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8 Bad Decisions Clients Make for very Good Reasons

First of all let me say that I love my clients. They are wonderful human beings who bring joy and happiness to the world with their every utterance. They are super cool, but they are not perfect. Even our amazingly awesome clients occasionally make decisions that are, to put it mildly, unsuitable. I get it, bad decisions can happen to anyone. Usually, bad decisions happen when you’re trying to make a very good decision but your reasoning is slightly flawed. Here are 8 bad decisions I’ve seen clients make along with the very good reasons they have for making their decision. 1. Cheap Hosting. “Thanks for your recommendation but we found a company that will host the site at less than half the cost.” Why this made so much sense: Many clients got burned by past hosting arrangements that cost far too much money. With Amazon and Google (among others) reducing the cost of hosting to practically nothing, clients naturally believe that hosting should be all-but-free. Why this ends up being a bad decision: You’re not paying for hosting. You’re paying for support when something goes wrong. And the likelihood of something going wrong increases if your cheap host fails to install the latest security patches. Which they will. Because you are using the Spirit Airlines of web hosting. And no one in their right mind flies Spirit Airlines. 2. Expensive Hosting. “We have a company that manages our managed hosting provider. We’ve worked with him for years and hardly ever had a problem.” Why this made so much sense: Clients aren’t sys-admins. They don’t want to think about this stuff. What they really want is some guy to answer the phone when there’s a problem and get it fixed right away. Why this ends up being a bad decision: Let me get this straight: you have managed hosting and you’re paying someone else to manage the managed hosting? I guess it’s not that bad a decision. It’s just a huge waste of money and adds another cook to the kitchen. And the cook who is totally redundant always ends up being the biggest pain in the ass so he can try to justify his existence. Yes, I’m thinking of someone in particular. He knows who he is. 3. No Server Access. “Sorry, our policy is never to give any third-party vendor access to our server, even SSH access.” Why this made so much sense: No one in the history of time has gotten fired because their security policies were too restrictive. Why this ends up being a bad decision: Let’s say your car breaks down and you tell the mechanic they have to fix it without opening the hood or touching the car in any way or looking at the car or asking about the car. Would that work? If your site breaks down, we can only fix it if we can see what’s wrong. And, sorry, but a screenshot of a 404 error doesn’t tell us anything. 4. Squarespace. “It’s a website builder, CMS, and a hosting service all in one!” Why this made so much sense: The sites look really good. The CMS is very intuitive. And this is SO MUCH CHEAPER than doing the site in the normal way. Why this ends up being a bad decision: Look, I hate to speak ill of Squarespace. They’re great for small businesses that need to throw up a little brochureware site very quickly. But it’s a very limited system and you aren’t going to realize how limited until you want to do anything it doesn’t do. Like Javascript. Then you’ll end up rebuilding the whole site from scratch and that is expensive. In general, all-in-one products sound like a better idea than they are. And if you disagree, I’m happy to sell you my TV with built-in DVD and VHS players. 5. Flash. “Our last campaign was built in Flash and it was great!” Why this made so much sense: Once clients get comfortable with a technology, they like to stick with that technology. New stuff tends to break in unexpected ways. It’s so much easier to keep doing the same thing. Why this ends up being a bad decision: You are showing up to the party in parachute pants and a Members Only jacket. If your company is making any claim to being digital, tech-focused, or cutting edge, you are looking very, very silly. 6. Custom Anything. “We have a proprietary CMS/ecommerce engine/version control system. It’s built for our needs.” Why this made so much sense: Very few people really need every single feature of WordPress/Magento/Github and all that extra functionality is just confusing to the end user. Why not build a custom system that includes only the features your organization needs? Why this ends up being a bad decision: Besides the people who built it, who knows how your proprietary system works? No one. Who can fix it? No one. If there was a security issue that affected your proprietary system, who would alert you to that problem? No one. Who would start working on a patch? No one. Who would update your system when hardware or software evolved? No one. But you don’t have to worry, because you still work with the people who built it and, as everyone knows, software developers are never flakey. 7. DIY “We’ll do the wireframes ourselves so you can take that off the estimate.” Why this made so much sense: The client knows exactly what they need from their new digital property. They’ve spent months talking to customers and internal stakeholders and they have a pretty good idea exactly what the new system needs to do. Why this ends up being a bad decision: The back button. Client-made wireframes never have a back button. Clients in general are focused on what they want the customer to do, so they fail to think about all the weird stuff customers will actually do. That’s why you hire a company to build a website. Because they do it all the time so they know about all the weird stuff real people will do – like click “back”. By the time a client realizes their wireframes were worthless, they’ve already burned a lot of hours figuring out UX in the design phase. 8. Handle it internally “We don’t need you to post the updates. Our guy can handle that internally.” Why this made so much sense: You’ve got this awesome guy at the office who always seems to know how to fix these technical issues. He’s the one who got the printer working. And when you (somehow) got that virus on your computer, he not only got rid of it, he also showed you how to clear your browser history. He says he can handle it, so why pay someone else? Why this ends up being a bad decision: Let me speak by analogy: “your office IT manager is to web developers, as I am to Batman.” Don’t get me wrong. I have deep respect for a good IT manager. They have a unique skill set and qualifications. Not everyone could do that job, certainly I couldn’t. But they are no more web developers than I am Batman. Just to clear up any confusion, I am not Batman. I might enjoy pretending to be Batman in my spare time. But that does not make me Batman. And if I claim that I can do “Batman things” just as well as Batman, you would harbor severe doubts about my truthfulness and sanity. Long story (and tortured analogy) short, your guy is not a web developer and you shouldn’t let him play web developer on anything that matters to your business. Please note: If you are a current or former client of Dressler, rest assured that none of these stories is about you. No, no, no. Don’t be silly. Even if it sounds like something you once did, it’s actually about someone else. Someone totally different. In Canada.

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