7 Things Clients Should Know About A Web Designer’s Job


Clients always have a lot of questions, don’t they? They ask a lot of questions because they just don’t know how things work on this “Internet thing”. They just want their pretty site online and with Comics Sans, please.

So, guess who will have to tell them the bad news, and teach them the basics? Yeah, I’m looking at you.

We, at 1stwebdesigner, are nice guys so we’ll help you with a few common things that clients don’t understand, but they really need to, because when they do, everything will be much easier and more pleasant to do.

So, let’s rock.

First of all, you will need to find a good place to find good graphic and web designers. If you want to outsource to places like oDesk, Freelancer or Elance, keep in mind if you want to get work done for very little money, most usually you will just waste lots of time and energy. I hired several freelancers with oDesk and in the end results weren’t great and I didnt even end up paying as little as I expected.

After years of experience, I have understood, that you do need to pay for quality. You can always negotiate, but don’t go out looking for cheap outsourcing, because mostly it will be the waste of time. We have a great article about the best freelance marketplaces, if you want to dig in deeper. If you just want to find quality marketplace quickly, there is AwesomeWeb, new marketplace which focuses only on having high level graphic and web designers on the site by manually approving/denying designer accounts.

Now before you go on hiring, educate yourself a little bit to have a smoother experience with your next designer you hire!

1. How This “Web Design Thing” Works

Here you should tell them your complete process including parts that aren’t covered by your current contract. For instance, even if you weren’t contracted for SEO consulting, you should tell them where you’d put this, if they want to contract you or another person for doing so.

You should explain the big development blocks, and even break them up into smaller ones, like breaking up “development” into “Look, first I do HTML coding, then JS coding and then I add this to our CMS, so you’ll be able to add content only at this point.”

All those explanations are important so your client will know when he will have each part of this thing done, avoiding weird things like you doing everything in a hurry and then waiting weeks for content.

2. Web Designing Isn’t Just Typing A Few Commands Inside A Fancy Text Editor

The first item on this list may help you a little bit, but many clients thinks that all web designing is done with a few commands and then drawing a few fancy things using Word or Paint (thanks DreamWeaver and FrontPage).

If you think that your current client is that type, bad news for you.

I hope you are a patient person (I mean, the kind of patient that will make buddhist monks look angry and impatient) so you can do a big thing for the Web Design Community: teach your client HTML basics.

Believe me, it’s not as bad as it seems.

First you should tell them its importance. We have W3C for one reason, HTML code can be “understood” by machines, so they really know which kind of content you’re creating. Teaching them a bit about HTML is not the same as teaching them how to customize their CSS. It’s about cool things like SEO, data mining, multiple devices able to read same content.

Then you could introduce them a few quite common content tags (p, h1-6, strong, blockquote, ul, li, dl, table…).

If your client knows HTML basics they can do a much better job when they’re updating the website by themselves. They’ll know why it’s so important to do things with h’s instead of ordinary P’s with increased site (not to mention FONT tags) and why they can’t just paste content from Word of Email clients.

3. Domain, Hosting, And Email Aren’t The Same Thing

Many people never stopped to think about it because we really understand this almost by osmosis. But how do you get things online? I mean, why can I go to google.com and not mywife’sPC.com/hiddenfiles? Why can’t you just get rochester@google.com, instead of boring rochester@thisIsMyOwnDomain.com.br ?

It’s time for a metaphor, the house metaphor (no, clouds above doesn’t mean internet).


Is the building, where you can put things. Usually we just rent it from hosting companies, so we don’t need to spend a lot of money building it.

There is where you store all your cool stuff and when people walk into your house (website) they’ll see this stuff (unless you hide it from them, for sure).


Is the address, ZIP code, the directions to get to the house. So when someone asks “How do I get to your house, bro?” You say “Easy, just go to myHouseIsPrettyCoolIndeed.com, if you get lost, ask google, he knows everything!”. And the same way you can have multiple entrances for a house, you can make several domains pointing to a single domain, so you’ll give your users more ways to get to you.


