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Is John The Client Dense or Are You Failing Him?

Meet John the client. John runs a reasonably large website. He is a marketer who considers himself smart, articulate and professional. That said, he doesn’t know much about Web design, and so he needs your help. John comes to you with a clear set of business objectives and asks for a quote. But what happens next leaves John confused, frustrated and extremely unhappy.

Further Reading on SmashingMag:

Explain Why You Are Asking About Money Link

Before giving John his quote, you ask a little more about the project. After chatting for a few minutes, you ask him about his budget. A fair question, you think. After all, you could approach the project in so many ways. Without knowing the budget, knowing where to begin is impossible. In your mind, building a website is like building a house. Without knowing the budget, you can’t possibly know how many rooms the client can afford or what materials you should use to build.

John, on the other hand, is instantly suspicious. Why would you want to know about his budget? The only reason he can think of is that you want to make sure you don’t charge him less than what he is willing to give. Besides, he doesn’t really know his budget. How the heck is he supposed to know how much a website costs?

Money Grabber
Don’t come across as money-grubbing. (Image credit)

John leaves, determined to find a Web designer who doesn’t want to take advantage of him. Fortunately for you, all of the other designers he speaks with also neglect to explain why they need to know about his budget, and so you manage to win the project after all.

Justify Your Recommendations In Language John Can Understand Link

Once you have won the job, you arrange a kick-off meeting to nail down the specifications. However, John instantly regrets his decision to hire you because his worse fears have been confirmed. In his eyes, you are all of a sudden trying to squeeze more money out of him as you waffle about the importance of usability and accessibility. John doesn’t care about disabled users. He doesn’t expect disabled users to visit his website anyway.

And as for usability, surely the job of the Web designer is to make the website usable. Why do we need expensive usability testing? He is pretty certain that usability testing involves expensive things like cameras, labs and two-way mirrors. You thought you had explained these issues clearly. You spoke of WCAG 2, and you mentioned Jakob Neilsen. You are beginning to wonder if John is a bit thick.

People looking confused
Avoid techno-babble if you expect clients to understand what you’re talking about. (Image credit6)

Perhaps if you had talked about accessibility in terms of assessing search engine rankings and testing usability as a way to increase conversion, then John might have listened. As it is, John puts his foot down and refuses to pay for any of these “unnecessary extras.”

Include John In The Process Link

You walk away from the kick-off meeting pleased to have a signed contract. But that feeling in the pit of your stomach tells you that this might be another one of those projects. Regardless, you try to be optimistic, and you dive into the design process. Almost immediately, you get a phone call from John asking if there is anything for him to see. You explain that it is still early in the process and that you are not ready to present anything. John sounds disappointed but resigned.

A short while later, you are ready to present the design to John. You are pleased with the result. It took you a lot more time than you had budgeted for, but it was worth it. The final design is extremely easy to use and will make for a great portfolio piece.

Person hiding
Stop hiding from your clients. Show them your work early on, and include them in the process. (Image credit7)

When John sees the design, he is horrified. From his perspective, you have entirely missed the point. The design clashes with his offline marketing materials and doesn’t hit the right selling points. Also, he is convinced that his suppliers will hate it and, although they are not his end users, their opinion matters.

After a tense conference call, you feel demoralized but have struck a compromise that hopefully will make John happy. You wonder in hindsight whether showing John some of your initial ideas and sketches would have been better. Perhaps you should have presented a wireframe first.

Educate John About Design Link

After much agonizing and compromise, you are once again ready to present to John. John is much happier with the new design and feels it is heading in the right direction. However, he does have some concerns. For starters, he has to scroll to see most of the content, and yet white space takes up either side of the design. He tells you to move key content into this wasted space. Also, as he thinks about his young male target audience, he realizes that the color scheme is too effeminate, so he tells you to change it to blue.

While John feels somewhat happier, you feel crushed. You feel as though he is trying to do the job for you. The instructions to move this there and change this color to that makes you feel like you have been reduced to pushing pixels.

Teacher teaching maths
Educate your clients so they make more informed decisions. (Image credit)

By this point, you are sure the client is dim, and now you just want him to sign off on a design. At no stage do you think to ask John why he is requesting these changes. Perhaps if you had appreciated his thinking, you could have explained concepts such as screen resolution and suggested an alternative to corporate blue, which is so over-used on the Web.

Instead, you wash your hands of the design and just give John what he wants.

Communicate With John Regularly Link

Now that the design is complete, you turn your attention to building it. John certainly won’t care about your code. Now you can finally do things right.

It’s a big job and takes a lot of time. Even though you put too much time into the design and washed your hands of it, you still have your pride. You are not about to cut corners with the code. After all, other designers might look at it and judge you! You work really hard, putting in more work than you probably should have. John even manages to slip in some extra functionality at the scoping phase, which turns out to be a pain in the butt.

For his part, John is wondering what’s going on. He hasn’t heard from you in weeks. Surely the website must be ready now? He decides to email you to ask how things are progressing. You reply with a short email telling him that everything is progressing smoothly. You never did like project management, and you are sure John would prefer that you spend time building his website instead of writing him detailed reports.

John receives your email and is becoming increasingly frustrated. What does “progressing smoothly” mean? He writes back asking for an expected date of completion, and you reply with a rough estimate.

The date comes and goes without a word from you. After all, it was merely an estimate, and several complications have delayed completion by a few days. John finally loses his temper and calls you. He tells you that he has arranged a marketing campaign to coincide with the launch date, and because he hadn’t heard from you, he presumed everything was on schedule.

Phone with the receiver taped up
Communicate with your client regularly. (Image credit8)

You defend yourself, citing “scope creep” and unanticipated delays. But responding is difficult when John says, “All I needed was a weekly email keeping me up to date on progress.”

Explain John’s Ongoing Role Link

By this stage, the relationship has broken down entirely. You finish your work, and the website finally launches. Begrudgingly, John pays the invoice after delaying it for as long as possible. What amazes you most is John’s pronouncement that he is bitterly disappointed with the result. How can that be when you gave him exactly what he asked for? This guy isn’t just thick: he’s a jerk!

Of course, John sees things differently. He came to you with a list of his business objectives, and the website has failed to meet any of them. He had hoped to launch the website, watch it achieve his objectives and then move on to the next project. Instead, after an initial spike in interest, the number of users and inquiries dropped over time, and the website stagnated.

Seedling being cared for
Ensure that your client understands what kind of ongoing care their website will need. (Image credit)

What John does not realize is that websites need continued love and support. You cannot build a website and then abandon it. John has to nurture it by adding new content, engaging with visitors and planning for ongoing development.

If only someone had told him.

The Moral Of The Story Link

It’s amazing how quick we are to judge our clients.

As Web designers, we communicate and empathize for a living. Our job is to communicate messages to our clients’ users. We create usable websites by putting ourselves in the position of our users, which allows us to design around their needs.

Why, then, do we so often seem to be incapable of empathizing or communicating with our clients? Perhaps it is time for us to apply the skills we have cultivated as Web designers to our own customers.


