… but what if the pro is not always right?

Jason Mauss rants about clients who think they know something about web design. I agree with Jason in that web design in particular is a field where the bar for considering oneself an expert is considerably lower than for many other branches of business (say, architecture). It is obvious that the millenia-old roots of building architecture and the well-established formal education system award some prestige for those pros. A bit unlike web designers.
But that's not to say the respect for all the architects is always deserved – and unfortunately, many web designers are still worse. Even if you've "spent years in the trenches battling Photoshop, CSS, pixels, and HTML" doesn't mean you understand a thing about real design. Many web creators (deliberately avoiding the word "design" here) have wasted whatever respect the web profession may have had by producing abysmal sites that meet no substantial criteria for usability, scalability or maintainability. Any initial scepticism from the client's end is thoroughly understandable, and it is the pro's first mission to create an atmosphere of confidence.
In my books, requirements for a professional behavior includes, among others, the following points:
1) Know your field solidly (and know what you don't know)
2) Toss your ego and back up your opinions with facts and well-thought arguments instead of "I've been in the trenches, I know" crap
3) Evaluate the alternatives, even ones you don't initially accept
4) Think behind the words. The client may have stupid suggestions, but he often has a reason to bring them up. What is the reason and how can you cater to this need?
If you want be treated like a respected professional, don't just rely on your title – work to achieve the trust. Once your clients have confidence in you and your abilities, you will notice a sharp drop in the amount of criticism and wanna-be-expertism.
Ps. One of the more interesting parts of law studies is the theory on perfect court decisions. A verdict has to be legally sane and factually correct, but that's not enough. It also has to be convincing enough that even the losing party can understand (and hopefully agree) with the argumentation and reasoning. The court should never rely on people accepting the ruling simply because it comes from the court – not in the positively critical society we live in today. There's a lot to be learned from those thoughts, even in context very different from the judicial world.

January 26, 2005 В· Jouni Heikniemi В· Comments Closed
Posted in: General