20 signs you don’t want that web design project

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 life.

  1. Client asks who designed your website.
  2. Client shows you around the factory, introducing you to all his employees. Then, behind closed doors, tells you: “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 your proposal, but doesn’t change his due date.
  4. At beginning of get-acquainted meeting, client informs you that someone has just bought his company.
  5. Client, who manufactures Russian nesting dolls, demands to know how many Russian nesting doll sites you have designed.
  6. At meeting to which you have traveled at your own expense, client informs you 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 you he knows his current site “sucks” and admits quite frankly that he doesn’t know what to do about it. He asks how you would approach such a problem. As you begin to speak, he starts flipping through messages on his Blackberry.
  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 you 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 you are now integrating into the CMS.
  12. Your favorite client, for whom you have done fine work in the past, gets a new boss.
  13. The client wants web 2.0 features but cannot articulate a business strategy or user goal.
  14. Shortly before you ship, the company fires your 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 you to invite you to redesign the site.
  15. Client sends a 40-page RFP, including committee-approved flow diagrams created in Microsoft Art.
  16. Client tells you he has conducted a usability study with his wife.
  17. Client begins first meeting by making a big show of telling you that you are the expert. You are in charge, he says: he will defer to you in all things, because you understand the web and he does not. (Trust your uncle Jeffrey: this man will micromanage every hair on the project’s head.)
  18. As approved, stripped-down “social networking web application” site is about to ship, a previously uninvolved marketing guy starts telling you, your client, and your 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 architecture.
  20. Client wants the best. Once you tell him what the best costs, he asks if you can scale back. You craft a scaled-back proposal, but, without disclosing a budget or even hinting at what might be viable for him, the client asks if you can scale it down further. After you’ve put 40 hours into back-and-forth negotiation, client asks if you can’t design just the home page in Photoshop.

[tags]client services, client management, clients, agency, agencies, freelance, work, working, design, designing, designing life[/tags]

420 thoughts on “20 signs you don’t want that web design project

  1. Client, who manufactures Russian nesting dolls, demands to know how many Russian nesting doll sites you have designed.

    If I had a penny for every time I’ve been asked to design a Russian nesting doll site…

  2. I love websites for Russian nesting dolls. Every link in the main navigation opens a new, smaller window behind the one you’re on.

  3. #7 is heartbreakingly true. To really make anything near useful in a design, you need alllll of those… and usually you just get napkin sketches.

  4. Wow,
    Thanks for this list… I chuckled having been in many of these situations. The #11 and #19 items actually happen at my job pretty regularly.

    Thanks again

    Aaron I

  5. This isn’t strictly confined to web design but the worst thing is when you have a client who is technologically retarded, knows nothing about computers or the web. That client then says to you “Try not to use jargon, in fact, make it as simple as you can for me.” When you do this, they promptly get annoyed with you because “You’re talking to them like an idiot” and things get awkward.

  6. I work as a developer for an advertising agency and I can tell you that I’ve felt all of these even though I’m shielded by a layer of managers. Don’t even want to know how bad it was for them if even I could feel the ripples of, especially, #19.

  7. While these are all annoying, frustrating and true, it’s so nice to know that this shit happens to everyone–including Jeffrey Zeldman.

  8. I see variants of these when drafting network specs for clients. Why pay for Cisco hardware when you can get “the same thing” from Belkin? You’ve nailed the pitfalls of design in *any* industry!

  9. This list is inducing some PTSD.

    Regarding #11, business software client “vision guy” once produced his sketch of Wolverine from the X-Men to prove his design skills.

    It *was* a pretty good likeness,

  10. Spot on. At least four of these points happened in the last week. The other 15 (forgive me, I have yet to pursue a manufacturer of Russian nesting dolls) have either happened in the past or are expected to happen at my meeting today.

  11. My faves from experience in the field: #11, 17, 18, 19.
    The other dreaded statement: “I’ll know it (the desired design) when I see it”, which usually is somewhere in #18. Ahh, good times!

  12. laughed so hard it hurt me- follow you on twitter and then I got to this comment and it hurt me some more…

    # Greg said on December 4th, 2008 at 10:44 am:

    I love websites for Russian nesting dolls. Every link in the main navigation opens a new, smaller window behind the one you’re on.

    I did creatives for that client!

  13. Great list! Many of them sound uncomfortably familiar….

    Just finished a site last week; after uploading final APPROVED version, got an email saying, “Great! We’re ALMOST done! Now we just need [these two pages added to the footer] and [one more page we forgot to mention—added to the MENU BAR, and which requires me to create another FORM!]


  14. Had me laughing for quite a while. Reminded me of the client who designed his logo in Excel. This past year I’ve had #3, #7, #12, and #15.

  15. I follow you on twitter (probably list so many others) and I just read through the list.

    So far I’ve encounted 1 3 5 6 7 10 11 12 14 16 17 19 20 *sighs*

  16. Yes! And how about when a site design has passed through numerous approvals when someone suddenly steps in to announce that it doesn’t meet branding guidelines — despite the fact that the designer referred to the branding guidelines throughout and what that person is really saying is, “I don’t like it.”

  17. Great list. #10 is always scary. I’ve never had a project end well with someone lie that at the top.

    And you’re right about #17… every single time.

  18. I could swear I went through all 20 in about 90% of the projects I’ve been involved over the years. I know I should have given that shoe repair gig a second thought. Although shoemakers probably have their own “20 signs” lists too.

  19. Client provides vague specification. When pressed for details, client provides more vague specifications. When you begin implementing what you think he has in mind, he says, “That’s not quite what I had in mind.”

    Client provides most information over phone calls. When you repeatedly suggest that the client put his thoughts down in an email, he doesn’t. He prefers to continue to give instructions and changes over the phone.

    Client is a startup who tries to get you to accept stock options as part of the payment.

  20. I can confidently say that in my 12 years in this industry I’ve experienced all of these apart from #1 – oh, and Russian dolls… Just last week I had an initial client briefing meet where a bunch of guys in their 60s called me ‘son’ (I’m nearly 40) and their sole objective for the site (despite much tactful questioning) was it had to be ‘accessible’.

    It’s like water off a duck’s back now…

  21. Holy crap… yes, thanks. I’d be retweeting it if all the folks who follow me and would care aren’t also following you.

    I propose #21 as follows (because I seem to specialize in these, so it’s hard not to imagine that you haven’t gotten your fair share):

    “Client or primary contractor comes to you on referral, and immediately discloses that the project has gone off the rails because somebody got in over their head. He asks you to rescue his project.”