Footnotes Link

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Paul Boag is the author of The User Experience Revolution and a leader in digital strategy with over 20 years experience. Through consultancy, speaking, writing, training and mentoring he passionately promotes digital best practice.

  1. 1

    You should upload these articles in PDF! Nice post for reading in the bus to a client!

    • 2


      I think this would be a great idea too. But you could always send your client a link to the posting. On top of that image how much bandwidth would be used for everyone downloading PDF postings. May be expensive to do and not worth it in the long run.

    • 3

      Sorry to put it in that way, but I think you missed the point of that article: It is not the client, but your poor communication. So, why would you give this story to a client. Rather, distribute it among your fellow designers and help them avoid misunderstandings.

      Very good article.

      • 4

        I agree. I wouldn’t show this to a client, but pass around to fellow designers. The Designer needs to reference this article and remember to include their clients throughout the process, and that communication is key. It also reminds of a talk that some Web Designers, should partner up with a good Project Manager, that can serve as the client liaison who communicates back and forth with the client to get their feed back, update them on the project’s progress, and gather the client’s requirements. Free lance designers often kill their client retention because they are not designed for client interaction, so they should buddy up if they fall in this category. Otherwise they are going to lose out.

  2. 5

    Maybe also tell John that life is more than money, websites & design…?

    • 6

      good one ! :) yes life is more than money , websites and design…wait what is it about ….oh yes, its about our glorious existence on this planet…and everyday, we need to thank the almighty for it….we should be happy….like robots….for our eyes, ears, hair (your choice of purple, red, blonde, dirty blonde, whatever you want to dye), thankful for the fact that you dont yet have a tail or two pointed horns on your head….

      what a great existence of a great species….wow !

  3. 9

    richard hughes

    February 19, 2010 5:44 am

    thanks for sharing – some common sense stuff here, but make you think of the other sides point of view.

    reminds me of the client Vs graphic designer video –

  4. 10

    All of a sudden I have heard about this web site. This is the first post I have read on. A organized and structured way to manage a prospective client I must say. As though my job responsibility is to manage projects and clients, I will surly apply such methodology.

    Keep it up…

    • 11

      This site is a fantastic resource for all kinds of topics related to our craft.

      • 12

        Yes. Its a site of fun although contain so much useful resources. Any one can mumble jumble with the given techniques. :)

  5. 13

    web design would be fun if it wasn’t for the clients.

    • 14

      No kidding, all of design would be fun if clients weren’t involved :)
      Of course then we wouldn’t get paid either… that’d be a bummer.

    • 16

      Sounds like you missed the point.

    • 17

      Cosmo Raoul K.

      February 25, 2010 5:49 am

      Designing stuff with no clients involved? It’s all there, man. They call it “being an artist”. Hard way to put food on the table, though. It’s our job to make our clients happy even if they’re completely bananas. That being said, clients are the worst people to walk the face of the earth.

  6. 18

    This is one of my absolute favorite non-technical articles I have read on Smashing Magazine. It was entertaining and at the same time tough some very good lessons. I would love to see more business oriented articles like this. Well done!

  7. 19

    This is what I like about Smashing Magazine: Instead of writing articles like “10 ways to do this and that… ” you present an example of how things can go wrong and how to avoid these mistakes in the process. ‘Boagworld’ is fantastic as well.

  8. 20

    Nice post!!! Every web design firm must read this. Good work!!

  9. 21

    Very interesting take on the whole subject. I think it’s important that we, as designers, remember that we are no better than our clients. Just because we understand something better than they do, doesn’t give us the right to just treat them poorly. This simply results in angry clients and lost relationships and income.

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. 22

    Best piece I’ve read on here in a while, cheers Paul.

  11. 23

    Wow. I’ve yet to build an actual client website (well, for pay), but I think this applies to a lot of design areas. It was a very good read, and I could see things going awry–I’ve even used the same rationalizations sometimes, like “Why would he be interested in the code? I’ll just tell him when it works.”

    A very well thought out article, thank you!

  12. 24

    I feel that a more appropriate name for John would be Wayne… :)
    great post!

  13. 25

    Great article, Paul! You just won one more RSS-subscriber on Boagworld ;-)

  14. 26

    Would love to know how you would answer the client when talking to him about his budget:

    “Why would you want to know about his budget? The only reason he can think of is that you want to make sure you don’t charge him less than what he is willing to give. Besides, he doesn’t really know his budget. How the heck is he supposed to know how much a website costs?”

    I’ve come across this a few times with ‘suspicious’ clients, and generally I tell them that I need to know a range so I know which bells & whistles to propose for his site, or how to create his site in a more cost-effective manner. How do you handle it?

    • 27

      This was an article of web design but has many isomorphisms to software engineering.

      I did Software Engineering (SE) in University and we learned about requirements analysis. To be honest a lot of it seemed like academic gibberish and learning of superfluous notation, but one of the ideas that stuck with me was “managing customer expectations”. The client usually doesn’t understand how software is built. Some might thing that it is as simple as lego, snapping blocks together, when the reality is exponentially increasing complexity for every feature he/she wants to add. You have to make them understand the complex implications of their requests. It gets very dangerous when feature creep begins and the project’s scope spirals out of control.

      Often the only way to force the client back into reality is to charge more for every extra feature that was not in the original requirements specification. You, after all, run a business too. One client can’t take up all your time.

  15. 28

    Amazing article Paul.

  16. 29

    sydney web design

    February 19, 2010 6:34 am

    ha ha ha

    sad but true

  17. 30

    Thanks Paul. Great article. My key takeaways from this were:
    1. Asking the client for the budget needs to be explained in the context of what dollars can buy. Using comparisons and familiar analogs helps the client figure out why we need those numbers and what the value of those dollars will be. We often say “when shopping for a house you look at comparative homes. Let’s look at some comparison web sites to see what your money will buy”.
    2. Describe everything through the eyes of the client. For example, when you talk about methodology or usability explain that it’s about “using a step by step process that reduces risk of project failure” or “maximizing conversions from visitors to customers”.
    3. Be inclusive. Over communicate at the beginning and make sure the client feels like they are not just being pushed to sign and then abandoned. There is no such thing as too many emails or phone calls. It reduces stress and churn.
    4. Educate the client. The welcome packets we send out and double-kick-off meetings we do with our clients build comfort and confidence which can only lead to good things. We can all improve this by having frequent workshops for our clients about design and process in general.
    5. Give the client things to do. Almost all our clients want to be part of the process and like having responsibility in getting the work done. Explaining what their roles are and how they can make the project successful is key to them being part of the solution.

    • 31

      Richard, not sure I agree with point #3.
      Over communicating in the beginning, John might think you don’t know what you are doing and may regret signing with you.
      And why just in the beginning? Communication is key throughout the project. If parts of the project take more time…aka are more meticulous and slow showing results… communicating that with the client as well. All milestones of our design and development should be forwarded with the client, whether he likes it or not. If John comes back and says “what is this?” … take a deep breath and communicate more… he is paying you remember.

