Whether you’re a freelancer building $500 template Weebly websites or a creative agency building $50,000 custom WordPress websites, it turns out we all have the same problems.
If you’ve been running a web design business for a while, you’re familiar with these problems:
- Standing out in the crowd is tough.
- Everyone is overwhelmed with emails.
- Unpredictable timelines are the worst.
- Clients have technical barriers.
- Scope creep is inevitable.
- Lack of progress kills happiness.
Let’s dig in to each of those, and then we’ll talk about the solutions we’ve come up with to solve these problems.
The Problems with Traditional Website Development
Problem #1: Standing Out In the Crowd Is Tough
When a client is getting multiple bids for a project, it can be hard to stand out in the crowd. Websites in many ways have become a commodity. And the range of what people are offering is all over the place. A potential website client might have their 16-year-old nephew saying he will build a site for $500. Then they have a freelancer who will build the website for $5000 and then an agency telling them they will build the site for $50,000. These are all quotes for the same project!
There is no such thing as an apples-to-apples comparison with this type of work because everyone is offering different levels of skill, experience and service. Due to the nature of the work and the technical language of the proposals, it can be hard for clients to know what they are really getting and how to make a smart decision. For example, all the proposals might include “search engine optimization” but what that actually means could be night-and-day different depending on who they hire. The client doesn’t know the right questions to ask to clarify the difference between service providers. They don’t understand the language, so in many cases, they are going into the decision blind.
The key to standing out in a commoditized industry is having a unique value proposition. Everyone is building websites. What makes you different? What makes you better?
Sorry to tell you that talking geek speak (“our mobile-first design approach…”) and list of website features (“live Instagram feeds and data visualization plugins…”) is not going to do the trick. You have to convey it to the client in a way they understand.
Without a truly unique value proposition, it is hard to stand out in the crowd. And a lot of times the decision of who to hire comes down to price or the “know, like and trust” factor.
Problem #2: Everyone is Overwhelmed with Emails
Everyone is overwhelmed with communication these days, whether it is via email, text messages, social media or app notifications. And this isn’t just us digital marketers. It’s practically every human on the planet. The swarm of digital items that need your attention is ever-increasing. And at this rate, you’re pretty much not going to be able to take a vacation without your laptop until you retire.
When we all have more communication than we can keep up with, the type of communications that are easiest to ignore are the ones that seem difficult and time consuming. So when you email your client with questions about their domain registrar and SSL certificate, they feel overwhelmed and promptly put it off for a later time. They may dread opening and responding to that email because it is filled with jargon and they aren’t even sure how to answer the questions.
Even in a simple website project, it is not unheard of to send hundreds of messages back and forth with the client. The more emails that are exchanged, the harder it is to find files and past conversations. Miscommunication runs rampant. Time is wasted. Things slip through the cracks. People get frustrated
Whether that communication happens via email, instant message or some other software, it’s still an overwhelming amount of communication for both the client and your team. It’s enough to drive someone to drink.
Problem #3: Unpredictable Timelines are the Worst
There is a point in every sales meeting when the client will ask you how long the site is going to take to build. It’s a perfectly reasonable question.
The problem is, you can’t guarantee a launch date because doing your work requires your client to also do a fair amount of work, including communication, content gathering / creation and feedback. That’s the part they don’t always understand. And because you can’t control the client or predict and when they will get back to you, creating a realistic project timeline is essentially a task for a mind reader. When the client decides to respond is up to them. It could be minutes, weeks or months later. After all, they are busy running their own businesses!
And if you’re working with subcontractors on your team, that adds yet another element of unpredictability to the project timeline. When your client FINALLY gets back to you after weeks of being missing in action, you can’t reasonably expect a contractor to drop everything and work on your project that minute. So then you’re waiting on someone on your team. And again it’s out of your control.
Getting all the things you need from your client to build a new website is a tricky balance. Sway too far in the direction of being a whip-cracking task master and you’ll your client will think you’re an asshole. But sway too far the other way of being a super accomodating “wet noodle” and your project will never get done. Ah, the joys of project management!
In the end because of said erratic communication and enough dead time to make an horologist roll over in his grave, even basic websites can take months (or even years!) to complete. And that means it could take months or years for you to get paid. That’s the worst. Hint: an horologist is someone who studies time!