    These jobs CAN be pulled off, but should be avoided unless you’re a sucker for hard cases and have plenty of money in the bank. A corollary to this is that EVERYBODY has ALWAYS burned through most (if not ALL) of the budget by the time you get the call.

  22. Russian nesting dolls are the core of my business. I have done countless sites for Russian nesting doll manufacturers… ;)

    Experienced a number of those incidents. Fun!

  23. That list is great and all, but how many times have you have been told to build a website for a company that doesn’t have a name for itself, doesn’t have a mission statement, or a strategy for what they want to accomplish as an organization conjured up yet? But, they know they need a website launched in the next weeks…

  24. Jeffrey,

    This is superb. Most have happened to me, I look forward to the rest. #8 (silent man at end of table suddenly opens his mouth) happened to me last week!

    You speak the truth.

  25. …To which I should add, our paths have crossed at #12. Though I occasionally regret it, I did the meet & greet, sent in my W-9, and then fell off the face of the earth because I got That Feeling.

  26. Well done uncle Z! It’s funny, because it’s true. *sob*.

    It’s tough to choose a favorite, but “Client tells you he has conducted a usability study with his wife” is classic. Unfortunately it often happens midway through the design process, and then periodically during development.

  27. Can I add one?
    #21. Client wants to spend several hours a day talking about the progress of the their web site, but only wants to be billed for hours spend coding.

  28. This is what I got from a client after I sent her a cost estimate: (i quote)




    Shame on her!

  29. five weeks before launch of new online banking site, client says ‘can we make it not a bank?’

    We launched

  30. #21. Client wants to spend several hours a day talking about the progress of the their web site, but only wants to be billed for hours spend coding.

    Preach it, Sister Catherine!

    Client or primary contractor comes to you on referral, and immediately discloses that the project has gone off the rails because somebody got in over their head. He asks you to rescue his project.

    A corollary to this is that EVERYBODY has ALWAYS burned through most (if not ALL) of the budget by the time you get the call.

    Hallelujah, Brother Ben!

    how many times have you have been told to build a website for a company that doesn’t have a name for itself, doesn’t have a mission statement, or a strategy for what they want to accomplish as an organization conjured up yet? But, they know they need a website launched in the next 6 weeks…

    Have mercy, Sister Bridget!

  31. C’mon guys. We’ve all been asked to design Russian nesting doll sites. But srsly … they’re called matrioshka’s. Isn’t that common knowledge? lol

  32. Sooooooooo true. #17 just happened last week. At least I finally wised up and fired the client before further damage could be reaped.

    You list is brilliant, accurate and funny. Too bad it it’s so true. -DS

  33. In just a year of working for my current company I’ve experienced numbers 3, 5, 8, 10, 11, 14, 16, 18 and 19.

    I concur with uncle Jeffrey, number 19 is the one to avoid at all costs. Makes me sad to think about it again…

  34. And sometimes it’s the design firm. In 1998 I interviewed with a company that prided itself on it’s cutting edge design mojo, and as example showed me a landing page they made that produced little graphic bullet holes across the page while a huge .wav file loaded and provided the audio.

  35. Great list—I’m laughing and nodding and crying all at once. This is why people decide to go the Coudal route and be their own clients. Saves the hair on your head from getting pulled out.

    Makes you feel good, though, when someone “gets it”, becomes a long-time client, and maybe even a friend. That is rare, but precious.

    #7 kills me — I usually want to say, “Email me when you have your $@#$% together and we’ll talk.” Unless you really want me to give you business advice, do your market research, plan your company strategy… but, wait, I’m just the web designer, right?

    how many times have you have been told to build a website for a company that doesn’t have a name for itself, doesn’t have a mission statement, or a strategy for what they want to accomplish as an organization conjured up yet? But, they know they need a website launched in the next weeks…

    That has happened to me several times… how can I build you a website if you don’t even have a company yet?

  36. I thought this an appropriate place to include the #1 support request that now hangs on my “Client Wall of Shame”.

    We would like a quote on adding music to the site. Tommy would like a voice navigation to play when logged on to the home page with music playing in the back ground. He would also like the drop downs to speak as well.

  37. Pingback: 20 signs - tsuuhou
  38. @ Lance Willett

    I’m so glad someone else knows my pain. A website should help further the goals and mission of the business. It seems to me that a company should first have those things in place so that the web can be a valuable tool in their arsenal. But to think “website first, business goals later”??? This doesn’t make one bit of sense to me.

  39. These days I finding clients I do want is much harder. Virtually every client is one I don’t want, usually because of things on this list. Which is the main reason I’ve decided to change my line of work, actually.

  40. I just hung up with a #5 and #20 prospective client. We talked over an hour on the phone on his needs. I explained we did several sites that look a little like his needs, but nothing right on the money.
    I give him an order of magnitude for the cost (2 days of work for the coding), and he tells me : “That doesn’t sound right”.
    I tell him it’s only two days because we use an open-source CMS and we did some of the functionalities already.
    He goes “If you did things like that in the past, it should take 2 hours, not 2 days. Send me by e-mail the list of websites like the one I want and a decent proposal.”
    I tried to explain to him that we didn’t do anything JUST like his needs, and that not everything is reusable, but he didn’t flinch.

  41. I love this list!

    I’m currently involved in a project gone totally down the crapper that has had numbers 3, 8, 15 and 19 happen to it. Even so, we’re actually launching tomorrow (two weeks to late and with my overtime exceeding my sleeptime for the last two months).

  42. I experienced a combo of #17 and #20 – first the client told me I was the expert, as he – obviously – wasn’t one… Then, when I told him how much it would cost, he told me his nephew could do it for free, so I should scale the costs down or else… Needless to ask, I chose the second option.

    Fantastic list, thanks!

  43. OK, time to dry off the tears (not sure if it’s because I’ve been laughing at flashbacks of my own stupidity or crying due to phantom pain from past experiences).

    What makes me even sadder, however, is the fact that I’m currently working as an employee for a company that has no defined business goals, no marketing strategy, definitely no mission statement . . . wants at least three different web sites, doesn’t particularly like any design proposals that I present to them, doesn’t have any products yet and commits practically every other item on this list.

    Where was this list five months ago?

  44. #20 just happened to me!

    When they pushed back for the n’th time and, in the process, managed to offer me an out … I called their bluff. “Yes, that’s fine, I don’t mind if you need to take this project elsewhere.”

    They went ballistic … but I slept better that evening.