      Great article SM
      Richard, cheers~ let’s go to the bar and have a drink on John!

  18. 32

    Great post. Dont forget the time wasted waiting for media such as text/logo’s/photo’s and site structure infomation, and that it extends the deadline. Plus having to copy the written material and optimise the images, which is easy I suppose.

  19. 33

    Reminds me of the “How a Web Design Goes Straight to Hell’ from The Oatmeal.

  20. 34

    excellent post. really enjoyed it.

  21. 35

    You been the invisible man, following me around?!

    Think I’ve made every mistake you mention.

    It all got a bit much for me on the self-employed treadmill, so I’m now working for a company where I just do the techy stuff… much happier. :-)

    • 36

      I know how you feel. The idea of having clients sounds like a nightmare. The different departments where I work are baffling and frustrating enough.

    • 37

      Word. The company I work for is awesome because we’ve got dedicated project managers and account managers who deal with all this stuff for us – I just get on with building sites and they deal with the clients. It also helps that our project managers are pretty sharp with coding issues so if something goes wrong you can give them a fairly technical explanation and they can translate it effectively to clients – if I need to describe these things to somebody then it’s hard for me to switch out of tech mode and into normal person mode, so it’s great to have somebody else to take that responsibility off my hands.

      Most of the articles on Smashing Mag (and other sites) seem to be geared towards freelancers, but I’m not sure I’ll ever want to go back to doing that instead of working with a team of people with dedicated functions :)

  22. 38

    I think i’m going to try to make sure I only pick clients who’ll put in the appropriate amount of work for what they expect. Actually, play would be a better word for it – and I strive to convey that point to clients: that something of this complexity and depth is hard to “nail” on the first try and may take tweaking or optimizing over time, in addition to regular updating. The worst are those clients who can’t be bothered, yet somehow still attempt to micromanage. ::cringe::

  23. 39

    This rings so true. What I noticed is that fellow students became very condescending towards non designers. We learn to see the things that work and we forget that we didn’t know them before and that the others still don’t know them. Then we get angry and they don’t know why and it all gets very frustrating for everyone.
    While working in a non designer environement I realized that and I try to educate the people around me and they are very grateful and see how valuable I am.

  24. 40

    remembered this situation happened when i was doing my final term project for my institution…got it done on time…bt then lesson learnt.. Communication is one of the most important thing in dealing with clients..

    btw, its an awesome post !

  25. 41

    It’s not just website design that needs to be “usability tested” – a lot of the time you have
    technical people who can’t explain what they’re trying to achieve to a layman.

    This is where analogies come in very handy – putting techy language into laymans terms.

    Very interesting article Paul – as usual!

    • 42

      you know what? somebody needs to make a list of those things, analogies, that us web designers can use. I heard of the auto-mechanic one, but don’t really get it. They could be applied to all sorts of situations…

      I have a good one for domains and hosting, domains:hosting::storefront signage:inside the store.

      I always said web design would be great if it wasn’t for the clients. I’m going underground for a while and working on making sites I like. Maybe I’ll start on the web designers analogy look-up tool.

  26. 43

    I normally just work out what they want, work out how many hours it will take, multiply it by 2 and there’s your quote. Take ot or leave it. Most times it will come in under budget and compensate for those pesky last minute client requests.

  27. 44

    Great post. As a designer, it is so hard to put yourself in the client’s shoes and this really explains things from their perspective.

  28. 45

    Kelley Thompson

    February 19, 2010 7:10 am

    Terrific article. I must admit, I suck at communicating in that way; your article gives some great tips on how to do it better!

  29. 46

    Do some web designers really work like this? That is scary. It’s really not that hard to keep everyone on the same page (for the most part).

    1. Tell the client the average range of what projects can cost and explain what types of things cost what. Explain why you charge what you do. Break it all down. And make sure they are familiar with your previous work so they aren’t shocked by the designs you present.

    2. Ask about goals, audience and competitors and design & develop appropriately. Make a creative brief!

    3. Ask about their ongoing plans for the site. Do they plan to update it themselves? Do they need a CMS? FInd out about who is providing what content. Suggest the benefits of a copywriter familiar with writing for the web at this point if they say that they will write it all themselves.

    4. Set technology guidelines based on feedback and needs set above – hosting, target browsers and platforms, use of Flash, Javascript, etc.

    5. Set a schedule and stick to it. Make sure they understand that they have to hold up their end or there will be delays. Be clear about how many revisions you will create and that extras cost more. Also explain that you will not be showing designs of every page and that the designs will not function.

    6. Create and revise as many wireframes and site maps with the client as needed before even thinking about doing visual design. Go over best practices and explain why certain things work better than others and back it up with research, articles, whatever – if you need to.

    7. Get any brand collateral that exists, review them with the client and make sure you are on the same page about colors, type, imagery and anything else before visual design.

    8. Put all of this in a contract! Make sure your contract covers contingencies so that if anything happens at any stage, it clearly states what happens as a result. Your contract should cover payment schedule, credits, rights, maintenance, warranty, additional expenses, cancellation, etc.

    Try to think of as many “what if” scenarios as possible for every project. If you cover all your bases from the start, you’ll be in pretty good shape.

    • 47

      Skip the post, the real article is down here in the comments…

    • 48

      Couldn’t agree more about the necessity of providing the client with a Creative Brief. Any time we are going through the revision process for a mock-up, it gives us something to point back to: “I see that you have some reservations about our first attempt. Tell us how this mock-up fails to achieve the design goals we agreed on in the Creative Brief.” It helps focus the revision process and prevent the designer from becoming a “pixel pusher.”

      We also write up a Scope Document as well, which acts like a contract that is written in plain English and can be interpreted clearly by both sides. The Scope Doc is particularly helpful in that it details everything about the project: the assumptions of scope behind the pricing, deliverables and responsibilities for both client and designer, a timeline, a list of things that the client could potentially do to extend that timeline, a list of things that could happen to increase the cost of the project, etc…

    • 49

      Excellent comment, Sean Tubridy. I think it’s essential to furnish a potential client with a questionnaire in order to learn needs and expectations. Mine is three pages with plenty of space for answers. The work requirements you agree on go into the creative brief. The business terms go into the contract.

      I also like your approach to laying out a price range and illustrating with real-world examples. If I were the client and somebody flatly asked me for my budget, I would think of the old scenario: “How much is it?” “How much you got?”

  30. 50

    Great post. I also think there are TWO SIDES to this coin. In my case, it’s a client who’s just not willing to listen, read, are take any requested advice into consideration. When asking for advice, it’s given, but the client becomes critical and argumentative about the advice as it sometimes does not agree with the clients’ opinions or assumptions. The client is in the legal field and appears to hold disdain for freelancers providing web services.

    In cases such as this, some of these clients need a wake up call, so that BOTH parties can appreciate that they work together for a common goal. The “wake up” call for this client (the one in the legal field)?

    “…If I came to you with a legal question or problem. I think you’d give me the best professional advice, appropriate to the issue.

