Stop Making Endless Design Changes

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Last week, I talked about the slippery slope of scope creep, which can begin with something as insidious the client making last-minute changes to your already approved design.

When a client has second thoughts about your design that far down the production road, chances are they were never fully-satisfied in the first place. Or perhaps some mysterious third party has suggested a different layout, color scheme, or functionality not originally discussed.

The trick to limiting the amount of changes is to nail the initial design as closely as possible to the client’s vision. That means you’ll need to ask questions. Lots of questions.

The first question I always asked was, “Do you have a particular design or layout in mind?” If a client had a pre-conceived notion of how they wanted the site to look, I wanted to know beforehand. Whether they did or not, I asked for examples of other sites they like and why they liked them. If they had an existing site, I asked what they liked and disliked about it.

The next thing I asked was about their competitors’ sites—which they liked, which they didn’t, and why.

One technique that helped was to ask the client to list a number of adjectives describing the look and feel they wanted for the new site, such as “corporate,” “conservative,” “artsy,” or “elegant.” Then I listed about 100 different words and asked the client to circle the ones that best described their company.

I hear a lot of designers complain about “not being a mind-reader” when they don’t come up with what the client had in mind. But you don’t have to be clairvoyant; just ask the right questions.

Only once did I create a design that was completely different from what the client wanted. She expected “artsy,” and I gave her “corporate.” But it was my fault; I wasn’t thorough enough with my design brief questions.

Now comes the time to present your mockup to the client. Assuming you nailed the design, any changes should be minor. It’s fine if the client wants his logo “3 pixels to the left,” but how many times will you allow that?

If you read my 27.5 Must-Ask Question for Consultative Selling, then you know it’s important that you identify all the decision-makers and ask the right questions. Well, now you’re going to repeat that process to “close the deal” on the design of the site. Just like you gained agreement about doing business together, now’s the time to go back and forth until you gain agreement on the design.

And you thought the “selling” portion of this project was over.

Regardless of whether you allow two or twenty design changes, make sure your client knows your limit long before this stage of the process. Regardless of what number you choose, setting a limit doesn’t mean you have to strictly enforce it. We all want our client to be pleased; setting limits lets you rein in those who never seem to be.

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It’s not too late to get my free guide, 27.5 Must-Ask Questions for Consultative Selling. Just follow me on Twitter and I’ll send you a link.

This is part 10 of the series Putting a Stop to Abusive Client Behavior:

  1. Stop Client Abuse of Web Designers Now!
  2. Stop the Abuse! 7 Steps to a Well-Trained Client
  3. Stop Wasting Time with Prospects Who Aren’t Serious
  4. Stop Giving Away So Much Free Information!
  5. Stop Writing Proposals to Win Business
  6. Stop Doing the Same Things and Expecting Different Results
  7. Stop Waiting to Get Paid! How to Collect Even when Your Client Delays
  8. Stop Getting Walked on and Set Some Boundaries Already
  9. Stop the Slippery Slope of Scope Creep
  10. Stop Making Endless Design Changes
  11. Stopping Abusive Clients: The Complete Process
John TabitaJohn Tabita
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Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.

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