After presenting a new design for a company website, the owner leaned over, asked if she could suggest some changes to the layout, got out a black marker and started drawing the changes on my MacBook’s screen. I was stunned.
This is without a doubt the nuttiest, most epic email exchange I’ve ever had with a prospective ‘client’, made more so by the fact I only responded to the guy once and he kept going.
I present the following exchange with 'Mike The Client’ without comment. It’s long but impossible to excerpt because he has a knack for throwing out a curveball just when you think you know where he’s going.
MIKE THE CLIENT, Friday, 1pm
Back in 2004 I wanted to create a site that was basically a blog, but because of the subject matter that I planned to present to my audience I thought (and still do) that my site deserved to have its own identity. I also did this for marketing reasons. I read many blogs, and searched through all of the top designer’s sites, including yours. I didn’t know anything about CSS, but I bought Macromedia’s Studio MX 2004, and with the help of a template and some gadgets from ProjectSeven.com P7, I went to work and in time I got my site hosted, but for various reasons I was unable to do anything with it, and it sat with virtually no content up until something happened, and my site disappeared off of Network Solution’s server. Completely!
I didn’t really like the appearance of my site anyway, but P7 didn’t have anything to offer that excited me. I then approached a designer to create my site using a WordPress platform, and she pulled some mean stuff on me, and she didn’t follow my instructions whatsoever. Furthermore, I found that that platform, or framework did not work like CSS. What especially bothered me is that the sidebar doesn’t change on the different pages, and that just won’t work for my site design. I have heard about Thesis and wondered if that framework would offer more than regular WordPress. So, I sent a message to one of the top Thesis designer and asked some questions that I am going to copy below. She responded and told me that Thesis wouldn’t make a difference, at least not until they release 2.0, and that she could use a different framework, but not in my budget. I have a feeling that you will not be able to work within my constraints, but I am going to run this by you to see what you might be able to do, and at what cost. Before I paste what I wrote to the other designer I will tell you that the purpose for [sitename], (and other [sitename] sites that I have parked in the event that I obtain a large audience) is to address a Christian audience about righteousness, and how our world is being ripped apart. I will focus on these matters, and try to lead my audience to refocus themselves on Jesus Christ. But [sitename] will be no ordinary Christian site. It’s late however, so I am going to wrap this up for now. I will be ecstatic if you take this project on!
[note: an email he had sent to a previous designer was included in the initial contact, shown below]
Before I layout the needs of my project I would like to make a comment, and ask a question about certain elements of the Thesis design.
I have noticed that with wordpress type designs that the information contained within the sidebar does not change from one page to the other. Though I may not be completely dead set against this, I would prefer that I have the ability to change the sidebar information according to the use of a particular page. So, my question is, can this be changed to suit my needs, or do you also use a different framework that can suit my needs?
A few other questions:
I have a budget that I want to try to keep close to $2000.
I will need somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 pages. This will require a need for possibly an upper and lower menu, and will definitely need sublinks.
Depending on the page layout, I may require featured images such as these found at the following link (I do not want to use this page, however) http://http://www.studiopress.com/demo/chrome.html Note: I had some design work done on this page, but I had much trouble with the designer, and I did not like the limitations of the framework. Please don’t get the wrong idea. The designer went totally beyond the concept that I described, and would not answer emails, or phone calls when I attempted to ask for certain changes to be made. There are certain elements that I do like about this page, including the scrolling menu setup, which describes my need in bullet point #2. I also like how the rest of the page is laid out, but, of course changes would need to be made to suit my needs. However, if the Thesis framework gives me more options, then I would like my pages to be more dynamic.
I have a debilitating illness called [illness name here]. I have to take very strong medications to control the severe pain that I suffer from daily. Even small movements that I make increase my pain, so my involvement needs to be kept to a minimum. This will apply if you use a scrolling menu. If it is allowed, I prefer that I would send you the images that I select, but you resize them. My previous designer made me create my own images to use for the scrolling menu. I was given the wrong dimensions two times, causing me to create images, which took 16 hours. This caused the level of my pain to a point where I was in severe pain for days afterward. Then, the designer gave me completely different dimensions making everything that I did trash. Don‚Äôt get me wrong. I am not asking you to design all of my images. I am capable to create images, and I will be doing so all throughout my page(s) layout. I am simply requesting that if you see an element which is a normal part of your design process I would rather you do this work instead of me.
