Client misconceptions

Making a website for a client can involve all sorts of misunderstandings and confusion. Agreeing on a design can be just the tip of the iceberg; deciding how a site really works is often the real challenge. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one issue that comes up again and again is that when we talk about websites, we are often thinking of different things.

At the risk of making a very broad assumption, clients generally see their website as a series of pages that they will be able to edit. If you have never managed a website before, this is a pretty good assumption. Looked at this way, it makes perfect sense to ask for a different header on this page or wonder why you can’t edit the news feed on that page.

As a web developer, that’s not how I understand it. I see a website as a database of content that can be presented in one or more ways according to a set of predefined templates. There is only one header and that’s why it is the same on every page. There is only one list of news articles but they can appear in more than one place.

Most people don’t need to understand databases, programming, or front-end code. However, explaining the broad concept of a website as repository of content and a set of templates early on can avoid a lot of confusion later, when you might also be trying to teach them the details of a new content management system or even pay for your wonderful creation.