Not being satisfied with a design is something that neither the client or the designer wants to think about. In this post I’ll outline my policy and also some ways I avoid the problem altogether.

A Necessary Evil

Like the saying goes, you need to plan for every eventuality at the beginning of a new project so your client knows what happens should the worst happen and they not be satisfied with the design work you produce. Its so important to do this as a designer because even if you’ve never had this situation arise (thankfully I’m yet to experience it!) you need to have a clear policy for handling it outlined in your contact should it happen to you. Put your feet in the shoes of a client who is parting with their cash – they’ll want to know what happens should the designs you produce not be immediately to their liking, e.g. how many hours of revisions do you allow for per design concept. Sometimes as a designer you can produce something that you think looks great but it doesn’t quite tick all the boxes for your client – after all design is so subjective. The planning process helps eliminate this, but more on that later. I’d even go as far to say that making amendments to a design doesn’t mean its a bad design in the first place. Quite often its very valuable to work with the client to refine and improve on the initial design concept you produced to find the best possible solution. As long as both parties are clear on how this works in the very beginning and the client is happy to pay for refinement time above and beyond the designers usual policy then this is fine. In my design contract I typically include the following;

6. Client Amends Designer prides itself in providing excellent customer service. That is the spirit of our agreement and the spirit of the Designer’s business. To that end, we encourage input from the Client during the design process. However, amends totaling more than 2 hours of time per design concept will be added to the total invoice. Amendments made to the design once it has been ‘signed off’ will be billed at the normal agreed hourly rate.

This clause is in my contract just to make sure both myself and my client know that we have to ‘sign-off’ on the design at some point. Its not profitable for either parties to be making iterations and amendments to a design for weeks after the first version has been produced. Combining this kind of statement in a design contract along with clearly defined milestones for each stage of the project makes sure that my client knows exactly what to expect.

Avoiding the situation altogether

Ask questions and plan – simple! If you ask the right questions at the beginning of a project and make sure you plan (as I’ve mentioned before, wireframing is my preferred method) then you’ll very rarely have a situation arise where the client doesn’t like the any aspects of the design you’ve created. Creating a wireframe before you start a design allows the client to see what direction you’re planning on going in terms of layout. Its much easier to make changes at this stage than once you’ve spent time creating the design in Photoshop. Collecting examples of websites that your client likes is also a really helpful exercise. A few times I’ve been going through a completed design questionnaire I send out to new clients and when I open up the example sites they’ve provided links to, I get a slight surprise. I always think it’s better to get that suprise at the planning stage rather than in an email from the client when they’re reviewing the homepage design you’ve just spent a day working on.

Your Experiences?

I hope that as a fellow designer you found this article useful and even as a potential client reading through my blog, I hope this helped inform you about how I handle design amendments. I’d be really interested to hear from other designers about how they handle amendments with their clients. I’d also be interested in hearing from anyone who reads this blog who isn’t a web designer. What questions would you have about working with a freelance web designer? I’ll be looking to write more of these kind of posts in the future.

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