As part of my site I will have a few special design requests.
1. [feature name]: I will have a page called the [feature name]. On this page I will allow my users to write short stories, or comments that pertain to Christianity, and/or, World Events. These users will need to subscribe to have this opportunity. The stories will be limited to a certain amount of characters, and these users will be limited to write two stories per month.
2. Featured Writers: I will also allow users to pay for the opportunity to write four to five stories/comments per month. These users will be named Featured writers. The Featured writers will have avatars, which will be displayed on one page. All of the Featured writers will be added to the Featured page. Their stories will be linked to separate pages. Since they will have to pay for the opportunity to be Featured writers, links must be setup to lead them to subscribe, and also to pay before writing. So, the site will need to have an eCcommerce setup. I will likely host this site (by the way, the domain is [sitename], currently hosted at Network Solutions) at Verio, or Network Solutions. I am not sure if they will set this up, or if you will need to create a framework, but this is the idea.
3. Featured Articles: Users who are signed up as Featured Writers will have the opportunity to have their articles to be viewed on a Featured Articles page(s), which will be selected by me.
4. [sitename] Connection: On this page users must be subscribers. I will allow them to make short requests for prayer. These requests will not be linked to a different page, but I will make the request‚Äôs null links, so they are highlighted on the page.
5. Video: I would like to have some sort of video linked to YouTube, or something better if you know of it.
6. Email - Rss - Subscribe: I will need these features setup
7. Other Links: There are other links/sublinks (About-Contact- etc) that could reach 10, or a few more, including those above. I will fill you in if you accept the project.
8. Bells & Whistles: Whatever else that you can add that is within my budget will be super!
Note: I do have a company (Logoworks) designing my logo. At this point they have two more rounds, but I will share the logo (that I will likely select) with you if you accept this project.
If we proceed I will send you information about my vision, and everything that you need to give you ideas about the site design.
MIKE THE CLIENT, Saturday, 4pm (note: barely 24hrs later, and on a weekend no less)
I have my doubts about you being inundated with so many emails that you can’t answer your emails. After going through the time that I took to explain my project I would think that you would be courteous enough to say, “Sorry Mike, I can’t help you.” I consider a person like this to be quite capable of sharing trade secrets. I am sending you this email to create a record, and advise you not to share the information that I provided to you.
ME THE DESIGNER, Monday, 9am
So, you’ve emailed us on a Friday afternoon, then waited all of 24 hours for a response before resorting to questioning our integrity? We have this thing called weekends, maybe you’ve heard of them.
If we had wanted to work with you before, we certainly don’t now.
MIKE THE CLIENT, Monday, 4:30pm
Before you read through this I want to tell you that I am sorry.
I am a Christian. What I plan to do with my website is to reach out to other Christians to focus on following Jesus’ word, and to reach with all we can for righteousness. I believe that this world was given to us by God, and I believe that He sent Satan here to rule this world. In other words, I believe that this world is all about good vs evil.
I think I told you in my first email that a few months ago my site was completely lost from Network Solutions server. I have good reason to believe that it was hacked. Since then I have been on a mad rush to find someone to redesign my site. I hired a logo company (LogoDesignGuru) to create a new logo, and I was astonished to see how bad, and unthoughtful their work was. It was as if they used their least qualified designer to work on my project. I tried to give them time (which lasted a month) to make changes, and create something usable, but all I got was crap. I fired them and then found Logoworks and they are doing great work. I have attached to first round design, which needs some tweaking, but I think that within the next few rounds they will get it right.
