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  1. #1
    SitePoint Zealot huit's Avatar
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    Question How do you handle "educating" your clients in understanding HTML?

    I'm often put in a bind having clients who know just enough about HTML to be dangerous and who want to try and code things on their own, but they lack any kind of training or basic knowledge about HTML/computers so I'm often left to explain how it all works.

    1) Because the client demands it, 2) because my boss tells me to train them and 3) because I have more important things to work on than fixing their easily avoidable messes.

    As much as I like to play teacher I feel like I'm thrown into a conundrum every time this happens. On the one hand explaining how something works helps avoid oft repeated mistakes and so the client is happy, my boss is happy and I'm happy not to have to clean up after them. On the other hand, I'm not being paid to be their teacher and once they know enough of how to do MY JOB there's a good possibility they will stop coming to us for work - plus the fact that they're being spoon-fed a lot of what I took the time and effort to teach myself. And they get it for free.



    When any of you work directly with a client, how do you handle situations like this? Do you refuse to explain anything too technical with them? Do you charge for "training" or build it into your cost? Or do you explain as best you can to keep them happy?

  2. #2
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by huit View Post
    I'm not being paid to be their teacher
    That's pretty much it.

    If you want to train/teach people for payment, go for it.
    If you don't want to train/teach people for payment, then don't.

    But doing it for no reason is frustrating and doesn't really serve anyone. But, you made reference to your 'boss' and I wonder if your boss thinks that you ARE being paid for it! Maybe you need to clarify your job description.
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  3. #3
    SitePoint Zealot huit's Avatar
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    Well, I'm sure it's part of my job to a small extent - for simple stuff I can quite understand - on the customer service side. But regardless, clients aren't paying a penny for it, to me or the company I work for, and that's part of what bugs me.

    That plus it seems like a bad business strategy to teach clients how to do your job. *facepalm*

  4. #4
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by huit View Post
    Well, I'm sure it's part of my job to a small extent - for simple stuff I can quite understand - on the customer service side. But regardless, clients aren't paying a penny for it, to me or the company I work for, and that's part of what bugs me.

    That plus it seems like a bad business strategy to teach clients how to do your job. *facepalm*
    If it's part of your job to train clients, then that pretty much settles it. The fact that the clients don't pay your company for the training is totally irrelevant.

    It may or may not be a good idea to help train clients - a good client relationship is worth a lot of money and we keep clients happy in many different ways. After all, they are the ones employing you and not the reverse so they must be doing something right.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  5. #5
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    There is a difference between teaching the client how to write their own HTML (and effectively do your job) - and teaching them what they need to know in order to ensure that they can do what they need to with the pages without messing up the rest.

    If as you suggest "they know enough HTML to be dangerous" then it seems like the training that they need is on what parts of the page that they should NOT be touching if they want the site to continue to work. Perhaps you need to add comments into the HTML so that they will know what parts are safe to alter and then provide them with training on what sorts of alterations are safe to make.

    That way they will be able to safely make the minor changes to the pages that they obviously want to be able to do themselves without impacting on the rest of the page and without any threat to your job.
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  6. #6
    SitePoint Zealot TexasBob's Avatar
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    "If it's part of your job to train clients, then that pretty much settles it. The fact that the clients don't pay your company for the training is totally irrelevant."

    This here. It is right.


    --


    "That plus it seems like a bad business strategy to teach clients how to do your job. *facepalm*"

    I dunno-- I know how to change the oil in my car, but I don't like doing it. Putting information onto the web isn't rocket science, but a lot of people fall immediately asleep when confronted with having to actually do it. Far from worrying too much about losing business to over educated clients, I worry about under-educate clients who don't understand why my implementations are better than others.

    "When any of you work directly with a client, how do you handle situations like this? Do you refuse to explain anything too technical with them? Do you charge for "training" or build it into your cost? Or do you explain as best you can to keep them happy?"

    I explain stuff as best I can, and not just to keep people happy.

    Showing people how to do new things can be an interesting privilege. I like teaching so much that I got an intern from a local university . It is challenging to teach well (and thus can be made fun) and if you can figure out how to do it well many people will find you to be useful.

    Your mileage may vary on that, as it can be incredibly frustrating to work with people who don't seem to get things that you may see as obvious. But

    I dunno if it is possible to change how you think about teaching-- I would have a hard time adjusting if I thought that it was pointless to teach people stuff, and it may very well be.