Problem #4: Customers Have Technical Barriers
Often when web designer types are trying to solve problems like the ones we’ve mentioned, they turn to software. For example, you might think using Slack or Basecamp or Asana will help with the email and timeline issues. And it might help! But unfortunately, trying to get your clients to use your project management software or tool of choice can actually create setbacks to progress instead of making it more efficient.
As web designers, we fancy ourselves a pretty tech savvy bunch. We can type like the wind and crop a photo in a matter of seconds. The idea that someone in this day and age might have difficulty uploading an image to a website may seem insane to us. But depending on who your clients are, this could be a real issue. Things that seem easy to you and me can quickly become daunting and time-consuming tasks for clients, who may not spend all day every day at their computers. So asking them to learn yet another piece of unfamiliar software might solve some of your problems, but it will create more problems for your client.
In addition, there could be other technical barriers. For example, your client could be using an 8-year-old BlackBerry to work on the go. Without knowing exactly how your client is using different devices, browsers and software, it can be difficult for you to troubleshoot the issues they are having.
“I can’t log in!”
“I don’t see an attachment!”
“The website is broken!”
Where do you even start?
Problem #5: Scope Creep is Inevitable
Even if you do your due diligence and spend plenty of time in the planning and discovery process, scope creep is inevitable.
Scope creep is most definitely related to the fact that the client may not know how easy or difficult a new request is or what exactly their contract includes. But also, the more people involved and the longer the project lasts, the more likely the client will change their minds as to what they need and want. If the project lasts for several months, the people working on the project could turn over. Personal situations, technology, industries or even the global economy could change. The client could have changed their entire business model or inherited a great deal of money and decided not to start the business at all.
Sure you can reign in scope creep by putting your foot down and saying “no” to additional requests or by tacking on more charges to the final bill. But having to constantly tell the client “that’s not included in your contract” is a real bummer and a major customer service problem. And a customer is never going to be thrilled about paying more than you originally agreed upon, even if they are self-aware enough to know they are changing the project scope.
But if you don’t get control of extra requests and exorbitant revisions, what were once attractive projects can become hugely unprofitable.
Problem #6: Lack of Progress Kills Happiness
All these problems lead to slow and painful progress. A project that both parties were once excited about becomes tedious and frustrating after months of working on it.
Momentum drag on one project affects all your other projects. Because you are unable to control the starts and stops or predict when the project will be complete, scheduling and planning is difficult. Inevitably, this leads to juggling multiple projects at a time, which can be overwhelming and stressful.
This may not seem like a big deal, but the host of setbacks and hurdles we’ve discussed lead to a highly unsatisfying pace of progress over time, which impacts the work in a serious way.
In the book, “The Progress Principle” the authors’ extensive research showed that of all the positive events that influence a person’s work life, the single most powerful is progress in their work. Of all the negative events, the single most powerful is the opposite of progress—setbacks in their work.
A lack of progress kills joy.
Noodle on that one for a minute. It’s huge. There was a very important, very boring 400-page book about it.
The longer the project goes on, the more your team starts getting annoyed with the client’s new ideas, questions and revisions. The longer the project goes on, you become less interested in making the best website possible, and instead just want to get it finished. The longer the project goes on, the less satisfied your client will be with the experience, no matter how amazing the end product is.
The Solution to Traditional Website Development Problems
Now that we are all fully depressed about our collective existence as web designers, let’s move on to happier topics: Solutions!
After years of running my business with projects dragging on forever and my email inbox growing more insurmountable every day, it occurred to me that there had to be a better way.
So I started by thinking hard about why we do things in the way we do them. How did this process come to be? And what were some of the key assumptions we were making about the process? Consciously or subconsciously, we were assuming:
- Working virtually (and having mostly written conversations) is the best way to work with clients and team members.
- Projects need to be completed in a horizontal timeline and assembly line with one person completing their tasks before another person starts.
- Clients need days or weeks to contemplate and make decisions about their projects.
Well, you may have guessed where I’m going with this. We did some testing and experimenting and found that none of those things were true in most cases. With those myths busted, we developed the 1 Day® methodology with based on these core values.
We don’t believe in doing what everyone has always done. Our methods are totally innovative and unique. We have developed systems to get the job done more quickly. This model was built after 10 years of problem solving and working in the web design industry. Once you see how much more effective using our methodology is, you may never want to go back to the other way of doing things.