  45. And this is EXACTLY why I seldom do web work for clients. They drive me nuts. I just don’t have the patience or the tact. I’ve even fired a prospective client once … one who begged me to take the job. Frankly, I really don’t know how you guys do it.

  46. Mr. Zeldman, you should have made this list last year. #17 is so spot on. The flashbacks, the flashbacks I tell ya! Perhaps every developer is susceptible at some point during his or her career to excess flattery. I can hear the collective inner monologue going something like this: “They love me. They really, really love me!”

  47. From a copywriter’s perspective, there are also the all too common clients who steadfastly refuse to use any contractions or allow a contraction to start a sentence.

  48. In a recent meeting a client employee mentioned that Web 2.0 is really big right now, so they should probably implement some type of ‘blogging strategy.’

    We almost died.

  49. Oh, Uncle Jeffrey, you forgot my fave:

    “Can you print out the whole website for me to review?”

    Good times.

    Yes, this really happened to me in 2005 at the end of a very arduous process. It was over a hundred pages.

    Luckily for me, his secretary printed it and the worst part is when he wanted to discuss widowed words at the end of paragraphs. Then I had to attempt to explain a liquid layout.

  50. This is so true and some clients just cant make up their minds on what they want or often forget their websites objective. #13 applies to alot more then just 2.0 technology. Great post, I’m following your blog now, cheers!

  51. Modified 11:

    Everything is done 20 people (including programmers) working for over 2 months. Client comes to the office and takes a look at the display and sais “Is that my website?”.

    The best I’ve ever heard personaly:
    “We want our font on the website.”
    “Why the fonts on design differs on website!”
    “When I see design that includes serif ans sans-serif fonts together I send them to design kindergarden, BLOGGER this is what we want!”
    “Icons, icons, icons!”

  52. I tried my best to hide, oh, about half of these coming from internal gremlins, so you would want that web design project. I’m happy I succeeded, but it’s been frightening at times :-).

  53. Thank You for the list. I think I might be able to contribute.
    Client comes to first meeting wanting you to copycat a site they “love” and shows up with a folder of examples that amounts to nothing but elements with no clear purpose. But of course to them it does. They go on to reject every idea you have cause it is “all about them”. Not the end user.

    I suggested Frontpage and left. Just sad.

  54. Great article Jeffrey!
    You’re so right, I have seen many of these before. It makes me feel better that these problems are widespread and it’s not just me!

  55. Two that stick in my mind:

    1. Client hire’s you to design logo for new business – after inital designs/ideas brain storming send client a ‘sheet’ of worked up logos, client picks one he like the best – work that up, send it back here nothing for about 3 weeks then recieve a letter though the post stating how crap the logo was, how poor your service was, and how his 16 yr old son has designed a better logo… and he’s not paying.

    2. Phone call from prospect who says a friend refered him on the grounds of how good a job we did… we’d never heard of his friend or did and work for them but agreed to come down for a meeting, sat down to discuss project etc and the guy became aggressive/started raising his voice demanding to know in detail how we would go about it all e.g. (project was an extranet/intranet for a large business park) “How are you going to find out what things the businesses want?”, “Well, we would contuct a survey initally…” – interruption – “SO YOU’RE GOING TO INTERVIEW EVRYONE IN THE BUSINES PARK ARE YOU????!!!!!”, “eerrrr, no…”

  56. #22 Clients thinks we should really do something with ‘Flash’. Note: client usually says this at the very first meeting

  57. My personal favorite involved working for a large UK newspaper:

    Their head of online development asked for our XML feed to be ‘comma separated’.

    First time on your site, Unc and I really loved the post. I’ve been freelancing as a front-end developer for 4 years and this is the first time I’ve bothered to comment any post ever.

  58. OMG! I think I have had every single one in 13 years! Even the Nesting Russian Dolls was “have you done a water utilities site with an underwater classroom where users can swim from task to another?” !!!
    Had the nut in the factory, had #16 the wife’s usability (and creative) assessment, etc. The latest is the client who is the CEO with the vision and has final signoff, then has to consult 5 other partners who disagree and then he backs down and then gets blanded out to corporate crap

  59. Scary …… very scary.

    When you read such articles (and some of the comments that follow) you just know the experience and wealth of knowledge that you guys possess. I still have a very very very long way to go.

  60. Well expressed but there a few others I could suggest.

    He wants every hour and minute accounted for in every aspect of the scope of work involved document.

    How s that for a dandy one?

    Great document Thanks for making us feel that we are not that cooccoo in our thoughts and perceptions.


  61. You forgot an important one.

    A client tells you that they have outsourced the work to India and got back a pile of junk that does not meet requirements. They are now willing to pay ‘whatever’ to get the right solution, but it has to be built using the Indian code set.

  62. Jeffrey, I don’t know but all your points sound a bit, frankly speaking, whiny to me. Any respectable web design company I know makes contracts, and whenever something in those contracts change, money has to be negotiated again. That’s why it’s called contract work. Once you have a good contract signed off by the client, you don’t have to listen to all those ego-babble requests any more.

    What you describe above might be true for small 1-guy web design companies who have no one with real business education, but it really shouldn’t happen to world champions of web design like you, should it?

    Well, those web kids I know do wear beanie hats, so maybe you ARE that disorganized. (No insult).

  63. 21. Client is a childhood friend who assumes that he has special treatment with little to no cost

    22. Client has vast ambitions and is never pleased with any deliverables

    23. Client has hired yourself and several other people to conduct the same job. Which means that each party is competing to win over the client

    24. Client admits that he is own a tight budget promises to pay for the job in short bursts. And, if there are several developers including yourself, he must alternate who is paid each week

    25. Client thinks that it is a fair deal to pay you based on the success of the site, using the revenue the site generates on launch as a base

    26. The client is actually multiple co-owners of a business who all have contradicting views

    27. The client is another web developer who has been hired by an initial client

    ^ all happened to me :-/

  64. So very true – all points are dead on right at pin-pointing these clients. I’m sad to report that at least 3/4 of these I have encountered over 12 years of working w/ web site projects.

  65. I laughed out LOUD at these! So true!! And though they’re hilarious now (nesting dolls! snort!), I’m quite sure they weren’t funny to you at the time. I am sorry for your pain. But thanks for letting us share the humor of it all now.

    If you’d like to read a few more, check out my Top 15 Ways to Offend a Web Designer post on the Web Pro World forum…



  66. Excellent article. Also, watch out for clients that can’t settle on a design and demand massive mockups of slight variations. By the time I reached 30 photoshop mockups I was going batty, and they told me they don’t care if it takes 100. That’ll never happen again.

