Communications not Assumptions (a Web Support Case Study)

I ran into a scenario this week where all my years of experience came back to bite me in the ass.

Though I warn clients that everything works in Photoshop and the browser is very much a different place, I still work incredibly hard to make the web rendering as close to the photoshop file as possible. Basically avoiding client disappointment by not following the approved, and assumed loved, design.

I’ll let you guess what happened when I was given an approved Photoshop file where not all the elements were to be followed but instead just some. Yep, you got it… I sent back a proud pice of work thinking that I had done an incredible job of recreating the design, yet prepared to defend the minor differences, only to hear that I got whole lot wrong.

What Went Wrong?

The client had a designer produce a rendering of a new home page. The page was very similar to their current site, yet still different in many areas. The ultimate goal of the project was to introduce new information buckets or sections to the home page and some minor design updates.

The client approached the project and referred to the project as a ‘home page redesign’. They had wireframes developed, they had multiple photoshop comps produced. Finally they sent me the approved Photoshop design and I did what I do, reproduce the art file into web files.

What was not made clear was that the Photoshop file was not to be turned into its own template but instead it was to be used as a guide to modify the current site template. The photoshop file included minor differences, such as the spacing between elements, fonts used, ordering of things like social media icons and other minor differences in graphics, shadowing etc.

Who is to Blame?

The Web Designer

The designer, the designer is to blame, it’s all their fault! I’m kidding, though I wish I wasn’t. Sure I can blame the designer here. Why didn’t they simply recreate or use current art files rather than taking liberty to change things? Did the designer consider this a completely new template just like me? Or was the design just sloppy and assumed that the developer (me) would be told to ignore all their discrepancies?

The Web Developer

That’s me. I’m not above taking blame. Is this actually my fault? I was presented with an approved art file for a ‘home page redesign’ and my training and experience kicked in. Should I have asked more questions? Should I have examined the current site closer and pointed out that there were quite a number of differences? Should I have sent back a detailed scope of what was to be changed between the current and new designs for approval and confirmation?

The Client

The client presented this as a ‘redesign’, they went through all the motions as if this was a full redesign. They approved the designer’s art file and they knew what file was sent for development. Could this be their fault for not effectively communicating what was to happen here and what the ultimate goal of the project was?

The answer to just about all of these questions is ‘yes’ or ‘probably’. The blame, I would say, falls on all of us.

So What is the Lesson?

Communications and not assumptions. Looking back at all the players here (including myself), it seems we all made some assumptions and the result was longer/larger, more complex and more expensive project than it needed to be. It’s on me to ask the right questions and it is on the designer to do the same. It’s also incredibly important that as a client you ensure that your web service providers understand your goals before providing task instructions.

Post by Shane Larrabee

Shane Larrabee is founder of FatLab, LLC and has over 20 years experience as a business leader, web developer and online communication consultant.