    It is possible as with many legal issues that I may not like some of the advice. In spite of this, you would not expect me to argue points of law with you over the issue being dealt with, or on how to conduct and proceed with a legal case.”

    My point being, that sometimes you have to help clients by diplomatically helping them to empathize and garner an appreciation for your expertise, professionalism and training; in I might add, a field that the client probably has no training or experience!

  31. 51

    Agustin Amenabar

    February 19, 2010 7:22 am

    Of course it had to be Paul who wrote this, I can hear your voice giving this speech, by the way, congrats on the 200th episode, it rocked!

    One of the best articles I’ve read about the subject. You don’t teach. do you?

  32. 52

    rafael armstrong

    February 19, 2010 7:23 am

    I think the 2 take-aways here (for me) are “communication” and “never assume”. It’s unfortunate that a lot of folks out there (not just designers or freelancers) tend to forget that the person sitting across the table from them may just be unaware of “how the sausage gets made”, and worse yet, they don’t take the initiative to educate and inform their clients or customers so that, in the long run, they can avoid some of the pitfalls mentioned in the post and continue to have healthy and prosperous client relationships.

    Thanks for the post, Paul.

  33. 53

    Peter Hitchmough

    February 19, 2010 7:27 am

    This is a good read. Actually, even though I buy in to 99% of what is said here I still have to read and reflect on some of the deep-seated bad behaviour – it takes a while to recognise it. The truth is that the process is difficult for both designer and client and it pays 1) to know why you plan to do things the way you do, and 2) be skilled enough to discuss it without condescending. Also be prepared to discover that some personal principles are worth breaking if the client wants to work differently – don’t be so precious.

  34. 54

    Jeff Archibald

    February 19, 2010 7:37 am

    Great article. I know I can fall into this trap sometimes, of getting frustrated with a client instead of fully explaining everything. Thanks for the read.

  35. 55

    I also ask for a budget but it is purely to see how much time I can spend on it and to rule them out as a “I want a site exactly like amazon and have a 100 pound budget”.

    This was a great post and I can relate to a lot of it over the years.

    My latest client had a big’ish big budget and I did the initial work in half the time and charged him half his budget. Then the creeping scope kicked in and he ended up paying slightly more than his initial budget but I was up front from the start and told him this extra work would not be included. I did do 3 days extra work for free but that was my decision and I felt comfortable with it. The point is it was my choice and I much prefer working that way.

  36. 56


    February 19, 2010 7:47 am

    Great article. From the client perspective I do find it infuriating when a designer gives a timeframe then fails to respond as the days tick past the date you expected it completed. 6 weeks was the longest I recall and it was getting to the stage where I think he was ready to give up. Luckily, I managed to push him and we got the job done together. Cheeky git, then asked for a bonus because it had taken him so long lol.

  37. 58

    Another valuable article from SM! Thanks 8-*

  38. 59

    Awesome article. I am going to send this to everyone at our company!

    Thanks Smashing Magazine!

  39. 60

    Joshua Sortino

    February 19, 2010 8:11 am

    As a designer, the sooner you learn to communicate to clients — the better. This applies to everyone, from Freelancers to entry level designers in large firms.

  40. 61

    Jessica Thompson

    February 19, 2010 8:20 am

    Wow, it’s really funny for me that you named him “John.”

  41. 62

    Thank you so much for this article. I am not as communicative with clients as I should be. I am definitely going to start sending weekly updates.

  42. 63

    Great Article.

  43. 64

    Geez. We get so full of ourselves sometimes, we forget the majority of the people signing our checks would rather line us all up, and blow our brains out first chance.

    MUCH easier for them to deal with. :-)

  44. 65

    Great article!

  45. 66

    I’m totally agree with the article Paul! Thank God I think on this details everyday because I did some of those mistakes in the past and I already learned of them :) Communication is everything in order to have a successful project completed and not just a pretty and “nice” web design. Amen!!!

    Thanks for the post!

  46. 67

    Holy cow! You nailed it.

    I’m in both roles – the client hiring in my present role but historically the lead on a team delivering a site.

    A brilliantly insightful article which should be required reading every week for every web development team.


  47. 68

    True. But sometimes you just get clients who refuse to listen to any advice and suggestions you give them. No matter how much you try to explain things (in simple terms) why their idiotic requests won’t work, they continue to ignore and demand it anyway. They are not all like this, and dream clients do exist. But as Jay says above, web design would be fun if it wasn’t for the clients!

  48. 69

    Paul, this is lovely post, thanks… I had couple of intensive flashbacks while reading it..

    Sean, i’m sure most of freelancers repeatedly try to stick to rules you mention, however Johns are still there strong as ever, regardless of how many things you make clear in advance or write down in contract. I just try to listen to them as much as I can & explain as much as they’re open to accept my opinions.

  49. 70

    I am John! I am having a reasonably sophisticated website built, the developers mapped it out to take about 2 months – fine, about AUD18,000 – Fine. 6 weeks in, everything is going really well, the designer’s technical ability is exceeding my expectations, when I e-mail, the project manager takes two days to get back to me – but at least I know I’m going to get a response within 2 days and it’s going to cost an extra couple of grand (which i don’t mind because I think they are doing a good job). Now, all I want is a link to take to my marketing team and some strategic partners to show/pitch to them, the page doesn’t even have to be functional. I haven’t heard from my project manager for 3 weeks, I don’t get a response from my e-mails, and if I do its “we’ll have an update for you this week or next”. Sometimes any communication will do, and at the very least having a client’s questions answered or addressed can mean the world of difference to planning, peace of mind, future business (referall and repeat). At the moment I have no idea whether I am going to have to move my launch date and all associated actions, I can’t schedule meetings with crucial suppliers and I’m starting to look around for someone else to maintain and update the website despite the possibility of facing more difficulties with conflicting coding styles etc…

  50. 71

    Thanks Paul. Regarding “Including the client in the process” here is how we focused on collaboration. The article covers exactly what we had in mind when we decided to start building our little wireframe application. We wanted our clients to participate in a very early development stage of the web-project. First, in order to get to know the client, to find out more about their likes/ dislikes but also to educate them to commission certain stages upfront. We wanted to give them the feeling to take part right from the start, to have the chance to constantly look at something in progress and to let them communicate with us through commenting the whole process. And it worked out great! In the beginning, instead of struggling with color issues, we settled on site information and rough layouts and let the clients jump the bandwagon. Once you get the client on board and contributing to the workflow everything else will be a breeze… well almost! But for sure it saved us a lot of time and hassle.

  51. 72

    Nice article with some great points on communicating with the client and not making assumptions. But every time I read an article such as this one I can help but think it’s missing a larger point. What is being asked of each designer is for them to continually reinvent the wheel with each client….For every designer to educate each client individually. This is a time consuming process that even the best designer may not be fully capable of or adequately trained to do. So my point is…why doesn’t someone like the AIGA run a mass media campaign to educate people of the value of design a la “Got Milk”? I realize you may have to narrow the focus to certain segments of the business community due to costs but dropping it to each individual designer and shop seems like poor design. Design is an important component of web design on many levels and quite frankly Design/Usability is a huge component of our society. So in closing, If client issues regarding the design process are prevalent enough as to necessitate the numerous articles on the subject, why not a collective effort to address it?

