I think one of the most challenging parts of my job is telling my clients “That’s a dumb idea.”

Of course I don’t say it in quite that way… that’s what makes it hard. It’s a careful game to play: listening to the idea, understanding it, asking some questions to make sure it’s really as dumb as I think it sounds, and then gently explaining why it probably isn’t the best option.

It happens surprisingly often, actually. The clients have a lot invested in their web sites– and I’m not just talking about money; they really believe in what they’re doing and they want to be the best. At times they struggle to understand how other people (their customers and the public in general) perceive their site, so when they ask for something it’s because they think it’s really cool or new or flashy. Then it’s my job to occasionally point out that their customers don’t like being confused or frustrated or overwhelmed with new stuff if it gets in the way of what they want: finding information, buying a product, downloading some software, whatever.

Don’t get me wrong: I really like my clients. Many of them have become friends over the years, and without exception they’re good people. And one of the reasons they pay me and my team to work on their projects is because we’re candid about their ideas. I want them to succeed, because their success is also Zing’s success. So I might joke about dumb ideas (and in fact they often are) but it’s in a positive way: what can we do that might be even better than that idea?