Dealing with clients for website design should follow a process. This information I provide to you from experience. I will discuss many steps that you should take to protect yourself. I will include helpful tips to get you started. If you are an established website designer consider leaving helpful comments.
There is a law called Hofstadter’s Law. The law states, “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law”. If you have not faced this issue you will at some point. I hope that is later rather than sooner.
The comic above is a recreation. I could not find the original but I first saw this when I was young. My father was a computer programmer and I asked him what it meant. He explained that people often want something done now. The programmers, in the image, understand the logic behind how long it will take to develop it.
Ah, a light went off in my head! I have never forgotten that comic.
Even as a creator of a project, you may only guess how much time it will take to complete. There are always obstacles that get in the way or barriers you must hurdle to complete a project. I can not stop what blocks the completion, but I can prepare you to approach it the correct way.
Move Quickly At A Slow Pace
The title of this section is quite inexplicable. To simplify this concept let’s use the adage, “When you move fast, you break things!”. Now from a companies perspective, they think that if you are not breaking things, then you are not moving fast enough. So in here lies the catch-22!
We need to write a proposal and a contract. We need to estimate our time for completion. When estimating the time of a new project be sure to add time to it. If you have not done this before then a safe measure to follow is to double the estimated time. The total after doubling is a good starting point. Now of course doubling some time scales is too long. What we are looking for is the time it takes to complete plus the time I need to ensure everything works.
I see it as a winning solution as long as the client agrees with the deadline. Remember that if another submits a cheaper and faster solution they will win the bid. This is where you include an extra step in your proposal stating your attention to detail. Your client wants a site that works and has been tested, not something that is thrown together that looks nice.
I hope those reading are not designer’s that throws on a premade template with generic images. Instead, be someone who shows pride in the work they provide. When setting a price you need to have text for the website. Most of the time they will have the text available for you. Be professional and offer suggestions to what you believe works best. Remember that you do want to get new business, with poor reviews. Take the information you receive and draw out a plan of execution. Find out if they need professional plugins and design with a professional theme. Design a website you would like to link to in your portfolio.
I hate to say it, but this is a truth you can not ignore. Clients are needy and always want more. I want you to prepare for it, and keep a professional attitude throughout the experience. Your first time to experience it will be a lesson well learned!
Be careful with using someone between yourself and the actual client. It was my first time using a third party, and they did not want me to have contact with the client. I knew why, but at the time I didn’t care. I thought not dealing with the client might be easier. Nope, it was a nightmare job with payment for only four days of work, but it took me over three weeks to finish.
Use A Wireframe
Use a program such a Figma to create a wireframe of the home page before you begin. In the example, I posted of a wireframe below I did not include a mobile version. Always include a mobile version, a desktop version, and a generic color scheme.
Adding the color palette to the mix is an option. I like to include a color scheme that I come up with based on the information I have. For selecting a color palette I love two different sites. Coolors and PaletteGenerator. PaletteGenerator is excellent for the use of images or logos with several colors. Now some images only have a couple of colors, but PaletteGenerator will give you the hexadecimal value.
As I mentioned a color palette is something you need to have prepared. Adding one to a wireframe allows you to double-check the contrast of colors between items. Remember that several items have different states of being. Hyperlinks and buttons both have a hover state. There are normal buttons on the page as well.
Have a full description of what they desire, there is not a need to ask any questions. From what your information think of all the tools you need to complete the task. Write your proposal and include the prices for any paid plugins. The proposal for the project is not the same as the contract. You are giving them a price for approval.
I decided this is a good place to write about the contract. I know that I mentioned it earlier but we needed to get the initial proposal taken care of first. After the proposal is approved it’s time to start the contract.
It’s possible as you read this it feels like a time warp. Wow, I jumped back in time to 1975!
“Let’s do the time warp again!” – Rocky Horror Picture Show
It’s time to prepare the contract. There are a few things to remember when I discuss this. A quick search will tell you that any contract submitted to a client is valid in court. This does not mean that you will win the case if you file a suit against a client. It means that it is permissible.
