7 Deadly Misconceptions About Web Design Every Client Needs To Know

All beginner web designers are visionaries, idealists of their time, but at some point everyone encounters clients who turn them into cynics. This is when one learns that most clients are certain of what they want and that there are certain things that they may not fully understand. Are you prepared to face these hurdles?

Here are the 7 common (and sometimes deadly, othertimes frustrating) misconceptions clients need to know about web design. I have also included steps and tips on how you can counter and prevent these problems from surfacing during your client-freelancer relationship. If you have stories or advice to share, let us know in the comments section.

1. They Think They Own You

There are oblivious clients out there who think that just because you’ve entered a contract with them, they basically own you. Watch out for these kind of clients! They will email you every hour asking for revisions, requesting new design features, and when you do not reply (because even you need sleep), they will get mad and start throwing curses and threats all over.

The problem arises when you didn’t explain your work schedule to your client properly. Think of it this way, if you don’t mention you don’t work during the weekends, they will automatically assume that you are working during the weekends, particularly if you work freelance (which to many, is the opposite of a fixed 9-to-5 woking environment).

It is a game of technicality: If you didn’t mention it, then it doesn’t apply.

How To Counter This

In order to avoid this, explain your working hours/schedule to your client. That way, they won’t expect a reply or an update on a Saturday night, and if they did, then they are the ones who are unreasonable. If possible, have a separate phone for work, something that you can turn off when you’re not working because trust me, they will call you on a Saturday night just to explain a revolutionary idea they’ve just had.

The same applies for emails. If you aren’t working, don’t check or reply your work emails. Remember that there will be more where that came from, when you do.

2. Their Website Will Immediately Go Viral

To a certain degree, a web designer is responsible for optimizing the markup of the website plus ensuring that it loads quickly, because search engines also rank websites based on load speed. What isn’t an exact science is whether the site design will go "viral". This buzzword has been going around for some time now and services peddle it like a feature. If you are unlucky, you’ll get a client who wants everything to be viral.

I know that this is tempting, especially for beginners who are looking for a way to break through the large competition. But, here’s the kicker, if your client expects you to deliver thousands of visitors to their website, unless you can do it, don’t say yes. Otherwise, you are basically looking for trouble.

How To Counter This

What you can do is explain to your clients that geting their website to go viral is a different service they are looking for, and then refer them to a service that they can use. Trust me, this happens a lot. More so with business owners who have very little idea of how the Internet works (yes, those still exist) but take the opportunity to explain how things work, rather than be frustrated with their expectations.

3. They Know What People Want

Animated logo, marquee, loads of pop-ups, auto-play music, and many other travesties that were considered cool 20 years ago make make today’s web designer wet their pants in fear. And for some reason, people aka clients are still asking for these things because to them, "this is what people want." Take a deep breath.

(Image Source: theoatmeal)

How To Counter This

When talking to a client, tell them that you know what you are doing and that you respect their input. But if you believe that their suggestions are an affront to the face of beautiful design do not pay heed. This is your duty as a web designer: to never give in to bad ideas and give birth to them.

A simple statement like: “I’ll take it into consideration, but based on what users want, this idea might work better. Trust me, I’ve been doing this for some time now and I don’t want you to be in a tight spot” will do wonders. Okay, maybe you can phrase it much better, but you get the idea.

For more tips on how to handle this delicate situation, check out Convincing The Client – How To Win A Design Argument.

4. "Space Is Bad And It Should Always Be Filled With Something"

Everyone needs breathing space. Even websites. Having empty space doesn’t mean the website has been rushed or not well-thought through. In fact, it takes serious thinking to ensure these "empty" spaces complement the entire website.

How To Counter This

There is a reason why the cluttered, glittery, blinking website designs of the 90′s died out. Tastes, needs and requirements change with time. Generation gaps exist even online and well, there will always be a transition period in the world of design, whether we like it or not.