    Note: I’m not a designer but a marketing consultant with a great appreciation for great design.

  52. 73

    Quality post. Good stuff.

  53. 74

    Cathal Mc Carthy

    February 19, 2010 10:16 am

    Awesome article…. It’s true that educating and communicating with the client is as important as the design itself when working on commercial projects, true creative freedom only comes when working on personal projects!

  54. 75

    A wonderful article. The closing statement is a great wake-up call.

  55. 76

    Nice little article.

    Experience really helps with this sort of tihng. At the beginning of my business I would find it hard to explain the ‘techy’ terms. But over the years you learn the little analgoies you can use, that the majority seem to understand.

    But if you are a designer/developer who works at an agency, and has never had to deal with any of the clients. I would urge you to get involved. The experience can be invaluable.

    Communication is key.

  56. 77

    I really enjoyed reading this! Excellent writing Mr Boag. I’ve been following your podcasts for a while, now I’m looking forward reading more of your literature :)

    Thanks for shedding some light on the client — freelancer relationship. Communicate!

  57. 78

    Amazing article. So clearly articulates what I’ve gone through with countless clients. Thanks so much for allowing me to know that I’m not the only one out there that has experienced this!

  58. 79

    Fantastic article, dealing with that exact client now, and this has made me see it differently. Ill not sit around the office mumbling about him being a clueless prick anymore!

  59. 80

    Kelowna Web Design

    February 19, 2010 12:43 pm

    Great tips! I find that I already do this in freelancing.

  60. 81

    Brilliant. I almost felt you were spying on several of my projects from 2008. I’ve gotten better about managing clients, but this a great reminder of how to avoid the easy to fall into pitfalls of client interaction and expectation.

  61. 82

    Congrats, this is a very well written, simple to understand article that shows a big truth!
    And a very nice refreshement from all the “29 most horrible types of client you will meet and why they are so horrible”-type-of-posts that lie around on the web.

  62. 83

    Nice post i get more clients like John than I want.

  63. 84

    Wonderful Article! There are so many articles around about how to deal with “THAT client” and not one of them considers that maybe we are the problem, not them. Thanks!

  64. 85

    Do you guys really get to do web projects for pay? It seems to me there’s a lot of talk on “how to handle clients”. Well, if you have them you already know.

    And if you’re starting up, hey, check out any “customer provider” guidelines and apply it to web design.

    Web design is just any business. I don’t think this article added -anything- new that you can’t find in various business management literature/articles/howtos.

    • 86

      i agree. i feel that many of the commenters (and even some of the writers) on this blog are designers/devs just starting out. they seem to get way too excited about things they should already know.

  65. 87

    Thanks for sharing!!!! Is John The Client Dense or Am I Failing Him? I always think that , Now I know I´m not alone, thanks again!!!

  66. 88

    Arvin Bautista

    February 19, 2010 1:22 pm

    I have come upon a few client-designer relations blog posts of late and by far this is the best one. In fact it made me feel good and enlightened when oftentimes the other posts increase your resentment towards a client.

    It is extremely important to try to see things from your clients’ point of view. This isn’t something I feel like I am perfect at yet, but it is an integral part of the process.

    Personally if they were giving me specific notes of pushing pixels around I’m fine with it if they’re not particularly drastic, and they feel more accomplished with the project. It may not be the most shining example of my work and the design principles I go by, but hopefully the money is good and at best they consider you a hardworking and accomodating worker, which may give you more leverage in the future on instilling proper design.

  67. 89

    It’s usually that John the client is dense =)

  68. 90

    I have to admit, it’s not often I read every word in a single article in one sitting — but I did that with this one.

    Great job, Paul. Very unique and refreshing style, and a very important topic for designers who deal regularly with clients.

  69. 91

    Actually, I never ask my clients about their “budget” because I know from experience that they will (A) lie about what they will spend (they will tell you a lower figure), and (B) I personally only work with clients to whom price is not the primary consideration. I’m looking to work for people who value professionalism (business acumen) and professional work first and foremost and who understand the advantages and benefits that come with working with someone who knows what they’re doing (and is not a whore churning out $500.00 websites). If this sounds a little “harsh” or counter intuitive, you’d be surprised at just how successful being “matter of fact” about pricing can be. If you do it right (and if you really are good), people will understand that you are worth what you say you are…and pay it…because you have sold yourself and your professionalism (both in business and your product) in a way that has value to them.

  70. 92

    I’m certainly far from perfect and have made my fair share of mistakes. Most of these things are really common sense though. How would you like to be treated if you were on the client side?

    Another thing to remember is that often clients are investing a large amount of money in something they don’t understand. That takes a big leap of faith. A little empathy and reassurance goes a long way towards helping them feel confident about it.

    I try very hard not to go into a project unless I feel like the client also feels good about it too.

    • 93

      Katrina Miller

      February 22, 2010 9:58 am

      A co-worker once said “we are selling blank pieces of paper…and the confidence that when we are done with it, it will be great”.

      Takes a lot of faith on the part of the client, and a lot of guts on the part of the designer.

  71. 94

    This article helps me reminded me of. But the exception is that sometimes a real stubborn clients do exist! Making their business fail over time eventhough how many times they were told kindly or by any means not to do this and that.. too bad :(

    Probably they were bombarded with bad marketing strategies, can’t decide on their own.

  72. 95

    You nailed it. Love this article :).

  73. 96

    As a client like John (a web savy marketer w/o any design skills and only moderate coding skills), I can say, this article is spot on.

    From a designer, I need: constant communication, a willingness to include me in the early phases of the design process and a solid committment to deadlines.

    Even more importantly, I need the designer to educate me as to why they made the design decisions they did and to talk about them IN TERMS OF DOLLAR VALUE, ie. how does this decision here turn into sales and leads. Honestly, as a client, that’s all I care about (unfortunately, I couldn’t care less about your portfolio), so if you want to convince me that you’re correct, you need to talk to me in these terms.

    Pitch your work to me, qualify it and educate me about why your choices are good ones and how they’ll help me achieve my business goals. I hired you to help me meet those goals.

    Good article.

  74. 97

    I could relate to every line written in this article.

  75. 98

    Aljan Scholtens

    February 20, 2010 1:12 am

    Nice article, came across several of these problems in the past. Now I’m using a process plan for the development of a website which works really great. It includes some steps with an indication of duration. The client always knows what to expect and keeps the plan with him.

    Keeping contact over phone is really important to me, and also, just do it :-)

  76. 99

    “Stop hiding from your clients. Show them your work early on, and include them in the process.”

    As with everything, it’s a question of *balance*. I believe that someone who follows the above advice too literally is in for a world of hurt. To use an analogy, if Apple had have heavily involved consumers in the iPhone design process, they would have ended up with something that resembled an abomination.

    The key is to involve them just enough, but not too much.

  77. 100

    I work for fun, even for my clients, if they dont want, then change clients! world is big place!

