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I'm designing a sales flyer for a client, that needs to be contain editable text and image boxes, while maintaining the integrity of the layout I've designed.

The client does not have any Adobe software and has minimal design skills.

Is there any software/types of files I can use to deliver something like this? Something like Google Docs?

I've attempted to work with interactive PDFs but find them clunky and not very user friendly.

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Tell your client "no". This is why you are hired.

  • Would you ask a chef for his/her recipes so you can "make this on your own"?
  • Would you ask an architect to make plans you can "edit on your own"?
  • Would you ask a mechanic for his/her tool box so you can "edit your vehicle on your own"?
  • Would you ask a doctor for his/her Physicians Desk Reference so you can "diagnose things on your own"?

There's a reason professionals are hired. If the client can "do this on their own" they don't need you - and the request is specifically so they can stop hiring you - nothing more. Which really is not a problem. But that doesn't mean you need to assist in them not hiring you.

If a client wants something they can edit whenever they feel like it, then the client should create the file from scratch. A designer shouldn't be involved if it will be a client-driven design.

The client is merely looking to save money by not requiring your services. Which, again, I understand. However, they don't have the tools nor experience to edit anything you create and ensure all the technical requirements remain met or satisfactory. Or that the integrity of the overall design is kept in tact.

One doesn't ask a professional to "dumb down" something so that services aren't required when changes are later desired. In many instances, because they can't be "dumbed down". Are you going to pack your experience and expertise - all the little things you are aware of but never really think about - into a "Google Doc"?


Example... I hire a lawyer to write my will. The entire reason a lawyer is hired is to ensure the will conforms to all the technical requirements as dictated by law. But I want to also be able to edit the will myself at any time. If I were to edit the will freely afterwards, there's no guarantee or assurance that all the required technical aspects will still be met after my editing. Thus possibly negating the will entirely or creating undesired ambiguity.


So, sure create an editable flier via Google Docs.. then your client can insert 72ppi images they've "borrowed" from the web and enlarge them 150%... Enlarge their logo 200% ... change color(s) ... make the headline bigger ... your name is still on the design...

When someone asked "who created that horrible flier for you".... Do you think the client is going to say they did it themselves? Your reputation is still effected by these new client-driven edits.

Any client who values your work, won't be asking you to "make it so I can edit it" especially for anything print related (web-based content management is more standard and controllable).

If you value your career, you won't create things so that uneducated, inexperienced, unaware, clients can edit your designs - and ultimately have a direct impact on your overall reputation as a designer.

Simply because a client asks for something, that never means you need to bend over backwards to make it happen. Especially if it's detrimental to your business or reputation.


If it were me, I'd apologetically state I can't create anything they can edit, and I'd offer possible solutions so they could create something themselves with minimal expense or learning curve - Word, PowerPoint, or any of a dozen freeware/shareware apps - it merely comes down to what their time is worth regarding learning how to accomplish a design in whatever software they choose.

I also generally explain to such a client that my making a change may be a hour of my time at most (most often much less than an hour).... and that expense is typically far, far, below the cost of any time invested in a learning curve for some other, inferior software. And with my time, the client reaps the benefits of my design sense and abilities. It merely means they can't make changes on a whim free of charge.

I, personally, will also actually suggest they go to some of the online crowdsourcing sites and see if they can find a dirt cheap person to create something they can edit - there is a market for these type of clients and this type of work. However, it's never profitable work for a designer and anyone with any acumen in the field will generally not fulfill such a request. If you take on work like this, you'll never get ahead. I won't put my reputation in the client's hands, but there are countless other naive individuals who haphazardly will.

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    And yet, if you hired a professional electrician to wire your house, would you be OK with having to call them back every time you needed to change a light bulb? (Maybe, in the modern era of LED lights that can last for decades, you would be — at least if it saved you money up front or got you a fancier lighting setup than you could get with user-replaceable bulbs. But back in the days of incandescent light bulbs that needed changing all the time, I don't think you would've liked it very much.) Dec 18, 2021 at 14:27
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    Don't get me wrong, I think yours is a perfectly valid answer to give, if that's the product you want to sell. But you also shouldn't be too surprised if the client then goes: "Oh, I guess I'm talking to the wrong kind of designer. I do want a basic template with user-editable parts, even if it costs more and doesn't look so nice. Sorry for bothering you." Dec 18, 2021 at 14:27
  • @IlmariKaronen well yes. But in fact probably the client shouldnt be talking to a designer if they want to do what basically amounts to a IT investment. They should be talking to a software company, who in turn hire designers. But the likely reason client is talking to a designer is because they cant afford to do it properly. As for electricians most companies outsource lightbulb changing to a maintenance company that would have electricians on call.
    – joojaa
    Dec 18, 2021 at 14:51
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    @IlmariKaronen Changing a lightbulb takes zero technical knowledge. There's no issue or problem should you change the build incorrectly. You can't use the wrong size bulb in a light socket. The socket itself dictates the bulb to use. The comparison is simply incorrect. One can't ensure a client uses proper ppi/color profile images, or doesn't alter typefaces or sizes.. or really much of anything if you allow them access to the design.
    – Scott
    Dec 18, 2021 at 16:57
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    Now.. template design.. can be a thing if it's priced accordingly and the client has the tools necessary for editing. But to create something professional using non-design software, such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word is simply untenable to me. They aren't professional tools and you generally won't get professional results.
    – Scott
    Dec 18, 2021 at 17:02
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To answer objectively, you can attempt this with Google Slides, Figma or Canva, which are sort of cloud-based, Powerpoint-similar apps.

