Design Terms and Conditions - Unpragmatic graphic designer stalling project

Dear all, I am a software developer (not a graphic designer) who typically implements graphic designer’s designs, taking them from Photoshop/Illustrator and turning in to sites (CMS, payment solutions, or whatever the functional requirements are). We have done this for many projects and not had any issues until we did a job for a new graphic designer which has been a nightmare, specifically:

  • They did not understand the difference between fixed and responsive and gave us a fixed 960px design only (no mention of different view layouts), we ended doing a responsive site for the same cost of a fixed site.
  • Now we have done the responsive site (using bootstrap) the designer is complaining the page elements are not sized exactly as per his design (in pixels) - we can get it nearest using specific spans but not absolute as that’s the nature of responsive design frameworks.
  • Requesting specific font weights (such as 250), whereas the closest match is either 200 or 300, that’s all the google font offers.
  • Requesting additional complex jquery menu rollovers that could take many hours to implement and were never agreed - all they are pointing to is a reference site which uses a similar complex technique and asking for the same

I am not talking about huge differences, to the end user the implementation would look spot-on and they are always extremely happy.

In this instance an unpragmatic perfectionist is stalling work if it is not pixel perfect due to implementation fundamentals - these are technical issues the designer does not understand or seems willing to accept, and it is draining in both time and energy having the same conversations and attempts to explain each and every time.

I really need to beef up my terms and conditions (which have not covered these issues as I never faced them before). Can anyone recommend some software development guidelines or checklists on how to prevent scope creep, which I can refer back to during similar situations and ultimately allow for an acceptable level of variation between design and implementation?

Since I’m not 100% clear on what you’re looking for and not to sound like a SP stool, but the main site has a couple items you might find interesting.

The web design business kit
The 101 Essential Checklists book

Here’s another possibility, but I found this on a quick search -

In this case, is your contract with the customer, or with the designer? If it’s with the designer, I would give him exactly what he’s asked for and cut your losses. If it’s with the customer, have a discussion with them and explain why the discrepancies exist, and why it’s beneficial to them to go with your approach. Make sure you can back up your approach, with costs and ROI.


It sounds like it is not clearly agreed what the deliverable of your work should be - a fixed with design or a responsive design. You should have clarified this at the start. No software guidelines are going to help you with that unless you can subscribe to something that has detailed checklists for new technologies (I doubt it exists in a way that satisfies your clients needs).

If you start satisfying the requests of the graphic designer, you will have a nightmare without end - your responsive design is never going to achieve the pixel perfect result he is looking for. Your best chance is to have a sit down with him and explain the benefits and downsides of responsive design, as well as what downsides his other requests have (surely you could use automatically generated images of fonts for 250 weight, but that has obvious huge downsides). Your second and third best option may be to abandon the project for no charge or rebuilt it with fixed width.

Either option you choose, you have to come down hard on assumptions he may make. For example the 250 font weight is clearly not a standard request, so he will have to pay extra for this. If not, your time is better spent serving another customer. Remember, spending all your free time on keeping him happy will cost you and your customers (current and future) dearly short and long term: letting down other clients, not keeping up with quality of work, cash flow issues you have to work yourself out of, burn out. Your customers will not want any of these things happen to you,because they loose a trusted supplier. Anyone ignoring this is not working with you on a win-win relationship.

HTH, Jochen

Yes, now a days I have seen many freelancers do work for such ridiculously low rates, you wonder how they make their ends meet! Yes I have seen some freelancers quoting say $50 when you feel that even with some price adjustments one cannot afford it for say $200. Though with freelance sites the advantage has been that the market has become more competitive, many genuine developers have been at a receiving end because you can never match those rates.

Now coming to your topic that the specifications changed and even then you tried to accommodate some of the tasks in your billing, yet the client was unhappy. Yes, even under any terms and conditions we can be quite specific as possible but somehow if someone wants to find loop holes one could easily find one and ask you to complete the tasks.

This recently happened to me on one of projects. Initially based on the specifications I created a t and c and got approval from client to proceed with work. Once the basic changes were complete, I got a new set of changes. Now I told them that I had already done the work to which I was told that its the same set of changes but now they wanted different layouts / color schemes etc. When I said that it would need a similar amount of hours again, they said as a part of the t and s I had agreed to these set of changes. Now there is no way to prove that you already did that set once and now that the specifications really changed, but as they were the same set of changes to be done there was no escape route and I had to re do all the changes as per the new specifications. This did not end there. After that came the fonts issue. Similar to what you were facing. I was told that the font size and type do not match the PSD provided. When I said there were premium fonts and you need to get a license I was told it was my duty to get the font and make the size as per the PSD provided. When I mentioned that fonts are never part of any web coding deal unless specified, they said as per t and c - the developer will see to it that the final output matches the PSD design provided - though there was no mention of fonts, I had to finally get the fonts and install it.

Hence, now a days once need to be really careful and check each and every word before finalizing a contract because you are not sure where you end up. Sometimes, it becomes quite easy to let go the project and focus on other projects because if you keep following up one project you will finally end up annoying other clients trying to keep just one client happy.

I too feel that once the specifications had changed, to simply walk out and say sorry cant work on the project further without extra payment would have been easier rather than spending almost 3-4 times the initially discussed hours and getting paid peanuts - why because some freelancers do this for the same amount!

Thanks for the useful feedback, very useful - nowadays every time i get burnt an additional clause gets added, but would be good to learn from others peoples T&C :slight_smile:

Ultimately it boils down to doing what lawyers do, using English as a algorithmic language from which conditions are defined. Unlike a computer language, the meaning of English words can often have multiple interpretations, it is no wonder conflicts can arise.

Problem is there is no way i could take this to my law firm and them understand the technical details of software development, i think this type of technical software contract law is extremely specialized (and expensive!).