Who’s the designer? You or the client?

I experienced two separate incidents this week in which I had a client complain about pretty significant things with my designs. Normally, during the mock-up stage, I’m all ears for critical feedback but these complaints surfaced after the sites had been designed and built. I guess that was just the frosting on the cake.

The more important thing is deciding who the designer is on the project. I’m serious. Is it the designer or the client? The client brought the designer on supposedly because they need a web site created. That’s the purpose of the designer and the job they have been paid to do. I can appreciate client input during the design process — in fact I wholeheartedly welcome it — but there comes a point when I just want to say, “Why did you hire me? You’re obviously a very capable designer.”

But then it strikes. Why are they doing my job?

There are a number of reasons I’ve discovered. Sometimes it’s because they’re a control freak and can’t let any detail escape their approval. Other times they just don’t know better. Actually, I guess those are really the only cases I run into.

There are different solutions I apply to these two situations. For the control freak, I have to stroke their ego. It sucks and I hate it, but if it gets the job done, then I’ll do it. These people are typically overbearing and at times annoying. The best way to deal with them is by reaffirming their status and — unfortunately — by running every little thing by them. I try to keep them in the loop every step of the way so that they feel involved and important. Usually, if I do it this way, I don’t get the major complaints at the end of the project. And if I do, I just explain the decision processes that we both went through.

The other type of client who doesn’t know any better just needs a little hand holding. Typically, strong communication and clear explanations of “how it is” will get them to calm down.

Finally, I find it important to just hold my own at times. If someone’s complaining about a design decision I made, I’ll look at them pointedly and say, “Look. This is my job. I designed it this way because I want to maximize the potential of the site. Here is the methodology behind my approach.. yadda yadda..” Well, I wouldn’t say it as bluntly as that, but you catch my drift.

This isn’t about feeling insecure because a client doesn’t like my work. This is about defending my profession and not letting someone who frankly doesn’t know anything about creating web sites take control of the project and destroy it. This is the cold reality of it.

Besides, would you ever tell your doctor how to do their job?

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