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This is a famous web comic about a common experience in web design:

It's based on the author's personal experiences and describes a typical / caricature client from hell who treats the designer as:

a mouse cursor inside a graphics program which the client can control by speaking, emailing, and instant messaging

...ruining the finished product by, for example:

  • Demanding unnecessary changes so they feel they have put their stamp on the design
  • Making vague, half-baked or contradictory requests
  • Bringing in requests for changes from people not connected to the project
  • Silly requests that appeal to the client but would make no sense to an end user

Some of the solutions I thought of:

  1. Quitting web design and starting my own online business.
  2. Only accepting jobs offered by professional web/graphic designers.

Any suggestions?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 15 down vote accepted

I think a lot comes down to having courage.

  1. Work only for good clients. Turn down jobs from people from whom you get the vibe of trouble ahead (either by politely declining, or asking for an outrageous price). Glamorous jobs that would look good on your portfolio may be among them, as well as big-money jobs. In that case, it's up to what you want more badly - a nice job, or a well-paid/fame-creating job.

  2. Work out a clear set of specifications, sketches and previews with the client, and then freeze them. Have the client sign them. Then start implementing. Charge outrageous prices for changes that take place after the specs have been frozen ("I need to re-work all the HTML"). You would never ask a plumber to change the plumbing after he's worked for a week to put it into the walls - it'd be a whole new project. The client needs to see your work the same way.

  3. As a sub-set to #2, be careful with working in front of clients you don't know well. If they get the impression that "you just have to click a button to make a change", the gates to the hell illustrated in Oatmeal's strip are quickly opened.

And in the end, if it happens anyway... remove your name from the end result, write a bill, and move on. After all, it's work, helps pay the rent and if the client insists on wanting crap despite your fighting for good design values, you've done all you could.

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Some fantastic advice :) – Kramp Feb 19 '11 at 13:02
In a recent project, I did ask for an outrageous price. Unfortunately, the client accepted. – janoChen Feb 20 '11 at 10:47
@jano hahaha! It's true: If you ask for an outrageous price, you need to be prepared to do it at that price. Otherwise, you have to right-out decline. – Pekka 웃 Feb 20 '11 at 14:27
asking for an outrageous price - This one of many reasons not to advertise detailed, flexibility killing price guidelines on your website/flyers. – Charles Stewart Mar 14 '11 at 8:14
@janoChen If your price was so outrageous, why were you upset when they accepted? – wedstrom Sep 1 at 22:23

Be confident and use your experience to your (and their) advantage

If you are worried about this then the liklihood is that you're professional web designer with a proven track record who's either been forced down this road or have been close to it.

Don't be afraid to tell people that you know what you're doing. Show them something you've done against the wishes of another client. Say what they wanted, why they wanted it and why you told them that you know best, backing it up with results (some of that A-B Google webmaster landing page stuff comes in handy here). And you do know best, as I said, you're a professional web designer with a proven track record. In other words 'grow a pair'!

On the other hand, I let my managing director take over a project about a year ago. I told him that I'd do exactly as he asked with as many changes and ideas he could throw at me. The project was crap and he as much as admitted it. It was disorganised, not well thought out and the results showed it. Now I've got my hands on the company website and I've told him I'm doing it my way, not his... and he agrees with me. Even more than before he's regularly saying things like 'you're the expert' and is asking my advice on all kinds of things.

Stand up for yourself and you'll go far.

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