April 18, 2018

You do shoes, I’ll do CSS

There is a section in one of my proposal templates that often shocks people who download it. Here’s the section (offending phrase in bold):

Option 1: Pass Google’s Mobile Test I will make changes to the existing desktop site so that it will pass Google’s mobile friendliness test and by extension, to ward off a potential tumble in search engine ranking. Since the focus of this option is not related to visual design, we will not have design reviews. There will be gains in usability as a side effect of the primary goal but the visual design will be functional and utilitarian at best. I will carry forward the general branding and feel of the desktop page. Testing will only be done in Safari on iPhone and Chrome on Android.

The typical reaction to this is something like:

“Wait, what?! You were going to do a mobile redesign of the client’s desktop site, and not allow them to review the design?!”

Yes, that’s correct. And I hasten to add that the client did accept this proposal.

Here’s the thing:

The goal of the project was not to make the site pretty, or to win design awards, or to impress people on Dribbble.

Even appealing to the aesthetics of the CEO was not part of the equation.

The goal was to stop the negative impact of Google’s new (at the time) SEO penalty for mobile hostile site designs.


Engaging in design review and doing endless rounds of edits would have delayed the desired outcome, and wasted my time and the client’s time.

Having a clearcut and agreed upon desired outcome for the project gives you the power to enforce boundaries around your expertise that help ensure the success of your mutually agreed upon goals.

Here’s the big picture:

You are the expert at what you do, and the client is the expert at what they do. A project is a collaboration between you and your client, but that doesn’t mean that you each get to tell the other how to do their job.

Let’s say you’re a web designer and you have a client who runs runs a shoe store.

They’re an expert on shoes and their suppliers and their customers and their growths goals and what makes them different from the shoe store across the street...

You are an expert on color theory and typography and page layout and form design and information architecture and so on.

So don’t let the client tell you how to do any of that! And ESPECIALLY don’t ask for their opinion about any of it.

The reason you must refuse to let your client micromanage you is not because it’s rude of them, but because it will jeopardize the success of the project.

In other words, if the client tries to tell you how to do your job, guide their focus back to the agreed upon project goals and politely decline to do anything that you believe would threaten or delay the success of the project.

For example:

“That’s an interesting idea, Bob. Hm... Can you help me understand how adding a carousel with 10GB of images to the top of the home page is going to help us make the site more mobile friendly?”

The client may chafe over this pushback a bit during the project... but they’ll thank you for it when you’re all dancing in the end zone.