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The Ultimate Q: Who's right: the designer or the client?
Can I get your opinions for my dissertation?

 2:02 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hi, I'm starting my 3rd year dissertation and I've given myself the question, hard one at that, who's right: the designer or the client?

Does the designer know what's best with all their knowledge and information about achieving the end result? Or does the client know what's best due to their market knowledge and information about the end user? Who is ultimatly right, if any? How do you feel?

Any suggestions welcome!



 2:05 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

The client know it's line best and knows it's marketing strategy best..

However,when it comes to online marketing where the client is a newbie, the webmaster should share as much marketing knowledge as possible to make the clients website a success.


 2:09 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

But then if the client is right, they may not understand the current trends or technologies that'll make their ideas come alive. And their ideas may be impossible, outdated or not very good!


 2:10 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Your question is a false dichotomy. How can you do a dissertation based on a logical fallacy?


 2:18 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Unless the client is "trained" (Read "Gets it") in Interent Marketing, then the Mediator is right... An Internet Marketing Consultant that sits BETWEEN the client and the designer.

Except when he's wrong...

But the point is that different people bring different strengths to the party. The client knows the business, the Designer knows the graohics. But that does not constitute a sound Internet marketing strategy. There is more.

The designer doesn't do the PPC - nor does the client
The designer doesn't do the Press releases
The designer doesn't build online partnerships
The designer doesn't manage the affiliate technology
The designer doesn't do the SEO (Unless hit with a bat, usually)
The designer doesn't do the CMS content

Usually the client can't do all these either...


 2:26 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Try using another example. Say someone who owns a company needs a vehicle to move their inventory around town. They grew up in a major metro area and never drove or owned a vehicle. They know relatively nothing concerning costs, maintence, etc.

Now that person goes to a car dealership looking for a car. Who knows what is vehicle is best suited for that person's needs? The business owner hopefully know the cargo capacity they will require. They also should have some costs in mind regarding purchasing, fuel, maintence, storage, etc. Still, there is a large selection of vehicles to choose from. The car salesman should be able to steer the person to a good choice.

I believe the best choice requires the two people to communicate and mutually agree. If the two can't agree and neither have a secret agenda then something has to give. In the end much of the pressure is on the designer to convince the client that the best choice is the work presented.


 2:40 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ah see moose has got it! By 'designer' and 'client', I'm not just pointing at web or graphics, I'm looking at the whole spectrum (I've also opened posts with the same Q in other design field sites).

When buckworks started talking about dichotomy and the 'idea' that the client and desiger 'equal each other out', what did you mean? What did you think buckworks meant?

If a client comes up to you and poses the question, 'I'd like you to do this for me, this is my main market, this is the content and these are my ideas and I'd like to see the final result like this, what can you do for me?'; is the client right by assuming that their 'ideas' or designs are fit for the media/design location and fit for the end user?


 2:42 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

PS (and this is a big one) I really have to say thanks for all of your prompt responses! I will be including these comments in my appendices!


 4:31 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I"ve had 20+ years in both corporate marketing and as the owner of a marketing agency. So, I've been both the client and the designer.

This issue is very typical and impossible to decide. Many times the client is deceived by his personal feelings. But then so is the designer many times.

There are many times I do work for people and they ask for the wrong thing. I try to give them what I seriously believe is the "right" thing and if they fail to accept it, then I generally give them what they have requested.

I have resigned clients because they never ever accept my counsil. I tell them that it is my job to tell them the best course of action to take --AND -- if they aren't going to pay any attention to my advice then they are wasting their money hiring me. So, my best advice to them is to fire me.

The most troubling is when a client forces you to go his way and then, when the effort fails, the client wants to blame you for the failure.

I prefer to work with clients that trust in my counsil and are eager to accept all of my ideas. But this rarely happens. The best anyone can come up with is a true partnership where both the client and the designer are correct and they both respect the opinions of each other.

From a money making point of view, I sell more when I just do what the client asks and don't rock the boat by giving them conflicting advice.


 4:36 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I will be including these comments in my appendices!

You may need the permission to do so. See the usage agreement [webmasterworld.com], #23

You will not copy and retransmit any information out of these forums without first getting the permission of the original author of the message and a WebmasterWorld.com administrator.

False dichotomy means that you are creating an either/or question out of something that is much more nuanced. It's like saying, who benefits from building a website, the client or the designer? The designer gets paid, but the client shells out money, so I guess it's the designer who benefits. But wait a minute, the client didn't do any work and now owns a website, but the designer has no website and has wasted countless hours that he should have been spent surfing. So I guess the client is the one who benefits.

The designer is a hired expert who should provide guidance so that when the client decides, it is the right decision for the client (not say valid code because the designer thinks the W3C is right about everything, but because the client sees the benefit of taking some time to get the code right as a sound business decision for himself). Of course, there should be no hunger in the world and everyone should live in peace, but I digress...


