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When clients break your heart (and their site)

Discussion in 'Content Management' started by Webturtle, Aug 15, 2005.

  1. #1
    I know I'm not the only one experiencing this ... so I guess I'm just looking for solace, maybe advice if you have it.

    When client's come to you and spend thousands of dollars to design a well designed custom site with a consistent layout, appropriate information architecture, why oh why do they insist on editing their own content if they don't know a thing about design or layout? Usually, they don't want to purchase a CMS or their sites are too inconsistent for that, so they insist on using something like Contribute or Edit.com to get into their own content. I do *everything* I can to protect them from themselves - provide styles, lock it down in a template, give them training and documentation on what to do and not do.

    And STILL - within a few weeks, I see things that make me want to cry. Or, at least, remove the site from my portfolio - or my credit from the site. :(

    Like, just because you CAN make every line of your content bold, why would you? Just because you can center your entire bulleted region, why would you? :eek:

    Many times, they complain about restrictions I set - and force me to be more lienant, and THEN wreck their sites.

    I contacted one client who had done some horrible things to a site over the last year and he said "I know, I wanted to do that." Another was offended that I offered to clean up the apparent problems he'd had. The best ones blame either me or the software for their own ability to screw it up!

    Okay, I'll try to stop crying and ask practical questions. Do you any of you simply refuse to build sites which are client-editable? Thats what I USED to do but now 8 out of 10 ask for that feature. Do you have any solutions on how to better manage these clients? Do you simply suck it up as a pain of doing business - they paid, its up to them if they want to put something out there that is unprofessional or unpolished?

    Long ago, in my early years of doing business, I never had credit for the sites I designed because usually I was a subcontractor with my design boutique doing graphics for larger web shops. Then when the dot coms and many clients went out of biz, none of those site owners knew who actually had created their sites and if they wanted to continue with them, they were stuck having to redesign. Plus, I lost a TON of ongoing and referral work because I had so few links and credits. So, I try to put my credit very small on each site I do, when allowed - and I've started saying "original site design by ..." in hopes that people will understand I started this site but god knows I didn't format that content. Then, in my portfolio, I was thinking I would put a fun little icon that sites that were "client maintained" would have next to them.

    Its so hard - i'm a damned perfectionist and try to do good work, even though I know I'm not the worlds best web designer. I totally understand people who, for whatever reason want to do it themselves and learn how - if they hurt their marketing image, that is their lesson to learn! But, these people are paying for a good site and then slowly eroding it, and I simply don't understand it!

    In some strange ways, each site launch is almost like midwifing a birth or raising and releasing a foster child - but maybe I'm being way oversensitive and just shouldn't care????

    Thank you for listening... I'm not sure if there are any answers but I'd be curious of your experiences and perspectives
     
    Webturtle, Aug 15, 2005 IP
    Design Agent likes this.
  2. Pen Tongue

    Pen Tongue Grunt

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    #2
    At Anicon (web design consultantcy) we design all our sites for non CMS clients using dreamweaver templates. Sometimes we do CMS, template hybrids. WE them STRONGLY encourage them to get Contribute - it's a pretty excellent WYSIWYG for non web professionals.
     
    Pen Tongue, Aug 15, 2005 IP
  3. mcfox

    mcfox Wind Maker

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    #3
    Hey, if it was their home they had asked you to design, had paid the cash and were happy with it, you would just let them get on with the yellow and black, zebra-stripe wallpaper afterwards.

    Keep a copy of the site for display in your own portfolio. That's about all you can do.
     
    mcfox, Aug 15, 2005 IP
  4. mopacfan

    mopacfan Peon

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    #4
    webturtle, I feel your pain. Been there, done that. All you can do is let the client screw it up. It's their site and they have the right to be their own worst enemy. Just be sure that your contract is very clear that you are not responsible for any issues once they begin to edit the site. At that point, they assume all liability and if they create a SNAFU, then they need to know that they will have to pay (again) to have it fixed professionaly.
     
    mopacfan, Aug 15, 2005 IP
  5. just-4-teens

    just-4-teens Peon

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    #5
    clients ive had always seem to want to edit the pages once ive designed them but they are not willing to at least learn basic html so you can probally guess how they end up most of the time.
     
    just-4-teens, Aug 15, 2005 IP
  6. Webturtle

    Webturtle Guest

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    #6
    I like the house analogy :)

    I'll deal... it just makes me want to whine sometimes. LOL
     
    Webturtle, Aug 15, 2005 IP
  7. Steve MacLellan

    Steve MacLellan Peon

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    #7
    I don't care if they break it. I bill them at my hourly rate to fix it.

