Mindfulness. It's the ability to be aware of things - like not being the person who blocks the aisle at the local supermarket, or not being the person who stands in line to only make the long-winded decisions of what they want when they get to the front. In the context I'm writing of, it's about understanding how your actions affect others - along the lines of empathy - and also understanding how your actions affect things in the long term.
I've been spending time over at Hottie Coffee lately and enjoying the conversations there. Most of the conversations, thankfully, have not been about websites, social media and social networking. Those conversations that were typically were about disappointments - not with the way their site looked or was built.
Most disappointment seems to be about great expectations that have failed to be met, much like what I posted related to unicorns and rainbows and social media. And it's not just an issue of small businesses, but it's the demographic I've been speaking a lot with recently in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
In fact, I seem to have been explaining a lot of why people are disappointed with their websites and social media presences. It's nice to be seen as an expert, but the pay doesn't exist (well, some coffee now and then - and I was even offered a stuffed frog). I'd dare say that, having been dealing with small businesses in different parts of the world and United States for the last 14 years or so as I've tried to establish a tech business I could be proud of, that the greatest issues can be summed up here:
- Lack of management of expectations.
- Lack of follow through on training.
The reality is that a lot of less experienced web developers- technologically proficient for the most part, but less experienced - create the problem. It's not that they lack good intentions or are planning what happens, it's that they don't understand the business itself and don't have plans for what happens. They are not mindful in what they do.
Small Businesses - but really, people - pay for websites because they expect certain things of them. They expect a business that they can manage. They sometimes expect the ability to blog without understanding blogging itself. They sometimes expect social media interactions but they don't understand that social media interactions need to be followed up on, and even moderated.
There are a lot of reasons for this, and it's easy to shift the blame to the clients - too easy. In a world that's filled with all manner of advice for people starting off their businesses, the Internet is a place where many professionals (and those parading as such) weave a web of expectations. "If you build a Facebook group, they will come!", sort of stuff. It's not too far from the 'get rich quick' schemes that are sometimes still featured in the back of magazines.
In a world where installing a content management system like Drupal or Wordpress can be done within - literally - minutes, the technical requirements of 'having a blog' are something that web design and development folks everywhere can check off the list. It's not that simple. Applying mindfulness, one has to make sure that the customer understands what having a blog requires of them in the context of their business. This apparently does not happen enough.
Recently, I spoke with someone who was interested in wholesaling products for their website, but they hadn't hashed out getting the product to their customers. I explained having a website without the ability to fulfill orders was counterproductive, that the website itself shouldn't be their priority and that they should first get the fulfillment in place for a variety of reasons. This, some might say, was not good business on my part - but it was honest and mindful. A year later, if they still had no fulfillment and their website was up, I could probably show it in a portfolio - but the success of my client is tied to my own success. Having a successful client in my portfolio is something I'd like. I want my customers to be successful, and that seems to be something that a lot of people in the web design/web development businesses do not seem to understand. A pretty website means nothing unless it enhances the business. A pretty website that does nothing for the business effectively detracts from the business. I am mindful of this.
If I throw a metaphorical rock on Twitter (and I have), I'll find some 'social media expert' repeating the same ideas that have been around for decades (even before social media was a 'thing'!) and which, for the majority of people, do not work. Sometimes they'll even take the time to regurgitate what they are saying so that they seem to be the author of the idea when instead they're the author of an article of someone else's idea. This is not to say that there are good people out there when it comes to social media, it is to say that the signal to noise ratio is low.
The harsh reality of the situation is that the market pushes young web designers and developers to build up a portfolio of websites that they can show to either get hired by web design firms or to get more business to sustain themselves. The harsh reality is that most of their clients are disappointed in their websites, not because of any technical issues but because they didn't actually understand what they were buying - and those selling didn't take the time to assure that they did. The client should understand up front what will be required of them to have their website be a successful part of a successful business.
Being technically proficient at web design and social media is not hard. Being mindful of web design and social media is where most fail, and that failure affects businesses that might otherwise be successful.
If you're building a website and/or social media presence for a business or non-profit, be mindful.