“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
― Henry Ford
In the past 2 weeks I redesigned a client's web site. We discussed budget restrictions and some goals. In an attempt to help, the client sent me a link to a web site that she really liked. In that e-mail she said, "I like everything about this web site". She thought the homepage was pretty, thought it was a good idea to limit the amount of text, and she liked the contact page. Ok, who was I to argue. We had a small budget and a relatively quick turnaround; this was going to be easy.
Excitedly, I clicked the link. Surprise! (Not in a good way). In my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions, the site she sent me to was worse that her existing site - the very one we were redesigning! In my mind it would have been a huge step backwards.
The client saw concise text, nice photos, and simplicity. I saw small text, an SEO nightmare, no calls to action, slow loading pages, external links to a photo gallery, a dated design - need I go on?
Thankfully, I had already started a mock-up for her site before she sent me the link - so, I took the chance, finished the layout, and presented it to her while simultaneously apologizing for not incorporating any design aspects from the link she sent me. I took a deep breath and waited for her response.
She loved it. And, I loved her for loving it.
The point I'm trying to make is that "we don't know what we don't know". Ironically, I don't even know where that quote originated. The only thing I found was a quote from Donald Rumsfeld and a reference to "evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups" in a 2002 DOD news briefing. Anyhow, I guess what I am trying to say is that when we ask the right questions we'll get completely different answers.
So, my bad for not asking the right questions to the client. How could I have expected her to answer "I'd like my web site to look good across all platforms. It needs to be responsive. Did you know more than 40% of people today are using their cell phones to access the web..." Of course she's not going to say that - she doesn't know what she doesn't know. She doesn't know that the site she sent me looks horrible on a mobile device, that Google will demote that site if it's not mobile-friendly (or, another way to say it, they are going to rank sites higher that are mobile-friendly), or that she needs quality content on her site for the search engines. She doesn't know what she doesn't know.
Lucky for me, this time it turned out great. The client was very pleased with the final result and I'm happy because I know the site will outperform her old one. So, I'm on a quest now to find a solution to asking the right questions to clients who think they need faster horses.
I'll keep you posted on what I find out.