There’s a problem with my regular work, and I typically don’t see it.
But that’s the problem — I don’t see it and that means my clients don’t see it either.
But when building something as ephemeral as software, progress comes in fits and starts, sometimes to the point of feeling illusory. ~ The Grumpy Programmers PHPUnit Cookbook
Trading in bits
It’s not uncommon for me to code all day and have little to show a client. Yes, lots of stuff happened but there isn’t a visible product at the end of the day.
This is especially true of site optimization work. A few days of work may yield a one-second decrease in site load time, which often goes unnoticed.
For designers, you do a bunch of research and wireframing, and draft designs that get tossed. It takes days, maybe even weeks, to get through to something that’s finally worthwhile to show to a client.
All through the beginning of that design process you’re working but the client sees nothing. ‘Stuff’ is happening inside the black box of design and that ‘stuff’ is something that’s hard/impossible for the client to really grasp.
Taking it to tangible
If you’ve been working for a while and your client has to ask for an update, you’ve failed. It means they had no idea what you were doing. In that post I just linked to I showed you the 2 email templates I use to keep clients up to date on the progress of a project.
You may need to take it further though.
If you’re designing the site, break it down into smaller deliverables. Show them the wireframes first and make it a deliverable.
When you’re building a theme get the home page done and send them that, with the caveat that if they look any further things are going to break.
Tell them they can keep checking back every day or two and they’ll see progress. Tell them there are bugs that you’ll still address, so they don’t need to tell you about anything yet — you just wanted to show them progress.
Way too many creatives (and yes, I think programmers are creatives) go into ‘mole mode’ as they find their muse, which leaves the clients hanging with no idea what’s happening with the project.
You’re not a mole and your client is not a mole. You’re a business owner and you need to keep your clients up to date at many points in the process of their project.
Neglecting that is only going to mean you get fewer referrals (because you weren’t awesome to work with) and have a business that’s not as successful as it should be.
Let’s make a promise — no more ‘mole mode’. We’ll update our clients regularly and break down big deliverables into small things to regularly show clients some progress.