I haven’t re-read the first email that I sent, and I may be telling the same story, but for the sake of the point that I am trying to get across I’m going to talk about the designer that I hired. I will keep this brief, however, because I think you know the details. I hired this designer who from the story that she wrote about herself was one of the best in the field of WordPress designs. In fact, I found her through another desiner’s site, who said that he did not have time to work on new projects, but he listed about 10 designers whom he thought are the best qualified. I found this designer, and I really was unimpressed by the designs she created, but she told a great story about herself, and I got sucked in. Well, the bottom line is that she did not set up the site in any fashion as what I described, and then when I wanted changes to be made she got angry. She basically made herself my project manager, telling me do this, don’t do that, with my business, not my site.
Also, I think I may have told you, but she had me doing most of the design work myself. She insisted that I provide her with terms and conditions, content, images, and also that I placed everything with her, on her preferred server, her preferred billing service, her preferred everything! Then she told me that until I provided her with a load of things that she “was placing my project on hold” until I provided these things to her. All I asked her to do was design my site. Since she got out of hand I had to let her go, but she has $750.00 of my money, and she is thus far refusing to even talk to me about returning at least part of my money. I know that she is thinking that she did this work, and that she is due what I paid her, but like I said, she didn’t even follow my instructions. She did it her way, not mine.
When I began my project back in 2004 one of the designer’s that I came across, beside’s you, was [another designer I know]. You probaly know him. I sent him an email and he didn’t answer. When I began my recent search for a designer I turned back to him. I told him in my email that I realized that I might not have the budget that he requires, but… he didn’t answer me again.
When I turned to you I had been stressed out over everything that has happened over the past few months. Because I have been placing all of my focus on this project I have fallen out of touch with our Almighty God, and Jesus Christ. I have made myself susceptible to the Evil One, Satan. I can tell you, I have been seeing signs of this all throughout these past months. When I contacted you I stepped way out of line. I am not making excuses, but part of my problem has to do with the medications that I take for a crippling disorder called [illness name here]. Very often I lose track of time. In this case with you I really thought that more time had passed. But also, I allowed evil to guide me, and I did what I did. I thought, you’re just another [other designer], but also because I know where you rank on the net I worried that you might get ahead of me in my plans for [sitename]. Again, I allowed my usual values to turn in evil. I owe you my deepest apology. I could go on in many ways to express how sorry I am, but just know that I am. My eyes are filled with tears.
Thank you for writing back to me, and making me realize how out of hand I have become. I will not forget what I have done, and hopefully I will become a better person, a better Christian, because of this.
MIKE THE CLIENT, Tuesday, 5:00am
If you are willing to forgive me I would like to ask you again to design my website. I have a $3000.00 budget. If this budget can give me one of your beautifully fresh concepts then I am willing to wait until you have time.
[me], I really am sorry for how I treated you, and this is regardless of whether you can create my design. I wish you the best.
MIKE THE CLIENT, Tuesday, 8:44am
I promise that I will not continue to bombard you with emails. In fact, if I do not hear from you I will get the point, and this will be my final contact.
Despite the behavior that I displayed I know that Jesus wants me to reach out to Christians to get them to involve themselves in reaching for a righteous life in Christ’s Word. As you have seen I too need to do more work on myself before I reach out to other’s. But I am certain that [sitename] has God’s blessing, and not only this site will be successful, but so too will the other [sitename] sites that will launch when the time is right. It is my hope, mission and plan as these sites grow, I will create a Foundation to bring help to those who are in need around our country, your country, and around the world.
If you are willing to help me out with [sitename] then you will be my go to designer when the other [sitename] sites are ready to launch. These projects will be extensive, and costly to develop. A high amount of these cost’s will go to the designer.
I truly am sorry for what I did to you. It doesn’t matter if you design my site or not, I still have to live, and pray to Jesus for forgiveness of my outlandishly sinful behavior. But, it is very important that the design of [sitename] (and [sitename] sites) is something special, because as you know, users will click off in a second simply because of the appearance of a site. There are only a few designers who have the extra knowhow to create designs that make the user comfortable. You are the best. So, before I move on it is necessary that I contact you with my request. Perhaps my budget can’t even come close to what you expect. Perhaps I have completely damaged any future with you. But, again, I can’t leave a stone unturned.
