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  1. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    And how much time did you spend "making stuff up" that would later need to be completely revised? My time is much more valuable than that and I certainly wouldn't charge a client for trash work that I knew wouldn't fly.
    I don't know if you could put it all under the banner of "trash work". Really depends on the type of client. If you are actually charging for the content writing, then you'd obviously need to spend time on it & the client would need to be cooperative in providing primary information about the business.
    I usually take an interest in the nature of the business when building a website, & it's this 'research' that allows me to create better content, have better conversations with the client and even find new clients in the same space.

  2. #27
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    I usually take an interest in the nature of the business when building a website, & it's this 'research' that allows me to create better content, have better conversations with the client and even find new clients in the same space.
    That is really the point here. And, of course, what are you doing beforehand which creates the problems: Like clients having no conception about content driven design.

    Could the way the web developer's site site is set up telegraph content is easily put off or neglected entirely?! Is your site design setting up the problems you then see later?

    Content irrelevant design leads to clients who want lowest possible price (and then some). And who see design as superficial nonsense anyone can do -- so your 'opinion' is just as valid as anyone's (like the secretary or janitor).

    And a final symptom is clients don't provide written content in a timely manner.

    Let us face reality here. If clients had the slightest inkling of written content driving the project, this situation would happen approximately never. They wouldn't even think before furnishing well written content well before a site got underway.

  3. #28
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    I'm a project manager and an operations manager as well as an occasional writer. I have to say that some of the comments here are a little concerning in terms of some people's attitudes towards their customers - you know, the people who pay the bills?
    Just because a customer doesn't understand the intricacies of web development doesn't make them stupid. In fact, in most cases, it's a reflection of the web developer's poor communication skills that leads to the situation. If the web developer is truly the domain expert then they should ensure the customer has sufficient explanation of the process and expected outcomes to understand what's going on.
    In the vast majority of cases where a project goes bad, it's a lack of basic project planning combined with poor communications that causes the problem.
    I wrote Basic Project Tips to Help You Plan for Success some time ago, primarily for freelance technical writers, but the points are true for anyone taking on a customer-centred project. Feel free to read.

  4. #29
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    In fact, in most cases, it's a reflection of the web developer's poor communication skills that leads to the situation. If the web developer is truly the domain expert then they should ensure the customer has sufficient explanation of the process and expected outcomes to understand what's going on.
    I didn't catch the "clients/customers are stupid" part -- even going back and reading posts.

    However I almost agree with your comment on the problem. That problem being developers want sites to be a code project when the customer wants it to be about effective communications leading to improved business.

    I wouldn't call it poor communications -- it's quite clear what's not being said. Because when you estrange yourself from client content, that's a choice. As you can read from the comments, it's a deliberate, conscious, decision. A decision which won't change.

    A decision which come out of a very disturbing interpretation of what "separation of content from structure and style" means.

    Separating content from structure never meant failing to ever put the disintegrated elements back together again. Or so distancing yourself from client content you could, quite readily, start and finish a site with not so much as a word of English text.

    Bringing "don't call customers stupid" into it seems like more distraction; much like the "are you asking me to write all my clients' content myself" gibberish.

  5. #30
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    I have great deal of sympathy with the OP. I am builiding a static site with about 20 pages and it has taken a year because of getting content. It's an image gallery and even getting the images (in reasonable quality) has been a nightmare. I built a site for a skip hire company and wrote all the content myself. When I asked for content the most I got was a page of text copied from a competitor! I've started a site for a business trainer (a communicator) and wait about 4 weeks for emails to get answered. I am on my 3rd attempt at building this site and have learned to not proceed without a clear commitment from the customer.

    I think that getting money up-front is helpful. If nothing else it makes the whole thing more real for the site owner.

    I think that a clear project outline is important and that it seperates out areas of the design: 1) page structure (coding) 2) functionality (contact form, social networking, comments etc) 3) copy 4) Graphics/images. After that, tell the customer the kind of costs for a site with one or more of those components and if it's a freebie how many hours work each part comprises.

    Martin

    PS I've also learned that lots of people know that the internets is a jolly good idea but are not too sure why!

