In my time as a developer and trainer for hire I have been asked by clients or trainees to make changes to their websites. More recently I’ve been working as a team lead/project manager and I’m finding that even though the context is different I’m often asked by clients to make changes to content, or code, or to processes.
A lot of times this is no big deal; there have been cases where I’ve been gung ho! and dived straight in to make the changes the client asks for, after all, I have wanted my clients to be happy.
But I also know that there are times when I’ve been caught up in wanting to keep my clients happy, and by doing so I’ve jumped in a little too quickly. Guilty almost of wanting to be liked by my client more than I’ve been concerned about their site’s success OR I’ve been worried that by not doing what the client wanted I may put my ongoing relationship (and by which I mean paycheque) at risk. ‘Doing the thing’ rather than taking a risk by discussing why ‘doing the thing’ may, sometimes not be the best thing.
I say all this in order to tell you that I don’t do this (so much) any more, I have found a better way and the better way starts with asking better questions… the main one of which is this.
Let me give you an example.
I have a client whom I’ve been working with now for over 4 years. In that time they’ve graduated from being a training client, to a maintenance one, and then when it was time for a site redesign, a project client.
In the course of the website redesign we made some significant, and I feel, excellent changes to the look, feel, and the ux of some complicated web forms that are critical to client’s business. Recently they said to me.
“Dee, I think we need to go back to using the old forms”
Now, I’ll tell you at this point the old forms aren’t pretty. They are cramped together on the page, they’re yellow and grey and they would look like a massive contrast against their site’s beautiful new design.
The client seemed fairly insistent, and I was probably equally insistent that moving back to the old forms was a step backwards…
This is what the new one looks like. To be fair it’s quite a lot longer than this so it may be more intimidating… but there’s a whole bunch of clever action happening so that information is hidden on the form until the user has answered the Group Type question. So if it’s a school enquiring, they get school related questions… if it’s a youth or community group, they get different questions.
It’s very clever and I’m a little bit proud of it, so I’ll be honest and say there was some of my pride on the line if they really did insist on going back to the old form…
So, I asked him the question
“What problem are you trying to solve?”
After a lot of back and forth, with input from a bunch of the stakeholders in the whole organisation, we got to the point.
There was actually more than one problem and these problems addressed more than one group of stakeholders within the business. So the client had been getting negative feedback from several areas and it was feeling easier from his perspective to go back to the way things were before.
The first issue was that users were taking the easy road and using the General Enquiry form to try and make booking enquiries… which created more resistance for the stakeholders who needed to have the qualification of the leads that came from the correct use of the forms.
The second was that the notifications the office staff received from the new forms were more cumbersome to deal with than their old forms had been and so processing these enquiries was proving challenging.
So I addressed the main problem first; there are a couple of calls to action on the front page that I altered specifically to direct users to the Booking Enquiry Form.
Initially the email link in the top of the page went to the contact page, so we changed it to go to the Bookings form, likewise with the big call to action button.
This made a bit of a difference, but people were still going to the Contact page to make their enquiry there, so the first change I made was to put a text instructions in the top of the form.
Lesson learned; people don’t read text instructions…
So I started getting sneaky with it and removed the text instruction, instead, adding radio buttons to the form… I also made the paragraph input conditional unless you’re asking for a site visit or making a general enquiry… if you want to make a booking and select the radio button accordingly you get redirected to the Booking Enquiry page with the correct form, you don’t even see the paragraph input.
THEN we changed the menu options. In the Contact section of the menu I removed the link to the page, instead rendering it as a placeholder for the other menu items. I replaced the Contact Us link with one called General Enquiries which redirects to the contact page. Then we renamed the Booking Form link to Booking Enquiries to make it abundantly clear where people are supposed to go according to the nature of their enquiry.
I’m yet to get reports from the client of any issues and I’ve asked for an update as to whether or not response to the booking forms for the various venus has improved. I’ve deduced from the total lack of updates from the client that things have calmed down and it’s working as we had hoped with the lovely looking forms we wanted all along.
Assuming there is no future update with any changes, I feel as though it was worth taking the time for a more detailed conversation, asking the right questions to get to the bottom of the issue rather than just responding to the immediate request.
What are the questions you ask to get to the deeper issues?
PS > I mentioned there were two issues that was causing the client grief, and the 2nd one was to do with the form’s notifications. I had to do some customising of the notifications to better display what the client wanted, and I’ll document those in a subsequent blog post.