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Web Designers: How To Deal With Clients

Updated on August 21, 2016

I Want A Website

He's through the door, he's almost a paying customer, all you need to do is knock up a website for him.

He has a thirteen year-old nephew who's "into web design" and has briefed him so he can't be bullied by some know-it-all designer.

You have a hangover after the office party and don't like his aftershave.

This is where you, the web designer, have to deal with a client - and it's a battle sometimes!

Yes Sir, What Sort Of Website?

For my business.

Check notes: he owns a DIY shop on the High Street. Well, that's what he told Sales when they made this appointment.

Okay, you want a site for Bloggs DIY, Have you [interrupt]

No, it's for my general goods store.

[ Actually has a photo: it shows a small shop with a display of yellow plastic containers on the pavement outside it,]

Oh, erm, okay. Did you bring in the stuff that was talked about on the phone? Business cards, letterheads, any current advertising materials?

No, didn't see the point: I want it all new.

Ah, you want the full design package then. Says here you asked for basic website.

Yes, I want a website, I told you that at the begining.

Oh, I'm sorry. Nobody offered you tea or coffee. Let me get you something ...

Exit for much-needed caffeine intake and moan at vending machine.

And I Want Videos On It

Coffee coursing through veins, aspirin nicked from Jenny on reception, back to hear "I want video"

Yes sir, we'll get onto specifics in a few minutes. Now, you want the full package; that's the £550 package?

I was told £150, I don't like upselling by you people.

Explain pricing and services. Enlist Anna from Sales Department, sort it out, despite customer snorting when some slip of a girl from Sales tells him something. Aspirin not working.

Discuss content for homepage. Customer produces memory stick that contains the largest SWF you've ever seen. His nephew did it and it flashes the company name at a rate that would give a corpse epileptic fits. Explain technical reasons against. Tell him it would cost more. Okay, move on to video.

What sort of video were you thinking of? Product demonstrations, that sort of thing?

Dunno, I thought you'd tell me -- you're the designer after all. I'm not here to do your job for you.

Explain that you can make videos for him. Mention costs. Tell him they could be added later after "we see how the site gets on". Customer decides not to bother with videos. Aspirin may be kicking in.

And An Online Store

And we were doing so well, basic structure agreed, page content, discussed ideas for look and feel, general design ideas for logo. We've established that the shop is basically selling cheap tat made in sweatshops in third world countries (he's commented gleefully on how he can screw suppliers down in price). Think of telling him he's drinking Fairtrade coffee, decide against.

A store, okaaay.

[For plastic dolls that wet themselves, 99 pence each and not safe near fire? Hmm.]

Discuss set up, maintenance

Don't you lot do that for me? You're doing the damn site!

Discuss order fulfilnment, shipping, international difficulties, customer service requirements. Client's face goes blank at this last one. Decide to "wait and see how the site gets on".

A Week Later: Design Review

He's back to see the design options you've produced. Despite the fact you think he sweats too much you've been professional and done a few rather nice designs.

This one's a bit naff. Don't like that colour scheme (to the one that most closely matches his expressed preferences from the first session),

Open desk drawer and stare at large bottle of strong aspirin.

Eventually settle on design scheme after he's put you right on a few aspects. Explain again that this is a design review, as talked about originally, and that you couldn't produce the fully functioning website before this. Agree timetable for the next steps.

My Nephew's Had A Look And ...

A few weeks on, site launched, Sales department now screaming after he's phoned three times a day asking why he isn't doing two thousand times the business and he isn't showing up on all the search engines (well, Google anyway).

His nephew knows HTML, so knows SEO. He''s also clever and knows lots of tricks to fool search engines into rating you highly. Client thinks the black text on black background is jolly clever and why did you miss that? Try to explain that billionaire experts know more than spotty teenager. Use expression "keyword stuffing". Get accused of "trying to blind me with science". Start thinking about how atractive the McDonald uniform is, and it's a steady job. Ask client if he wants fries with his SEO. Next five minutes are blank.

The Morals Of The Tale

If you're thinking of going into web design, it isn't all fannying around in Photoshop and dabbling in Dreamweaver. For every good client there'll be three bad ones. For every glamorous and interesting site there'll be ten dull sites - accept these as a design challenge, not drudgery. Cost for awkward customers: and especially cost for post-launch activities and support. Small clients can drain your lifeblood after you think you've done your work.

As a client, put as much preparation into commissioning a website as you do into other aspects of your business. And don't try it on too much: web designers have to make a living too.

Designers, What Irks You The Most? - Apart from not getting paid

What's the most annoying thing about clients?

See results

Do Some Research

Website Design and Development: 100 Questions to Ask Before Building a Website
Website Design and Development: 100 Questions to Ask Before Building a Website

Published nearly four years ago but the points it makes are still valid. If you don't know the questions to ask a designer, read this and arm yourself.

 

Designers: have a moan. - Site owners, moan back at 'em

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    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 2 years ago from Canada

      Years ago I was managing a store and a customer mentioned that she had spent over 2o years in retail and now could barely face people she was so finished with dealing with them for so many years. Five years later I thought back on how very apt a comment that was. I sure appreciate being able to work online ; )

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 3 years ago

      What frosts me is spam I get from people in India who want to re-design my site for me. They ignored the fact that the site promotes my design work, and that on my contact page, I said, I don't outsource anything. Or the client who wants me to make a change, I try to contact her with questions, she ignores me, and then pulls the site out from under me because I didn't make the changes and waited for an answer. Or the client who cannot be contacted at all. Combine the last two for one of the sites I had helped re-design. The design she got at her new location was pretty humdrum by comparison to what we did for her.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 4 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      They always have a nephew, why is that? If, by some stroke of good fortune no design-expert nephew is to hand, then some neighbour has a nephew. What's needed is a screening question

    • Elle-Dee-Esse profile image

      Lynne Schroeder 4 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

      Spot on!

