The client wasn’t happy. We’d worked with her for a number of weeks now, and this was the second time she felt we “just didn’t get it” and she was getting frustrated. We felt we “got it”, but each time we met with her our presentation didn’t live up to her expectations.
“She’s difficult,” we said to one another while working on the project. As the next meeting approached a growing sense of dread loomed over us, curdling our creativity and eroding our confidence. When the day came to present, the design fell flat. She compared our work to a “doodle on a napkin”. Discouraged, we left feeling like we’d put forth our best creative efforts only to have them tossed aside. It’s a day I’ll never forget.
Making Everyone Happy
Does this scenario sound painfully familiar? Well, you can’t make everyone happy, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong. Close-the-doors-and-give-up-now-if-you-don’t-believe-me wrong. You CAN make everyone happy with a simple process I’m going to outline today. For those of you in a hurry, here’s the pseudo-code:
- Ask your client the “important” questions.
- Listen to what they say, and write it down
- Think about what they said.
- Present the client with a written summary of what they said, asking if you got it right.
Oh, and this process has a name: Discovery.
Discovery and a Smile
The purpose of Discovery is for your team to learn about the client’s goals, values, customers and competitors. The client already knows these things, but you don’t. Oh, and when you go back to the client with your results from Step 4, you almost always get a smile. You see, you took all their rambling and hand-waving and turned it into a coherent document. You did all the hard work to “get it”, and that says you really care. Your document should have, at the minimum:
- Key goals for the project
- Key measurements for each goal
- Key business marketing messages
- Key customer segments and values
Let’s recap: they spoke, you listened; you summarized, they smiled. 😉
In fact, the client hired you to solve a business problem. They didn’t hire you to write HTML. They don’t care about HTML/CSS/JS/blah/blah/blah. They don’t care about AJAX, Validating XHTML, or any of the other things you care about. If you talk to them about how cool your new Drupal module is, you really don’t get it. But now, because you clearly understand their business goals, you “get it”. And “getting it” is a wonderful way to start a relationship.
Oh, and my client who hated our designs? In time she came around. In fact, she was one of the first we tried our new Discovery phase with, and you know what? When we were done she smiled and paid us.
That’s also a day I’ll never forget.