Be the Expert

I’m learning so many new things as a freelance work-from-home web developer. I learn new things with every website we complete. But I also am learning so much about people and expectations.

One thing I’m learning is that people don’t really know what they want. I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s just something I’m observing. All too often I go into a meeting expecting my client to have all the answers. I’m expecting them to have ideas of what they want on their website and what would make it better. For example, “Can we implement a Google calendar? Can we add a blog? Can we have a Facebook news feed appear in the sidebar?” I anticipate these questions. I anticipate them knowing what they want or what to try. In short I expect THEM to be the expert. After all it’s their website. Surely they know what’s working. Well, not entirely true. Most people only know if a website is broken. They don’t know what would make it better. It’s not that they don’t care. They just don’t have time to keep up with the trends. That’s what they’re paying me for.

So I’m learning I need to change my approach a little. I need to come in as an expert. Instead of asking what they WANT I should instead tell them what they NEED. It’s my job to to look at their site and give suggestions to make it better. It’s my job to make recommendations or pitch ideas to them based on past experience. Of course it’s important to listen to your client if they have legitimate concerns or ideas. But expecting them to ask about X, Y, and Z feature is just not realistic.

The other day I was in a board meeting with a client to discuss a new version of their organization’s website. The average age of the group in the room was probably 60. Maybe had I known that I would have tailored my approach a little differently. But I went in with pen and paper ready to jot down all their suggestions. They had a few, but they were really looking to me for ideas. This really showed me that I need to change my approach when talking to people about websites.

So moral of the story is: Be the expert. Sometimes people just need to be told what they need or what to do.

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