    • Paul Ward profile image
      Author

      Paul 4 years ago from Liverpool, England

      @skygate: Thank you for visiting, assuming you're not a bot. Do you really think that spamming Guestbooks is a good way to drum up business?

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 4 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      pretty accurate picture of working with web clients, I must say. I have 3 clients right now, but these 3 are pretty good. Have had the ones from Hell in my time though.

    • linhah lm profile image

      Linda Hahn 5 years ago from California

      Fun peek into the crazy world of web design.

    • bigjoe2121 profile image

      bigjoe2121 5 years ago

      When I first got into internet marketing in 1997, I thought I would go into freelance web design. My one and only customer was the customer from you-know-where and I swore I would NEVER do that again. And I haven't. I must thank her.

    • profile image

      skygate 5 years ago

      Google has become innovative once again and has come up with an interesting new feature to its search engine facility. This new facility, termed as Google Instant Preview helps the searchers to have a quick peek of the search results before entering or accessing the actual website. Just like the cashed titles and selected texts from the website that used to show up below the search results in the old fashioned searching, this instant preview is basically a wonderful tool for the ease of the users. Therefore, before creating a web page, a good idea on how this new service is going to affect the web world and the search engine results is a pre requisite for the web designers.

      So if you want to get top website designs that are compatible with Google's Instant Preview service, contact a good designer's firm like Skygate media at their email address info@skygatemedia.com.

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 5 years ago from London

      Had all of these and more in my Garden design/consultancy...the one I hate the most is the 'friend who's been on a course'...usually time to leave before head starts hurting or manners fail.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 5 years ago from UK

      Ah yes, everyone's an expert, and when they are not they know a teenager who is!

    • profile image

      yourgoldenfuture 6 years ago

      this is definitely a cool lens...the same works not only with selling websites...

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 6 years ago from New York

      OMG I was laughing because I have been there and feel your pain. It is awful when going through it, but so funny once it's done with and you look back at it. Often with these types of clients the agravation is just not worth the time or stress. I remember one client that, per his instructions, I made the ugliest web site ever, but it was the way he wanted it and his friends and mother loved it. His friend made his logo (gross looking unprofessional clip art that the friend claim he created - not). He was a real pain in the arse, but at least he was happy with his ugly site! LOL! I love the creative way you presented the headaches we sometimes get when beating our heads against a brick wall. Angel blessed and added to My Squid Angel Wings blessing lens.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 6 years ago from New York

      OMG I was laughing because I have been there and feel your pain. It is awful when going through it, but so funny once it's done with and you look back at it. Often with these types of clients the agravation is just not worth the time or stress. I remember one client that, per his instructions, I made the ugliest web site ever, but it was the way he wanted it and his friends and mother loved it. His friend made his logo (gross looking unprofessional clip art that the friend claim he created - not). He was a real pain in the arse, but at least he was happy with his ugly site! LOL! I love the creative way you presented the headaches we sometimes get when beating our heads against a brick wall. Angel blessed and added to My Squid Angel Wings blessing lens.

    • Laura Schofield profile image

      Laura Schofield 6 years ago from Chicago, IL USA

      I love this! I've thought of venturing into site design, but my experience with clients has been similar to what you describe above. I'd have to give up my personal pursuits if I had more than 1 client I can guarantee you. Excellent job!

    • profile image

      DaddyGee 6 years ago

      Very good. I agree with you so much. I hate the teenagers with FrontPage. What a world.

    • Mix Mafra profile image

      Michelle Mafra 6 years ago from Corona CA

      Loved this article! As a graphic designer I think there is no better way to explain how frustrating and entertaining a client and designer relationship is! :) Patience and hard work is the key but you are right the expectations can be so broad and high that it is sometimes very hard to meet. Love the way you described the whole interaction.

    • Spokanewebdesig1 profile image

      Spokanewebdesig1 6 years ago

      I try to avoid the back and forth like that by breaking down each package base on the website itself and explain clearly what is included, that way it is easier for me to explain why what they want costs more. I think as long as you are upbeat and clear in your explanations, it will help people come to terms. Sometimes I also throw in a feature they want for free just as a good will gesture.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      LOL, very entertaining read. And very typical!

    • Paul Ward profile image
      Author

      Paul 6 years ago from Liverpool, England

      @magicgeniewishl: My sympathies -- shows the importance of a written contract. I'd be at the point where I'd be wondering if the cost of restarting with a better design agency was worth the extra wait for site launch. Or an incremental launch without the special bit -- which I'm curious about -- what are you asking for that he doesn't already know?

    • magicgeniewishl profile image

      magicgeniewishl 6 years ago

      Thanks for the comment on my 'about me' lens. Love this lens, very funny.

      Unfortunately with my site, I told him the main parts up front and was told 'no worries'. Right before christmas though, was told that I was going to be charged per hour for him to learn how to do the main part of the site (even though I was quoted a set price for this at the start) I really would have prefered to know this upfront, so I could get someone who knew what they were doing and not pay them per hour to learn! Also, that they were overwhelmed with business right at the start, thats why they were a little behind... If I knew they wouldn't have started it until a month later because of overwhelming demands, I would have gone somewhere else as well! Never mind though, I'm sure it will not be long now :)