  67. One rule of thumb we’ve adopted, If someone pushes us to give them a ‘ballpark’ of how much their site will cost in our initial phone after we’ve already told them that we need to think this over and create a strategy and a proposal, we usually scale the proposal WAY back, because they almost always end up not being serious clients. Sometimes people push us for a price for their website before even telling us what they want!? In this case I try hard to just get them off the phone…


  68. Ms. Jen… I can top your “can we print the web site” story. Early on in my career, I had almost a similar thing happen to me. When I showed the “powers that be” how to print the web site out, they said “No… I mean I want to print the buttons and stuff at the top of the page”. We kept going ’round and ’round until I finally realized TPTB wanted to print the page WITH the browser bars and address window.

    Also, how’s this:
    “We need an estimate on how long it will take for you to add a new page/section to our web site but we can’t approve anything until we have the estimate.”
    “Okay. How big will this new section be and what content will go on it?”
    “We don’t know yet. It depends on what your estimate is…”


  69. Great list. However, that last item used to happen to me before I got wise and started ballparking at the first meeting. I just can’t waste my time anymore.

    Thanks! Very funny.

  70. #21 Client asks to make the logo bigger

    #22 Client asks to change the size of the site, graphic, logo or any other object and uses the unit of measurement “inches”

    #23 Client is a friend, family member or friend of a family member

  71. this article is FANtastic! i haven’t had all of these happen to me, but quite a few have. Some you left off:

    Client sends check. Approves design. Approves coded site. Sends all completed content. Then calls to tell you they’ve changed their mind on the entire look and feel….and then is confused as to why you have to requote and charge more.

    Client calls you to tell you they are going to email you. (why?! WHY!!?)

    Client is still using IE4.0 and wants to be sure the site works perfectly in that browser specifically.

    Client lets you know that everyone in the 50+ person company will be giving input on your designs.

  72. #21 Client’s represents the Hell’s Angels, and invites you to hop on the computer in the corner and build a complete site right there at the get-acquainted meeting.

  73. I would add “Client is of that certain age and temperament which causes him to boast with pride that he has never touched a computer, as computers are for secretaries. Client duly delegates the ‘internet web page project’ (his words) to his secretary, who does not know what a logo is. Client then changes his mind but does not feel obliged to inform the web designer, who only finds out about it through the local gossip chain.”

  74. You basically described modus operandi for any IT-related project of my employer… and I work for the IT-department. Man, I gotta quit!

  75. Client forces you to build a great design for a Microsoft Frontpage site, stating that if it isn’t in Frontpage it’s crap.

  76. Too funny. #7 and #17 seem to be story of web design career so far.

    Beware the client who is eager to install you as the “expert”, most likely he expects you to do the thinking for him, from purpose of website right down to sourcing content for the website.

  77. #14 is where you bid, wait four months, then send the first site you did packaged up with a bow made from the invoice. Then in 6-8 weeks, you hit the road as a certified long-haul trucker.

  78. OMG, I’ve been the poor sap in #10 who was ordained as the point person, but then all of my ideas (based on my sound judgment and USABILITY STUDIES) were beaten to a pulp, set on fire and thrown into the river. Oh, hell, who am I kidding — I’ve been a part of all of these scenarios. Gotta love decisions by committee!

  79. Great list! Heres one,

    “I want to build a youtube/facebook/myspace/twitter/hulu/social network for Russian nesting dolls so they can make friends when they come to life at midnight”.

  80. “While back-end work is finishing, client rethinks the architecture”…. worth 1000 marks for each designer……….

  81. I just started out designing websites for a living (started in March this year) and a lot of these indicators seem awkwardly familiar already. Geez…

    Funny though!

  82. #16 so true

    Also run if you are told – my wife has re-done the graphics (Microsoft word image effects applied to your carefully layered photoshop web ready image.)

  83. These are all hilarious, of course.

    I love the fact that even the great Jeffrey Zeldman, a giant of our field, has experienced the same indignities as the rest of us.

    I hate the fact that even the great Jeffrey Zeldman, a giant of our field, has experienced the same indignities as the rest of us.

    P.S. The bit about clients who want to edit out widows is spot on. I wish I had an instant death ray to use on them. Hmm….

  84. I went to look up “Russian Nesting Dolls” on Google just to see if they are what I thought they are. I started to get the spinning technicolor pizza wheel in Safari 3.2.1 just on the Google page.

  85. I have a good one too – the client who designed his site himself in FrontPage, complete with a broken ‘Contact Us’ form and his logo image file still at it’s print resolution who wants you to add a Flash splash page, but not touch anything else because he doesn’t want his web site to actually earn him any business.

    *That* was an interesting meeting.

  86. And how ’bout the client, an artist, who had been dragging her feet on putting her portfolio on the web for three years because she *hates* using a computer…but when she was finally convinced, told me she wanted “lots of movement and interactivity” on her site, objects that “spiral in” on her home page, etc. Her budget was a couple of hundred dollars. Oh, yeah, and she wanted to be able to update it herself. This might qualify as a “shame on me” moment, as I assumed this low tech artist would want a simple web site like the ones I had already created for friends of hers.

    I have good basic coding skills in html and css, but I don’t use Flash. I hate disappointing people, so I’ve written a “Tips for Creating Your First Website” tutorial for newbies which includes info on how to communicate with your designer about your style, how to prepare your photos for the webmaster, etc., introduced by a section entitled “How NOT to Select a Web Designer,” which starts out “Don’t assume a friend or someone you meet at a party has the skills which are a match for your vision.”

  87. Been there on most of these points. But I’ve adapted the way I work to now avoid most of these dilemmas. When you think about it, websites are quite complex beasts – CMS, e-commerce, security considerations, usability considerations, SEO considerations, accessibility- getting everything right is far from easy.

    To get everything right, and appease a demanding client who doesn’t understand nor care about these considerations, you’re on a hiding to nothing much of the time. But I adapted. If I didn’t adapt, I would have quit a number of years ago.

    Now I work on a single templated solution I have developed 100% myself. One codebase. It’s a product. So I sell a product now, not so much a service. The functionality of the template is clearly advertised, and it’s modular so clients can very easily add and remove facilities like a blog, or forum, or e-commerce shop. They can pick a design out of a number of designs. It’s not 100% tailored, but they know what they’re getting.

    Of course this does not suit every prospective client who enquires, but hey, I sell a product and it’s up to the prospective client to decide if that product would work for their plans or not. I win more than I did when I developed only bespoke sites.

