After 14 years (at the time of this writing, now 15) of making websites, logos, and products for print, I’ve heard it all. And sometimes I hear phrases (or see in an email or on a website) those phrases that make all designers and developers inwardly groan. Graphic designers, web designers and web developers….we’ve all gotten these at least once, but usually many times throughout our careers.
These are phrases used by customers who don’t know how to get their idea across to their web designers. Sometimes, the customer is just using a catch phrases they’ve heard, thinking it may be helpful for us (thank you Project Runway for bringing “make it pop” to our everyday language). At other times, these are phrases used by customers in an attempt to persuade us to move in a certain direction. To help you make your website better (or anything else you are having made), avoid these cliches in order to improve your communication with your designer.
1. “This Project Will Get You Great Exposure”
This is said to us when someone wants something for nothing. I understand you have a small budget, or maybe no money. I’m sorry, but working for free doesn’t feed my family.
We know you think you have an awesome idea. We may even agree with you. But why would we work for you for free when there are other people willing to actually pay us for our time? Lots of people have awesome ideas, but not every awesome idea pays off. The vast majority of awesome ideas never get past the idea phase, and eventually someone else (that had the same great concept) does it instead.
This phrase is a lot like another popular phrase…
2. “This Project Will Lead to Paid Work”
For some reason, people are more likely to make this statement and statement #1 to people working in a creative industry, than to people in another industry. It is said to photographers, graphic designers, painters, web designers, and web developers, just to name a few. I can’t imagine anyone saying this to a building contractor, plumber, car salesperson, or someone working at a restaurant.
3. “Make It Pop”
I really hate this one. It is so vague. Make it pop…how? Define “pop”. The very word “pop” means something different to everyone. This phrase also ranks up there with “we want something edgy”.
In order to understand your intent so we can give you what you want, try being more specific in your requests, such as asking for a color or size change. Maybe you want contrasting colors or are thinking of a banner instead of what you see? If you can’t find a way to phrase what you want, say so. Then we can sit and talk it out until we can find out just what you want.
This phrase is also used when someone doesn’t know what they want, but they know they don’t like what they see. In which case, say just that. Then we can work together to find out what you want. When making a product for someone else, the process is often trial and error because many people don’t know what they want, but they know what they don’t want. This is why, on my list of questions in our initial consultation, I ask customers to tell me what they do not want on their website.
4. “We Want It To Look Exactly Like This Other Website”
Copyright applies to websites, both the art and code used to create them. Even if I were inclined to just use someone else’s work wholesale, it is theft and completely illegal. The only way I can make a website look like another website is if you buy a website template. Then your site can look mostly like the other website (although we can’t use their written text, and we can’t use any images that don’t come with the template).
5. “This Change Won’t Take Long”
As someone who doesn’t make websites, you’re really not in a position to say that. To you, this looks like a simple change. To us, this is hours of image manipulation in Photoshop or hours of coding. To the untrained eye, a web page looks like something that is laid out in Microsoft Word. The reality is that the work is far more involved than putting together a flyer.
I love my clients who ask me how long something will take, first. Because my clients are awesome, they know that what they want may not be a quick fix. This means that when something actually is a quick fix, they get a pleasant surprise.
6. “Let Your Creative Juices Flow” and “Feel Free to Just Be Creative”
Well, thanks for the sentiment. That’s what we do though. It’s why you hired us. That said, when it comes to art direction, it’s not specific and doesn’t tell us what you really want. If you want something really different from what other people have, look for ways to describe that and/or find examples to give us. It doesn’t even have to be a website; it can be a magazine clipping or something from nature. Great ideas are all around us.
7. “Think Outside the Box”
I really hate this phrase. I loathe it. Hate, hate hate, hate. Not just because it is cliche, not just because it’s similar to #6, but because whenever someone says it, what they’re REALLY saying is “please give me the box”. When I or anyone else comes up with something “outside the box”, eventually, the customer or boss is guiding us right back to the box. In the end we have: a box. At best, they may want a box that is a different color. In my experience, people use this cliche because they can’t think outside the box and once outside that box, it’s way outside their comfort zone.
8. “Let’s Sit and Design it Together”
No. Absolutely not. I learned it the hard way in my early years. Design is hours of work. You’re going to get bored watching me do things, and you’re going to start talking and doing things to distract me. You’re also likely to fixate on small things that don’t matter rather than let me get on with making the project. Before it’s all over, we’ll both be pulling out our hair. It is actually far more efficient to leave your designer to do their job and get back to you. Additionally: if your web designer gets paid by the hour (and I’d venture that the phrase “most get paid by the hour” is accurate), you’re going spend more than you anticipated because it will take longer to make your website.
9. “Make It Like Amazon (or Facebook, or “Insert Name of Popular Site Here”)”
Unless you have Amazon’s budget, it’s not happening. You won’t get a cart like theirs. You can’t make a site like Facebook on a shoestring either. Anyone promising you this: I’ll be surprised if you get what you ask for, if you get anything workable at all.
10. “We want a Web 2.0 website”
Oooookkkkaaayyyyy…. This doesn’t actually tell me anything. This definition, coined by Tim O’Reilly in 2004, can best be boiled down into “what we’re doing with the web now.” (And that was 10 years ago folks.) The definition has changed a great deal since 2004, and for many it now means anything from an interactive site to a certain design style. The definition has a broad range of meanings and generally means something different from one person to another. So I sound like the idiot when I have to ask, “What does Web 2.0 mean to you?” There’s really no such thing as a Web 2.0 website, so asking for one isn’t really helpful.
And it’s everyone’s favorite line one to hate, the phrase that is an ongoing industry joke:
11. “Make The Logo Bigger”
One designer or developer can say this to another and cause hysterical laughter. For some reason, people want their logo bigger. But your logo is not what’s for sale! Why do you need it bigger?! Something bigger isn’t something memorable. When you’re selling a product or service, that should be the emphasis on the page, not your logo. If you are advertising a sale, the emphasis is the sale, not your logo.
If you look at the website of any well-known brand, such as Nike, Verizon, or Coca Cola, you’ll see a small logo on the top-left of the page. They have a brand better known than yours and they did not see any reason to make the logo bigger. Making the logo bigger won’t push your brand to popularity. Every single person that works in any field involving website creation, logo creation, marketing, advertising, or public relations will tell you it just doesn’t work that way.
Unless you are:
a. selling a logo,
b. have an internationally recognizable logo
c. are sponsoring a driver’s car in Nascar
there is just no need to have it big and prominent on every. single. thing. you. make.
If you want to see what makes your web designers laugh and cry, take a look at the satire comic by The Oatmeal called How a Web Design Goes Straight to Hell. There’s also the popular website, Clients from Hell (If you’re easily offended, these sites may not be for you; but these are the reality of the situations people in my field find themselves every day. To us, this is hysterical and sums up our feelings and what we get on a regular basis, very well.)