20 signs we may not want your web design project!

Posted on 19 October 2016

Most clients are good clients, and some clients are great clients. But some jobs are just never going to work out well.

Herewith, a few indicators that a project may be headed to the toilet. Guarantee: All incidents taken from actual past work situations.

  1. Client asks us designed our website.
  2. Client shows us around the factory, introducing us to all his employees. Then, behind closed doors, says: "If you do a bad job with this website, I’m going to have to let these people go."
  3. Client takes six months to respond to a proposal, but doesn’t change his due date.
  4. At beginning of the 'get-acquainted meeting', client informs us that someone has just bought his company.
  5. Client, who manufactures Russian nesting dolls, demands to know how many Russian nesting doll sites we have designed.
  6. At meeting to which we have travelled at our own expense, client informs us that he doesn’t have a budget per se, but is open to "trading services."
  7. Client can’t articulate a single desired user goal. He also can’t articulate a business strategy, an online strategy, a reason for the site’s existence, or a goal or metric for improving the website. In spite of all that, client has designed his own heavily detailed wireframes.
  8. As 'get-acquainted meeting' is about to wrap, the guy at the end of the table, who has been quiet for an hour and 55 minutes, suddenly opens his mouth.
  9. Leaning forward intensely, client tells us he knows his current site "sucks" and admits quite frankly that he doesn’t know what to do about it. He asks how we would approach such a problem. As we begin to speak, he starts flipping through messages on his iphone.
  10. Client announces that he is a "vision guy", and will not be involved in the "minutia" of designing the website. He announces that his employee, the client contact, will be "fully empowered" to approve each deliverable.
  11. On the eve of delivery, the previously uninvolved "vision guy" sends drawings of his idea of what the web layout should look like. These drawings have nothing to do with the user research we conducted, nor with the approved recommendations, nor with the approved wireframes, nor with the approved final design, nor with the approved final additional page layouts, nor with the approved HTML templates that we are now integrating into the CMS.
  12. Our favorite client, for whom we have done fine work in the past, gets a new boss.
  13. The client wants the "latest" web features but cannot articulate a business strategy or user goal.
  14. Shortly before we ship, the company fires our client. An overwhelmed assistant takes the delivery. The new site never launches. Two years later, a new person in your old client’s job emails us to invite us to redesign the site. (This has happened numerous times!)
  15. Client sends a 40-page RFP, including committee-approved flow diagrams created in Microsoft Art.
  16. Client tells us he has conducted a usability study with his wife.
  17. Client begins first meeting by making a big show of telling us that we are the experts. We are in charge, he says: he will defer to us in all things, because WE understand the web and he does not. (Trust your uncle Bob: this man will, without fail, micro-manage every hair on the project’s head.)
  18. As approved, the stripped-down "social networking web application" site is about to ship, a previously uninvolved marketing guy starts telling us, our client, and our client’s boss that the minimalist look "doesn’t knock me out." A discussion of what the site’s 18-year-old users want, backed by research, does not dent the determination of the 52-year-old marketing guy to demand a rethink of the approved design to be more appealing to his aesthetic sensibility.
  19. While back-end work is finishing, client rethinks the complete site architecture.
  20. Client wants the best. Once we tell him what the "best" actually costs, he asks if we can scale back. We craft a "scaled-back" proposal, but, without disclosing a budget or even hinting at what might be viable for him, the client asks if we can scale it down further. After we’ve put 40 hours into back-and-forth negotiation, client asks if you can’t design just the home page in Photoshop.