    Oh, and as I work on one codebase, I have more free time, which I can devote to that one codebase. All sites are patched automatically whenever there’s an update. And my clients are happy that they get free updates to their website(s), so client retention / referrals are very good. Another yardstick that a templated solution works better (for me, not saying for all developers or all clients).

    And finally, because the product (the website template) is set in stone, the focus is not on development, but actually on CONTENT and MARKETING for each client. I tell my clients THEIR content is crucial to the success of their site – so prepare it well. The website is just a container (that of course has to be a robust, smoothly functioning container). I give them the CMS tools so they can update content as and when. But primarily I coach them to focus on content. Over 5 years ago, when I was coding furiously inventing the same wheel over and over, the focus was almost exclusively on development. And after an exhausting development phase (often for the client as much as myself), a site would launch and flounder. I didn’t have the energy or inclination to even consider post-launch of a site with so much energy spent on development. My mistake.

    A website can go through several development cycles, and be technically “perfect” – yet you see the lousy content – no contact information, no reassuring words offering good service, money back guarantees, no testimonials, horrible product images, spelling mistakes, terrible grammar, and so on and so on. Most of my job these days is taken up coaching clients to write compelling and interesting content, be SEO aware, (clean) online marketing tricks, etc. The biggest battle, even after you work your way through the development cycles, is educating clients about their content. I’ve decided to skip that first step and concentrate a lot more on the second.

  88. You should allow people to click on those which they’ve run across and then order by that amount. It would be interesting to see imho.

  89. Had to login anonymously to cosign this post. I’ve encountered each of these characters at least once over the past 6 years (well maybe not the Russian doll folks) . Seems that most of them were encountered this year alone. Thankfully, I live and learn quickly. I’ve turned away more work in the past 2 years than ever. Starting out you tend to be more “flexible” with clients. They love the flexibility, you love the work – this is until you realize that you’re being worked to death. We select our service clients very wisely (i.e. people that have their sh!t together). My company has a checklist of items that all feasible projects are expected to have.

    I’d like to add:

    21. Client that want you to build the next with the potential of making a ‘killing’ once it’s takes off. There are no contracts and you foot the initial development costs; oh and there’s a tight timeframe (yesterday). And they think that you should be leaping for joy at the prospect of working for free with little possibility of getting ROI. (true story)

    22. Clients that want a high-end, custom designed website AND an online store … on a $350 budget (because one of their friends told the that you can get a website + hosting + shopping cart for less than $400 ).

    23. Clients that want you to design their website, but they haven’t started writing the content.

    24. Clients that have not drafted a business & marketing plan, but would like to launch a major online company in 30 days or less and expect the web designer or developer to provide business consultation services as well.

    25. Clients that hand you a loose leaf sheet of notebook paper or napkin with a half azzed outline of what they’d like on the site. Then say “is this enough to get you started?”

    And I pulled those from the archives. I won’t even discuss the latest cast of characters.

  90. #17 is so common and almost never mentioned in lists like this.

    Its worse when you’re hired in a web/design/programming role only to turn into a web/programming/design teacher.

  91. That’s why i say NO to more people these days than i used to. One sniff of a wrong’un and I treble the fee. IF they still agree to it, then I probably think that the pain and angst is worth the extra money.

  92. I wanted to pull my hair out after reading each and every one of these. And note that this list is BY NO MEANS limited to freelance or agency work. If you’re an in-house web developer (my case), you’re just as likely to get the same crap from the project’s stakeholders (as well as random people who pop out of the woodwork, of course). Yipes.

  93. I’m curious to know how you might go about gracefully turning down a project when one of these red flags is raised (obviously where you have not yet commenced work).

  94. #21 – Client wonders why he can’t click on the links in the jgp comps that you just sent him.

    #22 – Client has been looking at screen shots from the original comps for the last 5 meetings instead of following the link to the dev environment that you sent 5 meetings ago; is irate that no progress has been made; demands results.

    Head meet wall.

  95. 23) Client who is paying a top graphic design company to completely redo brand, but maintains that we, developing the website, do not need signed off brand guidelines (or even draft band guidelines) because this has “nothing to do with the website”. Client then goes in huff when we show designs that are nothing like the work being done by graphic design company, that we have never seen before in our lives.

    24) Client gives design signoff, then a week before phase 1 of the site goes live we get abusive email from her brother (a director) saying that they have been “conned” and from her dad (another director) claiming that this is the “first time” they have seen the site and it “looks like it was made by a ten year old” and they want, bizarrely, “a champagne glass filling up (i.e. tacky flash animation). At no point have we spoken to either of these people before. Client says they are not paying. We remind client, referring to emails, that they a) signed off the design and b) this isn’t the finished site. We then have to redesign site to “prove” we can deliver. 3 days of my life i will never get back.

    25) Client for whom it takes 20 minutes to explain the concept of a template.

    26) Client who will not give design signoff because “we’re paying you to do the design”

    27) Client who demands that site site function exactly like the powerpoint slides he sent over, despite our concern that at 100 pages with some only containing one image or a sentence, it many be a teensy bit troublesome to navigate. After rejecting our proposed navigation rethink, and demanding that we add a prev / next link to make the site more powerpoint-esque, his boss then sends us an email saying they are disappointed with the site because it is difficult to navigate and it looks like we’ve “just copied the structure of the files we sent over”.

    28) Client who knows how much work in involved is “just” moving the navigation about.

    29) Client who thinks that once a design is signed off, it is a matter of waving a wand over it to bring the site, complete with content, magically into existence.

  96. Client has been looking at screen shots from the original comps for the last 5 meetings instead of following the link to the dev environment that you sent 5 meetings ago; is irate that no progress has been made; demands results.

    I forgot that one. And its brother: Client brings heavily marked up printouts of Design Round 1 to a meeting where client is supposed to approve Design Round 3.

    (Alternately, Client brings heavily marked up Wireframes 2.0 to a meeting where he is supposed to review Design Round 1, which is based on Wireframes 3.0, which he approved.)

    I’d be happy to take some of those difficult clients off your hands.

    You actually wouldn’t be happy.

    Client who is paying a top graphic design company to completely redo brand, but maintains that we, developing the website, do not need signed off brand guidelines (or even draft band guidelines) because this has “nothing to do with the website”. Client then goes in huff when we show designs that are nothing like the work being done by graphic design company, that we have never seen before in our lives.

    Mmm, oh yeah!

    Client who will not give design signoff because “we’re paying you to do the design”

    Oh, baby!

  97. #17….