It just so happens that whitespace and minimalism is the "in" thing now (who knows what will happen a couple of years from now), and it is important that your client understands that visitors associate website design with how up-to-date their company is when it comes to the latest of trends.

Better yet, send them this article: Changing The Face Of Web Design: A Case Study Of 25 Years

5. Mobile App Design And Mobile/Responsive Site Design Are The Same

There’s a big difference between having an app for your website and having a mobile or responsive website.

A mobile app or application is what you can download from marketplaces like Google Play or the App Store to be installed on your mobile devices. These applications are compact and serve specific purposes, minus the newsletter sign up forms, header, footer, fancy images, and the like.

A mobile website refers to a copy of a website saved under a different directory or subdomain (m.youtube.com), while a responsive website is built to "respond" and change to accommodate the different screen size you view the site on.

They are not one and all the same: a designer who can build a website may not necessarily know how to build an app, and vice versa.

How To Counter This

Be wary of clients who think that app = web design = what you are paid to do; especially if you can’t do them all. You need to clarify this to them with clear examples. You can fall back on an actual responsive site, a mobile site and an app that all belong to the same company or brand. It gives them a clear idea of what each is, and what exactly they want for their purpose. Be patient with this issue, it could take a while to get through to them.

6. Since You Designed Their Website, You Are Forever Responsible For Any Redesign

Have you heard of animal imprinting? It’s when an animal that is born sees people nearby (or anything moving) and follows it devotedly around thereafter, thinking that they are its parents. Well, in design, some clients have this tendency to depend on you for redesigns and everything else after a project is done.

It starts out as something small, like a font change, or a background color change, then because you did not invoice them for the changes, they expect every other change request thereafter to fall under the after-sales service. And their requests keep coming, in batches, nonstop, until you need to wave your white flag.

How To Counter This

If you don’t have the habit of using a contract for freelancing, maybe you should start using one. And if you do, make sure that the "grace period" clause is clearly explained to your clients before any work starts. I usually give my clients 48 hours to send their revision requests and another 24 hours after that for minor changes that they need.

If you work on a much larger-scale project, you will need to give them a longer "testing" period to go through the design. The idea is to let them know that, if you need changes, you have the next [pre-determined period of time] to tell me to fix it for free. Beyond that, you are on your own, or liable to be charged for change requests.

7. They Think They Can Cancel A Project Anytime And You Will Receive Nothing

This is another reason why you should work with a contract. Clients are human, and some of them are very fickle-minded. They may tell you they want this project done when, you can start when, then disappear for weeks, only to come back and tell you, they changed their mind, they don’t want to continue with the project, and voila, they are gone from the face of the earth.

How To Counter This

Yes, it is frustrating, but unless you ask for a deposit upfront, don’t expect to be paid for whatever work you have already put into the project. Although it would be easier to ask for an initial commencement deposit if you have a reputation that precedes you, it is common practice nowadays to ask for a starting fee before starting any work.

In many cases, it prevents the client from bailing on you halfway since they have committed financially to the client-freelancer relationship. You can also charge them a pre-determined cancellation fee, if the project is of a very large scale. This will reduce the losses from the man-hours you have spent on a project that ended up getting cancelled because of no fault of yours.


Despite all the suggestions listed above to counter the 7 misconceptions or problems clients may have about web design, sometimes it doesn’t help to be as blunt. You might need to resort to hinting or dropping things casually into normal conversations. Don’t expect your clients to known most of these things but you want to avoid insulting them, if they don’t.

For the more important things, keep a black-and-white copy of the communication: emails, Skype conversation, text messages so you have evidence that you have informed them beforehand of what is involved.

Also never sign a contract without fully explaining things to a new client. Contracts are supposed to protect your rights, and your client’s. At the end of the day it is a money for service exchange, and both sides should walk away from the transaction happy with what transpired over the completion of the project. And who knows, they might keep coming back to you with more projects.

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