I was perusing the Clients from Hell website yesterday. I always get a chuckle from these postings as so many parallel my own experiences; in addition to my day job, I make websites. (Code, graphics, hosting, email, social networking… the whole shebang.) One of my clients (who is also my sweetheart) is a manufactured home retailer, StarTex Homes. He doesn’t pay me outright, but I certainly get ad hoc profit sharing since our household benefits from his home sales. A while back he put me in touch with some of his colleagues in another state who also wanted a website for their manufactured home store. Since they are far away, there wouldn’t be any competition for customers between us, so this seemed like a good opportunity. We had a conference call to discuss the project, and they talked about how much they liked the design for StarTex Homes. At the time, the website had a stylized blue-sky-with-puffy-white-clouds background and hovering white panels that contained the content. They said that they really liked the blue sky and clouds, and that the white boxes were exactly what they were looking for. They liked the way many of the homes had been showcased and how clear the pricing and options were. After a little more conversation, it became clear that what they really wanted was exactly the same site, right down to the content. I tried to explain to them that we wouldn’t be doing one another any favors by using the same design and content for both sites.
Me: “I would be concerned that customers who are searching online for a home might see both of our websites, and assume that we are the same company. This could certainly lead to some confusion. Not to mention the fact that we don’t have the same product lines.”
Client: “We could change the name at the top, and the phone numbers, so people would know who they’re calling. And enough of our products are the same that we could live with having your products on our site. Besides, wouldn’t people in Texas be directed to your website and not to ours?”
Me: “If customers are searching for a home, depending upon the search criteria they use, they could be directed to either of our sites.”
Client: “But doesn’t Google send them to the closest website first?”
Me: “I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘closest.’ Google doesn’t necessarily limit a search by geography. And again, it really depends on what search criteria they enter.”
Client: “Wouldn’t it be easier for you to just use the site you already have and change just a few little things for us, rather than building a whole new site?”
Me: “I suppose that’s true, but I would be doing a disservice to StarTex Homes by using their design and content for your site.”
Client: “Look, we’re just really trying to watch the bottom line here. If we use your design, we wouldn’t have to pay you for it since you’ve already done all the work, right?”
Many people would have given up at this point, but my sweetheart has a long-standing business relationship with these folks, so I soldiered on. Eventually, after convincing them that it would really be best for them to have their own website with its own design and content, and that because “we’re all friends here” I would offer them a better price than they could find elsewhere, we came to an agreement.
There were some bumps in the road after that. My sweetheart reminds me from time to time that I need to slow down and use non-computer analogies to explain things, and flatters me by telling me that they only send me these irrational requests because they believe I am magical and can do anything. (He’s really good for my ego.) Once they requested a slideshow of featured home models, but didn’t send me any pictures (“Here are the models we want to highlight. Can you find some pictures of these?”) And then there were the times when they asked me to write “a few little blurbs” to describe their homes, while only providing me with the square footage and one exterior picture. But all-in-all it’s been a successful project, and they are happy with their site. Now, if I could just get them to stop requesting blinking arrows and text “to make it really pop.”