Teaching has changed the way I approach client work

a 2 minute read

May 21, 2017

In 2016 I began teaching undergrad students at about designing content for the web. I teach two courses. One short 12 hour lecture series introducing the differences between working in print-focussed media house and digital-first ones. Another longer 60 hour hands-on course where students work in groups to plan, design and write content for a website.

I walk students through the basics of client education, competitor and user research, content audits, CMSs and agile methods before diving into the actual planning and writing of content. Learning how to minimize the amount of time I spend explaining technology so that my students have more time to spend understanding the client, users and the nuances of actually writing the content has made me shift the ways in which I talk to clients.

In the past, I’ve explained carefully my processes and the workings of CMSes and the internet to my clients. Teaching 20-year olds a little more about the same things has shown me just how much time it would take to give tech-uninitiated clients a clear understanding of CMSes, content-types and other technical design considerations. (So far, I’ve been wishfully imagining that my clients have understood what I’ve been saying.)

Looking back at the projects I’ve done in the past and the projects I’m working on now, I’ve realised most clients don’t need to know any of this. The basic question that they need to able to answer is “Will they be the ones maintaining content on the site?”

If the answer to that is “no”, I now just send my clients links to articles that explain things more clearly, if they want to know more.