  6. #31
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    I pretty much only deal with small business clients and content has been an issue with the majority of them. I believe I lost my last client because I was not willing to write the content for him. It is very frustrating to be waiting weeks, and sometimes months for the client to get the content together. I am considering not starting my next project until the client submits at least a rough draft of the content. Their 50% deposit can just sit in my account and collect dust. (end venting session)

  7. #32
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    I believe I lost my last client because I was not willing to write the content for him. It is very frustrating to be waiting weeks, and sometimes months for the client to get the content together.
    Pity there are no such things as writers who can show you how they work with clients to joint venture with. A real crying shame.

    Ah, well, nothing to be done I suppose.

  8. #33
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    The response I got this morning was "Let me know when would be a good time to meet with you."

    ........She has done this before when I've asked for content. She is a little batty (my mom said she takes psyche meds, lol). The reason I want this information over email is because she can't half-ass it this way (for lack of a better term x.x). If I try to get this information verbally I'm going to get a lot of unfinished sentences or guesstimates rather than actual facts/numbers/etc.

    Am I doing something wrong? What should I do at this point? My uncle suggested that I ask for payment up front ("that'll tell you if she really wants this site or not" he said).
    To be fair, you did request an in-person meeting. Apparently that is all she responded to. She is likely a person who does not like to write.

    I think your best bet would be to meet with her and take control of the conversation. Ask leading questions and repeat information for confirmation. Make a worksheet/checklist for yourself and fill it out during the conversation, pestering her until you get adequate details.

  9. #34
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by muaysteve View Post
    I pretty much only deal with small business clients and content has been an issue with the majority of them. I believe I lost my last client because I was not willing to write the content for him. It is very frustrating to be waiting weeks, and sometimes months for the client to get the content together. I am considering not starting my next project until the client submits at least a rough draft of the content. Their 50% deposit can just sit in my account and collect dust. (end venting session)
    This pretty well smacks of absolute arrogance. What on earth makes you believe that every small business person is equipped to write their own web content? Do you suppose they walk into a TV station and the station manager says to them, "We've dressed up the set and the cameras are rolling. Now you just go out and do your thing?"

    Writing web content is more than putting a few words in a text block. It takes skill to engage and keep the reader's attention and entice them to click to the area where they convert to a customer.

    If you're not in this business to help your customers created a decent web presence in total, then get out of it. If all you want to do is design, then hook up with a web developer who knows his business and can help develop a total web presence for his or her clients; one who sees the whole picture and not just a part of it.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  10. #35
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    What on earth makes you believe that every small business person is equipped to write their own web content?
    But they can give us the information can't they???? Badly-written content is better than nothing... even I can work with badly-written and do... something with it. Hell even a moron like me could possibly even improve it. But many people hear the web is this great thing, they must have a web presence, and they don't know what that means. They don't know what they want to say.
    If they want to sell products, they need to give us the product information (names, product id's, prices). If they are pushing an NGO/charity, they need to tell us what the heck that charity is about (where do you serve? how were you started? What specifically do you do with the donor money??). That's the content, whether it's polished and ready for the web or not. I don't care if it's sketched out in half-sentences on a napkin, it's something. I would not build a site for a client (not counting my day-job boss, I have to do what he says, and I've built content-less sites for him and they were miserable) if they couldn't give me at least that.

    My last non-main-work client, a mover, had all his content ready. He knew what he wanted to say. He knew his tariffs, his types of jobs, the moving supplies he sells and rents, his terms and conditions, he wanted information about his vehicles on there (so he told me the year, make, model, and supplied photos), he had a list of moving tips for individuals and businesses, a list of all the various specialty functions he does for moving offices, archiving, IT and the breaking-down and setting-up of detachable furniture. I didn't know any of that; I'm not a mover and I'm not the accountant for his business. I knew he had a moving company. It could have been terribly written but that would have gotten us started. This is information that only the client knows and can only come from the client. If Stephen King has to come in later to make it actually readable and pretty, well, that's something different.

    The OP does seem to want his client to write everything nicely for him, but he should at least be getting the actual information from her regardless. She sells stuff? Then she needs to supply prices. Names of products. Product id's. It is content, but it's not "content writing". Does she have a return address? A chamber of commerce number? Photos of her products? A phone number? How long will you wait for that information before you tell your "client" that there's no web page to build?

  11. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    This pretty well smacks of absolute arrogance. What on earth makes you believe that every small business person is equipped to write their own web content?
    That works both ways -- What would give the business owner the idea that someone who writes websites is qualified to write ANYTHING on the subject of their business?

