October 15, 2012

11 Warning Signs Of A Problem Designer Or Web Developer

This is a hard one for me to write, because I’ve been at this over 40 years, and the mistakes I’ve made! I’ve probably made (and still make) many of the mistakes below, and I’ve paid the price for it by losing clients. It wouldn’t surprise me if some former (and even current clients) nudged me and said, “Hey, you missed a few.”

  1. The designer (let’s just use this for our all-encompassing term) works without a net. I’ll cover this more in another blog post, but what this means is a contract that spells out the expectations for the designer and the client, including payment terms. Copyright law says the designer has to release copyright (they can sell all rights or just some rights), usually in writing, to the client, or they continue to own it, since it belonged to them from the moment of creation. Most clients don’t like this, and I have no desire to track usage, so I just release all rights available for me to release upon final payment.
  2. No portfolio, no website. In this technological age, I’m conflicted as to whether or not I should keep my portfolio of hard samples of projects – I haven’t dragged the black portfolio out of the closet in over a year – but if a person is a web designer or even graphic designer, there is absolutely no excuse for not having a website with their portfolio on it. It’s hard to keep up with it when the designer is slammed with work – mine is still under my old business name (blush) but being worked on. No, really. Even if the designer isn’t web-savvy, WordPress has plenty of gallery/portfolio type templates, free and premium, that they can use to build a site.
  3. Poor or no communication. Just as I complained in my “15 Warnings Signs Of A Problem Client” blog post about clients not communicating, it’s unacceptable for the designer not to communicate. They should return phone calls and emails as soon as possible. If a deadline needs to be delayed, they should be on the phone immediately to discuss it with the client. This is especially critical when the clients’ domain is expiring and the client can’t contact the designer. The domain registrar will not even talk to the client if they don’t have the correct information, and the domain could be lost forever.
  4. Bad referrals. Ask people in your business community who they use for certain services, and ask whom to avoid. See if you can find out why they should be avoided, because the other person may have had unreasonable expectations. One person posted some crazy review of me on Google Local that made him seem unhinged. I was a little unhinged myself, wondering who I could have treated so poorly that they would write something like that! My current clients posted several glowing reviews. So maybe I wasn’t such an awful person after all.
  5. Arrogant, rude jerk. If the person comes across as a thoughtless, ungrateful, SUPER busy, overimportant, impatient, arrogant, “my-way-or-the-highway-Iam-the-designer” prima donna, that’s probably not going to be someone you’ll want to interact with over the course of your project. I know a few like this. I don’t know how they stay in business. If I’m ever this way, I hope someone smacks me upside the head.
  6. Poor grammar. When you are a graphic designer or web designer/developer, you work with text. It’s a sad fact that too many kids are graduating from high school and college without the ability to spell, form a sentence, or punctuate. Everyone makes mistakes, but if you can’t keep an eye on the content your client sends you and clean it up for them (let them know, first), you need to find someone to do the job. Print is forever, and even mistakes on a website make your client look bad and incompetent (it makes you look incompetent, too).
  7. Lack of attention to detail. It’s not just a matter of grammar. It could be as simple as using the right or wrong logo, or not paying attention to the branding manual, or putting the wrong person’s name in a photo caption. It’s making sure that, on a website, every link works and displays correctly. If you look at a designer’s work and see problems, ask about them, because they could mean problems for your project. Lesson learned the hard way: When you and the designer are going to be choosing colors, make sure they bring a color chip book or fan, and both of you sign off on what colors are chosen. My personal mantra: “Bring the color chip book or die.” Cost me thousands of dollars to have the job reprinted (it was the right thing to do, even though the client didn’t know what color they were asking for), and I lost the client anyway.
  8. Doesn’t understand what a deadline is. If the conference is on October 15, and you need brochures, business cards, and your site launched before that day, it’s not good if the brochures are delivered on the 16th, and the website isn’t launched for another month (unless you didn’t get the developer content in the first place).
  9. Inappropriately dressed. I’m old-fashioned, and even though I’m an artiste, I try to show up to a client visit looking business-like, because this is a business transaction. I’m not necessarily talking about suits (I don’t own one), but I also make sure my clothes aren’t coming apart and stained. If your business is casual and you don’t care if the designer shows up in shorts and flip-flops, more power to you. If you’re all in suits, maybe the designer should dress up a little for you, and find out first. It’s often not to difficult to deduce from the type of business you’re in, but when in doubt, they should dress up, not down.
  10. Takes off for extended periods of time. A local printer made a habit during the recession of closing for several weeks at a time during the summer and Christmas break. How would I tell a client on a deadline that the printer was closed for a month or so??? We all need to take vacations, but designers can check their messages and return calls and emails while they’re gone.
  11. Holding domains hostage. If your web developer is self-employed, and they’re a domain name reseller, what is their plan B if they get hit by a truck? What if you decide to go with another developer? Can you still access your account? Some resellers and web designers put the domains in their own names. That means they own it. Tsk-tsk. Whose business is it? Yours.

What a warning sign isn’t

An answering machine. The CompletHost site mentioned that an answering machine was a warning sign. I don’t see why, as long as messages are returned promptly. I know of offices that take off for lunch and all you get is an answering machine.

Executive suite conference room. Even if you meet at Starbucks, think of it this way: Lower overhead (no expensive office) can mean much lower prices for your project.

There is no perfect designer, or perfect client, but these should be a good road map to finding a designer you can work with in your successful business for years to come.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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