A very successful businessperson I met years ago told me, “Clarity is the bane of management consulting.” He should know, as he was a super successful management consultant himself.
Well, that may be true for his line of work, but the polar opposite holds true when it comes to dealing with your web team—clarity is the Holy Grail. While there are lots of things that author website design companies and clients can do to drive each other nuts (and we, at AuthorBytes, are certainly guilty of a number of them), lack of clarity is the root of many of the thornier problems.
Communicating Clearly On Both Sides
From the web team side, there may be lack of clarity about the deliverables and the services that we provide. We resolve this by having a clear contract. Among other things, a good contract spells out what you’re buying, how many website design iterations you’re getting, when it will be finished, and what happens if one or both parties wants a divorce. Beyond the contract, there are subtle issues at play, like the exact way a particular feature or function will work. It’s our job to show you that by example.
On your side, during the design phase of the project, clarity is about expressing your vision for the site. It helps a lot to show examples of what you like and don’t like about sites you’ve visited. Sometimes it’s hard to identify what it is that draws you toward, or drives you away from, a particular site; much about design is visceral.
There’s a Gestalt to a site, too—the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and it’s hard to say how it all fits together.
Even so, there will always be elements that trip the balance one way or another for you. The more you can analyze your likes and dislikes, the more you’ll move the design process toward a successful outcome.
Continuing The Communication
Once the site is live, the need for clarity only intensifies as the site requires updating and maintenance. Here’s where specificity, a kissing cousin of clarity, comes into play. If you’re not specific in your requests, multiple iterations of emails and phone calls are likely to ensue. This increases cost, implementation time, and frustration levels for all.
For the website team, updates are the most difficult part of managing sites. Author websites are especially challenging, given the volume of changes that typically happen before and during a book launch. The changes can go on for weeks, which is good—the site should be an effective platform for promotion long after a book has made its debut.
Although we encourage our authors to become self-sufficient in adding and modifying content (text, images, audio, and video) on their WordPress-based sites, some changes still fall into our court, like adding functionality or changing structural graphics. Also, some clients prefer to have us make all content updates for them and provide us with new content and instructions for what to do with it. With hundreds of active author websites on our servers, we’re in the update business almost every day, and seek specificity with each request.
Types of Communications Between Client and Your Website Team
We manage the flow of request changes through a helpdesk system, and urge clients to imagine that they’re making change requests to robots who have no prior knowledge of their sites. For example:
- Which page(s) will have the change(s)?
- How does the change affect other elements already on the site?
- If you’re adding a new book to the home page, will the new jacket be the dominant cover, in terms of screen real estate, or should we remove the previous new title altogether?
- Ditto for downloadable author photos—which ones stay, and which ones get the old heave-ho?
Whatever your changes, imagine that your author website team is starting with a blank slate.
It may take you a little longer to make your request specific and clear, but in the end, it will be time well spent; your site updates will be accurate on the first pass, and the results more likely to be exactly what you’d intended.
Finally, clarity makes for a good partnership, and your relationship with your web team should be construed as just that—a win-win partnership that supports you from book to book as your career as an author unfolds.