What do you call this client hack... err, management technique?
March 25, 2015 8:51 AM   Subscribe

There is a client management "hack" that is common in the web design industry that involves purposely incorporating bad or incongruous design elements so that the client has something easy to redline during the first design presentation. I believe there was a seminal article that introduced a visual sort of term for this. Something like "The White Rabbit" because they described putting a picture of a white rabbit onto a banking website (just an example).

I think the article went something like this:

1. You have a client that contracts you for website design.

2. The client loves your work but has lots of sub-optimal opinions about colors, fonts, content flow, etc.

3. You go through multiple revisions which eats into your fees and takes the website away from principles of good design and usability.

4. You end up unhappy about your fees and embarrassed to put your name to the final design. So next time...

5. ... you purposely plant a few bad elements that are easy to pick on and easy to remove.

6. The client spends their "opinion allowance" on these obvious design flaws that everyone can agree on, you most of all.

7. Everyone is happy: the client feels that they got their money's worth in terms of revisions while your fees and your design remain uncompromised.

Note: I know about bikeshedding. This was a different term - although the concepts are related, this was more along the lines of a honeypot.
posted by rada to Work & Money (10 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
posted by brainmouse at 8:59 AM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A duck? Have a look for 'Duck' in the Coding Horror blog.

Eventually, it came time for the producer to review the animation set for the queen. The producer sat down and watched all of the animations. When they were done, he turned to the artist and said, "that looks great. Just one thing - get rid of the duck."
posted by doozer_ex_machina at 9:00 AM on March 25, 2015 [8 favorites]

I've heard of something similar but not the same, where you need to submit multiple concepts and have the client choose one. So you put all your work into one, and knock out a couple of throwaways. And hope the client chooses the right one. The Japanese term I learned for this is "sho-chiku-bai" (which is a common way of indicating good/better/best).
posted by adamrice at 9:13 AM on March 25, 2015

The article on "Parkinson's law of triviality" has the anecdote you're looking for perhaps.
posted by bleep at 9:13 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Red herring?
posted by PSB at 9:30 AM on March 25, 2015

I had a manager who would jokingly accuse me of leaving a "Persian flaw" in my software for him to find whenever we tested a new version so that he would feel useful and not spend all his time looking for problems with my code. I would just smile and never let him know that it was usually just an obvious mistake that I hadn't caught myself. It probably made us both feel better.
posted by dhalgren at 11:13 AM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

It predates the web quite a bit. I first encountered it in Stranger In A Strange Land:
You have to give an editor something to change, or he gets frustrated. After he pees in it, he likes the flavor better, so he buys it.
posted by bac at 2:31 PM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've heard people in the industry call it "goldilocksing" (this one's too X, that one's too Y, but this one? Just right.)
posted by doctordrey at 5:47 PM on March 25, 2015

The "mote." As in, you can see the tiny mote in my eye, but you will miss the beam in yours.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:35 PM on March 25, 2015

My GOD, thanks for asking this. I've been looking for that thread (linked previously above). Now by favoriting this one and that one, maybe I'll be able to find it again ...
posted by intermod at 7:54 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

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