How to Avoid Being a Web Designer From Hell

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We’re all familiar with the concept of Clients from Hell, but how do you avoid being a web designer from hell? We’ve compiled some advice to bear in mind to avoid client relations going sour.

Really know what the client wants

Obviously, your client will want a website, and may have a picture in their mind of how they want their site to look. Unless you’re very lucky, chances are that your client won’t speak web developer, so it’s your job to use initial meetings to translate their ideas into practical results. These meetings also provide a good chance to sound out your client and see how your personalities and work styles fit together (more on that later). Good ways to solidify your client’s vision and your role are to consider the following:

  • What does the client want the site to achieve?
  • What content does the client want the site to host?
  • What are the functionality requirements of the site?
  • Does the client have any examples of other sites in terms of what they would like to emulate or avoid?
  • What is the budget and the deadline?

Remember, there can be no mutual mind reading, so use the planning stage to foster a good working relationship and make a realistic plan. Never be afraid to ask a question or ask it again if it will make your life – and therefore the client’s experience – easier.

Get a feel for how you and your client work together

With all the talk of designers and clients, you can’t overlook the fact that any interaction is human. Human personalities are many and varied, so use the initial meeting to get a feel for how you and your client work together as people. Some clients like to notified of what may seem like petty details or try to contact you out of office hours, which could feel like micro management or intrusion. Other clients may be less involved, but that could mean that they are difficult to reach when you really need them. Sounding out how you would like to communicate with each other can help avoid resentment or frustration.

Be ready to translate

Many chuckles are to be had from clients who ask for blacker shades of black, circles to be rounder, or attempt to translate Lorem Ipsum. However, some designers are equally guilty of bombarding clients with untranslated terminology. Some patience and forgiveness goes a long way in forging a good relationship with your client, both in terms of their perception of you, and your sanity in dealing with them. Remember, they have hired you to be the expert, so instead of rolling your eyes at their amateur design understanding, explain pleasantly and clearly why you recommend certain design choices.

Manage expectations

Not all problems are the fault of clients, especially those who are frustrated by a developer who they don’t perceive to be delivering on promises made. Part of the process of getting to know what your client wants is also letting them know what you can deliver – and when. Designers should also know any important deadlines, emergency contacts, expected delivery times and when they’ll get paid.

Avoid unnecessary tweaking

Last minute changes are a common headache for developers, especially if clients don’t understand the time-intensive process for what they perceive as a simple action such as changing a font colour or resizing an image. Make sure your client understands that certain design choices cannot be changed after a certain point. Getting clients to sign off on completion “milestone” parts of the project can help avoid false expectations and unwanted revisions. If the client insists on last-minute extensive changes, make it part of your contract with them that any such work will be costed accordingly.

Set realistic targets and deadlines

Part of managing expectations and developing a site without stressful deadlines is to set realistic targets and manage every stage of the process so the client can be informed in advance if there are any delays. Often a site is part of a wider project, and any delays could have a domino effect on your client’s schedule. Always overestimate how long a process will take, and only break the news of any delays to a client once you’ve recovered from any initial panic and have an explanation of the situation, a solution, and a new deadline.

Make a contract, keep an archive

Once you have forged the initial understanding of what both you and your client expect from each other, a contract is essential to create a solid framework for the duration of the project. Depending on the length and complexity of the contract, consider providing a summary of the pertinent points, such as work hours, deliverables, deadlines and points of no return on revisions. Read it through with your client before you sign it off, and don’t be afraid to quote from it if the situation arises. In addition, archiving all communication with your client is essential for a smoother development. For example, if you have agreed to something during a phone conversation, follow it up with an email summary to ensure that both of you have an archive of the exact agreement.

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