The ability to communicate is not directly related to the technical or creative skills needed to design a website. However your ability to communicate successfully with a potential client will often determine how comfortable they are working with you. Your language and demeanor are crucial elements in convincing the client that you are the right person for the job. I have seen technically brilliant people lose potential assignments because of poor communication skills.
Sadly, this is a skill often overlooked in college curriculum. You are surrounded by fellow students who speak a common 'design' language, but you do not speak much (if at all) to business owners. "Design school teaches you how to talk to other designers … there needs to be an entire course on talking to people who are not designers." - What Graphic Design Schools Are Lacking - David Airey
Speak the Language of Your Client
The typical business owner knows what the goals are for his or her website. The technical processes for reaching those goals do not interest him greatly. He just wants it done. You, the web designer, must explain certain technical parts of the process in negotiating price, requirements and time needed for the assignment. Peppering your speech with technical "buzzwords" may sound impressive to a fellow "techie," but may seem condescending, confusing and irritating to the typical business owner. Therefore speak in plain English. If you must explain a technical process try to do it in terms your client can understand.
For example, instead of saying you need to "ftp" the files to the server, simply say that you transfer the files electronically from your computer to the website over the Internet. You may then add that this process is called "ftp." This makes the procedure clear to the client. Always strive to "keep it simple." Be considerate of your client. Choose words that are understandable to them, not technical jargon. If necessary, take the time to explain technical terms that must be used in your conversations. Be patient. Answer questions patiently. Anticipate questions.
The benefits of this approach are tremendous. The client will feel far more comfortable working with you. It can be distressing for a client to feel that they are purchasing a service that they do not understand. Your efforts to help the client understand what you do in simple terms also demonstrates that you are honest and approachable. You are not trying to hide anything in confusing language. In essence, speaking your client's language just makes good business sense for web designers!
Of course, good web design requires the ability to communicate visually with potential customers. You may find the article "Web Design for Real People" helpful in this regard. -Don Peterson, New York Freelance Web Design Consultant
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