  78. 101

    Great article! I’ve been guilty of some of these points before, but always striving to get better. It helps when someone puts it in plain language from the client’s perspective. Thanks!

  79. 102

    great one, all those things are really important thanks for it

  80. 103

    Website Design Northampton

    February 20, 2010 9:30 am

    As supplier consultants it is our obligation to make sure our clients understand what we intend to do. Some clients have the experience and don’t need much explaining others need a fair bit. This is just how things go, but it evens its self out at the end of the day.

  81. 104

    As I’ve always said “Clients aren’t dumb, but they sure as hell are clueless.”

    Roll with that, and you’ll have every one of your clients madly in love with you.

  82. 105

    I thought this article was a bit patronising. After-all, if you don’t know this stuff, you’re really quite inexperienced, probably lacking in common sense too, and should stick to a job where someone else handles clients.

  83. 106

    Pete Skenandore

    February 20, 2010 10:02 am

    Just a nod needed to contract law. If you are proficient at articulating scope and contingencies, you will avoid 90% of the problems displayed in this example. Well,…maybe 50%.. :)

  84. 107

    This is really a very good article.

  85. 108

    I like this objective point of view. I’m often asking myself why so many clients are such a-holes. This reminds me of a funny comic from the oatmeal that is pretty funny and worth a read for a good laugh, any designer will appreciate:

  86. 109

    David Desjardins

    February 20, 2010 11:45 am

    Having been through this process for more than a decade with first-time web clients, this article is excellent. It’s also the reason why I now pre-qualify my clients. If they don’t understand the value of the work we provide, then it’s very likely we will have to spend time to educate and hand hold them through the project. That extra time doesn’t cultivate clients, it eats into your bottom line.

    Pre-qualification is key to your success. We do it very simply. Communicate in advance and define everything. Provide a statement of work, breaking down costs and expectations. Provide a simple 1-page contract. Get 50% in advance, 25% when a client gains access to add content, and 25% before delivery.

  87. 110

    Michael Arnaldo

    February 20, 2010 12:30 pm

    Paul you always write excellent material. Cheers!

  88. 111

    hiya, a really captivating story, and some home truths are brough to justice, well written.

  89. 112

    Very boring article, not something I would expect from Smashing magazine!
    What happened to all those nice show cases and coding articles?

  90. 113

    Nice work, Paul. This article was perfectly written for your audience. As a web designer, I appreciated it because it was concise, thoughtful and well-written. I think all of us are guilty of damning the client. It becomes easy lose perspective of the client’s point of view. Thanks for the insightful reminder.

  91. 114

    These are basics what every web designer should follow… It’s always good to remind once in a while… :D

  92. 115

    Or, instead of asking John about his budget, you just talk to him intensely about his project for an hour or two, figure out all the requirements, and then send him an accurate quote based on your regular prices. If he thinks its too much, eff him.

  93. 116

    Very nice article .. i realy enjoy reading thanks

  94. 117

    Good one, as alwyas

  95. 118

    C O M M U N I C A T I O N is an art in itself.

    In the words of Paul Arden, What do you do when a client won’t buy?
    Do it his way. Then do it your way. WIN / WIN

    Great article. 5*

  96. 119

    PS Great article 5 stars for me.

  97. 120

    Nice story, Paul. I started my Web Design business less than a month ago and haven’t meet any client yet. But I’m sure this article will help me dealing with my first client next time.
    Keep writing some articles like this, I like how you educate us with non educational language. :)

  98. 121

    Ok i think is a really cool article!!, this article arrives just in the precise moment!!! i have a “heavy duty jhon”, and i will just say that the problems is not only communication….

    Im sure that many designers, forgot the “customer service” and they just are interested on make the design, and forget the important part, as the customer….

    BUT there are situations, like mine, where i communicate, i teach to my customer, even i encourage via a brochure, where they have the obligation to ask questions about any doubt that they can get, and unfortunately this doesn´t work!!, because the problem is not only communication is also a “social-cultural” problem, that conveys in a close or wide up vision….

    So i think that is important that we as designers, design a tool that help us to identify the “diferent “TYPE” of customer that we have in front of us to avoid or find a strategy that permits that we can work together…


  99. 122

    I agree with many of the points this article makes. It is indeed necessary to handhold clients and reassure them. They want to be kept in the loop.

    However, I’ve stopped all client work because there are way too many scam clients out there now. They don’t want to do down-payments or milestone payments. They just say,”I’ll pay you when the site is live.”

    I had one client for whom I did marketing work for 1 1/2 years, and he recently defaulted on an invoice. I had held back on a second invoice until he paid the previous one because I knew that he was having money troubles.

    Well, finally, I couldn’t wait any longer, and I submitted the second invoice, which he ignored.Too make a long story short, he sent me an email with a whole psychological attack directed against me. He said that he was my only client (not true) and that he had put a roof over my head and kept me from starving (not true). Then he said I didn’t have the “testicular fortitude” to get clients and have a working business (not true). There were numerous other attacks in his email. Then he made a really bad mistake and accused me of padding the bills that I sent him. He was basically trying to get out of paying me by accusing me of being a thief.

    Needless to say, I’ve had it with client work. It’s not worth it. There are too many maniacs out there now. Why? Because bad economies bring out the nuts.

  100. 123

    Great Article. It was scary how much I related to “the designer” and how many situations I have been in with clients like the ones mentioned. I cannot wait to apply a few of your tips and suggestions. Cheers and good writing!

  101. 124

    Very interesting read, I definitely think like the designer in the above article sometimes. Taking the time to explain to my client the process as well as the why’s and what’s would probably be a good idea.

    • 125

      Having a process that is connected to a timeline, and to payments, is the key. The client has to understand that you want to get it done faster than they do. Tying the milestones to meetings or phone calls is a great idea, too.

      That said, there is not one type of client. I’ve discovered a lot of smart marketing people who insist on controlling the process, and push back every time you try to gently but firmly redirect their angst. Pushing them to consider the customers opinion to them often only tells them you are challenging their intelligence and assume they don’t care about the customer.

      I agree there are methods to resolve these situations, but more often then not, if you find someone who simply does not appreciate what your own perspective might bring to the table, you are doomed. I have found over the years that people like this are like this with everyone they have ever worked with. And they almost never work with the same person twice.

      Really, the key is to try to find the clients that best fit your company’s style and way of working. When you realize you have encountered someone who loves your work but refuses to involve themselves in the process, you have to switch to survival mode. In my considerable experience, you can waste days, weeks and even months trying to get a client to see it your way and only piss yourself and him off.

      That said, if you are one of those guys who likes to lock himself in a dark office to design works of art, and sees client interaction as a pain, you are likely never going to succeed in business.

  102. 126

    I’m amazed that any of these points have to be touched on, at least as regards “one-man-band” types like myself, who have to do the project management, the design, the programming, the graphics, the SEO, and the sales.

