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Here's the situation:

1. You are contracted to make a small website for a small company.

2. You have years of experience and a nice portfolio.

3. You study the trends and research how people use the Web.

4. Your client gives you MS Word documents detailing how he wants the website to look.

5. The quality of the Word documents shows that he must've learned how to use a computer 2 days ago. (Lots of different fonts, Word Art, clip art, crap, crap, crap....)

6. You show him a couple designs modernizing his ideas. You explain, ever so patiently, why it is that you did what you did.

7. It's all rejected; he wants the stuff to look like the Word documents.

What would you do now?

A. File | Save As HTML
B. Tell him that you're not the person for the job.

Chi Lambda
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Yes.  Quick and easy money. 

You're in a business and by doing the job you'll have another satisfied customer.  You don't have to put the work in your porfolio and you'll have one more person out there telling other people about your business.

Isn't the customer always right?

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Agreed with Chris. You already took the gig, so it would be rude to back out. I'm guessing you're going to be more up front next time about the kind of work you do, and making sure you know pretty solidly what the customer wants done before taking it.

Or, you're hungry, and you'll take it anyway. :) It's really up to you... we've all done things that we cringed over. It's part of the deal when you're not in total creative control.

Brad (
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

A, but only if you get the customer to sign an agreement that no reference to you is made on the website or anywhere else where your future potential customers might find it. Otherwise B. Oh, unless they are paying you so much money that you would never have to work again.

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Pull out. You don't want to be associated with a website that poor. Think more carefully about the terms on which you take on future jobs.

Mr Jack
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Option C.  - Try again.

It may be that the type of business the person does or wishes to do is one where they believe this is the best way to represent their data.    Fine.  Maybe they are right. 

Or...maybe you are not selling to them correctly.  Have you shown them competitors sites?  Have you shown them any analysis giving support to your ideas?  Have you considered the cost of your solution versus the cost of theirs?  (Tight budgets are common).

If you have done the best sales job you can,  that is all you can do.  If it is really as simple as "Save as HTML", tell them that.  In the future when they want more, they will contact you for being honest about it. 

Mike Gamerland
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

If the client likes flashy designs with multiple fonts and colors-build a site with Flash with lots of animations etc. even though it is a big NO NO from the UI and HCI design point of view. It's better than associating yourself with a HTML site with multiple fonts and colors. Atleast you will have a Grpahic design project in your portfolio.

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

you can still do quality work even if the product is shit -- or find another motivation for this project -- Can I "Save As in Html" and publish it with FTP in 12 seconds? And under 10?

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Why don't you show him a website or two about usage? You could use a 3rd party report to back up your thoughts. At least you should explain the rules of thumb in the publishing business on what kind of fonts goes to what, how many font types/styles you should have and no more, something about colour usage and readability.

So you could use his draft, but clean up the fonts, reduce them to one for each of the body and headers. If he still insists on keeping his own work, then advice him to have one or two people he trust to test the design. Perhaps he change his mind after that?

Is it all static pages? Some dynamic? Offer him to do the dynamic part and help him to link all pages together, install it all on server and so on. Be honest about what you think about the design, but say it friendly. Say you want to help him, but you don't want your name in any place on the web site.

Thomas Eyde
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

He can give the "Well, _I'm_ paying" argument, of course.  But you might look for an analogy to help him understand.  For instance, if you hire an architect to build your house, you'd certainly expect to give him a set of expectations (square footage, number of bathrooms, etc.), but it would be foolish to approach him with a full blueprint; if you know how to design a house yourself, then just do it, but if you don't, then let the man do his work, trusting that he knows better than you how these things should be done.  And if you don't trust him to do it right, then why did you hire him in the first place?

You might also show him some examples of good and bad websites, so he can see for himself the contrast.

If he still insists, then in your shoes, I'd strongly lean toward not doing it simply because I'd be scared that he'd show it off to others as an example of my work.

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Chi Lambda,

If their design is crap, you may end up playing scapegoat ... not a nice thing and it can hurt you  (contractual liabilities, portofolio, reputation, etc). If you don't want to take this risk nor you don't want to code crap for $$$$, try and walk away from this job.

If you cannot walk away or you need the extra money, then take the job and do exactly what they asked you to. Afterall, this is what they want and pay for and if you don't do it, somebody else will anyway. You may even help them learn something out of this.

In my experience, you cannot stop people from hurting themselves - apparently humans need the pain to accelerate their learning process 8)

Personally, I think life is to short to not enjoy it. So unless I were really broke, I wouldn't take this job.


Wednesday, April 2, 2003

I agree that you should try to convince the guy that you need to do a good design but I disagree that you should walk away from the job. 

You've already made an agreement to do the work.  If you don't do the work you will now have a customer that has a negative attitude toward your work.  If you do the work, then you have a customer who will say "he did the work exactly the way I wanted it." 

It's not going to take you long to do the work and you will have a satisfied customer in the end.  Chances are he'll never recommend you to others but at least he won't go around saying, "don't hire that guy, he quit on me half way through the job."

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

What would happen is this: you do the job he tells you to do, hating it all the time.

Later on a friend of his explains to him that the web site is terrible. They all blame you.

If you want to be polite, sit him down and explain the options. Otherwise just tell him another firm would be more suitable for him.

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

>Isn't the customer always right?

No. Hardly. I think its incompetence on my part to do what the customer wants if its obvious that the customer does not understand the rammifications of the bad descision he makes.

Say you do some bad design to meet a customers requirements, and later when the customer wants to add some stuff he saw his friend had on his website, and you tell him: "No you cant have what your friend is having because your system was not designed to handle it" this ends up being your fault.

Try argue with the customer that it was his descision, and you are in a no win situation. Its better to clarify any and all stupidity things you see and try to have the customer change his mind.

