It is amazing how many SMEs are still living in internet dinosaur land.
Last week, I seemed to run into most of them. It has been a while since I had to talk a client out of using Flash, explain why using frames was a really bad idea and "click here" links are now virtually an insult to visitors.
But difficult clients, who won’t believe you until your explanation has stood up to several hours of cross examination, hold the key to true enlightenment.
As Confucius once said: "Self held belief easily becomes dogma if unquestioned for too long". Actually, I made that up, but it’s something he might have said.
Difficult clients force you to reassess what you think is "best-practice". If you only ever deal with clients who get-it, you get lazy and out of shape.
Once you’ve got a good reputation as a web designer, it is easy to lean on it. You pop on a pair of comfy slippers and add a nought to your prices to keep the SMEs the hell away from your door.
But how can you truly advise your big clients if you’re flabby and out of practice? How can you convince them that scrolling is now acceptable and content is no longer considered clutter?
Even if they have been keeping a reasonably close eye on the internet ball, you may need to challenge their own beliefs and convince them that meta tags are no longer important and that text menus are a whole lot more practical than lozenge buttons.
You know you’re in trouble, when you ask your new client what browser they are using and they say "Google"!
Sadly, you can’t just hand them a copy of "The Web for Dummies" and suggest they call you back once they’ve read it. There’s nothing for it, you’ve got to kick off the slippers, pull on your dancing shoes, and start your performance of web site story.
Nowadays, not everyone uses Internet Explorer on a PC to surf the web. For instance, some people will actually be using a mobile phone! That is why adhering to web compatibility standards is critical. Good usability is paramount to your site’s success and the bloke who designed your brochure is almost certainly not the right guy to design your website.
One thing hasn’t changed of course – content is still king, and regularly changing content is now the search engine ace.
It’s usually shopkeepers or sole traders and people who file receipts on a spike that give the most grief.
You’ve got to keep reminding yourself that it’s not their fault. They are simply innocent technophobes who were looking the other way when the web caterpillar metamorphosed into a marketing butterfly.
But the really great thing about difficult clients is they make you appreciate the easy going ones even more.
Chris is managing director of internet consultancy WAA WebXpress. www.webxpress.com.