    But if you want a good way to deal with your frustrations, I suggest that seeing client education as a creative challenge rather than a pointless and possibly dangerous chore would make you happier at work.

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    It is frustrating…and I've run into this situation a lot. I'm learning from my past mistakes, however. I finally decided to add a note in my contract saying that:

    1) the client would have to pay for any trainings or advice that were not part of the initial consultation.

    2) I would charge to fix any issues (design, coding, etc.) with their website if/when they changed it themselves.

    This has helped a lot. I still have a few clients here and there, however, who sometimes forget or simply want a free tutorial. In those cases, I mention that I would be glad to offer some training, but for a fee (charged by the hour). I also refer them back to the contract they signed.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Zealot huit's Avatar
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    It's not that I don't like teaching, in fact I really, really love it. Friends, co-workers, I even taught a few classes on how to use Adobe programs. It's not the teaching that's an issue, it's the situation around it. I'm sure everyone on here will agree that work is easier when dealing with educated clients and there are any number of means by which they can learn anything and everything about HTML/programming/SEO/etc, but somehow I don't feel that web developers are automatically obligated to be one of them.

    TexasBob, how did you learn how to change your oil? Did you go to the mechanic for your regular oil change, then go up to guy who worked on your car and say "Show me what you just did so I can do it myself"? I'll bet the mechanic will show you what to look out for or where to check for leaks, but they're not going to show you how to do it.

    We do teach clients for free how to use the CMS they chose to use on their site - that part is stated in their contract - but we have no protocol for those who want more in-depth training to do stuff on their own and, well, I guess the guideline has technically been the customer is always right so do it.

  9. #9
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    If you don't like it and you think you have better ideas about how to run a business you can always go out on your own.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  10. #10
    SitePoint Wizard
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    I really don't think client is asking too much unless you're teaching him more than 4 hours. For example, aren't there many web developers who use CMS to create client site? Once they are done, they instruct the client on how to edit simple stuff.

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    Red face

    1) Because the client demands it, 2) because my boss tells me to train them and 3) because I have more important things to work on than fixing their easily avoidable messes.

    As much as I like to play teacher I feel like I'm thrown into a conundrum every time this happens. On the one hand explaining how something works helps avoid oft repeated mistakes and so the client is happy, my boss is happy and I'm happy not to have to clean up after them. On the other hand, I'm not being paid to be their teacher and once they know enough of how to do MY JOB there's a good possibility they will stop coming to us for work - plus the fact that they're being spoon-fed a lot of what I took the time and effort to teach myself. And they get it for free.



    When any of you work directly with a client, how do you handle situations like this? Do you refuse to explain anything too technical with them? Do you charge for "training" or build it into your cost? Or do you explain as best you can to keep them happy?



    Quote Originally Posted by huit View Post
    I'm often put in a bind having clients who know just enough about HTML to be dangerous and who want to try and code things on their own, but they lack any kind of training or basic knowledge about HTML/computers so I'm often left to explain how it all works.

    1) Because the client demands it, 2) because my boss tells me to train them and 3) because I have more important things to work on than fixing their easily avoidable messes.

    As much as I like to play teacher I feel like I'm thrown into a conundrum every time this happens. On the one hand explaining how something works helps avoid oft repeated mistakes and so the client is happy, my boss is happy and I'm happy not to have to clean up after them. On the other hand, I'm not being paid to be their teacher and once they know enough of how to do MY JOB there's a good possibility they will stop coming to us for work - plus the fact that they're being spoon-fed a lot of what I took the time and effort to teach myself. And they get it for free.



    When any of you work directly with a client, how do you handle situations like this? Do you refuse to explain anything too technical with them? Do you charge for "training" or build it into your cost? Or do you explain as best you can to keep them happy?
    Last edited by DaveMaxwell; Mar 3, 2011 at 11:50. Reason: removed fake sig

  12. #12
    SitePoint Mentor silver trophybronze trophy

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    Your not a teacher and it's not your job to teach HTML. But because you're an employee you're stuck unless your boss changes his mind.

    As I am not really employed by anybody I would not dream of teaching somebody HTML, CSS, and even if I did teach it them, it would be at least a couple of years before they could do anything with it professional. I've been reading on this topic for years and I am far from perfect, other things keep springing up and I get the urge to learn more and more.

