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Archived entry | Matt Wilcox .net

Dealing with ‘poor’ client or colleague choices

Today myself and a friend (a fellow web designer) were discussing how the choices made by a client or colleague has sometimes meant doing work that we don’t truly believe in. As an example, having to cave to the requirement of a Flash intro screen when we feel it is inappropriate, and despite our best efforts at presenting our case or working out a suitable alternative.
I’ve been very fortunate in the people I’ve worked with and the clients I’ve worked for, but over time it’s inevitable that I too have had the very occasional ‘professional disappointment’ of this kind. Having to work on something you do not believe in is demorolising, and can lead to sub-standard work, which is bad for the client and it’s bad for self esteem. Rather than plow onward with the work, whilst simultaneously trying to dull that nagging sense of wrongness, I’ve found a better way to approach the problem. I change my goals.

I realised that the problem was a problem only because my normal goal is to produce the best design and code I can, to fit my understanding of the requirements of the client in the best way that I am able, for the client and the end user. When these ‘problems’ occur it is most often because my belief of what is best for the end user, and the clients belief, do not match. When I become convinced that something the client or co-worker wants does not fall into that ideal, and when I am unable to explain my reasoning well enough to ‘win’ the discussion, there is a natural inclination to believe that the work I must do will therefor be second rate.
If I find myself in that sort of a situation, it’s time to change the goals. So, if that Flash animation which I believe is bad for the end user absolutely must be there, I want to know why, what they feel it will do for them and their users - and then I’ll set about making something that makes the client happy. I put aside my own belief in the wrongness of their solution and instead try to get inside their head, to see what they want, and deliver it to them. In that way I stop being pre-occupied with how this approach isn’t the best one for the users, and by moving my goals away from satisfying the end user and toward satisfying the client, I feel back in control of the work I produce. It will no longer be second rate, it will be first rate - because the person or people I am aiming to satisfy the most has changed.

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