Is like people’s names inside the house. So, if anyone wants to send letters to your father they’ll have to send it to your house, right? This is the same thing, if your house is mydomain.com people can reach you by me@mydomain.com. If they send to me@myNeighbor.com they’ll reach the wrong “me” :)

4. What Is DNS Propagation

It’s quite hard to understand why it takes even 2 days to have your site working just because you’ve moved your site from one server to another. And this headache is gracefully caused by our beloved DNS servers.

Actually it’s a little bit hard to understand (some people say that we don’t even have this DNS “propagation” thing, since it’s usually TTL caching issue). But let’s stick with a pretty simple explanation that works well for anyone with more than 2 neurons (sorry amoeboid and trolls):

Hosting servers on the internet actually don’t have a really cool name. For example, many of them have a “name” formed by 4 groups of digits, like It’s even worse than “Rochester” isn’t it?

Look,  something like isn’t that easy to remember, right? So, that’s why we have things called Domain Name Service servers.

They’re quite smart guys that can remember the “nice name” (google.com) for each “ugly name” ( So, when you type google.com in your browser, your Internet Service Provider asks DNS “bro, where is this google.com guy is hidden?” and DNS answers “Oh, you meant , right?”.

So far, so good. Now you need to know just one more little thing, since we have several DNS servers over the web, when you change your hosting from company #1  to company #2, each DNS server has to tell his brothers about this change. So while one DNS server thinks that mysite.com is still hosted on company #1, others know that it’s actually on company #2, so a few users won’t be able to see your site in the meantime, depending on the route that they get (which DNS server their ISP ask).

5. Don’t Be A Comics Sans Criminal

Nobody needs to be a typography expert to know that Comic Sans is a really restricted font. It works pretty well, for comics. And only for that.

Google WebFonts allows you to use a lot of way better alternatives, but I recommend you don’t depend on it too much (since it’s a free service they have no obligation to keep it up 100% of the time). You could use font squirrel @font-face generator with Google WebFont fonts so you’ll have cool types and don’t need to bother using Google’s service.

Another good thing, is trying to tell your client how fonts are important, how they complete any design work, and a little of typography basics (sans-serif X serif, system defaults X @font-face imported).

6. IE6 Isn’t A Real Browser (yet)

Maybe IE10 will be an awesome browser. But currently, IE is far behind the alternatives. So, try convincing your client to switch to a real browser.

But the important thing here is: Forget about IE6. Unless it’s really your target (and if it is, it’s really bad for you) IE6 is hardly same as Mobiles. IE7 is really bad also, and if you notice a down market share, forget about it too.

I’m not talking about doing things that don’t work on IE. I’m talking about doing things the right way, and don’t lose time trying to get same effect in old and outdated software, move on.

7. Sorry, I’ve Forgotten My Magic Bean At Home

One thing that I really hate is when people say “Well, but I’ve seen it on google.com, facebook.com, anotherbigwebsite.com, so it’s possible to do. Do it.”

Assuming that you know everything that can be known in the Web Design field, we have 3 key points that define how our final work will look:

  • Time – “Any problem can be solved with infinite time.” The more time you have, the higher quality will be, at a lower price (since you have more time, you can do other things in the meantime).
  • Quality – High quality requires more time and more price.
  • Price – The higher the price, shorter the time may also result to high quality.
So you can show this to your client and ask him to choose 2 of 3 items. If they want it done quick and really well, he’ll pay a high price for it. If he has a small budget and wants it done quick, the quality won’t be as good, and if he wants great quality, and has a small budget, you can tell him that you will have to make higher paying clients a priority, but you’re still going to get his work done.
The main point is, we have limited resources. Do you want google-like-state-of-art-javascript done by tomorrow, then you’ll pay A LOT for it.

How About You?

I’m pretty sure you’ve been asked a few great questions from clients that just don’t quite understand what goes into designing and launching a website. Share it with us!



  1. Ha very amusing. It’s very true though. I have dabbled with wordpress and know some basic coding and for this reason I completely appreciate the level of knowledge required to be a quality web designer/developer. Not so easy convincing the bill-payer though unfortunately eh!!!

