If you work in a services business, you know how difficult it can be to communicate with clients. They need to know what’s going on, but email is the actual worst. Searching through email is slow. Email makes it too hard to view a list of received deliverables in reverse chronological order. This is especially true if you’re working on the project with a team of people.
I’ve tried every collaboration tool out there to fix this. They’re probably all tools you know, and maybe even use already. I’ve tried Slack, Asana, and even Kanban tools like Trello. I’d create projects or teams for each client in the system, and invite them in to collaborate with me.
The closest I’ve come to success is Basecamp, which all my clients at least like. And while all of these remain exceptional tools, none of them are the right tool for the job.
The thing is, collaboration tools require buy-in from entire organizations if they’re going to be useful. Communication tools are great for service providers like you and me, but we can’t push those apps on our clients and expect the same results.
But today, after years of experimenting, I think I’ve got it. I finally have what might be the best way to keep your clients up to date.
Over the past few days, I’ve been carefully considering Project Hubs, originally coined such by Brad Frost. The trick with a Project Hub is that they remove collaboration completely, and treat projects as timelines. As soon as you see what a Project Hub looks like, you get it. It just makes sense.
This is Brad’s demo Project Hub. For clients, this is a godsend. And for people like me, it’s easy to keep it updated. It’s just another part of process.
Brad explains in a little more depth why this works in his blog post, but simply put: using consistent URLs for all your work means that clients know exactly where to go to find the latest version of that thing you’re making for them. No need to create multiple versions — just update your single “source of truth”. If they need the latest design file, they can just visit www.projecthub.yourcompanyname.com/web-design-mockup and get the latest version there — every time.
I started whipping up Project Hubs for my clients this morning, and I’m excited about keeping them more closely updated. If you’re of a technical leaning, you can download the sample project on GitHub and install it on the server of your choice.
If you work in client services and want to integrate something like this into your website, get in touch and I’ll see if I can lend you a hand.