Is it OK to Tell a Web Client Their Idea is Not Fully Baked?

Though I have spent countless hours of my career hunched over the keyboard writing and working on code, I do consider myself foremost a Web consultant and secondarily a developer. I have been a part of many conversations where I am kicking myself for not thinking of a genius idea first and others where I am abstaining from throwing a book across the table as a client, or potential client, goes on and on about their ‘great’ (WORST EVER) idea.

Today in my Web support and maintenance roll a lot of what I am doing is much more cut and dry, less open to interpretation or opinion… a bug is a bug. However I still work as a Web consultant to many folks and organizations and hardly any work is done on a site without some planning and discussion.

I used to think as a developer you were being paid to do what the client asked, not to judge it. I still think there are times when that is true, though there does come a time when when you have to act as a consultant and let a client know that what their proposing is… well, not the best approach. By this I don’t mean it is a Web consultant’s job to act as a market analyst and predict the success of the client. Hell, if I wasn’t as bad as I am at spotting a trend I would be sitting on a beach in Costa Rica right now and not in downtown Washington, DC. What I mean is identifying to a client what the weak points in their plan are from a technology perspective.

If everything in your soul is yelling ‘this will never work’, it probably wont and that can only result in one thing: A frustrated and unhappy client. Strategically letting a client know that their idea is not fully baked will save you both time, money and relationships down the line.