The nature of web development client relationships

One of the things not spoken of much involving the new web development relationship between a client and a developer is that the relationship is likely to last quite a while regardless of the intentions of the client or the performance of the developer. When I say a while, I’m speaking in terms of years, not months. So it’s important for the client to select their web developer wisely, and for the developer to act in accordance with the understanding that this most likely will be a long-term relationship.

We have clients that have been with us since the later 90s. Why? Because the nature of the Internet is change, and it’s good to have resources that are constantly dealing with that change.  So clients retain their web developer,  to help navigate the changes coming.

We have prospects come to us all the time that have been with, according to them, a problematic web developer for 2 or more years. Sometimes they’ve been waiting that long for a redesign, sometimes they’ve had a series of problems, some solved but most not and building to a point where they decide to look elsewhere for a change. But it takes time for that to build up, because…

Changing is work.  And the unknown can be uncomfortable.

The point of this post isn’t to point fingers at web developers or clients or to change the reality. The point is, the relationship is going to last a while. Or at least, it should. A client might think they’ll get a redesign with a content management system and they’ll be on their own afterwards. If they have a web team within their organization that knows their stuff that’s certainly possible, but for most smaller organizations, that’s just not reality. Something will come up 3 months from now, 6 months from now, a year from now that the client wants – or should want – but won’t know how to implement. That’s the nature of the internet, has been since the beginning, and still is today.

A developer may think that canned software will solve the client’s needs today, but as the developer gets to know the client over time more needs will become relevant, some which may not fit within that can.  So a developer should never suggest that any particular software is the complete solution, and the client should never believe such a thing.  The technology solution for any problem in the past or present will eventually be resolved differently in the future.

So for both sides – choose wisely when entering into a web development relationship, and go into the relationship knowing you’re likely to be working together for a while.  Make sure the two organizations “fit” comfortably, and work together as if you’ll be working together still in three years – because it’s not unlikely that such will be the case.

(As true today as it was when written in 2012, so bumped up for viewing)