Person sitting by windows in front of laptop.
Person sitting by windows in front of laptop.
Credit: Simon Abrams via Unsplash

Nine Circles of Client Hell

Yay, you just accepted a new contract job!

Unfortunately, there’s no content and your client has no idea how he wants the final product to look. You’re excited to start a new project and the client is excited to start seeing designs. Though you have a few weeks to work on it, you start with what you have and send some initial ideas over.

Quick update, turns out we need it tomorrow!

You rush in (well-caffeinated) to make all the necessary changes, cutting corners to make things work in time. Sure, it’s not your best work but it’s somewhat functional. Tight deadlines spur on innovation right?

False alarm, turns out you still have another week.

The client went out of his way to get feedback from his mother-in-law and four year old nephew. He also showed your work in progress to his neighbor and his neighbor didn’t like it. He is convinced that the design is just a little bit off. It just needs a couple tweaks.

You ask for the content you requested a few days ago. The client nods politely.

An email at 5pm lets you know that requirements have changed.

The team wants to add five new features and cut all the ones you’ve worked on so far. And they’d like to get an ETA on when they can see something. Preferably soon.

More people are pulled into the feedback meeting so opinions start compounding.

“It must be cheap to build!”

“It must be polished!”

“It must look like [insert competitor here] but not too much!”

One person in the corner hates it and says so but doesn’t offer to explain why. You do a dozen more revisions.

Somebody important needs to review so “it must be perfect”.

Now you start getting opposing feedback as everyone has a different view on what should be shown to said important person.

Panic ensues as this review date looms.

The client sticks around to make sure it’s a top priority and insists on check-in meetings every half hour as to give a second opinion on every decision. The content you requested weeks ago is never sent.

Said important person’s off-hand comments leaves client scrambling.

You rush to pull together the best concepts and present them to the client team to see which the team should move forward with.

The project gets a final review with a larger external group.

They argue for several hours then change their mind and ultimately want to combine all the options into one. This results in an abomination that probably shouldn’t see the light of day.

But hey, at least the client looks happy. They just want just one last change.

UX Designer at Microsoft, illustrator, green tea drinker | UX for Beginners

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