The client would still need to sign up and get used to the interface, but that's arguably much easier versus the learning curve of Adobe software.

However, in my experience, most clients looking to edit inhouse will eventually end up going back to the designer for edits, even if they do get the source files delivered.

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You can not solve the problem with an easier application. It is never a question of the complexity of the application, ease of use or any such thing. Ultimately this is a sort of XY problem, why? Well because ultimately its a solution to some other problem like one of:

  • Does client want to lower cost? But this has many other sub questions. Are they cheapscates? Is the return on investment is not good enough? User needs to do frequent updates?

    Now there are many ways to solve this dillemma that dont include the editable file. It can turn out that editable file is bad investment if client does not have time to update it in the first place. Ask the client why they are not allready doing this themselves. That is the problem to solve.

  • Does Client feel that the process is slow? If so they may think this would speed things up. Are there other processes that could help.

  • Does client wants to learn to design? Again many sub questions. What do they know how to do? What have they attempted?

  • Opposite of last client does not want to learn design. Ultimately in this case the problem can not be solved

  • ...

Now the underlying question and problem is the one you should be solving. Note that because these are real humans you can have conflicting goals. There is no universal solution for this.

  • Create a script diven layout engine. You may find that adobe offers this in indesign server, just make a webpage where user can change copy and generate pdf. But the price of this is exraorbitant. So you might want to use stuff like apache fop or LaTeX to do the layout.

  • Create a webpage where css handles the look and feel. You can get a lot of CMS engines that do this. Its easy it runs everywhere.

  • Make your design in something your client uses. Like for example in word, libre office powerpoint etc. Yeah you need to lower your design scope

  • Make your design in a design software, then train your client to use it.

  • Dont do this at all. Say that its not a service you provide. Not all chefs make microwave meals. Also consider that its a different skillset.

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Ask client what software they currently use - most common might be Word or PowerPoint, but LibreOffice or Inkscape will work fine too. As long as it has these two features:

  1. Can import some vector format as a background image.
  2. Has ability to add the editable text and image boxes.

Then just export the layout without any editable parts from the software you use into a vector format, such as PDF or SVG. Add it as the background and if possible, lock it in place. Add example boxes on top of this and send the example file to client.

This prevents edits to the basic layout. The edits the client can do will be clearly defined and limited.

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  • Word will most likely mangle the PDF file eventually. It is very fragile in this way. Problem though is that neither word, powerpoint can do decent typography
    – joojaa
    Dec 19, 2021 at 16:18
  • I haven't seen Word mangle images (I do not mean to import it as separate Word objects, but to include it as a vector graphics image), whether in PDF or other format. And if it does, the client can restart from the template.
    – jpa
    Dec 19, 2021 at 16:34
  • i have, lots of times. You can not digitally notice the mangling as word magically rasterizes the vector content then proceeds to delete the vector content and stores the rasterized image. This is a huge deal in print production. But also really not user friendly.
    – joojaa
    Dec 19, 2021 at 17:21
  • By the way if this wasn't a real issue would see a lot more of services like this done for clients. But as it stands theres not much designers can do for word users.
    – joojaa
    Dec 19, 2021 at 17:29
  • @joojaa Good info! Should still work fine in other applications even if Word has such a bug.
    – jpa
    Dec 19, 2021 at 18:40
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I'm designing a sales flyer for a client, that needs to be contain editable text and image boxes, while maintaining the integrity of the layout I've designed.

Ahahahhahahhahahaa, welcome to the purgatory known as being a web content management system developer.


Seriously though, do not agree to such silliness. As a designer you are usually contracted to give a final product.

If they wish for an editable product then you charge extra and give them the source material.

Whether or not they have the ability to edit it is none of your concern. If they buy the correct Adobe software and wish for you to sit and teach them then charge them 2.5x your normal rate for such a service.

When they ultimately call you back to make a new flyer with an existing layout then charge by the hour.


Think of it this way.

Would a competent mechanic agree to only use tools from the Dollar Store so that you can fix future issues with your car because that's what you can afford?


You should also read this post: Customer asking for InDesign files as a Word doc!

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SCRIBUS

You can probably even script it with Python to make updates from a text file.

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    Please explain why scribus can be a solution. Only throwing the name of a software is not a valid answer ...
    – Mensch
    Dec 19, 2021 at 12:30
  • Typical Stackoverflow. SCRIBUS is a desktop publishing app that is free and open source. OP can make a document that can be edited by their client. Simple. Dec 20, 2021 at 14:44
  • @ChanceryScript sure, but the requirement was simple program to use. Your not adressing the main issue. Free is not necceserily the issue when you need a expert to operate. Client can also edit a indesign file or any other application file but why would that application be easy to use. While i am of the oppiniion this does not matter, if the person knew to use Scribus they would have asked. Please clarify.
    – joojaa
    Dec 20, 2021 at 19:12
  • Indesign is $20.99 a month and is NOT easy to use. Scribus is free and what the client likely needs to do, which has not been defined so there is no point going on for paragraphs of hypothetical implementations, can be learned in an hour. Dec 21, 2021 at 0:34

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