I use a contract more to protect myself than to use against my client. There are several contracts available, but I like one in particular. You may download Contract Killer.
You will need to edit it and make changes for every new client. It is important to list all the services you will provide for the client. The second important thing is to include a beginning project date and a completion date.
Now the most important part of the contract. After the services and dates add a line like this, “Any request for additional work outside the services listed above may incur a fee and an extension of time allotment for completion.”
By adding that single statement you are warning the client that they may not request more work from you. If they do request more work remind them that the contract says they may be charged.
Client issues happen and there is not much we can do about it. The contract helps in a few respects but it does not cover everything. I can not cover all the different types of client issues, but I will cover one that you may use on different complaints.
The client tells you that they do not like how it works. That could be anything but here we will use the functionality. They want you to change something about the way you designed the site.
I know, these clients think the world revolves around them! If you do not comply with their demands they will open up the heavens and rain lightning where you stand!
So what to do when this arises is no mystery. What am I saying, of course, it’s a mystery! To start with this should have been addressed before the incident took place. I know though that people listen but do not hear. If you are like me then you use tools that already exist because they hired you for website design. Did they hire you to program?
Now try your best to hold your composer. I know because I have been there. I have figured out how to make things work in a way that may not have been intended to work. I mean, I’m being honest here. I’ve designed sites using woo-commerce, but you never see a woo-commerce product page. I would like to say I’m a master of disguise but I’m certain that would be taken out of context. The worst part of the whole thing is, your engineering was not appreciated. It took you two days of both front-end and back-end tweaking, to get told they don’t like it.
As I said, stay calm and do not use a lot of words. Apologize for the fact that you had a misunderstanding. Ask for a clear solution or even better a site that has the functionality they desire. If you are lucky and get a site that has the functionality then you are golden.
Wait, I can’t say that you are golden! The functionality on the site may have been engineered for that site and you can’t get the code. Needless to say, it is time to lay this to rest. Send an e-mail to the client. Explain the situation and let them know you could program that functionality for their site. Ask them to deal with what you have designed for them currently.
Don’t worry, they do not know if you can program it or not. The point is that you gave them a professional response to the problem they were facing. If they respond with a yes to have you build it. It’s time to hire a third-party developer. Be certain they know exactly what they are to design, get a price and a deadline for it. The client does not need to know that someone else designed it for you. They are not working for your client they are working for you.
This is the one area that is the most time consuming when it happens. Your project does not work as expected. A plugin you used does not have the correct color scheme. You designed something that works but you need to explain it. This is one of the issues based on the time of completion.
There are always issues that arise and you need to take the time to repair them. Most issues are minor and handled with a little CSS. There are issues based on plugins and incompatibility issues. There are many times when a video is just what the doctor ordered. LOL, a little dry humor never hurt anyone! It’s almost as bad as this comic I made!
This article is not about repairing sites. There are times that a plugin is what is causing the issue on your site. If your site uses a lot of plugins then narrowing it down may seem tedious. Plugins are fantastic and make WordPress great. A plugin that is useful does not mean the code was written well. Remember to always check plugins first when your site is experiencing issues.
I did a web design for a podcaster. It ended up being a great design but that does not mean that updating the site with a new post was just a point and click. I found that a step by step video of me on the site placing a new podcast would be the perfect answer.
Why video? Well, writing the steps and including images would take longer to do than creating a video. Seeing someone perform the actions shows them all the steps I take to complete the task.
Another website I designed was so demanding it required thought and ingenuity to complete. I ended up using custom post types and created a layout for each category they needed. Without a video, trying to write that information down would have been a process. Creating the video only took around 30 to 45 minutes. Video is perfect for these types of situations.
If you do not have a recording set up you may download Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). It is free and a fantastic choice for either a live screencast or showing your desktop.
