As a lifelong Rhode Islander, I have seen my share of snowstorms, as has anyone who has called New England home for any amount of time. Yet, despite our familiarity with the white fluffy stuff that falls from the sky in Winter, the average Rhode Islander treats an impending snowstorm as if it was the end of the world. This is not an exaggeration. If Armageddon were at our doorstep, I guarantee you that we would prepare for that apocalypse by rushing to the market to stock up on bread, milk, and eggs. If you head to a Rhode Island supermarket during Winter and find them sold out of these three items, you can bet that snow is on the way.
Another undeniable sign that snow is in the forecast for RI is that people will complain about the weather and act surprised that we are getting snow in Winter. I can accept that before an impending storm people have some strange need to stock up on the ingredients to make French toast, but I have never understood the complaining.
No Need To Complain
Complaining about snow during a New England Winter is like complaining that you got wet when you jumped in a pool. If you take that leap, you should be prepared to get wet, just like if you live in New England, you should expect that there will be snow from time to time. Occasionally, the storm will be significant, like what we have in the forecast for the next few days with Winter Storm Juno, but complaining still makes no sense. If the storm is severe, you need to prepare, not complain.
Pointless complaining is also something I unfortunately hear from far too many web designers when they talk about their clients. This is something else I have never understood. We are successful because of our clients, not in spite of them. Sitting around with other designers and talking about how stupid your clients are is not only pointless, it’s offensive.
I’ve heard Envision’s CEO, Todd Knapp, often say that we are “not in the technology business. We are in the human services business.” As web designers, our job is not to build great websites, it is to work with our clients to help solve their problems. Will those clients make strange requests from time to time or ask questions that may seem silly to you? Yes, they will, but they do that because they are not experts when it comes to web design. That is why they hired you, and an important part of your job is answering their questions and understanding what they are trying to accomplish with their requests.
If you live in New England, expect that there will be snowstorms. If you have clients, expect that they will have questions and requests – and be thankful that they do, because when your clients stop calling you, it means they no longer need your services!
Respect Flows Both Ways
Respect is a critical component to the success of any website project. If your clients do not respect you, you will be unable to effectively do your job, but that respect must flow both ways. You must also respect your clients. Sharing client horror stories with other designers is not showing respect for your clients or for your profession.
To build successful websites, our clients need us, but guess what – we need them too! We cannot create a successful solution without our clients’ input and experience (or their questions). A successful website is the product of a partnership between you and your client, and complaining about challenges in that relationship, rather than working to address those challenges, is as pointless as standing in your snow-covered driveway and griping about the snowfall in hopes that it will go away (it wont – you need to pick up a shovel).
Love Your Clients
Your clients are awesome. They keep you in business. Show them the respect that they are due. If you hear fellow web designers trashing clients and sharing horror stories – walk away and do not participate in that conversation. If you are a seasoned web professional and you hear designers who are new to this industry engaging in this behavior, take the time to explain to them why this is not the way they should conduct themselves if they hope to forge long-term client relationships which will help fuel a successful career.
For more reading on client service in web design, see some of my articles for Smashing Magazine - “How To Build Long-Term Client Relationships” and “Keys To Better Communication With Clients”. I also highly recommend Mike Monterio’s excellent book, “Design is a Job.”
For The Non-Rhode Islanders In The House
For those who are not from RI, allow me to explain the “bread, milk, and eggs” comment from the start of this article. When any snowstorm is imminent, there is a crazy run of these three items at supermarkets and stores. There is no logical explanation for why these three items, and not others, are on everyone’s grocery list, but I guarantee you that before the first flake hits the ground, the local supermarkets will have shelves barren of bread and refrigerators missing milk and eggs.
The most logical explanation for Rhode Islander’s panic at a coming storm is the dreaded “Blizzard of ‘78”, a storm so severe that it kept people blocked in their homes for days. Every storm since this blizzard has caused Rhode Islanders to over-prepare in fear that another blizzard is on the way. Of course, what usually happens is that the storm is much less severe than expected and we all end up with lots of extra bread, milk, and eggs – yet when that next storm comes, you can rest assured that we will once again stock up on these three items! Ah, the quirks of living in New England.