    That is like 99% of the small business owners in the United States. The only way I’ve ever been able to combat it is with the change request process part of my standard contract.

    Then when they start to micromanage everything the price starts skyrocketing making it worth my while. Not to mention when you ask someone to fill out the appropriate change request forms, and then call for clarification and give them the revised estimate, they generally either a) won’t bother with it or b) decide “their guy” can do it after the site launches.

  98. Some smaller business clients (Mom and Pop type shops who want to do business on the Internet) might refer to you as the “computer guy”. Not a good sign.

  99. Just when I thought I had some bad clients…

    That being said, I always had this false hope that if I got to be a big time well known ROCK STAR of a designer I wouldn’t run into CRAP like this anymore. I suppose your clients have no clue you are a ROCK STAR though now do they?

  100. sounds like 99% of clients out there.

    I think web firms should treat their websites as a product and have specialized product sales people to sell those products. Don’t leave client too much room and always be closing.

  101. #21 – Client sends screenshot of site he would “like” to emulate (ehm, copy), and I notice dirty bookmarks or google searches in his browser screenshot.

  102. I absolutely love this post – there are always situations you tell your family and friends about and they think you are making it up – “No, really, my client asked for that!”

    This post substantiates that we are not collectively losing our mind, nor are we out of line when we get certain requests, second opinions or complete alterations to a signed off design proof and code (10 minutes to live and they want something different scenario).

    Thank you, had a great laugh and love some of the other comments.

  103. Thanks Jeffrey,
    This is freaking hilarious.

    But, to be fair, I think you missed one; the client takes more than a year to approved a design mockup. And they were even there during initial sketching phases, but they want you to “keep designing something until I see something that I like.”

    Awesome… ;-)

  104. Great list. I got all excited to see that I wasn’t just paranoing : other people live this too! I got me to do my own list. I’m sharing it here, and we all need a group hug (pardon my spelling, I’m French – yes it is the same EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD)


    The sci-fi client, who wants visitors of his website to ask vocally a question
    to the screen, an a video of him answers back.

    The technology retarded client who wants a website, but doesn’t want to answer emails!

    The client who asks why he should pay you this much since his nephew can do it
    for free / since blogs are free. This much being 250$.

    The client that wants a quote for a huge website, it has to be done in 2 weeks…And comes back with an answer 3 weeks later.

    The client that calls you 6 months after the website launch, because he just
    SAW the website, and finds some stuff is wrong.

    The client that calls and gives you shit about the design, after the website
    is done and online, after he paid and seemed happy about it, because some guy he met at a convention said he didn’t find it that cool/had a better one than his.

    The client that wants to copy exaclty his competitor’s website. And then in
    the middle of the process, sees another website that he likes better. Now he
    wants it like that. And then later, sees a feature in a website : sends a “I
    want that!” email. And another one. You get those emails every two hours.

    The mom and pop candle shop shop in the middle of rural nowhere, who want a
    forum, a blog, a classified ads section, videos and a members section like
    facebook. For 300$

    The client that comes in and says I HAVE THIS GREAT IDEA FOR A WEBSITE! i’LL
    MAKE TONS OF MONEY! And I’ll pay you when I make that money.

    Contractor calls you for a price on a website, later tells you the client said
    too expensive. Five minutes later ANOTHER contractor calls you, asking for a
    price, and suspiciously the same specs.

    The client that insists on having a CMS so he can update his website, even
    though his last website was never updated in 3 years… And he takes 5 days
    answering emails back… 2 months finding his logo…

    The client that insists on having a CMS so he can update his website
    himself, because he doesn’t want to pay YOU, you’re so expensive. 2 months
    later, calls regularly and sends email of stuff to be put on his website… by

    And my favorite :
    The client that told you you were too expensive, had the website made elswhere (nephew, himself with Frontpage) and then comes back asking you TO FIX IT!

  105. Another red flag: “This will be a ‘fun’ project for you.”

    My favorite was a pair of freshly-minted Stanford MBAs who wanted a website for their startup, but wanted to pay in equity because their student loan debts were so large. *click*!

  106. 1. Client asks for a logo.
    2. You get the designer involved and 15+ ideas are brought to fruition.
    3. Logos are really good and some downright perfect for conveying the client’s desired uniqueness. You pat the designer on the back and reaffirm the “I think we nailed this one” line.
    4. Client is not sure what they want and asks to see something with “Swooshes.” Queue Nike concept art.
    5. Designer goes back to work and draws some swooshes.
    6. Client picks the worst logo that does not convey their special brand of awesome.
    7. You hit the bar up after work.

  107. HI guys!
    I feel your pain! But what if you are the customer and are on the opposite side of the problem. I have a web developer our Co hired and its been nothing but a disaster. How do I deal with this situation? It’s been a year since they “got ahold” of our site and its still NOT DONE. I need advice on how to get these guys to finish the job. I have tried EVERYTHING. Good cop, bad cop, relating, you name it. Any suggestions!

  108. Ah yes, I think we’ve all had that educational experience of being begged to create a web site for a super duper amazing product that’s going to change the world and will be in every household in the country within two weeks of launch, despite the lack of a business plan, market research, and marketing strategy; and while they can’t pay you now, as 1/7th of the project team you can expect to receive 1/7th of the one hundred billion dollars in profits as your pay when it eventually comes in…what, you’re not sure? Don’t you believe in the product? I thought you were my friend!

    Truly, some friends you’re better off without.

    Regarding clients who take forever to get back to you, in my contracts I declare a 6 week limit to have content in and rough drafts approved. After that there is a 10% surcharge of the final project cost levied per week. As a result I turn projects around very fast and have some very cooperative clients.

  109. “#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.”

    So true… I’ve run into this one myself.

  110. What a great article, really made me laugh. Unfortunately a lot of it is also quite true and happens regularly. I’m sure half the clients don’t even know what Web 2.0 really is! Perhaps some “client education” workshops are in order…..

  111. Merveilleux!

    #21B You do a big job for a rather small price. At the end, when all is delivered and the client is happy, he/she says “Hopefully I’ll be able to pay you pretty soon…”. 3 months later – insert appropriate time here (you still haven’t been paid) – the same client is sending you additional work that needs to be done yesterday for the same bargain rates…

    Lesson #1 : charge what you’re worth
    Lesson #2 grin and bear it, especially if you work in the cultural industry as I do

    And #3 all over the place.

  112. Awesome list. I hate to say I’ve struggled with some of the same situations. Once I had a client — who worked in advertising — bring with him a set of links to websites he liked and wanted to emulate. That, after three months of designing and developing and on the very day I was set to put everything up. Colour me stunned. I guess you live and you learn. We didn’t do much work together after that.