 5:05 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have the luxury to have a marketing partner on board
Even before my motto was and still is:
1)Know client, his biz, his products
2)Define target
3)Define user experience

As such the designer has artistic freedom but will work within defined parameters

If it does not work either the team marketing/designer is not in sync
Or the client might refuse to embark on the proper road and will be fired :)


 6:05 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Awesome awesome! There's points here that I haven't thought of! Thanks to ergophobe, I'll ask WW for perms and I hope all you lot are ok if I use these in the dissertation?

creativepart also made a really good point, all of you have! However, on many of the forums, people always look back at money. Ok I know, money makes the world go round, but if a client has really pants ideas, is it worth risking the hassle (of it failing, if it does) and your rep if you have to work with their bad ideas?


 6:14 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Isn't it the point I am trying to make :)


 10:12 pm on Jun 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have been the client and the designer. Neither will ever hit the mark . . .THE DATA IS ALWAYS RIGHT. That is why we test. As humans we have baggage and prejudices. We are only one data point. Watch your users, see what makes them "act" and keep working to improve the rate of "acting".


 9:04 am on Jun 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

What do you mean data is always right? Isn't it up to the client to write the data/info? And shouldn't the designer make sure that the data/info fits the media and the design?


 9:31 am on Jun 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

It depends on how good (knowledgeable) the designer is and how knowledgeable the client is...

knowledgeable designer + naive client = good result

knowledgeable designer + knowledgeable client = better result

poor designer + knowledgeable client = disaster

poor designer + naive client (often the same person) = 99% of crap websites

Receptional Andy

 10:05 am on Jun 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Buckworks is right to say the question is flawed. He specifially pointed to the fact that the question is framed as if one or other is the only correct answer. For instance, the answer could be any of the following:

The designer or the client is right
Neither is right
Both of them are right
One or both of them are partly right
One or both of them are partly right about something and wrong about other things

I think your question needs clarification in order to make sense. At the moment it appears to me similar to asking "who is right, John or Bob?"

It depends on what they are 'right' about, and who they are.


 10:13 am on Jun 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Everyone is just thinking about the end design. Surely, the reason a client comes to you is because they like your style and they're buying into the whole experience of designing with you and they're going to learn something along the way?


 10:19 am on Jun 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Q: Who's right: the designer or the client?

Does the designer know what's best with all their knowledge and information about achieving the end result? Or does the client know what's best due to their market knowledge and information about the end user?

Firstly, the customer is always right!

To argue this question is an excercise in futility. In your question, you did not state that the designer was also a marketer or an SEO, so presumably, he knows very little about marketing and SEO ... which holds true for a large majority of web designers.

In this case, the client hired a designer and NOT a marketing firm. If you are asking this question in regards to "design" then presumably, the client hired the designer to give his or her input into a specific design.

There is no answer to your question other than the designer is right only IF the client ultimately goes with his or her design.


 5:27 pm on Jun 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Firstly, the customer is always right!

A guy I know who used to run a ski area and is now in charge of setting standards for guest service for a huge corporation told an employee once, "The guest is not always right, but he's always a guest."

Sometimes the guest/client is wrong:
- "You should give me this for free because your ad didn't say it ski rentals were not included in the cost of the ticket"
- "You should refund my money because I'm on page three in Google so the website isn't doing me any good."
- "Your code sucks. If you were with it you would be coding in XHTML but your stuff is in outdated HTML"

Whatever, the customer can be wrong on many levels and, as many people have been saying, it's the conversation that's important. In an ideal world, everyone would recognize when the weight of evidence was in someone else's favor and woudl give in, be it the designer, the client or a third party who's "right". Of course, there is no such world.

But he's still a guest/client, which means that no matter how they yell, rant and rage, you will remain cool and professional, you will stay rational and treat the person with respect and courtesy. No matter how stupid the idea, you will try to explain with clarity and calm why it's a bad idea. If it's not a fundamental matter of principles and ethics to you, you will have to give in because you're not writing the check. If you can't come to an agreement because the client is *wrong* and can't be moved and you would have to compromise principles or ethics to come to an agreement, you need to sever the relationship. Just because the client has the final word, doesn't mean the client is always right by any meaningful definition.


 5:28 pm on Jun 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

The parent or the child?

The husband or the wife?
The policeman or the citizen?

The student or the teacher?

Yes no both neither depends sometimes


 6:12 pm on Jun 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Liane has got a point. For the purpose of your dissertation you can argue this ad infinitum.

If you want to talk about reality, whover writes the checks gets the last word and therefore is "right," that's just the way it is.


 9:51 pm on Jun 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

the question should be discussed between client and designer


 10:10 pm on Jun 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

As others have said, the question itself is flawed. It won't always be one party or the other. There isn't normally a dichotomy between "right" and "wrong" anyway, and IMO the main problem is that the answer is unknowable, even in hindsight.

