Web design project from hell immortalized in cautionary webcomic


This instructional webcomic about a web design job gone horribly, eyestabbingly bad rings SO true. (via Glenn Fleishman)


  1. Is there more to this post? A link or something? I feel like there are more panels that will somehow turn the designer into the next “our last designer was an idiot” when really it’s the customer and their insistence on meddling that usually is.

  2. I’m reminded of the House of Toast in “Mary Backstayge, Noble Wife,” on Bob and Ray’s radio show. The Backstayges owned and operated this restaurant. One could order toast buttered on the far side or the near side. Also on the menu: prune shakes.

  3. This attitude coming from “designers” is one that I hate. Too many think that because they went to school or made some logos that they’re suddenly the only person in the room able to have an opinion about the look of something. Were you told “listen, we’ve seen the rest of your work and we’re confident enough in your abilities and judgment to give you free reign over every visual/content/UI aspect of the site- just go do it”?
    Oh- you weren’t told that? Well then guess what, other peoples’ opinions and desires are important, and you in fact need to behave just like that panel towards the end, as the mouse in the graphical program that gets told what to do by the people who are paying you for your ability to use the tools.

    1. …you in fact need to behave just like that panel towards the end, as the mouse in the graphical program that gets told what to do by the people who are paying you for your ability to use the tools.

      You seem to be confusing “designer” with “technician.” The person you just described isn’t a designer any more than the guy who puts a house together according to someone else’s blueprints is an architect.

    2. I’m trying my best not to just laugh at you.

      Right, all designers should just be robots programmed by other people, and they should not use their base of experience and knowledge of what is “good” to help their clients.

      The problem is that there is a process in the design that accounts for all the stuff the client wants – you create mockups, get feedback, change the mockup, build prototypes, and then move forward. The client typically signs off on these changes. Then they still tell you it’s wrong. Unless you’ve worked as a designer, you really don’t know the problem. If you have worked as a designer, then I’m sorry you had to be the robot you seem to have such a hard-on for.

    3. you in fact need to behave just like that panel towards the end, as the mouse in the graphical program that gets told what to do by the people who are paying you for your ability to use the tools.

      Totally. And while we’re at it, fuck my mechanic and my doctor too. Who are they to say my armchair expertise isn’t as valuable as their schooling and years of experience? If I want to put the wrong part in my car because it’s cheaper or cut off my own entire hand to cure a hangnail they need to just shut the fuck up and operate the tools.

    4. ….as the mouse in the graphical program that gets told what to do by the people who are paying you for your ability to use the tools.

      This is where non-designer’s get confused. Designers are not only hired for the ability to use tools in a software program, but also solve design problems and communicate a message effectively to an audience. Anyone can click around in Dreamweaver and slap together a website. But a good designer can communicate a message so effectively and efficiently that it appears easy or not designed. Jonathon Ives is a great example.

    5. Because, of course, design is completely random and only speaks to aesthetics. It has nothing to do with usability.

    6. It’s true that some designers are overly obnoxious, but good design IS a skill and requires knowledge. Everybody has personal opinions (and think they are paramount) but when creating a product that is supposed to look professional, not every opinion is informed and valid.

      I find it very disheartening that many people feel that designers shouldn’t have authority and pride in the work they produce, that it’s arrogant and pompous for a trained designer to control the quality level of his own output.

      As an ex-web designer (I am now solely an illustrator… gee, I wonder why?) I often encountered that sort of attitude. I always asked what were the client’s preferences in terms of feel and identity first (most apt designers don’t just trample everyone and demand ‘free reign’). I would put a lot of care in getting accustomed to the client’s industry and market on the web, planning a competitive design and optimizing the site’s functionality accordingly. Not only the client’s money and image were at stake but also my own (there is no way I could put some hodge-podge, crappy web site on my portfolio because that would hurt my own reputation).

      Not every designer is some foofy asshole who wants to push his ‘personal tastes’ on you. Many of them are simply professionals who want to do a great job and give their clients a site that has a good edge over the gazillion other sites out there. Why is that so evil?

    7. Haa Haa, seriously, why are you hiring a designer then?

      People who have a cracked version of Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Illustrator and claim to be web designers are a dime a dozen, and can do exactly what you want, be a voice operated mouse.

    8. I’m glad you are happy to make up for a client’s inability to just read the fucking manual and click themselves.. If they know what it should look like, why dont they just do it themselves? Or at least have the capacity to draw it with good ol’ paper and pencil before the designer spends hours on a design, only for it to be butchered in the end.

      Your comment also shows your complete lack of understanding in the way you assume web design is like designing a logo. Graphic design is, arguably, ultimate control – as you are only limited by your imagination and software skills. Web design, however, is completely different as a web designer is limited somewhat by the fact that there are set limitations on what is possible (as dictated by the fact the end user needs a browser to view the content).

