Every so often, I hear in forums about developers and designers curious about what other WordPress developers and designers are doing, especially about giving clients access to their website. Some of the answers just made my blood boil. I kept seeing people say that they put their client in another role than administrator, to protect their client from messing up on their site. Some even said that in order to work with them, that has to be the case. And some required that you host with them, or had a monthly maintenance service package.
Wrong, wrong wrong! As WordPress web developers and designers, we’re not the lawmakers who hold the keys to what someone paid for! This is not good business.
They paid for it, give them all the keys to their kingdom. However, you can educate them on the importance of backups and support. Make sure you’re designing easy to understand sites, and making screencasts or sending them easy to understand documentation, if they or future hired developers or designers will need. Giving them some options and explaining to them the benefits of getting support, or security, or even backups, will put the control in the client’s hands.
They are ultimately responsible for their own website. If they mess up the website you design, hopefully they took the option to either purchase ongoing maintenance or support with you. If not, then they need to find a way to get it fixed.
Don’t control your clients’ websites for them without permission! You will be in a serious tug-of-war with them eventually, and possibly a legal battle, if you do this. WordPress wasn’t built by countless people, just for you to play the sentinel. It was designed and developed for people wanting to share their content and use a website, whenever they want, however they want, and built by whomever they want.
Honestly, I think half of the problem is control, and the rest is either clinging to their work, and then the rest is based on good intentions executed poorly. It’s okay to have all these services for clients, but not as requirements. Let them pay for what they want. If they want you to be their web dungeon master, and put a collar on their WordPress role capabilities, then get on with your web dominatrix-self. However, let them choose.
It’s also okay to have pride in your work, and not want it to be messed up. However, someone else paid for it. It’s theirs. Let them make a mess of it, and then decide what to do when they can’t fix it.
And finally, it’s okay to have good intentions to making sure your client doesn’t mess up their website, and that their website remains updated and secured, but it can be done without tightening the leash.
Imagine if you bought a computer, could use it, but the software you installed by some other company, said you were required to pay more to play, and were restricted from using your computer for the very reasons you bought it. You’d be mad. You’d want a refund or want to sue.
That’s how your client will feel. They don’t need a website mommy to tell them what’s best for them. They need someone to educate them on what they might encounter and need, and allow the client to decide for themselves.
I’ve sat in on a lot of talks, and what resonated with me, was a talk by Steve Zehngut of Zeek Interative. I’m embedding it below for your own benefit. Actually, what I’m about to say, isn’t the first time Steve has said it. He’s passionate about it, and I am too. However, in his talk, he had gone over, that his company, when they work with a client, they give all the keys to the kingdom to their client. It happens from the start, when they start, the development process. This is all stated in his company’s project proposal, which is extremely transparent.
For example, if the client decided that Steve’s company wasn’t the right fit anymore, they wouldn’t get a refund for the work already done. Instead, Steve’s company releases what was paid for at that point to the client, and then the client can take that work to wherever they wanted.
This is smart, and doesn’t box your client in the corner. They feel happy and they may even come back for a project that they know will fit. It gives options for other services later down the road too.
While Steve’s example is more on the design and development process his company takes, on not holding code hostage, and not necessarily followup support, we can follow his advice and just let the client get what they paid for, and decide what they want, especially if they need more services. And if they want to go elsewhere, or do it themselves, then oh well, time to cut the apron strings and part amicably.
Controlling clients, puts them a fear mode of messing up or making the developer mad, and even takes some of the joy of having a website. It could eventually make them want to abandon using the site, or rely completely on their web developer. That’s not what you want, and doesn’t foster the spirit of what WordPress is about.
Sometimes, you just gotta let it go, especially when money is involved.