    For those of you not familiar with the concept, the following are simile's. Literacy, try it. (before we get the typical crying "that's off topic.... Wah wah waaah!")

    Of course, a LOT of websites end up having content like newspapers ... or like the laws passed by politicians; These people are trained to write or to make laws, but NOT in the subjects to which those skills end up applied to. That's how you end up with laws like the assault rifle ban which had nothing to do with rate of fire, caliber or barrel length, and everything to do with "what it looks like"... (difference between a AR-15 and a Ruger Mini-14 is.... what? One banned, one not, same round, same barrel length, both magazine fed, both semi-automatic...)

    Or as my grandfather always used to say, whenever you see a TV report or newspaper article on a subject you have personal knowledge of, they get every detail wrong. The reason for this is simple, reporters are generally not experts in the topic they cover... Which means if you can't trust them for what you know about, how can you possibly trust them on subjects you know nothing about?

    ... and web developers writing the content for the client can very quickly hit that pitfall. You're not an expert in their business, what business do you have writing THEIR copy?

    Besides, If the client doesn't know what they want on their website, what the deuce do they want a website FOR?

  12. #37
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    ... and web developers writing the content for the client can very quickly hit that pitfall. You're not an expert in their business, what business do you have writing THEIR copy?

    Besides, If the client doesn't know what they want on their website, what the deuce do they want a website FOR?
    Maybe, just maybe, having a website just to have one is a key problem causing clients to draw a blank on writing site content. Developers, having no problem selling clients a site without a purpose, might just have an even worse time figuring out what to write.

    Hit-and-run billable is the problem in this case, not writing.

    Who caused this problem? A client who doesn't know all there is to know about how and who to target with a web site? Or the developer, blithely ignoring anything to do with the communications part of web design?

    Most content can be nailed down right at the client meeting, if the discussion shifts from gimmicks to a reason for the site to exist. If the developer doesn't have the content, they probably don't have a good idea of the target customer, or what the site was supposed to accomplish. That there is no clear idea of who the site is for troubles too many developers not at all.

    Once again, what is the cause? Could it be a dysfunctional relationship with clients? If web shops had to figure out which of a dozen CMS systems to install, instead of one-size-fits-all, you'd see the same problems. If you had to be an expert in knowing ecommerce, rather than slapping in the singular shopping cart the programmer knows how to code, you'd see the same problem.

    By the way, which cart software has superior human factors? Which cart software supports shopping behavior, not merely the transaction at the end? Which has a built in merchandising tool called a planogram? What, exactly, can be done with Zen cart to foster upsells and cross selling?

    More to the point, how do you support effective product page copy with site code? How do you figure out when a user wants more information, and deliver just the right amount, at the right time, when you won't have a thing to do with copy?

    In many cases, this might just be a follow-on to every other dimension of web development rather than anything to do with writing skill. In a disturbing number of cases, the refusal to have anything to do with writing is but one of a long list of refusals.

    The reason for this is simple, reporters are generally not experts in the topic they cover... Which means if you can't trust them for what you know about, how can you possibly trust them on subjects you know nothing about?
    Are web back on this fallacy ...again?!

    You can have niche writers on call, who write on very narrow subjects with very good accuracy. Where a newspaper might have someone write off their normal beat, you can employ specialists.

    Next are copywriters, who may not be experts but often specialize, so you assemble a stable of writers who hit the major subjects.

  13. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCrux View Post
    Most content can be nailed down right at the client meeting, if the discussion shifts from gimmicks to a reason for the site to exist. If the developer doesn't have the content, they probably don't have a good idea of the target customer, or what the site was supposed to accomplish. That there is no clear idea of who the site is for troubles too many developers not at all.
    That kind of goes back to my first post in this thread; Getting content, for me at least, sat between the NDA and signing the contract. If they can't provide that, we never even get as far as me doing any real work.

  14. #39
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    sat between the NDA and signing the contract. If they can't provide that, we never even get as far as me doing any real work.
    If they can't provide that, the NDA makes zero sense.

    You won't disclose what you don't know and are never provided.

    I am always getting NDAs. I insist there be something not to disclose, first. How that happens decreases 1) Content procrastination 2) Client business failure

    Really, I don't think clients are using NDAs to prevent information getting out; more are trying to prevent any information from getting in.