If you can’t work with me, or won’t work with me, I pray that you will forgive me. I am not (normally) the person that I portrayed. In fact, I know that you will like me if you get to know me. I will leave it here. I hope to hear from you one way or another.
MIKE THE CLIENT, Thursday, 10:50am
I feel like I need to contact you one more time before moving on. Perhaps you could just design the pages, and I will do the rest?
The following is not meant to be a dig, but just that maybe you will forgive me. It is a teaching from Jesus Christ.
“You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”
Can we work together? Can you forgive me?
“You came to see me yesterday and I don’t see any sign of my new website going live yet? What’s going on? ”
I once had a client call me in a panic from their annual holiday in France:
CLIENT: I have an urgent problem…
ME: Ok, what’s up and I’ll see if I can try and fix it
CLIENT: Well there’s something up with my site and I need you to fix it immediately. I’ve just gone onto my website from the villa and the whole site is coming up in English not French.
ME: That’s correct, it’s an English website.
CLIENT (at this point very irate) : I know, but I’m in France!!! Shouldn’t it be in French when I log on from France so that French people can read what I do?
Client’s 70-ish year old father storms into boardroom during our first meeting brandishing a sheaf of papers–all print outs of Google search results, covered in highlighter and red circles.
Him: “I want to know the meaning of this!” <throws papers on table in front of me>
Me: “I’m sorry? The meaning of…Google?”
Him: “NO! I want to know why our website is not listed here! HOW ARE PEOPLE SUPPOSED TO FIND OUR PHONE NUMBER?!”
Me: “Um…you’ve just hired us to start building you a website, sir. You don’t actually have a website at the moment.”
Him: “YES I DO! My granddaughter writes to me every week! www.bill AT xxxxxxx.com!”
Me: “Ah, right. Yes, that’s your email address, sir.”
Him: “Look at this! These are all our competitors! <points to highlights and red circles> Why are THEY on here? I search OUR name and THEY are on here!!!”
Me: “Again, you don’t actually have a website yet. We are going to build you a website so that you WILL be listed in Google.”
Him: “Listed in Google?! What are you talking about? Who do I call to get www.bill AT xxxxxx.com listed in Google?!”
Me: “Ah, it doesn’t quite work that way sir. You’ll need an actual website first, and that’s what we’re here to do.”
Him: <rolls eyes and looks at his now fully mortified son sitting across the table from me> “I already told you that we HAVE a website. Good choice, son. This lady clearly doesn’t have a CLUE what she’s talking about.”
I ended the meeting and left right then.
I was approached by a supply chain management company a while back, who wanted a new website along with a new logo. “But,” the client told me, “we already basically know what we want for the logo, we just need you to execute it.”
Me: “Okay, well, that’s great if you have something in mind, why don’t you run me through it”
Him: “The main thing we want to stress is that we are a global company, and that we are top-quality in the supply chain management industry. So basically what we’re thinking is that we’ll show a semi-dimensional illustration of the world, to emphasize global, and then around the world, we’ll put chains to emphasize the supply chain aspect of our business. We think it’s really strong and will communicate exactly what we’re going for. Could you come up with some comps around that?”
Me: “…are you sure that’s sending the right message?”
I was meeting with a prospective client to work on a children’s picture book about a wounded cat who finds a happy home. The author asked me to produce a sample drawing, which she described as follows:
“There must be maggots in the cat’s cut. I want them to be detailed and life like. The maggots should be the focal point of the drawing”.
Several years ago while working on a website for a large healthcare company, I had to meet with their committee several times to have them approve the stock photography that had been selected - and budgeted - for the site. The images were all very moderately priced. The members of the committee were all very pleased and approved the images that had been selected immediately. The following Monday, I received a visit from their IT director who announced his brilliant scheme to save the company a few bucks: “Hey, forget about buying all that pricey photography. Last weekend I had some friends over for a BBQ and I just snapped a bunch of pictures. Let’s just use these instead.” Not only where these some of the worst pictures I’ve ever seen, but they didn’t fit at all with what the web site was about. Somehow I ended up losing that CD under my desk and we went ahead with the stock photos.