Web design gone horribly wrong.
September 20, 2007 5:48 PM   Subscribe

Friend re-designed my webpage, and it's bad.

A very close friend offered to redo my website in order to build his design portfolio, and to help me out. However, it's terrible. I have had several meetings with him to discuss overall layout and design. Each attempt he makes, it gets worse. I have been very clear with him about how I wanted it to look. I explained that it should be very modern, clean lines, contemporary, with a minimal feel to it. It is anything but.

Friend has spent quite a bit of time designing the webpage. I am starting to feel really bad about that, because he is doing it for free. In the last email from him, he stated that he was confident that this was the final draft.

A bit more of information: Friend went to school for graphic design, however has not worked in the "industry" since graduating over 5 years ago.

How do I handle this situation? Give it a few more attempts and hope to come to some middle-ground? If I want to call it quits, what is a tactful way to do that? And if I do go that route, what about all of the time he has already spent on it?
posted by engling to Human Relations (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Don't use the design if you don't like it. Be firm about that. Even though he's doing the work for free, you are the "client" and you have the last word. Tell him you appreciate the work, but his style just doesn't fit your needs.

Tell him he's welcome to use the design for his portfolio. (You can ask him to replace your name with a fictional name if you don't want to be associated with it.) That was the main point for him anyways, right?
posted by mbrubeck at 6:00 PM on September 20, 2007

It's hard to judge if you're being too picky or if he's a terrible designer without seeing the work in question. Can you post a screen cap or something?

As a graphic designer, I do not mind one bit if someone takes unpaying work away from me, especially when that someone has requested a lot of revisions. He might actually be glad the monkey's off his back to finish it if it's been difficult.

If you're worried about bruising his ego, a gift might take some of the sting away.
posted by MegoSteve at 6:40 PM on September 20, 2007

You need to explain to him that he needs to listen to you. If he's not listening to you (as the client) when he *needs* the work for his portfolio then how does he think he's going to listen to actual paying clients?

He is going to need to be okay with the possibility that a client will tell him he's not getting it.

I would send him a list of exactly what you want/need (send him to examples of websites you like). And I would explain to him that he needs to pay attention. Give him one more shot. If he fails to listen or comprehend it then I would tell him that you won't be using his work. It's rough but it's not going to be any easier in the work world if he can't comprehend what people want.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:41 PM on September 20, 2007

Have your meetings been in-person? Using the same OS/browser combination?

Could it be simply that "it works for him" and not for you?
posted by jkaczor at 6:51 PM on September 20, 2007

"He stated that he was confident that this was the final draft." I think this means he wants out too. Just thank him for all his work, save a version for the portfolio, and maybe buy a thank you present/dinner. Let him know you've seen other ideas on the web and you still want to experiment with your site.
posted by Yogurt at 7:02 PM on September 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

"Bill, I love you as a friend, and I cannot begin to thank you for how much time and effort you have put into this site redesign. I also want you to succeed in this field, because i know it is your passion. However, this site has not turned out as I expected and it has to be changed."


"Here are some sites that look like what I have in mind. Could we get my site like those?"


"I am going to have to go with someone else. I hate to do it, but its my business. I do want to pay you something for your time, because I know you really worked hard on it."

Either way, conclude with,

"Can I buy you a beer."
posted by 4ster at 8:08 PM on September 20, 2007

Yeah, it's time to cut bait. Be nice but firm and thankful. The few times I gave away my design work I tended to do something that jived more with my vision and where I wanted to go for my portfolio. Obviously, I tried to do what was best for the "client" but I wasn't as interested or motivated to get it just the way that they want. Why? Cause I'm doing it for free. You want everything your way? It's gonna cost.

Anyway, I learned not to give away my design unless it was pretty clear that there just couldn't be endless revisions. It's just not fair to either party.
posted by amanda at 9:01 PM on September 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Being able to show your designer other sites that have certain elements or ideas that you like is one of the best things you can do to guide him.

I have encouraged clients to do this for me in the past. No good designer wants to just do a clone of another design, but visual references are better than verbal ones (esp. if the client doesn't seem to be able to express their ideas in a way that the designer understands).

Also, by looking at actual existing sites, the client and the designer can avoid going down dead ends involving unworkable/impractical layout and navigation concepts.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:41 PM on September 20, 2007

I was more or less in your friend's shoes, where nothing I did seemed to satisfy the "client." After umpteen revisions, I wanted out, and the friend gave me a nice gift for my time. We're still friends, and I still use my work (sans the friend's business name) as an example (I'd be pretentious if I said I had a portfolio).
posted by desjardins at 6:38 AM on September 21, 2007

Working in the industry for 12 years, I can tell you 80% of design is client communication, creativity is a mere 20%.

If the clients goals and messages are not being met, then its just student work. There is a breakdown of communication here, either your friend isn't asking the right questions or you're not giving the right answers.

Sit the designer down, give 'em example pages of what you want and remind him or her that it's you that needs to be reflected in the design not them.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:58 PM on September 21, 2007

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