  2. Herman Bedi

    WOW …. all are amazing fact which must be known by clients.
    We normally fall in client with Mock-up and Original design issue. Most of clients understand the thing but new one is really hard to make understand.

  3. Jess

    Awesome Post!
    I deal with #3 on a pretty much daily/weekly basis depending on projects filtering through. I find it easy to explain but clients find it difficult to understand the complexity of some of their setups. I try to make it easy but offering to configure and help them with it all but that causes more issues sometimes. I totally use the house metaphor too, that’s wicked to see it printed somewhere else :)

    • Hi Jess,

      Yeah, we haven’t really good options for small clients actually. Usually they prefer a small budget instead of more uptime guarantee, so we end up receiving a log of not so polite calls :D


  4. Joe

    All great and enjoyable observations. IE6 is too often the last browser to have to deal with to make things work…. it is better to get the client to appreciate this application is out of scope (in terms of their acceptance criteria).

    I woud also drop in some notes to educate the customer around page weight and performance. A core responsibility of the design process is to consider the site performance as well. Adding a ton of “Fancy” effects that make a site look flash – but it can’t scale – defeats the purpose.
    Oh – and also don’t forget to make it friendly to screen readers and users with disabilities!

    great list.

  5. Neil

    Haha! I’ve been fairly lucky in my career with clients, but I found this amusing. if you could E-mail this to all of my future clients I’ll be grateful! Thanks :)

  6. Patt

    One of the major problems clients don’t seem to understand with their web designer, is payment-up-front policies. Design isn’t free, so you can’t expect (necessarily!) a preview of the design, think about it, then pay later – very frequently clients will ask for an example of a design, so they can decide whether they want to go ahead with it – we can’t be the only ones who get this all the time.

  7. Very well written, and one more thing clients have to understand, is the difference between the mock-ups and the real design. I had few incidents when I showed up the mock ups and told them that this this & that will be changed in original design, but when you show them the final work, they ask you a stupid question, where is that line, color etc? why you removed that…!!

    At the end “Patience” remains the key factor.

    • Oh boy, actually we’ll have something on 1WD’s life on this, thanks for remembering :)

      I’ve had same incidents than you, I showed mockups and said that it supossed to a planning tool, but my clients never understood this.


  8. Morgan

    Guess it’s all part of the job, trying to educate the clients. Lots of patience helps, clients can be a little slow at times. This article is a great way to format those well rehearsed notes the next time you need to be doing lots of explaining to a client ;)

  9. Jeremy

    I really enjoyed your article and I’ve encountered most of these things dealing with clients. However, I do take issue with one item here.

    “But currently, IE is far behind the alternatives. So, try convincing your client to switch to a real browser.”

    Convincing a client to switch to a “real” browser is pointless unless the client is the only person in the world that will be viewing this website. In the last 15 months, we have had 661,000 visits to our Website. 57% of those visits were from users using Internet Explorer. Of those visitors, 20% were from IE7, 4.3% from IE 6, 70.22% from IE8, and 5.46% from IE9. That means 91,368 users visited our site using either IE7 or IE6.

    As a designer or developer, to simply dismiss IE out of hand is, quite frankly, irresponsible. I would never recommend to any developer to ignore the IE users. You have to make sure you’re hitting your target audience and if that means implementing a different style sheet so IE7 users will see your site properly, then so be it.


    • Hi Jeremy!

      What I really meant is that you have to explain you client that there is better alternatives than IE. And if you write good code, you won’t need any hacks, site will work just fine on IE, but to make it work as good as in other browsers, then you’ll have a really bad time.

      Another thing that you must notice is that it really depends on your market. As I said:
      “But the important thing here is: Forget about IE6. Unless it’s really your target (and if it is, it’s really bad for you) IE6 is hardly same as Mobiles.”

      The “Unless” part is really important here.

      Just as a comparison, in my websites, IE has LESS MKT SHARE THAN IOS. This is pretty awesome, isn’t it? And I’m not talking about development targeted sites, they’re just common e-commerces.