      Not every designer is some foofy asshole who wants to push his ‘personal tastes’ on you.

      But we groan when idiots (management types, mostly) demand we produce stuff that looks shit. We dont like spending our days working to destroy our professional reputation.

  4. LOL, it’s pretty similar to life in software design too. Which is why I don’t want to ever do that again, no matter how much it pays. 15 years was enough!

  5. well… i’m webdesigner by my self, so i understand that feeling, when client pucks up your great vision of how the website sould look like. but… now… looking back for 5-10 years i see how wrong actually i was and i realize what client really was saying to me were right, but because i was the DESIGNER and wasn’t really listening + nor me had enough experience to understand situation, nor client has it to explain his point correctly. of course there is many clients who have very blurry idea about what he wants / needs, how much effort it takes to make happen and so on… when i feel it, i choose to not continue because it will be better for both sides.

  6. Oh man this is way too true. This is the reason I transitioned into just doing the coding, and leave the designing to someone else. And I started my career as a graphic designer!

    To scosal: You would be so fired if you were my client. Stay away from me man!

  7. The problem as I see it is that often times designers get hired on to do design when the company owner really wants some business analysis. A designer comes in and reworks a company’s circa 1998 web page and while the finished product might look great, its still little more then the online catalog/e commerce site that was originally developed. So seeing the updated design the owner starts thinking of updated uses for the site, and that’s when last minute crazy additions start popping up.

  8. We creative types need to find more clients who recognize the truth in posters like this. Then we can both have a good laugh and get off on the right foot, breaking the damned loop.

    Like any healthy relationship, both sides need to thrive!

    Also closely related: this and that.

  9. A designer’s job is two things.
    1. To make the things the client wants into reality.
    2. To ensure the things they think they want are actually good ideas for them. Unless “difficult to use webpage” is something they actually want, for instance, they should point out when other requests will make it that way.

    This comic doesn’t address the first, but I don’t think too many people have trouble with the concept. Apparently a lot of designers have run into people who have trouble with the second.

  10. As a business owner doing software and with some experience in these sorts of things (both art and difficult clients), I definitely get a laugh out of this. The one that rings the most true for me is where the client is giving completely useless feedback about making things “pop” more. I’ve had clients with absolutely no idea what they wanted, and it was a pain to get anything useful out of them.

    Having said that, the more defensive designers need to realize it goes both ways. Sometimes, you have to remove the ego and realize the client might know more about his business than you do. You have to balance the need to exert your own vision with the need to make the client happy.


    If the client is asking you for a juicy steak burger and you come back with a tofu burger because of your own beliefs, that’s your fault, not the client’s. Sometimes a client just isn’t a good fit for you, so knowing when to step away is another useful skill.

    Also, a good illustrator does not always equate to a good ui designer, so let’s not always mix the two. I’ve dealt with a few designers/web programmers (flash programmers usually) that would come back with designs that looked interesting with all the bells and whistles, but were completely impractical for everyday use.

    That’s all well and good, since these things are iterative, but the point is, if the designer doesn’t know how to listen to his client or communicate his vision properly, then the designer is as much to blame.

    I don’t agree with the extreme “be a robot” suggestion stated earlier, but at the same time, the client is the one paying the money, so sometimes you have to work within their constraints.

  11. I sympathize with the designer in the comic, as I’ve had clients myself who have made some of those requests although not to such extremes, thank goodness. I have to assume that the designer at least tried to talk the client out of some of the really hideous ones citing reasons why adding them would severely inhibit the ROI for his business. But I have my doubts. I disagree that getting other people involved is a bad thing. If a person uses the web, even a 70 year old grandma, then they have valuable input into how that site will be useable based on their internet going experience. Part of a designer’s job is guiding the client, and asking questions as to why they think that adding their beloved dog to the home page is necessary. Maybe what they really want is for the site to feel more welcoming, and as a designer you can make other suggestions that are both friendly to users and professional. I personally would have put my foot down well before any client of mine made 13 of his own revisions in photoshop, and charged extra for them at least. Some clients can’t be reasoned with , I understand, but robots are expensive. If I’m going to be their pixel pushing robot, then the result is going to be an ugly and costly web presence. People tend to give up on their awful ideas when they start to cost a lot to implement. It also seems that the problem with Boyd’s Toast is that Boyd had no idea what values he wanted to portray to the public. His business needed branding work before it needed web development and web designers are not necessarily branding experts. I know I’m not.

  12. Designers come in different forms, with different training and experience. A good web designer will have immersed himself in interface design, psychology, advertising design (attention manipulation) and graphic design, as well as the obvious elements such as coding. Even if you are just the UI designer and/or requirements analyst you still have to have some understanding of the other tasks which must be performed.

