I have been working with a client for a few thick weeks now, working to get their website just right. The Kolache Shoppe came to me after they’d watched Red Dessert Dive unfold and open its doors. They reached out to Jessica, asking who helped in her branding and website and she sent me down the pipeline; grateful I was. The first time I talked with this couple, Randy and Lucy, who owned Kolache Shoppe, I knew it would be a project I would love. They were good hearted people, Type-A personalities and they knew what they wanted. Albeit, it’s easy to get into the “Well I know what I don’t want” as a client, but it’s much easier to service someone faster who has a strong direction in where they are headed aesthetically. I’ve had nightmare websites that went on for 6+ months, learned a lot and have had websites go live in 3-4 weeks. We dug into the first few conversations as I learned they didn’t have strong photography but that they’d like to showcase a bit of it on their website. Good thing I am also a photographer. I whipped in, and got to work on a wooden slab with the most tasty kolache motley I could imagine.
A little into the second photoshoot I did for the Kolache Shoppe, Lucy did something that I came to admire. She told me the history of how the kolache came to be what it is and how it has been versioned down here for our Texas savory lifestyle. It really helped me to understand the product and what she was after. Then she went into detail about how she is moved to use almost all local ingredients. As if this heartfelt story wasn’t enough, I just about fell out of my chair when a lady walked into the store to collect additional food and beverages that I came to learn Lucy and Randy donate regularly. I couldn’t take how great they were so I sat down and absorbed another kolache, you know really getting to know the brand and directly ignoring my already quiet notions of working out later. Let me show you a few:
I’m going to let you in on a few secrets of how I do business, web design business. Against the advice of hot-shot marketers and business owners, I have taken a poised position in my business to design for my clients regardless of “revision” counts. Well hold on, I’ll tell you why. Oftentimes in a web design contract, (or logo for that matter) the designer will tell you that you will receive x amount of concepts, even one, and up to 3-5 revisions or something like that. While this sounded great in theory that I’d be getting paid for every minute I clicked that mouse, it did something way worse to my relationships with my clients. It disconnected me from them. I would see the panic on their face as they realized they didn’t know exactly what they wanted but that a decision was near. Then they would grow more rigid in responses or phone calls as they felt I didn’t understand them or their business and we would both walk away from the experience thinking less of the other than we did at jump street. I hated it. I started hating what I did, hating everything I output. While too much of any one thing is always a surefire way to hell, I couldn’t help but accept that I was experiencing a redundant and exhausting cycle in my projects and something that I was doing was to blame. So I sat down to myself, to find the fine line between helping someone visually develop their livelihood, and not let them go all cracked out late 80’s, early 90’s style with their brand here in 2014-2015.
The compromise came for me when I decided to tell a client I was in it for the long haul, to help them bring life to what they are putting their livelihood on the line for and that I would steer them in the best practices and ways of branding that I knew but that the decision would ultimately be theirs. This works for me, strictly for locally owned, small and medium sized businesses. If you want to talk corporate, I’ll have a far different opinion. I quickly realized that “revisions” were a snooty way for creatives to forget that these people are business owners, with much more to worry about that just the aesthetic. They had hiring and firing to do, bills to pay, their own finances to sort out, their own sales to be making. They just wanted another business owner, with a creative savvy to help out in the area they couldn’t do themselves. As every business owner knows, if we could do it ourselves to save some money, we probably would.
You bet I lost my ass on the first few projects. Sometimes, I still do. But so do Fortune 500’s. They lose their ass all the time. We just rarely hear about it unless you’re BP with an oil spill. When I finally came out on the other side of this way of doing business, I had become a faster designer, a more intuitive listener, and a more efficient thinker. So my middle finger’s up to the designers who think revisions give you some kind of leg up in this world. Sure, sometimes they’re warranted. We all have crazy clients. We are also all crazy clients at some point. I decided to take this approach, no revisions, no holds bar. So we started. I asked them these things:
1. What were their hopes and dreams, then talked in more “today”, ah reality versus a year from now or “down the road”.
2. We talked color palettes. What do they know they love. What do they know they hate. Do they want to learn more about color theory? This is not kumbaya, but rather qualitative research on how colors affect perception.
3. We talked imagery. Do they have a product that needs to be front and center? Kolaches surely do.
4. We talked about their lifestyle. I always like to learn what a day in the life of my client is like. I want to know their struggles and learn to understand what I would want, if I were going through their struggles, you know man, if I owned the business they did.
Once we’d coerced that, I started with this iteration:
and we ended somewhere around here. Remember I said they knew what they wanted? Not too far off from the original.
Lucy and Randy have become a bright spot in my day, as I look forward to pinging them with the news of their updates as development ensues. They make me laugh, smile and feel good about what I do and why I’m doing it. It keeps the morale high. Not once, in the time I’ve worked with Lucy has she said the phrase “By the way, I need that asap“. Reversely so, I push to get her everything I can as soon as possible. The people who say they need things as soon as possible I just wish I could auto-reply with “Get in line.” or “I am desensitized to this phrase.” At any rate, this project has been one huge highlight to take from 2014 into 2015 and I look forward to sharing with you when it goes live in just a few days.