One of the things I’m changing this year is to write more about business: starting a business, working with other entrepreneurs, challenges of self-employment… but making it interesting. And of course, I’ll be writing about design business stuff, like how to prepare for a meeting with a designer, awesome design trends, etc. After an interesting conversation about autoplay music tonight, I thought it’d be a good time to write some designer pet peeves. Mind you, these aren’t universal. However, the top designers that I know and/or follow on Twitter have said things to this effect… so I’m not totally crazy, promise.
As I said in the text tonight, “for the love of all that is holy, no more autoplay music.” There are few internety things worse than opening a website and being scared shitless because your volume was on high and someone thought it’d be awesome to have Dashboard Confessional playing when you go to their site.
Even worse is when a site starts playing music in the background, and you’re a serial tabber like me… because then you have to go through each.individual.tab. to find which one is the offender. I’d be willing to bet you’ve lost more potential customers/viewers than those you’ve gained. Plus, if your site content is great, you don’t need gimmicks.
2. “I want it to look like your website”
I’m flattered every time I hear this. Really, I am. But my website took MONTHS to make, and I still tweak it on a pretty regular basis. So, unless you want to pay a designer for all that time they spent designing their site (I’m guessing for most of us it’s at least 50 hours… times $50+ hourly…) please don’t request this. If there’s something specific that you like– fonts, colors, layout– awesome. But wanting it to be the same? Well… fork over the moolah and sure, it’s all yours.
Alright, this is probably the most contentious point on here. If you want flash, that’s your deal. Just know that many designers, myself included (and all of the well-known and super sought-after designers that I admire) won’t do it. Why? Two reasons. 1) It’s NOT ACCESSIBLE ON IPADS OR IPHONES. Really. Try going to a site that you know has flash on an ipad/iphone (and other mobile devices too, now.) I’d recommend one or six, but at the risk of offending anyone in particular, try going to a porn site on your phone. Ha. Or a Pro Photo site. Or a showit site. Unless your designer has also created a mobile (non-flash) compatible version, it’s going to look like ass (and not the ass you’ll see on the porn site). For some people, this might not matter… but take a look at your Google Analytics. Do you get a decent amount of mobile traffic? Then mayyybe it’s not a good idea to use flash. I know, there’re some fun effects, but if you get a good designer and a good developer, they can do the same fancy effects without it, using fab stuff like html5 and jquery. Even Adobe has finally seen the light and is going to stop offering mobile support for Flash, since it’s so problematic anyways. Oh, and the 2nd reason is that, if you DO use flash and have your designer create a non-flash version specifically for mobile (and browsers that don’t have flash or block it), it’s going to be more expensive. And a bonus reason? Many flash-site providers, like showit, require both a registration fee AND monthly, on top of everything else. So instead of paying $35/year like I do through Catbytes, I’d be paying that per month just to have a flash site.
If you have a flash site and want to figure out a way to convert it over, let me know. Your designer hopefully told you about the compatibility issues… but if not, I’m sorry. They should have.
4. Design by Committee
By “design by committee,” I mean when you send an email to your designer going “my mom/sister-in-law/cubemate/kids’ soccer coach thinks we should change the font/color/logo/website.” I totally get valuing other people’s opinions. Oh man, do I get it. As a designer, I ask for feedback all the time… from other designers. Here’s the reasoning behind this one: you hired (and paid, ostensibly) me because you trusted my skill as a graphic designer. Is your mom/sister-in-law/cubemate/dog walker a designer? If so, then by all means, go to them. But the thing is, you hired me (or a developer, or a doctor/plumber/lawyer) because you trusted me to do my job. Let me(us) DO my(our) job(s)!
5. Unlimited Changes
When designers give you a price quote, they usually base it on the number of hours it’ll take them to complete the project. Almost every time, it ends up taking way more hours than you’ve actually estimated but many designers simply suck it up and go with the estimated price when it comes time to bill. I’ve started telling clients, this estimate is for X hours, and when we start to surpass that, we’re going to have to renegotiate the contract and/or go to an hourly rate. Why? Because when you’re designing for someone and you’ve allotted, say, 20 hours to a project, and it takes, say, 50-60 hours and you’re not being paid any more… the rest of your work and life is bound to suffer. You end up neglecting other paid clients who’ve paid you for the time you’re now devoting to the original client, which isn’t ever a good business practice. It’s like if you were paying to wait at the doctor’s office. No bueno. If you don’t like something, of course I’ll do my best to fix it. But designers have to pay bills too, which means that we need to stick to those hourly estimates as best as we can or bill for extra time. This also applies to coming back to a designer 6 months, a year later and saying “I don’t like x y or z.” It sounds cold, but if you ok’ed everything at the time of the design, and paid for it… it’s like wearing a pair of jeans for 6 months and deciding “oh wait, i really wanted these to be acid-wash, not black.”
6. Wanting It All for Free
I was explaining this at brunch today. Many bloggers — myself included– have gotten some really awesome free stuff. But generally, said free stuff is from a larger company who a) has a bigass marketing budget and b) knows that their ROI from giving away said products will be worth it. As a self-employed and new entrepreneur, that’s not a good idea on my part, and most creatives will tell you the same thing. I’d also argue that for something like blog design, the amount of time you spend designing converted into money (so say… 25 hours at $50 per hour=$1250) is far more than you’d spend on advertising on that one particular website- so it’s not a good financial decision when you look at it that way, either. We gots bills to pay, yo! Along similar lines, if I quote $500 for a site and a potential client comes back and says, “well so-and-so will do it for $100,” I say “Awesome, they now have your business!” It’s not a matter of being mean, it’s a matter of business, and a third of that quote going straight into taxes. It doesn’t make sense financially. And like a very smart designer once told me, “If a client doesn’t want to pay for a Porche, don’t push it. But they have to know- they can’t expect to pay for a Toyota and GET a Porche.” Makes sense, right?
I’ll admit, as a designer I’ve let this happen. 2 hour long meetings to accomplish 20 minutes worth of work, multiple emails in the span of an hour, 2am responses from me, etc. (whoops) But sometimes it just gets out of hand, especially when multiple forms of communication get involved. When it gets to that point, I automatically think of this scene from Family Guy:
Yep. Welcome to my world on (thankfully rare) occasion.
So there you have it. My 7 top pull-my-hair-out, want-to-drink-myself-to-sleep pet peeves as a newbie designer. I’m sure more will come with experience, and hopefully some of these will be solved with better communication on my end as well. Overall though, I’m SO FREAKING LUCKY- I’ve had some incredible clients since I got started and more keep heading my way. At least now you know some designery pet peeves so you can avoid them… or understand when I feel the need to headdesk.