    There are a few things that I personally insist on making a point of:

    1) I don’t expect them to know everything about the features they want in their website. I just want to know what they hope to get out of their website. Is it supposed to be a simple “brochure” site, is it a store where people purchase their goods, or is it primarily a means of communicating with existing customers, or … ? Is it supposed to reflect a fresh branding, or is it a blending of their existing offline marketing materials?

    2) I’m clear with my clients upfront that I don’t expect them to love the first draft of what I do. It could happen, of course, and I’d be relieved if that were the case, but let’s be realistic, it’s not likely to happen that way. The client has a vision of what he’s after, and my job as the designer is to figure out what that vision is. This requires an ongoing conversation, and a few rough drafts.

    3) Every time you talk to the client, let him know when you will talk to him next. If you say you’ll call on Friday, do so, even if you don’t have much to talk about; and then say you’ll talk again on Tuesday. The silence just kills them, and sometimes they get the sinking suspicion that you’ve run off with their deposit.

    4) Give them a link so they can peek in on what you’re doing between times, with the upfront caveat that sometimes the page is going to be lopsided, the links aren’t going to work, etc. I know, some developers would object to this. My experience is, though, the client just wants to make sure that SOME progress is being made. If it looks different today than it did two days ago, they know you’re on the job. And it’s always been to my benefit to have my client peek in. If, for instance, somehow I’ve veered off in the wrong direction design-wise, the client will be able to let me know BEFORE I invest a lot of hard hours doing something he didn’t want.

    My favorite website that I’ve ever built for anyone is not the one that I think looks the best or has the coolest features (although it really is a good website if I do say so myself), but is the one where the client was happiest with the end result. That one client has provided me with more personal satisfaction in my work, and more positive word-of-mouth, because we had a successful meeting of the minds. He knows I listened and he was more than happy to tell his friends and colleagues where to get a good website.

    I’m not boasting by any means about my technical prowess; I’m not the best designer I’ve ever met, nor the best programmer, nor the best graphic artist. But I don’t mind saying I’m the best LISTENER I know of, and as a result, I’ve never had anyone tell me they were disappointed with the site I handed to them.

  103. 127

    a Very nice articles, Paul you have given words to my emotions….. :) thankyou

  104. 128

    That’s great if John hears you, but if not. If you tell him everything, but he doesn’t want to listen.

  105. 129

    Katrina Miller

    February 22, 2010 9:53 am

    I think it starts with the question “why a web site”. I know this DOES aggravate some of my potential clients. But too many times I’ve designed websites, where an e-newsletter would have been a better solution. Or a radio ad, or a…

    If they aren’t prepared to really use a website as part of their marketing campaign, then I won’t quote on the job.

    The coding time-line is a perpetual problem. As one person, it’s going to take a certain amount of time, and sometimes, during that time, there really is nothing to “show”. I’ve had to take extra time, to make temporary things to show clients, just so they can feel like the project is advancing, but I hate doing that, it’s a waste of my time, and their money.

  106. 130

    Awesome article.
    I’m currently a web design student & this is the first post from smashing that has really made me think about all the clients I’ll be dealing with in the near future. After interning for a design group, I’ve definitely already noticed the ups & downs .. the hair-pulling emails & all the headaches .. but this gives a me new hope. Tough clients CAN be dealt with after all :D !

    I’d love to see more articles like this!

  107. 131
  108. 132

    Excellent article! I’m still making some of these mistakes myself — especially the ‘update your client at least weekly’.

    Communication, communication, communication… it occurs to me that I’m often too scared to tell a person something they don’t want to hear, but if I just told it like it is, I’d have happy clients — partly because they’d be in the loop, partly because I’d successfully scare away all the unpleasant clients :-)

  109. 133

    One of the best articles I read here: easy to read, point the target and it is helpful.
    Thank you!

  110. 134

    this john sounds like a bit of a #&$t!

  111. 135

    What about the wire framing process! What them? How do we explain to john that this step is one of the most important steps??

    I work in cooperate America where they don’t believe in wireframes! How do I get them to understand that step??

    • 136

      Ways to get around Those Who Hate Wireframes:

      – Don’t call it a wireframe. Call it an outline, or a starting point.
      – When consulting with the business side, say you want to discuss calls to action or user behavior or taxonomy (of product, application, content, whatever) and make sure that all the bases are covered. “I want to make sure we present the user with the right call to action for the business” is a great start to the conversation.
      – If they’re really, really anti-wireframe, don’t make it particularly look like a classic wireframe. Where possible, use color, sample their real content, insert stock photos, use their logo. If it’s for an already-designed site, insert screen captures for header, footer, etc.
      – Work with what you have. Some of my best concepts have been wireframed in (shudder) PowerPoint, because it was thought IAs and designers didn’t need silly things like Visio or Axure.

      Good luck!

      P.S. This was a great article! I LOL at “he realizes that the color scheme is too effeminate, so he tells you to change it to blue.” Actually happened to me in 1998.

  112. 137

    I’m just a fledgling Web designer (I’m just now at the point where I understand CSS). And this article is WAY ahead of where I may ever get in my knowledge of the art of creating websites.

    But I found this to be awesome. It ruled.

    The way you wrote this was brilliant. Wonderful job.

  113. 138
  114. 139

    How about handing out an “intro package” that explains to clients the ins-and-outs of our craft and what to expect throughout the development life cycle? Without being to intrusive, it could contain a questionaire for them to fill out to help us understand what THEY want/expect. Good apportunity to show off some mad print design skills too.

    So how about it SM? Can you come up with some resources and/or best practices?


    • 140

      Don’t you think a lot of clients would think an “intro package” is just a bunch of fine print for you to rip them off? They won’t read it.

      • 141

        Maybe, but it is good business to have everything in writing up front so there are no misunderstandings. Plus you have something to refer to later when/if there are questions.

        Another technique I use (in the requirements gathering stage) is to repeat back to them what they just said to me, like “I just heard you say you would like…”. It really helps both parties understand each other.

        I have had clients come back and say they appreciated the time and effort I spent listening to them and could tell from the start it was the right decision to go with me because I made sure I was HEARING what they where SAYING. (Same works with my wife by the way…)

  115. 142

    The biggest thing to remember in this kind of scenario is that it’s kinda audacious taking a big web job on as a one-man-show… you’re competing against companies who will have a separate person responsible for project management, design, build and testing. Possibly even for sales and support. In this respect, the person responsible for the communication roles will never be too distracted designing or building the site to speak to the client.

    The client is expecting the same product from you as the larger company and will expect the same level of service – after all this IS part of the product. Even if they are paying a lot less for it. (I’ve never known a client cut any slack because they’ve got a bargain)

    I discovered the only way to get round this was to effectively plan the project management time in on top of the design and build, and plan more for certain clients. If the project process looks like it will be demanding, allow for that. Then it just becomes part of the job, and not a distraction from it.

  116. 144

    Very nice articles :)

  117. 145

    Fantastic article!

    I’ve been doing client work for a few years without hardly any hiccups. Just recently my style and techniques became rather popular for people looking for their next big “redesign”.

    With that, I’m finding now that client expectations are very high of me and the pressure is always on to come up with something new and innovative just like the stuff displayed in my portfolio.