All our services start out with a discovery session that allows us to understand our client’s values, story, aesthetic tastes, customers and business goals. This is how we get to know them, and we’re able to help create the best website possible for them, including writing the website copy for them. Our unique, tangible tools add interactivity and fun to the discovery process, making it experiential and memorable.
We’re big on technology around here, but we know technology can’t replace the efficiency of real-time, human-to-human communication. It may seem a bit old school, but we prefer to work in person with our clients. We believe in real collaboration, high touch service and creating unforgettable experiences.
For each project, we bring in an awesome team that may include web designers, graphic designers or writers who have specialized skills. By having real-time, high-energy collaboration, our approach is incredibly productive and powerful. What’s more, the clients truly get to participate in the creative process.
We don’t believe in cutting corners. We distilled our process down to exactly what we know small businesses need, and we pride ourselves on quality. We invented a “vertical assembly line” where everyone does their job simultaneously. We cut out the inefficiency of hundreds of emails back and forth of the traditional web design process to accelerate our clients’ success.
We now work in person with almost all of our clients and have an entire suite of 1 Day services, including the 1 Day Branding, 1 Day Digital, 1 Day Social, 1 Day SEO and more. We have created tangible, interactive tools to add joy and efficiency to the process. And you guessed it. Every project is delivered in one day.
So that’s how we roll.
Sorry, We didn’t Invent A Magic Website Building Helmet
Now, you may be disappointed. You were probably hoping that we discovered a way to automate web design. Maybe you imagined a titanium helmet with a set of sensors you could suction to your temples and as you think about a cool web design, the computer starts coding it for you while you sit there with a beer in one hand and a taco in the other.
Trust me, I’ve fantasized about that helmet before too. And sorry to say I have not come up with a technological breakthrough that is going to make your projects magically do themselves.
What we do takes more than a warm body and a coupla suction cups. It takes actual talent. Experience. Process. Execution. And when it’s done well, it works like a fucking charm.
By using the 1 Day® model, you will:
- learn how to eliminate hundreds of emails, miscommunication and weeks of dead time from each project,
- increase your profits by putting an end to project scope creep,
- fall back in love with your clients and your work.
Now you know a bit about our process, let’s talk about how the 1 Day model solves every single problem in your life…well at least the ones we just talked about.
Solution #1: You Stand Out Like a Mo Fo
As we discussed, it can be difficult for clients to understand the difference in service when they are looking at several quotes to design a website. They are all jargon filled and sort of look the same.
In Seth Godin’s book “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable,” there is a simple message. Be remarkable. Purple Cow argues that the only way to cut the hyper-clutter of products and advertising today is to innovate something new, unique and remarkable – like a purple cow. So as soon as you start talking to a prospect about how you work in person and deliver your services within a single business day, all of a sudden your business stands way out. You’ll know you’re hooking them when you see their eyes light up. Customers LOVE the idea of being a part of the creative process, getting a behind-the-scenes look of how it’s all made. They LOVE the idea of working with our tangible tools. And of course, they LOVE the idea that their site could be done in a day. Prospects won’t forget your offer or your conversation. Because you’re the purple cow.
Solution #2: No One is Overwhelmed with Emails
One of the most radical choices we made with our 1 Day model is to actually talk to our clients and team in real life. Gasp! With the 1 Day model, you’ll still likely exchange a few sales messages and scheduling emails with clients and team. And that’s it. A few emails.
The process is specifically designed so 95% of the communication is done in person the day of. Communicating with your client in real time is not only faster, it’s more effective. Especially for clients, talking feels much less tedious than typing. The language barrier becomes less of a concern because you can read body language and facial expressions to know if a client or team member is understanding what you’re saying or if they are confused and need clarification. And of course, the communication timeline is tremendously condensed because it is happening in real time instead of a frustrating game of “send-and-wait” email tag.
Plenty of research supports our decision for communicating in real life:
- Research from Virgin shows about 85% of people prefer in-person meetings and say they build stronger, more meaningful business relationships.
- An article from Forbes suggests that during face-to-face meetings, our brains process the continual cascade of nonverbal cues that we use as the basis for building trust and professional intimacy.
- A survey from Loughborough University School of Business and Economics shows 96% of respondents prefer face-to-face meetings as the favored form of communication for learning new skills, retaining important information and aiding in business success.
