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Friday, December 29, 2017

When the Customer Really Isn't Right

According to the file name, the brochure art that was forwarded to me was on its seventeenth revision. The client had either fired the designer or the designer had quit, I couldn't tell, but he was hoping I could make 'a few quick edits' to his website.

The designer in question, forwarded the WordPress login info with a note saying she was more than happy to let someone take over the edits, and warning that they were not easy edits to make.

Apparently, once he was more or less happy with the brochure, he then decided to have her do a website, but he didn't understand why the website couldn't be 'exactly' like the brochure. Looking through the pages of the brochure, I could well imagine the difficulty of coding stylesheets that would deliver the mix of fonts, sizes, alignments, etc., on the pages of the brochure.

For one thing, you don't really get to pick exact fonts with HTML/CSS code, you designate a neighborhood of fonts an let the browser render in whatever it thinks is the closest available font. If you've picked an exotic font that most people aren't going to have on their computers, you're not going to get 'exactly' the same result. Getting the complicated nesting of elements in the brochure, too, while I'm sure it could technically be accomplished by a stylesheet virtuoso, but it would be an epic effort.

I won't claim to be an expert on web design, my wheelhouse has always been print, but if he'd started building the website with me I would have told him to forget about matching the brochure exactly. Ink on paper doesn't look the same as a screen shining light directly in your eyes anyway. No the green won't be quite the same, no the fonts might not all match your brochure (depending on whose browser is rendering it). Get over it. Nobody is going to take your brochure and hold it up to your website and compare that shit, only you are doing that.

I'm pretty sure the fired/quit designer told him the same thing but this is not a person who listens to such things. So I gather the designer did the only logical fix: she made PNG images out of the brochure's elements and place those images in the WordPress template. Which is fine, except it isn't.

First of all, in terms of search engine optimization, if your text is rasterized in PNG files, you're invisible to Google. If nobody comes to your site because Google's crawlers can't figure out what the hell you're going on about, it doesn't much matter what your site looks like.

Another reason it's not okay is when you want to just 'quickly fix a few typos,' you're going back to the brochure, making the edits, then trying to figure out the dimensions those PNGs were exported out at so you can replace them. I was facing four pages of handwritten notes about things the client wanted tweaked or fixed and each line he'd written was a time consuming mess.

I was tempted to take the client's money. If the site had been coded in WordPress to begin with in a sensible way, it was maybe a half hour to an hour of work. As it is, it would probably have taken me six to eight hours and there were a couple of things on his wish list that I probably couldn't have managed (I won't say they're impossible, but they might be impossible with my skill set). If he's willing to pay upwards of $600 in shop labor because he didn't listen to sensible advice from the last designer, I'll play.

But my employer decided this was a bridge too far, and that was probably the most ethical decision. Like I say, you might as well leave the mistakes in the site since nobody is going to find it anyway. I always cringe when I see someone still designing websites using tables like it was 1996 or something, but this was by every measure even worse. Plus, having dealt with this client before, let's just say I've already experienced him asking me to do something that's not actually possible, and having him decide it meant I don't know what I'm doing.

And as frustrating as he is to work for, lest you think I'm just trashing my client, I think he's a decent guy. And I think the business he's trying to start sounds like a great thing if he can get it off the ground. Hopefully he'll grow ears at some point.

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