Topic: Soft Web Issues vs. Hard Tech Issues

I see most of the threads in this forum are techie, but my biggest problems in working with websites have been the results of human failures. How have you all avoided the problems of people just not understanding their role, if indeed you have avoided them?

I'm talking about people failing to acknowledge emails, then verbally asking why you didn't do some particular thing when they see you, or people agreeing to a complex project after seeing an entire presentation, then suddenly changing it because some third party claimed their cousin said it was all wrong, without giving any actual reasons. I have abandoned excellent projects over issues like this, thinking that they found a better webmaster and expecting to see the rival project go up, only to see them abandon the web altogether and blame me for not finishing.  I've dealt with people who failed to understand that what a web designer gives them is a container for their church's own text and images, and failing to appoint individuals to provide content or oversight.

And lying .  I have found that people just plain flat-out LIE all the time when it comes to computers! Even church officials! I have stood in a church office looking at the secretary's computer screen that was literally covered with program icons across two-thirds of the screen while she told me she could not understand  how to email me the text from a sermon to put in a web-page.  I have been told by a minister that she did not know what a website is, as if she truly did nothing on her computer except email, only to realize later when she told me about being a member of a spiritual online community back in the 1990's that no one who is computer-illiterate in the year 2005 could have participated in online communities in the 1990's! So why did she keep asking me what is a website? Even if she was just testing my own knowledge, why did she pretend to be ignorant when the facts proved she was more experienced than most?

Is my experience unusual? If it is unusual, what have I been doing to keep attracting it? If it is not unusual, how on earth is everyone else surviving such madness?  sad

Re: Soft Web Issues vs. Hard Tech Issues

Great questions.

Initial thoughts:
* No, your experience is not unusual. So-called "people skills" are challenging, though I believe they can be learned.

Some ideas:
* Some people view e-mail in ways that seem strange to me, and some people are just "phone people." Communicate in whatever way succeeds.
* The "nephew said it sucks" is a client communication and trust issue. Work on communications, education, etc.
* Take a sales training course. Most endeavors involve sales skills, even if we're just trying to convey our skills or talents.
* Read those classic books on people skills, communication, etc. You'd be surprised, once you get past thinking they're cheesy.

Lying:
* Actual lying is hard to take. My only advice (to myself as well) is to pray for them, and move on.

* One caution is that it may just look like a lie.
For example, I've asked many people (who have used computers at work for a decade or two) "What browser do you use?" [I don't know.] "Do you use Internet Explorer?" [No.] "How do you connect to the internet?" [I click the little 'E.']

It's not a lie unless it's intentional. Otherwise, it's just a lack of information.
Sometimes, they have other constraints they might not be willing to share. Sometimes, it's a lie.

"I was blind, but now I see!"  John 9:25

Re: Soft Web Issues vs. Hard Tech Issues

TY. I think what has made it hard for me is my own expectation that it would not be this hard.

Sometimes I want to paraphrase John 9:25 this way: "I was blind, on account of you poked me in the eye, you &^%$#!" *LOL*

Re: Soft Web Issues vs. Hard Tech Issues

zinnia wrote:

she told me about being a member of a spiritual online community back in the 1990's that no one who is computer-illiterate in the year 2005 could have participated in online communities in the 1990's! So why did she keep asking me what is a website?

FWIW - her experience was probably through AOL or Compuserve as those were the predominant environments to find online communities in the 1990's.  If that's the case I could completely understand her asking what a website is as her online experience wasn't, technically, via a website.

zinnia wrote:

I have stood in a church office looking at the secretary's computer screen that was literally covered with program icons across two-thirds of the screen while she told me she could not understand  how to email me the text from a sermon to put in a web-page.

Most PC's come with a ton of pre-installed software.  Don't mistake the state of her hardware as an indicator of her technical ability.

Re: Soft Web Issues vs. Hard Tech Issues

I know, easily the greatest challenge to me in this business are the people challenges. I used to think I could escape people challenges by getting into technology... yeah right! Especially being a freelancer you ARE the client contact, you ARE the support team.

There is a neat publication called the Small Farmers Journal... a annual geared toward farmers who still today use draft horses for regular farming. In it is a section called The School of Hard Knocks. It has become a collection, and a book of stories of people's various experiences with horses, usually involving some sort of bodily injury to the equestrian. These stories are intended to REDUCE the number of hard knocks the readers themselves may be in for.

All that to say, the client school of hard knocks have taught me many things. I like Mike's idea of actually getting some learning in the area. I haven't exactly tried that yet. But in either case I think anyone in the business of client relations will experience their own set of hard knocks. It's just life and business.

So until Natalie writes the Web Dev Client Relations School of Hard Knocks e-book (I'll take 50%), the rest of us go on learning by experience, and by applying as best we can the morals of good Christian business. I've made a bunch of mistakes, and I've had clients that have driven me up the wall, and have been fired once, almost twice (by clients). And to this say, almost every day something or other happens that gets my dander up a little. If I let it bother me too much I become miserable, but if I can take it with grace and just deal with it appropriately and professionally, I'm okay most of the time.

And I avoid non-profits like the plague.

There are huge communication barriers to be overcome, and trust that must be won. When you are working with a client in the web, design, or software realm you are asking them to put time and money, lots of money into something they can barely grasp. Whenever I get around to actually releasing my new web site it is loaded with client education material for this reason. (And as a designer, you send them to www.makemylogobiggercream.com as a mandatory part of signing the contract. wink )

I don't think client relations will ever be easy, but I think success rests largely on myself, learning how to deal with all kinds of people and people issues, and in choosing the right clients to work with in the first place.

Last edited by Leovenous (2008-06-23 10:54:43)

"Bear 270, young man. Bear two, seven, zero, over." - Musings of a flight simulator guru, me.

Re: Soft Web Issues vs. Hard Tech Issues

Our biggest foe in dealing with clients is expectations - ours and theirs.  I worked for a while at a company that provides call center services to other companies.  I started on the phones, providing technical support for a variety of home electronic products from such companies as RCA, Sony, and the like.  Some products we supported were problem children and the caller would most likely be angry by the time they traveled the maze of prompts to actually talk to a human.  You survived as a phone tech by being able to diffuse that anger as quickly as possible, usually by a combination of commiserating with them about the process of getting help and getting across to them you would do whatever it takes to help them past their technology roadblock.  It's also important that the client know that, despite our busyness, their concerns are important to us.  If we succeed there, they will be aware of how busy we are but that we care enough to stop and focus on them.  It also happens to be something Jesus patterned for us throughout the 4 Gospels.  The best example is the woman who suffered from the bleeding disorder who touched the tassels on Jesus' garments and He stopped to have a brief one-on-one with her (Mark 5:25-32; Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 8:43-48).  A servant attitude works dramatically on people.

That's my 2 cents :^{>

Honored to Serve for Him - Tom ('Mas) Pickering <)><

Re: Soft Web Issues vs. Hard Tech Issues

I'm right with you Tom.  I'm an unofficial 'tech support' to the whole of my Church (and their friends/family) seemingly!  And was told by one of my college tutors that I should be a tech support person!  The fact that I do 'care' about my clients really seems to help them.  And as others have said, having (mutual) trust is a vital component.

James Cooper --  God loving, banjo playing, geek!