  15. #40
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stomme poes View Post
    But they can give us the information can't they???? Badly-written content is better than nothing... even I can work with badly-written and do... something with it. Hell even a moron like me could possibly even improve it. But many people hear the web is this great thing, they must have a web presence, and they don't know what that means. They don't know what they want to say.
    If they want to sell products, they need to give us the product information (names, product id's, prices). If they are pushing an NGO/charity, they need to tell us what the heck that charity is about (where do you serve? how were you started? What specifically do you do with the donor money??). That's the content, whether it's polished and ready for the web or not. I don't care if it's sketched out in half-sentences on a napkin, it's something. I would not build a site for a client (not counting my day-job boss, I have to do what he says, and I've built content-less sites for him and they were miserable) if they couldn't give me at least that.

    My last non-main-work client, a mover, had all his content ready. He knew what he wanted to say. He knew his tariffs, his types of jobs, the moving supplies he sells and rents, his terms and conditions, he wanted information about his vehicles on there (so he told me the year, make, model, and supplied photos), he had a list of moving tips for individuals and businesses, a list of all the various specialty functions he does for moving offices, archiving, IT and the breaking-down and setting-up of detachable furniture. I didn't know any of that; I'm not a mover and I'm not the accountant for his business. I knew he had a moving company. It could have been terribly written but that would have gotten us started. This is information that only the client knows and can only come from the client. If Stephen King has to come in later to make it actually readable and pretty, well, that's something different.

    The OP does seem to want his client to write everything nicely for him, but he should at least be getting the actual information from her regardless. She sells stuff? Then she needs to supply prices. Names of products. Product id's. It is content, but it's not "content writing". Does she have a return address? A chamber of commerce number? Photos of her products? A phone number? How long will you wait for that information before you tell your "client" that there's no web page to build?
    Of course they can give you the information and there are ways to help them provide what you need and performance standards that you can put in your project agreements to help them understand that it needs to be provided promptly.

    In your post you asked the questions that any good web developer would ask. The kind of questions that DCrux was talking about in his post above.

    I didn't say that it was arrogant to not write content if you are a web developer. I said it is arrogant to expect a client to know how to do it.

    I replied to this:

    Quote Originally Posted by muaysteve View Post
    I believe I lost my last client because I was not willing to write the content for him. It is very frustrating to be waiting weeks, and sometimes months for the client to get the content together.
    Can you imagine the frustration and stress the client must feel? Thinking he/she paid for something that just ain't happening and no apparent progress in view. It must be terrifically frustrating to wait weeks and months for your web developer to get on the ball and finish the site he promised that he could make.

    If you quote appropriately and define who does what at the beginning of a project and when it needs to be done, a lot of the problems disappear. All that was needed above is a question to the client before the quote was accepted, that being "Who will write the content?" If the client answers "you" and you don't write content, then tell him/her that or offer to help find someone who does. It's just that simple.

    To come here and bad-mouth a client, even an anonymous one, for something he may not have the ability to do, is just poor business and as I said, smacks of arrogance.
    Linda Jenkinson
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  16. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    If you quote appropriately and define who does what at the beginning of a project and when it needs to be done, a lot of the problems disappear.
    Now that I can wholeheartedly agree with -- and yes, it's where most of the problems originate.

    It seems a lot of people end up in the "yeah, I can build you a website" as the only discussion before work starts -- and there's no bigger recipe for failure...

    Well, excepting maybe the classic "Hey, you know computers, build me a website!"

  17. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    If you quote appropriately and define who does what at the beginning of a project and when it needs to be done, a lot of the problems disappear.
    Hehe, well, that's what seemed to have been the problem My issue was solved last week, but I figured this was a good topic and I wanted to hear all the good suggestions (in case the problem came up again -- or to prevent it).

    Thanks so much for all the help! The real issue ended up being me -- I said something she didn't understand and she just wanted to know what the heck was going on before I proceeded with anything.

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    The real issue ended up being me -- I said something she didn't understand and she just wanted to know what the heck was going on ...
    Web developers with communications problems? Umpossible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    And how much time did you spend "making stuff up" that would later need to be completely revised? My time is much more valuable than that and I certainly wouldn't charge a client for trash work that I knew wouldn't fly.
    About 5 minutes usually, and the content never needs to be 'completely revised'. One usually knows enough about a client to guess some correct information, and this method is generally quicker than waiting for content. It's also often easier for the client as they have something to work with and don't have to start from scratch.

