Yesterday, Heidi and I met with a wonderful group of women running a startup. They have a Joomla website, but they have had a nightmare dealing with their Joomla developer. Time after time, they have requested something to be done on their site, their developer says no problem, and the developer fails to deliver. Furthermore, the developer would send them invoices, charging hours and hours of time for “research”, which never materialized into a solution for their problems. The client was funding this developer’s learning curve, to no benefit of their own website!
Why did the developer take this project in the first place? This developer clearly could not deliver what the client was requesting — indeed, the developer did not even understand the problem. And they were missing valuable client experience, so they’d know this was a situation where they should spend more time discussing requirements and less time doing “research”, when the problem they were trying to solve wasn’t even defined.
Here’s an example from another industry. People occasionally hire my flute quartet to play for an event. If a client asks us to perform a specific piece of music, we need to complete some research before we get back to them. Is that piece of music available in a flute quartet arrangement? Frequently it’s not. If it’s a hymn, we can usually make up something from the church’s hymn book. However, if the piece is not available in any form, or in a complicated form (they want a quartet to play a piece originally written for a 50-piece orchestra), or something that’s beyond our ability to perform, we let the client know immediately.
We would never dream of telling them, “sure, we’ll play that piece for you,” and then try to figure out how we’ll make it work. This is the professional thing to do. Never disappoint your client by over-promising and under-delivering. It’s better to walk away from a job or refer it to someone else.
Dealing with a website project is not so different. So why do we as Joomla developers and site builders think it is?
Because in Joomla, we have the attitude that we’ll take the job now, and we’ll figure out how to do it later. That is just wrong, and it’s hurting Joomla’s brand.
Our new client blamed Joomla for their problems. They thought Joomla was a bad, inflexible product, because it couldn’t do what they wanted. They wanted some very reasonable additions to the site, which with a bit of thinking about the problem they’re trying to solve and their target audience, were ultimately straightforward to provide. It took a simple in-person meeting, where we focused on the issues and discussed them in detail, doing a bit of give-and-take within their needs as site owners, their user’s needs, and their budget.
This morning, I was pointed to this article. It mostly targets enterprise CMS developers, but there is a very important message to Joomla on the top of page 2:
In the new world where customers just don’t look at function overload as a valuable asset, the real differentiators are going to be professional services and how easy (read cheap) it is to find developers and architects. Drupal architects are now easier to come by than Vignette architects! Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants a system where the starting price for a specialized architect starts north of $180 an hour. Being open source and having a simpler product has actually created a competitive advantage for Drupal, in that the marketplace for Drupal talent is thriving and reasonably priced.
The article’s author suggests that going forward, CMS adoption will hinge on finding good, quality support for open source software at a reasonable price. There should be plenty of those support people available. And they should be competent people, although he does not say this specifically — the article is about enterprise CMS, so by definition, this is a marketplace that should not be approached without significant CMS experience.
If you agree with the premise that CMS adoption will hinge on finding quality support — a premise I agree with — how can Joomla ensure that quality support is available to clients? (And while the forum and Joomla Docs and the Magazine are all great, these are developer and site builder-targeted resources. I am specifically talking about clients, and clients getting support without having to learn Joomla.) If Joomla is to succeed in the enterprise world, let alone the small and medium business (SMB) world, good support and successful, experienced firms staffed by Joomla experts are critical.
Experiences like the one our new client had are all too common in Joomla. How can we prevent that from happening?
How do you differentiate yourself from those who are less experienced and who do not treat their clients well?
How are you making Joomla look good?