too demanding and unrealistic? Make sure you understand their expectations, and determine whether those expectations are realistic. If they are too demanding and unrealistic, you may need to cut them loose since working with them will likely be more trouble than it is worth.
  • Process: Show your process, and make it part of the agreement. Emphasize where you are in the process via milestones and with all points of delivery.
  • Milestones: Be clear with your milestones. Check to make sure the due date is still applicable, and communicate with the client. Allocate time, especially on larger or more complex coding projects, to test alongside your developer.

13.  “The color [insert very specific color here] does not match the PMS/Pantone colors of my letterhead or business card.”

What This Really Means:

“I’m very particular and will pick apart your work, so you’d better make sure you’re paying attention to even the tiniest details. Also, I will probably delay the project, because I don’t know what I don’t know. Get ready to educate me a lot.”

Problem It Creates:

  • Extra costs
  • Delays
  • Communication issues
  • Degraded coding due to making it look ‘exact’ vs. best practice, which negatively affects search visibility

How To Fix It:

  • Qualifying: Determine whether they have specific requests for particular fonts, colors, etc., and establish who will provide the design files. Ask to see any mock-ups if applicable.
  • Questions: If a graphic designer or brand manager will be involved, ask more detailed questions. There might be information that isn’t disclosed this early in the process, such as a misunderstanding of the difference between web and print or ignorance of CSS’s limits.
  • Education: If there is a need for web education it’s best to start with one scope of work. This is a time to work out mock-ups. Discuss fonts, kerning, line spacing, specific colors, transparency of colors, etc. Once this is clarified and everyone is on the same page, do a second scope of work for the actual coding.
  • Management: Manage expectations early and often. If something must display identically to print, work with your client to determine which is more important—exact matching, functionality/usability, or search visibility.
  • Milestones: Clarify the consequences of delays caused by nitpicking.

14.  “I should have sent this to you a few days ago but I didn’t. Now I’m on a deadline—can you get this done in the next day or two?”

What This Really Means:

“Oops, sorry but my failure to plan creates an emergency for you — haha my bad.”

Problems It Creates:

  • Extra costs for expedited timelines
  • Inability to satisfy customer on an ongoing basis
  • Possible issues with the relationship due to unrealistic or unfair expectations

How To Fix It:

  • Fee Structure: Include a rush/expedite fee and clause in your agreement.
  • Scope of Work: Specify turnaround times in your scope of work. Also create clear cut-off dates and times for same day work and lead times for non-rush work (e.g. typically we can do ABC in XYZ days).
  • Meetings: Some clients simply lack good planning and organizational skills. Build monthly or weekly meetings into your fee structure, and use these meetings to get an idea of what is coming down the pipeline. Set firm timeless on when the client will provide you with photos, content, etc. Consider allowing your client access via CMS so they can make many of these updates themselves.

15.  “You said you updated [insert whatever they asked you to update], but when I look at the site I don’t see the changes. Did you make them?”

What This Really Means:

This can often be an innocent question, and many times it’s related to the webmaster’s biggest nemesis—cache. It can be caused on three different levels: website cache via host/website technology, an ISP cache, or a cache within the user’s browser.

Problems It Creates:

  • Trust issues—if the client doesn’t see it, they don’t believe you
  • Support issues such as helping the client learn about cache and how to address it on their end

How To Fix It:

  • Discuss cache early in the communication process. Send welcome package/kickoff call notes that cover the concept of cache.
  • Prepare a video and/or step-by-step instructions and post them on your site. Use this as a reference point for clients to use when they encounter errors.
  • Always manually clear cache on the host and/or website level before indicating to clients that changes have been made.
  • Send screenshots of changes along with links to the live changes. Mention that if they don’t see the changes it might be because of cache issues, and point to the support document on your website.

16.  “There’s something wrong with the website. Can you fix it please?”

What This Really Means:

Something may or may not be wrong with the website, but you won’t be able to do anything without more information.

Problems It Creates:

Vagueness creates issues with problem resolution. If it’s a bigger tech problem, you may encounter downtime and additional costs.

How To Fix It:

  • Be sure the client is covered under a maintenance agreement. If so, you may be able to resolve the issues without additional charges. If not, any time you spend may be time you aren’t paid for. Everyone should be on the same page as far as what you will be paid for.
  • Create a template, whether a form on the website or special signature in Outlook, that address the questions you need answered:
    o   When did the problem happen? Include date and time.
    o   Have you been able to replicate the problem?
    o   What page/URL were you on when you encountered the issue?
    o   Describe the problem—what were you doing, and what happened?
    o   Did you receive an error message? If so, copy and paste it here.
    o   What browser and version were you using? What device were you using—laptop, phone, tablet, etc.? What operating system?
    o   Can anyone else replicate the same issue?
    o   Have you made any changes to the site that may have caused this issue? If so, what did you do? Did you update a plug-in, add a new page, or rename a URL?
  • Try to replicate the issue. If it can’t be replicated, try using a different device or browser. If it still can’t be replicated, try having someone else attempt to replicate it. If you still can’t replicate the problem, you may just have a glitch, which would answer your question.
  • Estimate the time it would take to fix the issue. Provide a quote if it’s not covered under a maintenance agreement, and be sure to have the client sign off on it.

17.  “Can you show me how to do this? I’d like to learn how to do this myself.”

What This Really Means:

“I think your job is easy enough that I could figure it out myself in a short time,” “I’m looking for ways to keep my web costs lower,” or “I’m genuinely curious and want to learn.”

Problem It Creates:

  • Teaching takes time
  • Loss of income
  • Self-sufficiency for client
  • Accountability issues: if they learn it but break it, who is responsible for fixing it?

How To Fix It:

  • Training: Build the cost of training (up to a specific number of hours) into the fee. Alternatively, use videos or guides for repetitive actions like using a CMS such as WordPress.
  • Data Backup and Accountability: Be sure to have clear contract guidelines and expectations. Also, perform regular backups and teach the client how to do backups. If you are willing to teach them, they break something, and you have to fix it, minimize the fee.
  • The Right to Say No: You have the right to avoid teaching them. Give them the basics—‘the problem was X so I did Y’—not comprehensive step-by-step instructions. Let them do the research to find out specifics.

18.  “I’m having a problem with [insert computer, IT, network, email problem type here]. I need you to fix it.”

What This Really Means:

“I assume that since you know the technological things related to web design you’ll also know how to troubleshoot all my IT problems too,” or possibly “I trust and respect you and don’t know who else to ask.”

Problems It Creates:

Scope creep—doing things that aren’t in your field of expertise, things that you won’t likely be paid to do unless you ask for compensation.

How To Fix It:

For email issues, refer the client back to their web-hosting company or email service provider. If they use Microsoft they may be able to get paid support from Microsoft or a Microsoft-certified partner. If they have computer or network issues, they can partner with a computer support/repair business in their area to service local clients. If your client offers services on a national level, they can consider working with a computer support company that is able to work remotely, such as ACS Kenosha at acskenosha.com.

Conclusion

Web development is a difficult field, and uneducated clients can make it all the more frustrating. However, a client’s question may be perfectly innocent, reflecting their need for your expertise. If you prepare yourself for these 18 common questions, you’ll be better equipped to serve your clients if they ask.

2018-08-17T11:12:00-05:00