  113. “The client that insists on having a CMS so he can update his website
    himself, because he doesn’t want to pay YOU, you’re so expensive. 2 months
    later, calls regularly and sends email of stuff to be put on his website… by

    Two months??? How about 2 days after you finished 4 hours of in-house training of using the CMS? Two months later, the client continues to ask you how to update the site, even though you’ve now gone over it at least a dozen times, including a users manual with step-by-step instructions. Argh!

  114. Keep it up. I just started working as a web strategist after taking a year off to learn Swedish, and I see the web world has changed in so many ways, yet your list proves that it has stayed the same in so many others.

  115. A Great list and fits more than just web design projects. Had to pick which is a favorite but #7 … how many times … “Client can’t articulate a single desired user goal.” It’s like their true goal is a single screen with one bit fat button. It either says “Do my job” or “Save my company”.

  116. I had a #17 happen to me on one of my first independent projects. It did not end happily for either of us.

  117. hmmm… not sure if this is an ‘anti-webdesigner’ post per se, but here goes….

    Client is about to receive their site and asks “When will you implement the SEO?”

    At this point the webdesigner usually runs off crying that they only design the site and search engines are not their forte, and besides..they think flash can be indexed now.

    Great list, enjoyed reading it!

  118. I’ve met with all 20 versions of them. Starters should read that article about 10 times and never forget because it took me 9 years to learn how to classify and select the right client, which period caused me lots of money and time waste.

  119. I’m the head of a reasonably well-known and respected web agency. This list is absolutely hilarious, and yet quite horrifying at the same time. I’ve encountered so many of these issues, so many times. Aside from a core group of “good” clients, there’s just way too many “bad” ones to make it all worth while. Also, the shear number of web designers around these days is really devaluing the work of those who know what they’re doing.

    I’m in the process of ditching my business to go work in a boat yard, and very much looking forward to the change.

  120. “Can you print out the whole website for me to review?”

    I once had a boss who asked me to do that – and he was the head of the Multimedia / Web department for a large organisation.

    Here’s another one:

    Client asks for a website quote. Designer prepares quote, only to have it rejected because the client is disappointed the quote wasn’t accompanied by concepts of the finished design (read: unpaid concepts) which another designer DID supply with their quote. This is despite the fact that the client never asked for concepts in the first place, and no way would a smart designer supply them without a signed contract first!

    [this client wanted the front page of the site to launch in two weeks, with the rest of the site to follow. That was 15 months ago, meanwhile their site redesign has only just launched … and it’s horrible!]

  121. Really loved this list.

    This year I had someone bring me in to talk about website redevelopment and SEO, then in the meeting she admitted that she had no budget and wanted to know what it would cost for me to teach her how to do those things herself. I maintained my professionalism and explained that we don’t offer those services, but I wondered if it would have been all that inappropriate to just stand up and say, “good day”, because other (good) clients pay a lot for my time – time she was wasting.

  122. #17, #17, #17 – these are the only clients I actually have any problems with, because they absolutely do micromanage everything and never manage to communicate anything clearly. Like seriously, you tell me you want something minimalistic, then you come back with links to very stylistic and grunge artwork!

    I hate clients with “ooo shiny” syndrome…”

  123. Here’s one I always get as a comeback when a client wants me to add something on to a finished site:

    “Well, I shouldn’t have used you anyway! My (friend, brother, and in one case wife) can do what you do for next to nothing!”

    I’ve gotten this after doing custom flash-based apps and 3d animation, not the skill-set of your average ‘computer hobbyist’. Never mind the logical response (then why didn’t they?), I usually take it upon myself to say that they should have their __________ take care of it, because I’m going to charge them the equivalent of whatever I’ve charged them for all of the prior work combined. That usually gets them talking sense.

  124. A couple of good rules:

    – Never work for clients that don’t have an email address, or don’t know how to check their own email.
    – Never work for clients that use a hotmail address for business communications
    – Never work for magicians, seriously.

  125. A client once insisted on having a google-readable HTML site, instead of her current Flash site. but she wanted to ‘just keep the same colors’.
    ‘Oh, and the fonts, too’. And ‘why isn’t the words moving across the screen? Where’s the animation?’…

    That’s when I started adding a cancellation fee to my contracts:).

  126. Missing one of my favorites is at the first meeting: “I want to be the top listing on Google for Photographers (or similar single word that has upteen million results….)”

  127. :O Its true.. I agree with you 100% And there are more things to make this list big, There are client who says “Yes I know that, no need to explain it” But actually they don’t know anything about the subject we are talking about.. and they won’t accept anything that we says.. They says.. “I am the Expert. You are just a designer” LOL he is coming to us asking a design.

  128. What I want to do is print my business card onto rubix-cubes, mix them up after initial contact, then when the client wants to micro-manage, he’ll have to TRY to do it…

  129. Number 20 happened to me a while back with a Character Design job.

    Recently they wanted my to make an animation and a web page for them and I had to decline in the rudest of manners.

  130. Client works for local city org and wants social website involving details and reviews of local businesses. Client has no budget for said website. Client asks you to go around soliciting businesses to “chip” in for inclusion on website in order to help him gain the budget capital to do the project.

  131. Oh, so true.

    I’ll add to the pile of people who agree with #17. Took me a bit to notice the trend, but it’s there.

  132. Another good one is: Client wants the best, however when you tell them what the best costs, asks you to scale back. When you scale back the proposal, the client then asks why you can’t just do the original design for less money.

    And then: months after the project is cancelled because the client didn’t want to pay for “the best”, you stumble upon their website which looks something like you proposed, only not implemented as well as you would have done. Obviously they found somebody who WOULD do it for less, only without the same skill and attention to detail.

  133. Client (hint: one of the bigger FTSE100 companies in the UK) invites you to meeting in London … reception takes you to a meeting room whilst they inform client of your arrival … you wait … and wait … reception pops their head in asking you where client (their colleague) is … client calls having just boarded train to Derby, 3 hours away!

  134. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve run across these. It’s such a relief that I’m not the only one!! I might just print these out and put them on my door. #20 has cost so much time and money.

    Thanks Zeld

  135. Love it having been in the business for 15+ years have went so far as to only take referred clients, minimize our own updates etc. to deture lookie lou, wal mart want it for less, my uncle bubba says that type clients to avoid the pre qualification of project vs. expectations vs. price. Did it work somewhat, but even so, still get variations of the above list of “projects you don’t want” . I have a couple more for your list.

