1stWebDesigner’s Life #3 – Mind Reading & Doing The Whole Site


It’s time to get back to our funny project, 1stWebdesigner’s Life. We’ve received such great feedback from our first and second web comic that we’ve decided to make it a really cool bi-monthly series to brighten your Sundays. We’re back with Webster brought live by Jamie Sale!

Today we’ll talk about clients that think we can read their minds, and misunderstandings about what your job is and what it isn’t but your client may think it is. So let’s go through them.

Mind Reading

Doing the whole site

So, what could you do in these situations?

Do you remember that our goal here is to gain some insight from this comic? So, let’s go on this.

I don’t want you stealing my idea!

Many people think that an idea has value. Actually, we avoid talking about our own ideas with other people, fearing that they will just steal our next million dollar idea. But the truth is that until you implement your idea, it has no value at all. Even after implementation many people will just copy you, so success is not just about cool ideas.

Well, it may be hard to convince your client of this fact (if you find a way to do it, please, tell me).

So, your best bet here is:

  1. Position yourself as expert, someone who will help and make their idea even better with you great wisdom.
  2. Guide your client by trying to find out at least the basic structure of their idea, and similar projects so you’ll know how to start

To check #1 there’s no easy path, you must know a lot about what you’re talking about. So if it comes to a cool project that needs awesome JavaScript enhancements, you need to know JavaScript so you can give good (and free) advice. The key here is to say like “why don’t you do X, Y, Z cool suggestions related to what client have pitched to you? If you want I can do it for you for fair price here“. Again, don’t fear the client stealing your implementation logic, they’ll be glad to know that you want to help with great ideas.

To check #2 you’ll need to be really updated with new ideas and upcoming projects. So if your client asks you “a way to send and receive messages to others with a unique identifier so only allowed person will see it” you may suggest her trying Gmail. Then as you’ve done several webmail clients before you’ll know the project’s size.

But what I was supposed to do?

About the second strip, well, this one scares me even nowadays.

I used to work in a company where programmers were asked to (wait for it) insert products in their projects. Yeah, you read it right. A real company (actually I’ve seen others that work this way too) where programmers spend their precious time doing what a technician is supposed to do.

So, hold on, if a client thinks that you were supposed to add all their data, it’s not their fault. It’s yours.

What you have to do is to make it very, very clear, in the same way you won’t be designing their business cards, you won’t be adding content, or formatting their PC.

Your job is really clear to you, but you must explain what you believe your role to be to them, though they think you are they guy who knows everything about everything internet-related you won’t be doing such things.

It’s your turn!

Have you seen something like this? Do you have any fun stories to share? Just go on and comment! :)



  1. I have encountered a client who was lookign for iphone apps but every time she would ask to sign NDA before sharing her idea about the App.

    • Hi raybak,

      As I say, ideas has no value.. By the end of the day, any guy can just copy your app and launch it even after you’ve done it! Actually, all those big players out there are merely copies of previous great ideas..


  2. Fazer

    LOL, thats funny, but unfortunately truth! Thanks for your tips Rochester, I’ll try this with my next client.

  3. I can identify with the mind reading one a lot. When I ask for details I usually get a response like ‘isn’t that what I’m paying you for?’ ugh.

    And so excited you used my name suggestion for Webster!

    • Hi Laurel!

      Thanks again for your great suggestion :) We’re pleased to have such creative readers like you!

      About mind reading. Needless to say that I pass through this all the time. The thing that I hear most is “I trust in your creative skills”. :)


  4. Todd

    Lol. I get a lot of the second strip every month. I always get comments from my webdev staff like “Why are we building a great site with an equally great CMS for them if they don’t have plans of using it?” I guess the only way around it is by explaining to clients clearly–and concisely, if I may add–what your job is.

  5. Arun Menon

    The situations in this post are so real; we have had similar conversations with our clients (not good)! Over a period of time, we have learnt to say the most important word ‘NO’! “No, we cannot give you a price estimate without you telling us the features required; no, we do not have the bandwidth to update content for you – and it is outside the scope of the project.” But it’s tough!

    • Yeah, Arun. We definitely need to know how to say “No”.. And even before this we need to learn to sign contracts so we’ll be protected against crazy requests ;)



  6. Sean Erdrich

    I’m confused, I don’t see any text. Just a title, then “for further reading:” and some thumbnails…. Is there no article?

  7. Angus P

    I once had a client who wanted me to modernise their site, which was looking a bit very old. So after a bit of fishing around, I discovered that their CMS was an ancient version of Movable Type, which to be honest was horrible. WordPress was much more suited to their needs, so I wrote a custom WordPress theme for them, showed them a mockup. However, as I had rewritten their site in HTML5 with all of the semantic stuff, and changed the CMS, I now had the task of transfering all of their content across. The text content was relatively easy, and was solved with a quick SQL export, re-coding, and then an import, but the problem was that they had been running a journal that they published every quarter since 1992. All of these files were PDFs locked up on their web server, which for some reason they had no access to. So I had to find all of the URLs of these files, bunged them in a text file, and then set wget (Linux terminal download program) to download them all. Then it took a day to put them all into WordPress, each as a post. I had to do a lot of database tweaking so that the journal posts all displayed in the correct order relative to the other posts on the site, but I managed to get the original upload date from all of the headers in the wget log file that IIS had sent. I ended up charging them more for the site than I could have if they had they done all the content transfer themselves, but hey, they got a 0 effort website (apart for the OCD about layout stuff that most people would never pick up on)