    One guy... a few years ago I did four simple PHP ordering pages for him. Didn't take me long... maybe an hour.

    For the next month he would edit them 3 sometimes 4 times a day in Microsoft Word. Each time he edited them, they didn't work anymore. Then he would call me to fix them. Of courses he wanted the new changes he added included on each revision.

    Anyone who has ever looked at the html source for a page edited by Microsoft Word knows what I'm talking about.

    I sent him a bill at the end of the month for $1,800 for these four web pages.

    He paid it too.

    Regards,
    Steve MacLellan

    PS
    Also had a client do so much damage to his site that the account had to be deleted from the server and a new one setup.
     
    Steve MacLellan, Aug 15, 2005 IP
  8. Dreamshop

    Dreamshop Peon

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    #8
    Welcome to the boards Webturtle!

    I feel your pain...as I'm sure all web designers have been through this before at one time or another. I've learned to let go, although I still have pangs while surfing the web that I should be on a mission to save the world from horrible homemade websites.

    As I've grown my business I've been able to qualify my clients better. I don't demand that they let me do all the editing, but for the most part they're happy to let me (they simply don't have time to do it themselves). I've only had two situations that truly left me feeling frustrated afterwards, one was my fault for not expressing my recommendations strongly enough to the client. You know I'm never going to let a client push me like that again.

    Really the bottom line is that you can't afford to be emotionally tied to your work. Do the best job you can, then let go and move onto the next project.
     
    Dreamshop, Aug 16, 2005 IP
  9. MikeRob

    MikeRob Peon

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    #9
    This is an interesting thread and reminds me of a terrible experience that I went through a few years ago with a web designer, whom I paid a lot of money for him to complete the site.

    He did a great job. It looked beautiful.

    However, I wanted changes, lots of them. And like many of you, he whined, he complained after he saw what I did, pretty much displayed the feelings most of you are talking about on this thread. Before you know it I was getting cursed at over emails.

    Now I realize that he was extreme, but it still seems to be related to what you are all saying and I wonder:

    Why do you feel the need to have emotional bonds with these sites? They are not *yours*.

    Why do you feel the need to laugh at how they will *mess* their sites up. They are not your sites.

    Why whine and complain about what they do to their sites, just because you designed them? They are not your sites.

    It's not like you guys are giving birth to a baby that you have already opted to give away. Loose the attachment - they are NOT your sites.

    It's all very weird to me.

    I ended up telling that web designer to go(youknowwhat)yourself and then removed the site from the net totally, it was a bad experience but the good news is that because of him I got into niche marketing (a totally different story of course)

    Regards,

    Mike
     
    MikeRob, Dec 28, 2005 IP
  10. jimrthy

    jimrthy Guest

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    #10
    He was really extreme and unprofessional.

    All artists get emotional bonds with their work. It's part of the job description. If they don't form emotional bonds, they're "just" craftsmen.

    Maybe it would be better (from your perspective) to use web designers who are craftsmen. Although the end results probably won't look as good.

    Ah, but it is. Any artistic endeavor is like giving birth to a baby. The artist puts hir heart and soul into creating the most perfect expression of "whatever" that the artist can manage given the artist's current skill level.

    I'd hazard a guess that this might be because you're not an artist. :rolleyes:

    That is truly a shame. Artists do develop emotional bonds with their work. Anyone claiming to be a professional (or even a semi-pro) has to be able to deal with this issue. As, I think, all the people in this thread so far have demonstrated perfectly. You do the work, hand over the baby you've just sold, and walk away. That doesn't mean there won't be times you cry because of the way the buyer is raising your baby. But it does mean that you don't cause the kind of pain your subcontractor did to you.

    I think it'd be interesting (and probably educational) to hear that story sometime, but this isn't the thread for it.

    Anyway, I've found this thread extremely interesting as well. Thanks, Webturtle.