If that is not possible I would pass on that job.

Wednesday, April 2, 2003


I'm not intending to be overly critical here, so keep that in mind.  You don't seem to have much respect for your customer.  Comments like "he must have learned to use a computer two days ago" indicate that to me.  Also, you seem to set up all your efforts for us with a decent amount of detail (and adjectives), but when you get to the "compromise" part, you just say that it was rejected? 

Just rejected?  Did he say anything at all, or did he just say "no, do it my way"? 

All in all, I think I agree with the people who present the 3rd option of trying again.  I know it's hard, but try to have some respect for your client and take another hack at it.  I'm sure you are doing this, but maybe focus on how your idea meets his (stated?) goals and isn't just some artsy stuff that you want to do to advance yourself.  You have to keep in mind that you are here to make him successful.  Cliche, I know, but it's true.

Joe Blandy
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

And remember that although the word stuff looks rather amateur, your client is probably very please with his results.

Try to avoid saying 'I've changed the design because it is rubbish' to 'Sadly, if we use that lovely piece of Wordart, it will take the page a lot longer to load.  We're better off using plain text.' and 'The use of fonts is interesting, but sadly the effect is going to be ruined with all the different browsers showing them differently.'

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Agree to do the site the way he wants.  Ask him to sign a release form stating that he rejected your advice on the design of the site, can't hold you responsible for any aesthetic or performance problems, can't tell anyone that you designed the site,  and  that he agrees that any changes to the site will cost extra.  If he won't sign, then  you have your chance to back out.

John CJ
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

There's a bunch of ways to handle it, just doing what they say they want itsn't really one of them though.  You'll end up bad mouthing them because you think they were pratts, and they'll end up bad mouthing you because you let them look pratts, they will entirely forget it was their design.

First off you explain to them that you are a designer, that if they hire you they get design.  You do this pleasantly and with humour, you give relevant pithy parallels in their own business; if their plumbers you'd say something like 'would you let someone tell you to put the header tank below the hot water tank' or some such. 

Then you say that you'll take away their requirements and produce a set of design proposals.

Then you produce 3 mockups, the first a cleaned up and professional looking version of  the structure of what they gave you.

The second, you're personal prefererence for a design to do what they want (not what you think they should do).

The third a completely on the edge version pushing their requirements as far as they'll go, the Extreme design.

They will choose the second.  90% of the time (he says with nothing to back it up)

Oh, and you factor in the cost of producing three sample designs into the quote.  Which they have to pay regardless.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Ooops hit the button too early.

I meant to say, you hit the 1% that want to do it their way regardless, so show them how to save as HTML, bill them for all the time and don't sell them any support. 

Or give them any.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

I can completely sympathize- in my previous life (12 months ago) I was helping companies raise money, and a lot of the people who came to me wanted help with completely unfundable ideas. My dilema was the same- I could take their money and help them craft the best business plan possible knowing full well it could never raise a cent, or I could tell them that, and have them pay someone else to do it for them- in most cases charging them even more and offering them false hope to boot.

This is what I did (for the projects that were borderline enough to consider)- I would tell them that I would do my best for them under the circumstances, but that if they went forward as it was, then they were ignoring my advice to change or quit, and I made no guarantees of their success. Sometimes this made them change their mind, sometimes they changed their idea to something more feasible, and sometimes they choose not to work with me.

See why I got the heck out of this line of work?  :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Thank you all for your intelligent, thought-provoking feedback.

I chose to withdraw my services to the client, because I could not in good conscience charge him for a website generated in MS Word (I explained the steps necessary to convert his Word doc to HTML) or build a site whose principles so directly conflicted with mine.

I also chose not to take on the project because I was afraid that, while I could please him in the short-term, sometime down the road it would come back to haunt me. Nothing is private on the Web.

I told the client that I don't expect to be paid for the work that I did until now since the end result was no website. He was gracious, though, and still intends to pay me for what I did.

I learned a valuable lesson from this experience.

Chi Lambda
Wednesday, April 2, 2003


That sounds like a great solution and everyone is happy. you took time to evaluate his needs and present him with possible solutions, he insisted on one that happened to be very simple. Rather than take his money and do the simple save as thing, you showed him how to do it, which was a useful service  to him, and also showed that you took the time to understand and respected his actual needs as he percieved them. At this point you would be justified in charging a consulting fee, but you graciously refused to accept a fee and in the end even ended up getting paid.

It's like when you go to the mechanic and he spends a couple hours looking at your car and then tells you "It was just a loose wire. No charge." When that happens, you go back to that mechanic AND tell others about him.

Great call.

Dennis Atkins
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Yep, one thing people should understand about sales:  it's as much about qualifying the client for your company, as making a sale.  Not everyone with cash is a good fit for your business.

Joel has an interesting philosophy of "no hire" vs. "hire" for his prospective employees.  IMO, it works two ways.  If you're interviewing for a job, or selling to a client, there should definitely be some "no client" or "client" hot buttons in your head. :)  If your sales process allows a client through who obviously doesn't fit your business, then it's failed nearly as much as losing the prospect altogether.

Granted, it's much easier said than done in this economy...:)

Thursday, April 3, 2003

Well done Chi!

Thursday, April 3, 2003

If the client learned how to use the computer two days ago chances are that in time he'll learn more of what to expect from websites.  What you did was perfect,  let them build it for themselves for now.  In time they'll build more into it and some time expect more than they can generate themselves.  Then they'll come to you to build the better design.  You should definitely listen to your customer though.  Engineers, doctors, artists expect different things from websites.  Unless you are a limitless God, the customer will know its audience better than you.  Webmasters seem to forget that.

Thursday, April 3, 2003

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