    Peace of Pie Offers ” I cant afford that right now as I am a start up, but I will give you 5% of profit from site if you design, write, host the site define the marketing with no seed money investment what so ever” – what I think? Hey if I build it , write it & it produces great revenue, Why would it not be my own business with a 100% profit?

    Wants a set total project fixed price Watch out, esp. if they dont already have what they want defined, with goal, content, functionality as always end up being a time gobbler with no expectation of additional pay for change orders, could you just add this, or other revisions at various points.

    Asks for a detailed plan before contract committal Big Brain Pickers looking to shop your methods, ideas to production house. When this occurs I ask for a consulting fee

  136. A fair amount of this can be fixed with a dose of “That’s completely stupid, but: It’s your money. It’s about to become my money. I sleep fine.”

    Or am I too cynical?

  137. JuneM: Why would you accept a contractually fixed price without a contractually fixed scope (and a contractually fixed way of amending A and B together)?

  138. @martinb:

    Sometimes the fixed scope is vague enough that client and agency later disagree on what exactly was included. The only way around that is to specify an exact number of templates, etc. in advance. The trouble with doing that is, it’s hard to know how many templates you’ll create when you haven’t done the research and information architecture. Some projects are just open-ended enough that there can be room for dispute.

    But generally, of course, I agree with what you’re saying. If you’re going to charge a flat fee, you need to specify at least a range of deliverables so that you can inform the client if you’re in danger of greatly exceeding that range, and work out an equitable plan (either curtailing the excess work to focus on the core job, or agreeing to a compensation scheme for additional work).

    No matter what’s in the contract, communication is the bottom line, and there are some people you may not be able to communicate with. It’s important not to accept those people as clients, for if you do, both sides are certain to be frustrated.

  139. Thank you for proving me stupid, I have a couple of clients with some similar issues, now I understand that they are simply wasting my time. I am called in for a meeting almost once every month to discuss design, architecture and content, once everything is agreed an official proposal, containing our background and references is demanded, then silent for another 30 days, and the routine continues….

    Thanks for the eye opener.

  140. @Jeffrey: If the scope isn’t 100% clear to both parties, why would you enter into a fixed price contract?

    Better to phase it: have investigatory/discover work as T&M, and strictly defined deliverables as Fixed Price (and you may have both going on at the same time).

    Output of discovery is sufficiently detailed definition of deliverables which are capable of being Fixed Priced. If it’s not clear at that point, then you’re not done with discovery.

    But of course, ongoing communication and a strongly shared understanding of scope are necessary preconditions – the actual contract should just be a formalisation of this.

  141. How did you get into my head Mr Z?
    I’ve experienced too many of these examples. Finding clients that have a web budget over $200 without the 5K expections is my greatest problem.

  142. I think you oughta add a checkbox poll of what other people have come across, so we can see a popularity distribution. =)

    Let’s see, which ones have I seen… 3, 6, 8, 10/11, 14, and 17 (which looks to be one of the most common).
    And I’m young so I know my list will only grow. ;)

  143. Love it!!! I had a great one the other day. “I would like a site like facebook but I only have a budget of £1000″. I also like “I want a website but I want it done as cheap as possible” – just hang up the phone!!!! Also never trust any client where they look at their business partner and say “It’s o.k., we always share the same ideas when it comes to design and logos anyway so this should make your life easy.” It won’t and you’ll have to do 20 further logo designs and 5-10 further homepage mock-ups. Great article though and we have encountered most of the above points – you just have to put the correct measures in place.

  144. reminds me dearly of one particualr customer who must have scored about 5 out of the 20 here. Most memorable are his wanting us to bolt on new functionality 3/4s of the way through the project. Asking for us to integrate a bespoke postal calculation system half way through, that is about as complicated as the Post Office’s. requesting that we calculate VAT backwards halfway through the project and oh, not taking our advise about the risks of changing some of the permission settings, and then blaming us when the website crashed after we changed them and he started messing about.

    problem is that we all want to deliver the extra mile for our clients as much as is reasonable, but that once you commit yourself, its a dangerous path to go down with some companies.

    We nearly lost staff over this and this customer have become a byword for Hell with us.

  145. A managing director of your firm (a major investment bank) rings to ask if you could add “some sort of facility to view account balances” to your web site like that competitors bank?

    Your online banking application has had this feature for 8 years.

    Ahh… life in the corporate world…

  146. This list should be put up on Secunia as well.
    It fixes a critical vulnerability for web developers – the “Manipulative Client”!
    I hope Uncle Jeffrey saves many an innocent life! :-)
    umm .. thanks !!

  147. Just had a client worksheet back with the following:

    Q. “Who will be the Project Manager and have final decision making responsibilities?”

    Client answer: “xxxx will be Project Manager and we have a landscape gardener with a keen eye for design who will be looking over your design work.”

    Thinks to self: OK, let me just factor in the time I’m going to waste explaining web design to your gardener and add a week to the project timescale & budget…next customer please.

  148. This list is so painful, it’s hilarious. And the other way around. I’ve experienced every one of those clients and learned the hard way to have contracts, change orders, an Abandonment Clause for those clients who hide and don’t get back to me, and Cancellation fee written into every contract.

    You forgot:
    The client says, “I love your ideas and want to work with you. We would love to have you ‘partner’ with us on this project,” which is their way of saying the won’t pay, ever. Gaaaahhh!

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  151. Client will only let me build his website if I come round for dinner and listen for four hours to him explaining his new theory of tectonic plate movement. I got the work but it wasn’t worth sitting through all that. He thought I needed to understand the geophysics in order to design the website!

    Client wants a website that looks EXACTLY like another organisation’s – in the same town, in the same line of work.

    Client – a nonprofit – simply ignores my request to clarify whether this is paid or pro-bono work.

    Client wants to see the website up and working before they will agree to pay me. Wrong way round mate!

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  154. My classic was my own boss actually, who praised the design to high heaven at the meetings, and two weeks into season holidays, after coding and uploading everything, he asks me to come back to work early because he’s got a whole new idea about how the site should look.

  155. #14 isn’t always bad – assuming you got paid the first time around. A lot can change in 2 years.

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  157. This isn’t strictly confined to web design but the worst thing is when you have a client who is technologically retarded, knows nothing about computers or the web. That client then says to you “Try not to use jargon, in fact, make it as simple as you can for me.” When you do this, they promptly get annoyed with you because “You’re talking to them like an idiot” and things get awkward.

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