    All this has wore me down to a point where I lost my first client. He wasn’t satisfied with the results…and I really put my all into. I personally like the design, but the client responded with “I know what looks good”

    Stuff like this is very demoralizing for me, but this article opens my eyes to the real world. You aren’t going to please everyone…but at least try to explain why you made certain decisions in your design ;)

  118. 146

    Great Article Paul …and agree
    If a company does not have the ability to communicate technical concepts to non technical people and to facilitate conversations between technical and non technical people it should sets off red flags on both sides of the table..

    People , the client has a real business to run and a real product to deliver based on a company’s digital strategy. He does not have to understand technical jargon to be tech – savvy enough to know specific features and functionalities wanted for his project. It requires a two way channel of communication. Effective communication gets everyone on the same page..

    Designers and programmers need to be able to communicate with their customers and have an open mind. It starts with listening . Ask what they don’t want.

    It provides a starting point for conversation of client vision, expectations, cost, and timelines and just maybe increases the process efficiencies and drives the team toward innovative solutions that create value to the client.

    It’s all about effective communications , decisions and questions. Clarifying those questions also reveals an understanding and that your project could be implemented in different ways?

    Don’t be afraid of exposing costs, this inevitable comes out later. Make sure that everyone is thinking the same thing and on the same page..

    The client should be a part of that process and communication flow.
    I so agree with @SeanTubridy. Don’t assume that your client is dense and have a process. I look at other comments and can really empathize with John the client. You invest only a few minutes asking questions before you start talking budget.

    @SeanTubridy is bang on right. The client wants assurances that you understand his company’s vision and qualified to do the work. Budget does matter but understanding product and services deliverables and timelines impacts company bottom line. .

    In response to Stephanie strange comment and cultural perspective. Programming is all about decisions that could impact the build. Code does matter and chances are the client has already done his homework. Melissa’s comments are equally disturbing. She is making decision for client based on budget. How would you know if the client was willing to pay extra based on the value of the feature and functionality you did not mention..but discover information out later.

    If budget constraints truly existed for your client just maybe your creativity will provide innovation solutions to achieve the vision and the bells and whistles the client wants at a cost that is affordable . Sharing information and providing options is a good thing.

    More often than not, companies do not want to provide a quote unless they are getting paid to listen and understand the client’s vision. They take on jobs without understanding the scope and when it comes to walking the talk they fall short of the mark.

  119. 147

    Great Article Paul …and agree
    If a company does not have the ability to communicate technical concepts to non technical people and to facilitate conversations between technical and non technical people it should sets off red flags on both sides of the table..

    People , the client has a real business to run and a real product to deliver based on a company’s digital strategy. He does not have to understand technical jargon to be tech – savvy enough to know specific features and functionalities wanted for his project. It requires a two way channel of communication. Effective communication gets everyone on the same page..

    Designers and programmers need to be able to communicate with their customers and have an open mind. It starts with listening . Ask what they don’t want.

    It provides a starting point for conversation of client vision, expectations, cost, and timelines and just maybe increases the process efficiencies and drives the team toward innovative solutions that create value to the client.

    It’s all about effective communications , decisions and questions. Clarifying those questions also reveals an understanding and that your project could be implemented in different ways?

    Don’t be afraid of exposing costs, this inevitable comes out later. Make sure that everyone is thinking the same thing and on the same page..

    The client should be a part of that process and communication flow.
    I so agree with @SeanTubridy. Don’t assume that your client is dense and have a process. I look at other comments and can really empathize with John the client. You invest only a few minutes asking questions before you start talking budget.

    @SeanTubridy is bang on right. The client wants assurances that you understand his company’s vision and qualified to do the work. Budget does matter but understanding product and services deliverables and timelines impacts company bottom line. .

    In response to Stephanie strange comment and cultural perspective. Programming is all about decisions that could impact the build. Code does matter and chances are the client has already done his homework. Melissa’s comments are equally disturbing. She is making decision for client based on budget. How would you know if the client was willing to pay extra based on the value of the feature and functionality you did not mention..but discover information out later.

    If budget constraints truly existed for your client just maybe your creativity will provide innovation solutions to achieve the vision and the bells and whistles the client wants at a cost that is affordable . Sharing information and providing options is a good thing.

    More often than not, companies do not want to provide a quote unless they are getting paid to listen and understand the client’s vision. They take on jobs without understanding the scope and when it comes to walking the talk they fall short of the mark

  120. 148

    Sherwood Botsford

    February 24, 2010 11:06 pm

    This is one of those places where ‘fast prototyping’ comes in.

    To do well, it’ needs to be an iterative process (Communication)

    Instead of asking for a budget, go away and think about it for a bit, then come back with a series of illustrations either using other people’s existing web sites, or quick and dirty samples:

    Each is labelled with an approximate cost for the idea, based on it’s difficulty in implementing.


    Part of the consultation should be to ask him for sites that have features he wants to copy. Discussing why he like them, can lead to teaching him something about design.

  121. 149

    Here is an awesome, happy-ending type lesson I just learned today:

    Don’t rule out the possibility that your client is actually being perfectly reasonable (especially based on his/her information, which may or may not be correct) and wants to help, but you two have very different styles of communicating.

    Ask for clarification, don’t assume somebody’s motivations, and learn how to explain yourself in a non-threatening way. Be specific and ask for specifics. For example, my client said, “this graphic at the bottom is techno” when he responded to some screenshots I sent. I said, “ok, that’s just an adjective to me – does this mean you like it or that you want something different?” He said, “oh, I guess I just thought you’d know what I meant. The graphic gives too much of a high-tech impression when the site is really about people and culture and things that are sort of, more organic.” At that point a light bulb went off. So I said, “Ok, when you give me feedback, if you don’t like something, be sure to give me a direction to go in – even if you can’t suggest something specific, give me an idea of more what you want, so I’ll know where to go.”

    Sometimes you just need the conversation of diplomacy, where you figure out how to talk to each other and what the person’s motives are. This client had seemed uncooperative and unreceptive to the vast majority of my ideas, but it was really a series of simple misunderstandings. He thought he was providing constructive feedback. He was not being unreceptive, just offering counterpoints. He also wasn’t actually that attached to his own ideas. I was beginning to think this project was not worth the effort (being pro bono work for a charitable organization), but as of today’s conversation, my blood pressure will no longer go up every time I hear back from him.

  122. 150

    I’m a software developer not a web designer, although I have studied some graphic design before.

    But I did decide to take up a job as a side project, and I wish I hadn’t, for these reasons:

    1. I show the client a mockup that I made in Photoshop and he says it’s fine and to “go ahead”. So, I turn that mockup into HTML. Then after I did that, he says that he’s not happy with it and wants to change it (?!?), even though the HTML looks exactly like the mockup. So I ask him if he can be more exact, and he does not answer the question and just says to try some things.

    2. Does not pay or even acknowledge my invoice that I sent him (hmm???) yet demands changes …

    3. Takes forever to respond to my e-mails.

    So, what the hell?


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