    And a designer should not get paid for an opinion. Designers should get paid for being able to show why their opinion is based on understanding, not personal preference.
    Part of that understanding is understanding the clients needs. For some you might be able to do the whole task yourself. For others you might need a month or two of requirement analysis and months of design, mockups and such.

    A designer doesn’t just wield a pretty stick. Good design is about much more than that. But many people don’t know that. Not their fault, they have very different specializations. Designers need to be respectful, because people have absolutely no obligation to understand what a designer does, and what thought or training goes into that.
    Just like we don’t have to understand what an archaeologist does.
    I wouldn’t show an archaeologist disrespect just because I don’t understand his job, though.

    So people like @scosol, understand that you don’t understand. Just like a pilot saying “there will be turbulence in a little while” he’s not basing it on pure opinion, but rather on reasoning and knowledge. When the designer says “that control can’t be there” he probably knows what he’s saying. You can ask why, but you may not understand the answer. Just like when the pilot mention cloudtypes, friction in boundary layers and such. He will then dumb it down for you and you will feel that he is condescending. Tough titty ;)

  13. Another problem is that the clients are often bosses or managers, therefore people who are likely to believe they are always right and who might have trouble delegating.

    I often sensed that the clients who would revise the maquettes ad nauseam weren’t as much expressing their own opinions on the site as making sure they were directly involved with every little detail. As long as they felt they were ‘driving’, they didn’t really care that they were steering off the road.

  14. I don’t know anything about Toast producers communicating with web-designers, nor is it likely I would ever care. However, all three stages of the design are pretty funny. The first is outrageous and cool. The second is well designed but an automatic turnoff for my personality, because it is clear that the toast will cost twice as much from a site like this. The third seems most likely to sell your credit card number. . . perhaps it’s the lens flare.

  15. This reminds me that every web designer I know acts as if they are the busiest person on the planet. This kind of thing happens in all business and I’m sure even architecture. Once the webbies find out how to control this beast they will flourish and I hope they do as many are friends.

  16. This comic reminds me why I left graphic design and went into custom furniture building. I have far more freedom creatively, the clients take my opinion as an informed and trusted one, they are always pleased when the finished product is delivered. Print and web design clientele (small business and corporate alike) is often populated by thick headed meddlers who destroy good design. Let the professionals do what they are hired to do.

  17. I’m having a hard time laughing about this, it’s just too close to reality.

    Lately I have been working on an annual report, using a consistent style for all the photo images. All was approved beforehand by the client (with tons of style samples), hours upon hours went into image editing and when it was all done the images were rejected because the client suddenly perceived them as “threatening”. I’m talking about blue skies, sunshine and smiling people here.

  18. In my browser, this post is displayed so that the part of it having the links and the actual text are almost completely hidden behind the ad, so finding the link to the full version of the comic wasn’t easy.

    Ironic, isn’t it?

  19. Web design isn’t that different than carpentry: if you tell me you want the door to open to the left, and I build it that way, and then you tell me you’ve changed your mind and want it to open to the right, then guess what? I’m going to charge you for the changes.

    Do you know any house painter who are willing to paint a house four times, because the client didn’t like first three colors (s)he chose? Neither do I.

    1. Get as much money as possible up front. Get progress payments, too.
    2. If the client says, “Don’t ever expect to get a 100% accurate description of what they want,” or if they refuse to sign a professional services agreement, run, don’t walk, away.
    3. If they tell you that they have lots of work but not much money right now, apologize and then leave.
    4. If the client’s logo looks like crap, it’s probably b/c the client insisted that the poor graphic artist exactly reproduce the client’s crappy design. Crappy logo => crappy web site. Decline to be involved, unless you get the money up front.
    5. The contract should state that after the design is approved, you are only responsible for fixing mistakes (like typos), and within 30 days of completion. Any other changes are a new contract for a new project. The client may scream, but do you know any other business that operates differently?
    6. Insist on knowing what browsers and versions of browsers the client wants the site to work with. If they say, “All of them,” they are probably idiots, in which case you should a) charge more, or b) decline the job. Do you really want to spend the time to get your nice web standards-compliant code working with IE 5.5, all for the same palty amount of money?

    You will wind-up kissing some potential clients goodbye, but you will save your sanity not having to work on all of their crappy “free” revisions.

  20. My worst was a guy who did two things…

    – altered an already-signed contract and assumed that his changes were fully in force
    – wanted to pay me in used computer parts (which, in the end, I accepted because it was better than nothing…barely)
    – Said “ok, the mountain logo…can you make it like neon”?

  21. Yeah it’s a great stuff and I am sure I will get some information that I can use it as reference purpose.

  22. I don’t know anything about Toast producers communicating with web-designers, nor is it likely I would ever care. However, all three stages of the design are pretty funny. The first is outrageous and cool.

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