    My experience has been slightly different.

    I try to rough out (in Photoshop or some such) some "screen shots" before hand, and say "This is what the end result will look like. What would you like to change?" After a little back-and-forth, we reach an agreement, I make the site (with something so the customer can add/edit content, following the template we've agreed upon), hand it over (keeping a copy for myself), and never look back (unless I did a good enough job that the customer comes back to me when s/he's ready to change things around). But, then, I'm not much of a graphics artist. :)

    Which may be why I've never landed a contract taking that approach.

    My more usual experience has been:

    Customer: I want to do x in the business logic my site. [Since I mainly consider myself a programmer]. Oh, and then I'd like to do a little minor tweaking with the way things look, but that won't be any big deal.

    Me [falling for it yet again...I never seem to notice the small print :mad:]: Okay, sure, here's my estimate.

    Months later:
    Me: Could I please get paid already?

    Customer: First I think you should change all these borders to purple, and that background isn't quite the right shade of orange.

    Any suggestions about how to get around this? I've landed a few honest customers, but I've generally just found that I'm better off working strictly on my own sites.
     
    jimrthy, Dec 28, 2005 IP
  11. Dreamshop

    Dreamshop Peon

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    #11
    Please understand that while we're venting here (with other designers), this isn't what a professional designer would do with a client. That's simply uncalled for.



    A good designer is going to take into account how the function and layout of a web design will affect the client's brand image, content, and marketing message. When someone is hiring you to create a site it's important to negotiate up front what that relationship will be. It IS completely frustrating to have a client who still insists on having really bad design elements incorporated into their site (against your professional recommendations), but in many cases this situation can be avoided.

    I personally don't care to work on projects where I'm simply told what to create. I don't enjoy it and it doesn't fit with my expertise. I've learned over the years to pre-qualify clients by asking lots of questions up front. It's pretty easy for me to tell if the project fits my criteria, and if I can bill the amount needed to cover the time needed (for both working on the site AND managing the client). When I'm putting an estimate together after qualifying it's my chance to educate the client about what I do. It's not uncommon for me to even state that I only work with pre-approved graphics and/or Flash animators, or that the project will require X number of hours for CMS training.


    At a certain point you do learn to let go of personal attachment to designs, but there's a lot more than can play into the frustration of dealing with a client who constantly changes their mind, or changes the design after it's been approved, or simply wants to do edits themselves (yet has no skill in doing so).

    It's really boils down to two things: 1, are you working on the type of projects you enjoy, and 2, are you achieving your profit margins.


    I'm totally open to working with people who are interested in doing their own updates or who have special requests, but there's a process I go through to manage that...and I'm very upfront about what THEIR INVESTMENT in both time and money is going to be.

    It's my reputation that is inevitibly on the line, so it's up to me to make sure I cover all the bases.

    Even with all this I still have clients who go through periods where they have lots of requests, or want to changes things based on what their 'friends' thought. I work hard to develop long term relationships with my clients so that when this happens they respect my input. If a client isn't willing to weigh the pros and cons of my suggestions then they're not someone I want to be working with. :cool:
     
    Dreamshop, Dec 28, 2005 IP
  12. Dreamshop

    Dreamshop Peon

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    #12

    It sounds like you're probably not putting together a good project contrat. Don't mistake an estimate for a contract agreement. The estimate is a starting point....you need to make sure every single portion of the project cost and payment schedule is outlined in your contract. You might also consider requiring all or a portion of payment upfront. I often break down projects into phases. They get a 'deliverable' for part one, and are required to make a payment before they get the second portion.


    It's hard sticking to your guns on payment fees. Clients will also ask for more. Unless you can stand up for yourself (referring to your signed contract) 99% of clients will just take, take, take. It's YOUR job to remind them what the project parameters are. They're too busy to remember all that.

    Another option as well is to consider only accepting work through broker or referral services. That way someone else manages the billing and client service.
     
    Dreamshop, Dec 29, 2005 IP
  13. jimrthy

    jimrthy Guest

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    #13
    I think you've probably hit the nail on the head. I definitely need to be more formal about that side of things.

    Thanks for the advice and encouragement.
     
    jimrthy, Dec 29, 2005 IP