    On another note, your boss sees you like you're doing something to keep the clients happy, and because their happy he's happy. It's important that you explain to him, without being forceful, the difference between a web designer and a IT tutor. Also help him understand that his/your clients could never do anything productive with the little HTML your teaching them, and the screw ups would far exceed any benefit to their site, especially in the short-term.

    A builder might teach me how to build if he was being paid by the hour to do so, but if I pay him to build for me he is hardly going to spend triple the time agreed on the quote to teach me the nuts and bolts of building. You do have to think in the same lines.

    Teach them what they need to know to do it well, don't teach them how to do your job because it's not the teaching that made you good at what you do but your desire to learn and spent time in your field.
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    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Another thing to consider is whether you have a teaching/training qualification. If you don't then you can ask your boss to send you on such a course as you are not really qualified to teach the clients without it. The cost of the course may help convince your boss that providing that instruction is not included in what the client is being charged and at the very least you'd get another qualification out of it if the boss decides that training should be provided.
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    SitePoint Addict wardcosbyson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sega View Post
    Your not a teacher and it's not your job to teach HTML. But because you're an employee you're stuck unless your boss changes his mind...

    On another note, your boss sees you like you're doing something to keep the clients happy, and because their happy he's happy. It's important that you explain to him, without being forceful, the difference between a web designer and a IT tutor. Also help him understand that his/your clients could never do anything productive with the little HTML your teaching them, and the screw ups would far exceed any benefit to their site, especially in the short-term.

    A builder might teach me how to build if he was being paid by the hour to do so, but if I pay him to build for me he is hardly going to spend triple the time agreed on the quote to teach me the nuts and bolts of building. You do have to think in the same lines.

    Teach them what they need to know to do it well, don't teach them how to do your job because it's not the teaching that made you good at what you do but your desire to learn and spent time in your field.
    I couldn't agree more. It's really though to be in your situation because you don't set the rules with the work between you and the clients. And regarding your fear of your clients running away because they might already know what they need for their sites, I don't think that's what likely to happen. I actually believe that helping your clients a little with the technical aspects for free can make them come back to you. Basically, you're building relationship with them but it's not to say you have to spoil them with freebies.

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    @wardcosbyson

    My personal opinion is that clients should only needs to know what they need to know, and you should educate them on principles rather than technicalities. Educating them on HTML might be okay for some.
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    SitePoint Addict wardcosbyson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sega View Post
    @wardcosbyson

    My personal opinion is that clients should only needs to know what they need to know, and you should educate them on principles rather than technicalities. Educating them on HTML might be okay for some.
    Its hard to tell the boundary between principles and technicalities. For example, how can you educate your client about the principles of html without having to touch any technical matters?

  17. #17
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sega View Post
    My personal opinion is that clients should only needs to know what they need to know, and you should educate them on principles rather than technicalities.
    But it's the client who pays the bills so it doesn't really matter.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  18. #18
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    Hi there,
    When I was the web person for a local high tech firm, my job was not to update the sites for the smaller groups, but to design sites to match the corporate "look-n-feel". So, it boiled down to either develop a 4 hour "basics" class to teach the group admins what they needed to know, or be doomed to maintaining content not only on the main site, but all the smaller groups as well. Oh, and this was all before we got a corporate CMS, which meant everything was static HTML.

    Seemed like all the admins had Frontpage, which totally hosed all the HTML I'd done.

    So, I worked out with the boss that there was a need for such training, and developing and teaching the training was good PR for him and our group. After the training, I had a lot fewer "emergency" calls, and was able to spend more time on my "real" job.

    Just one idea....

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    SitePoint Mentor silver trophybronze trophy

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    Quote Originally Posted by wardcosbyson View Post
    Its hard to tell the boundary between principles and technicalities. For example, how can you educate your client about the principles of html without having to touch any technical matters?
    There is a different between teaching them principles on how HTML works (static pages, the code used to display web pages, used in conjuction with other languages), and what a BR tag is. I am firmly against teaching clients to input their own code, from experience this normally ends disasterous, with a 4 figure charge on repairing their mistakes.

    Teaching them JavaScript or CSS is really out any scope of a website. The entire purpose of a site is to be able to update the site without having to get into the nitty gritty's, and if the clients needs to know HTML to update the site then I am ashamed to say that there is something seriously wrong with it. Unless the client's have a strong foundation in HTML then there would be no reason to include this on your web application.
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