In any given situation, it's somewhere between difficult and impossible to do a controlled and statistically valid split test. As a result, whether the project soars or crumbles, you can never know what would have happened if you had gone in the other direction.

Patrick Taylor

 10:37 pm on Jun 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

There's such a thing as professionalism, even on the web. If you're an architect, a lawyer, or a doctor, there are standards of conduct and competence you have to work to - and a duty of care to the client. As a web designer you can adopt the same sort of standards voluntarily, and refuse to do things the client may want, such as things that are technically unsound, black hat, misleading information, breaching copyright, etc etc... whatever you feel is "unprofessional". There's a point where the professional web designer should say "get someone else" and walk away from the job if it doesn't feel right.


 11:34 pm on Jun 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

>> "The client is always right"

That's so far from reality it isn't even funny. Clients may think they are always right, but that doesn't make it true.

Try telling an any regulated service provider that clients are always right. Start with your accountant, he or she probably needs a chuckle.


 2:00 am on Jun 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

That's so far from reality it isn't even funny.

In "sales" (which has more than a small amount to do with web design and marketing) ... it IS reality. The guy with the checkbook is right if you want to make a sale.

How good the designer or marketer or salesman is at convincing the customer that he was right to approach you to work for him/her is the real question.

Can you put your ideas across well enough to lead the client to your way of thinking and in the end ... make both the client and the designer right?


 4:04 pm on Jun 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

if you want to make a sale

Well, that was my point. Sometimes that person is so wrong, you don't want to make the sale or have their repeat business. Relating this to the original Q, if you believe that the client is always right, you also believe that you must be that person's slave to keep them happy no matter what. Unlike a car sale, you usually aren't out of the picture as soon as the check gets handed over and you have to draw the line on where the client is wrong. With respect to design, hey it's their site.

Someone literally made me put a crappy logo on his site because.. he drew it himself and couldn't give up on it despite his business partner and friends telling him the logo I had done was way better. I don't care, it's his site. If, after full explanation of why it's bad with corroborating advice from friends and colleagues, he wants a grainy, pixelated logo, that's his call. Like you say, he writes the check.

But when he said a fixed-width site was unacceptable (should fill the window in every browser), but it must look exactly the same in every browser at every resolution (meaning the same amount of text next to the image, but no side-scrolling), I had to say he was wrong. He would not accept any explanation from me or his business partner as to why this is as impossible as saying that a gallon of liquid must fill any container the customer brings, from quart to two gallon, without any spillage or empty space. When I told him (in 17 ways with as many analogies as I could think of) that it was either fixed-width or impossible, and even then there would be differences between browsers depending on text size settings and so forth, he said he wanted his money back. Given that he had checked off on the design at five different points before bringing this up, I respectfully told him he was wrong. No refund.

I was copying everything to the business partner who was, at this point, on vacation. When his partner got back and read through the email trail that was going back and forth between us, he said, and I believe this is an exact quote "I'm so impressed with how you handled this. I think I would have just told him to f___ off". And these guys are in a customer service industry.

The first instance might fall under your definition of "the client is always right", but the second is definitely a case of the client being wrong. When a client says 2+2=91, that person is wrong no matter how many checks he writes and to pretend otherwise would be to compromise your integrity.

I really think the guy I quoted before has it right: the guest is not alway right, but that person is always a guest. I repeated that many times in order to keep my end of the correspondance professional.


 5:51 pm on Jun 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

ahmedtheking, it would be helpful if you would stop using the word 'designer' to indicate the person or group that creates your website.

The only time a designer creates your website is when it's a tiny cheapo brochure type site or some other equally trivial thing.

In the real world of any significant web site creation, designers are very small part of the process. The real work is in the information architecture, html/css, programming, seo planning, site marketing, etc, and a host of other features that the average designer usually has no idea even exist.

I put the designer's role at maybe 5% of the whole job, that's the person or company that creates the 'look and feel', and even then, they are usually given major guidelines to follow by the actual project leader.

I tend to agree with many of the responses here, but if you are writing some thesis or other, why not try using the right words as a starter, plus as ergophobe points out, avoid using false dichotomies as your premise.

georgegeek has it pretty much right. There is no 'client' per se, and there is no 'designer' per se, you can't talk like that, that's not how the real world works [oh wait, right, note to self: the academic worls is not the real world]. Even sticking to the designer/client example, the range of skills found in so called 'web designers' ranges from the norm: total incompetence, to the extreme: total competence, that last group is so miniscule it's not worth looking for, a normal client will never find it since they don't know what to look for to get it.

anyway, typical academic question, false abstractions creating false conclusions.

Patrick Taylor

 6:47 pm on Jun 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

hmmmm... I suppose I must not be living in the real world, when (as a miniscule sort of designer) I am responsible for almost everything the client requires for their website, including, from time to time, their actual content!

This 41 message thread spans 2 pages: 41 ( [1] 2 > >
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