It’s not surprising that people like working with people more than they like working with computers. Ditching the dozens of emails is not only incredibly efficient, but it’s builds stronger relationships and is more meaningful and fun!
Solution #3: The Timeline is One Day
Time blocking has been known to increase productivity by up to 150%. Essentially, the idea is you put a task on your calendar to ensure it gets done instead of wasting time doing unnecessary things or feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do and just fretting over your to-do list.
What makes our 1 Day services work is that we actually do the work with the client in the room while the client participates and provides real-time feedback. We’re essentially time blocking their website build. We don’t schedule a meeting to talk about the work that needs to be done. We schedule a meeting to actually do the work!
Because everyone commits the entire day to focus on one client and one project (and ignore everything else), we can accelerate the timeline from what used to be months into one day. For example, with 5 people working on a project at the same time, we get 40 hours of work done simultaneously in a single day! It’s truly incredible!
Disclaimer: There are a few hours that go into the setup and follow-up of a 1 Day Website, but the interactions with the client and the team are almost totally limited to the one day, which means those other hours are completely controlled by you.
Productivity improves because of the focus. No more rereading email threads from a month ago to remember what’s going on in the project. No more dead time. Ideas are exchanged at lightning speed.
You can predict when the site will be done just by looking at your calendar. It’s that simple!
Solution #4: Technical Barriers are Bested
One of the best benefits of working in person with your clients is how many of their technical barriers are eliminated.
Instead of trying to get them to upload images to your project management software, you can literally get on their laptop and send them to yourself or put things on a flash drive. Instead of having the client send you feedback and revisions in a super confusing email, you can just have them point to the things they want to change. They don’t know how to log in to their Facebook account? No problem, you can just reset their password for them! It’s so much simpler than asking them to figure it out. And it saves soooo much time.
The geek speak language barrier becomes less of a concern because you can read body language and facial expressions to know if a client is understanding what you’re saying or if they are confused and need clarification.
The stress you are preventing them from experiencing is priceless. This is truly white-glove customer service. One recent customer described our process: “This is heaven!”
Solution #5: Scope Creep is Eliminated
Because clients get the chance to see the work as it is being created instead of waiting until a big reveal at a milestone, they are almost certainly going to be happier with the end product. Having more input along the way with both big and small decisions increases buy-in and decreases major revisions.
Clients are always impressed watching a designer work their magic in Illustrator or a developer actually write code. This gives them a new respect for the work that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Plus, they get a better feel for how easy or difficult it is to make certain changes by requesting them and seeing in real time how quickly they get implemented.
Because we set the fees based on a specific amount of time of working together, the client knows exactly how much to budget for the project, and we know exactly how much time we are spending. And because we are literally working in the same room as the client all day, they know we are actually spending said amount of time on their project. This builds trust and makes them actually appreciate your hard work instead of resenting your invoice.
There will always be things that come up that can’t be accomplished during the day, i.e. “Do we have time to come up with some new logo ideas?” That’s normal. Having a satisfied client is about setting expectations and committing to what you know you can get done. Anything that can’t be accomplished that day can be added to the “wish list” for the future and treated as billable hours.
Solution #6: Incredible Progress Fuels Happiness
We’ve taken a process that is usually overwhelming and intimidating for many clients and turned it into a fun-filled, collaborative work day. We’ve taken a process that usually drags out over months — or even years — and distilled it into one seriously productive day.
If the Harvard researchers are correct, and progress is critical to everyone’s work happiness, imagine how amazing your team and your clients will feel when they are able to start and finish a website project in one day.
Holy fucking progress!
Instead of frustration and resentment, the client and the team develop trust, connection and understanding. Instead of juggling several never-ending projects at once, you focus on one client at a time until the job is done. You get paid right away. And even better, you can actually take a vacation without your laptop! Hallelujah!
Your client experiences a huge sense of relief and gratitude for all that is accomplished during the day. And they love you for it. You’ll be hugging and high fiving by the end of the day. And even though the websites you make will be awesome, their happiness becomes less about the end product and more about the experience (and of course, the fact that it’s checked off their list of things to do).
It’s not a magic website-building helmet, but in some ways, it’s better!
Interested in becoming a 1 Day Website Licensee?
Photo credit: Giphy.com