Should I go against my own beliefs

I am putting this out there to try and garner some opinion from the community to help me make a decision about my current problem.

I was contracted to make a website for a 3rd party by 2 people who where paying the 3rd party for services by helping to rework the website. One of the duo would concentrate on rewriting the page content whilst the other was to offer up the design for the site. I was then to translate the design to code and help to fill out the content with that supplied.

As you would expect, I gave a discount on my normal pricing since these two rather time consuming tasks were taken out of my hands. The problems I have stem from the fact that the ‘content writer’ isnt a content writer and the ‘designer’ is a student of product design; this is their first website design.

Initially I was unaware, until late in to the implementation; that 90% of the design work has been plagiarised from a major brands website, its quite noticeable although not a major problem it is enough to make me concerned about whether to put my name at the bottom of the site.

The problem I have now is that they are attempting to make me implement design aspects that I do not agree with and that I feel will be detrimental to the site and problematic to the visitors.

The major point that I am contesting is that they want the 'main page content to appear in a small box at the bottom left of the screen; more or less the footer. This content is to start in a ‘hidden’ state and it is down to the user to ‘click to reveal’ the content. I have tried until I am blue in the face to make them see sense but I just keep getting met with the same instructions for that aspect of the design; something I have refrained from implementing thus far. Their excuse is that they believe that people who are actually interested in the site content will interact with these elements revealing the content, essentially providing a barrier for anyone else.

I have also argued that these elements will be detrimental to mobile and tablet visitors, again and opinion they have brushed aside.

I am at the point now where I am ready to approach the actual site owner and attempt to get full control over the site and its design and essentially cut out those who are in my opinion trying to harm the site; even though they have good intentions.

I wanted to ask the community at large for some general advice on how you would handle this if you were in a similar situation?

I personally would likely back out unless I could get through to the 3rd party that their approach is not the best way to handle this particular site and they should really try and start over. However, here are the questions I would ask myself to come up with my ultimate decision.

There are a few questions to ask yourself

  1. If I choose to continue on with this project, can I live with that decision and would I be willing to use it in my portfolio?
  2. Would I want to work with this group again, knowing their current process and lack of real-world skills?
  3. If we completed the project, would I want them going around stating they completed this site with my help? (keep in mind your answer to #1)
  4. Would this site ever reflect poorly on my business or have the potential to do so?

I’ve walked away from similar deals, one client wanted me to literally, rip the DVD they bought as a training tool, and to put that on their website. Needless to say, I shook his hand and said “I’m sorry, but we are now at a cross road. I can’t provide you with what you want due to several legal reasons, but if you do find someone that will, be prepared to receive a DMCA notice from the originator of the training content.” and then I left. I still have no idea if he has a website up or not, but that was 6+ years ago and my business hasn’t hurt from it.

Leave the trio.
Don’t try to take the client.

By the sound of it you were contracted to work on the site by two others who you don’t want to work with anymore.
The client is theirs, not yours. Look elsewhere for work.

If you were working with the client directly I would send them an email saying you’re no longer working with them and leave it at that.
If the client isn’t happy with how the site is going they can fire the other two and may choose to ask you for help but don’t try to work against people who hired you.

Thanks for your replies; just to clarify a few points,

I live in a remote holiday destination, the site owner is also resident here and he has developed into quite a good friend. The duo who initially contacted me on his behalf have now finished their time here and have returned to their homes, we are conducting the remaining development by email whilst I have occasional meetings with the site owner.

The site owner is a sports trainer, the duo are students of his who said they would invigorate his website in exchange for part payment on his fees. I was brought on board to actually build the site. The site owner is the one who is paying my fees.

In this arrangement I see myself as the design director and the duo are essentially working for me; we are working together to build the site for the owner. Is it wrong that I am thinking this way?

In my capacity I feel that my opinion trumps theirs; i.e. this is my full time job, I know better, I understand UX and try to find a balance between what the client wants and what I (with my experience) feel that the site visitors want. If we don’t design with the visitors in mind then it may harm the success of the project; that is my fear.

If they were my actual paid employees of mine I would not accept either the design or the content and I would force them to re-work both. When I bring up my concerns they are just brushed aside and I am again instructed to perform those same tasks. As they are only nominees of the site owner; I do feel it is my ethical and professional responsibility to inform the site owner of my concerns and thus allow him to make the decision on who has complete control over the site.

Let me just be clear; this is not me taking work away from other developers; I will still be more than happy to provide footer credits for the duo as I know (and appreciate) the work they have put in to this. The problem I have is that in my opinion, the work they have done is substandard; but they think otherwise.

Many people would say, ‘just walk away’ and it is something I am tempted to do; but as I said, the owner has become a close friend during our meetings; we have even met socially. The other rather important aspect is the sites traffic; they get a lot, as a freelance developer this is a great opportunity for exposure for me. This is a major reason why I have to make sure the site is built correctly and crosses as many boxes as possible when it comes to usability and accessibility; it needs to be something that sits nice in my portfolio.
Hence I really don’t want to walk away from this project; for those reasons; but I would also like to try to get on an even keel with the duo but I don’t feel they are listening to anything I have to say and they are just re-iterating the exact same points.

I have been drafting an email over the last few days; trying to find a balance between being firm but professional. I am considering how to ask them to step aside from the project for its own benefit but I am still toying with the wording. I also have a meeting with the site owner in the next few days anyway; I’m not sure of how to voice my concerns with him.

As it is now; the site owner is asking me to change and amend aspects of the content that the duo has already told me to not do. They have actually said to me not to let him change certain elements such as header images and sidebar/footer content. I don’t agree with this; especially if his ideas are better than theirs. If anything I really should inform him of this when he asks me to do them.

All I want to do is make websites; I could do without all this hassle!

NOTE: I am considering for future projects an additional clause in my contracts that states that I have complete control over whether aspects are implemented if I don’t believe they are accessible or add anything to the site. Obviously giving me grounds for withdrawal from the project; although I’m not sure if that is a bit too dictatorial: my way or else; not my style really. Does anyone else include such a clause? How do you word it?

Never get involved in projects like this. Its just messy.

Tell them “Thanks, but no thanks”

well, although I’m not that good in designing websites…but I agree with what is stated above… if I were you, your firm stand is better than what they really wanted to happen… see, professionalism and good name and reputation in every business is important… and it can be achieved rightly by balanced viewpoint on quality-quantity principles… and doing what is right will never put your business down, don’t be afraid to stand on what is right… though almost all is doing the against…