To edit the video I would suggest DaVinci Resolve. A free and powerful tool for video editing. They have a paid version of the software as well if you are a full-time webcaster.
We still need a voice. Now with OBS, you may use your voice while you are recording the video, but I find it a little difficult. I create and edit the video. Then I start audacity while I watch. If I need to repeat a line I pause the video playback. Audacity Download. There are a ton of features within the software and I find it super easy to edit with.
The last thing I use is a program called Handbrake to reduce the size of my final video with little to no reduction of quality. There are youtube videos on ways to set that up.
Reduce Time On Design
We are off to a great start. We were approved for our layout and found the perfect color palette for the site. But there is possibly one thing that we need to do shortly after we begin.
Now, this option is up to you, but it is a good idea. Work on the home page and finish that part of the design. I would make sure that you have the page mobile responsive and test it. Now invite the client to have a visit to the website. I would suggest a phone conversation or the use of an application like Discord. They have only seen rough drafts up until this point. A chance to see more than an image will give you some valuable information.
This early in the design a few changes will not be an issue, as it’s the end of day one or middle of day two. Ensure you have used all the colors even if you create some temporary hyperlinks. If you have used any special features, like scrolling images, or carousels they should be used. Let them know that the site is in the early phase of development but you would like their initial thoughts.
They may respond with something as simple as the fonts you selected. They may have a change of heart on the color palette. They may not like the way you have set up the layout. It does not matter what they think, just make the changes while they are online if you can. If you are unable to make them online then write them down to make changes later.
If for some reason they want a different feature that they must pay for, then now is the time to speak to them about it. After you have a second approval, I would update the contract with the changes and ask for another signature.
Do I Keep ‘Em or Kick ‘Em?
Above all else keep a professional attitude. Do you keep doing the work or stop? Well, that decision is up to you. You will run into clients that make you miserable and that is a fact of life. You should always complete the job, no matter how difficult they are to deal with.
The key here is to remain professional throughout whatever grief they give you. Yes, there have been a few occasions when I did not get paid the final sum for the work. Is it worth the effort to file a claim against them? No, the time, hassle, and court cost are not worth it for what they owe me. I remember that the contract was for my protection.
What if you are not able to finish the work? With that in mind, and keeping a professional attitude, it would be best to inform the client immediately. If you were to get hired from a freelance company you would not get paid, because the work was not completed. You should return any and all funds they paid you and apologize for the inconvenience you caused.
So I do not kick them until the job is complete. I offer more than website design. I offer hosting services, and I offer a website maintenance care package. I also include two professional plugins, as well as 47 professional themes to select from. For the clients, I have that I find difficult to work with I do not offer additional services. If you have that type of attitude, then I would rather not have you as a customer. Sounds a little rude doesn’t it? Yeah, but to live with a constant headache is worst.
Now, remember the difficult customers are few and far between for me. I have a lot of experience in website design. I am also familiar with several programming languages. I understand most situations that cause issues and how to repair them.
I wrote this information from experience. I hope the information I provided answered your questions. I hope it assists someone newer to freelance website design. Selling your services is a difficult thing to get started. The old saying, “The Customer is always right” is a true statement. You should treat each new client with professionalism.
Yes, you will have customers that are difficult. Remaining professional is difficult. I’ll try to give a few pointers to assist you.
- Listen to your potential client. If you have questions allow them to finish what they are saying.
- Do not talk yourself out of a sale. Get a few beers in me and I won’t shut up!!
- Never underestimate your client. They may know more about computers than you do but not have the time to design a website.
- Most of my initial communication is through e-mail. Use online tools like Grammarly to help with keeping your message professional and error-free.
- Remember that the fewer words used to state your point is better.
- Keep your client updated daily. You may include a screenshot if you like to show your progress.
- Keep your site in maintenance mode as you design. Use a professional-looking image with a nice statement.
- Images may be something that the client does to something simple but meaningful.
I hope you enjoyed the article. If you would like to share information or have questions please leave a comment below.