    We generally work on fixed-price contracts so the cost isn't an issue.
    Do something different. www.thecareerbreaksite.com.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ShinoKage View Post
    ...The real issue ended up being me -- I said something she didn't understand and she just wanted to know what the heck was going on before I proceeded with anything.
    Isn't that what I said the problem would be?
    "In the vast majority of cases where a project goes bad, it's a lack of basic project planning combined with poor communications that causes the problem."

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    This pretty well smacks of absolute arrogance. What on earth makes you believe that every small business person is equipped to write their own web content? Do you suppose they walk into a TV station and the station manager says to them, "We've dressed up the set and the cameras are rolling. Now you just go out and do your thing?"
    Wow, I am really surprised at the backlash I received over my post.

    For starters, I lay out the expectations for my clients very clearly when starting a project, and I always mention that I can help them look at bringing in a communications professional if they wish.

    However, most of my clients almost always express that they will write up the content themselves. In the case of this particular client, they were supposed to provide the content.. then months into the project, provided me with next to nothing. When I gently nudged them for the content again, they decided to kill the project. I had even gone as far as providing them a frame work of what they needed to write. This is something they agreed to and it was very clearly outlined in the agreement that they signed.

    I'm not sure why that makes me "arrogant".

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    Can you imagine the frustration and stress the client must feel? Thinking he/she paid for something that just ain't happening and no apparent progress in view. It must be terrifically frustrating to wait weeks and months for your web developer to get on the ball and finish the site he promised that he could make.
    During that time, I was constantly updating the client on the project, and met with them at their office several times. I always post a test site online so the client can see the progress. I find this allows for great feed back for me, and usually aids the client when they are coming up with the content as they can better visualize what is needed and how it will be laid out.

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    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by muaysteve View Post
    Wow, I am really surprised at the backlash I received over my post.

    For starters, I lay out the expectations for my clients very clearly when starting a project, and I always mention that I can help them look at bringing in a communications professional if they wish.

    However, most of my clients almost always express that they will write up the content themselves. In the case of this particular client, they were supposed to provide the content.. then months into the project, provided me with next to nothing. When I gently nudged them for the content again, they decided to kill the project. I had even gone as far as providing them a frame work of what they needed to write. This is something they agreed to and it was very clearly outlined in the agreement that they signed.

    I'm not sure why that makes me "arrogant".
    To start with, what you said above, isn't what you said at first. You said you lost a project because you were "not willing to write web content for him." That's arrogant in my book.

    You know, if you told me you could bring in a communications professional, all I would see is the dollar sign in front of a large number. You say you mostly work with small businesses. In my experience (nearly 10 years) I find that most small businesses are shocked to learn about the cost of web design itself to say nothing about the price a "communications professional" might charge.

    What's wrong with the phrase "web content writer?" Consider asking your clients how they want to handle their website content and if they know someone who is skilled in writing content for the online reader. Don't be surprised if they look surprised.

    The fact is that most people, just like they don't know what goes into web design other than putting a pretty picture on a screen, also aren't aware that reading on the web is any different than reading in print. Most don't know how to format web content for easy screen reading. They don't know how to engage a reader's interest and keep it, simply because writing isn't their business.

    What business people know is their business. Rarely do you find one who can step back and look at it through his/her customer's eyes. I know that because it is very difficult for me to write my own web content. Yet, that's something you have to do (see the business through the reader's eyes) if you want web content that works even at the lowest level of performance.

    Take a look through Google sometime and see how much web content reads like it's one long pat on the back for the business and does absolutely nothing to stroke the reader, the potential customer. It's easy to spot what's been written by someone who knows the business of writing, what's been written by the business owner, and what's been written quick (made up as it were) just to launch the website.

    You say that getting the content continues to be a major problem. If that's so, you need to look at the problem and see what you can do to solve it. The old saying is still true, "You're either part of the problem or part of the solution."
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  24. #49
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    I already experience that, and eventhough she gave a contract she didn't pay for the last month job I worked for. some people are just like that, I just let God to work for it, maybe God has a good plan for me after all.

  25. #50
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    However, most of my clients almost always express that they will write up the content themselves.
    Okay. People say a lot of things. You have to plan your business around what they actually do.


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