When I work with clients as a web designer, I often have conversations like this.

Me: The first thing a visitor sees when they come to your window cleaning website is a picture of a kitten. How does that fit in with your message?

Client: It doesn't, but it's such a cute picture!

Me: Don't you think visitors will get confused? It's important that they know they're in the right place when they arrive.

Client (Here's the kicker): I've shown this site to lots of people and they all say "Wow, cute kitten!" so we can't get rid of it!

I can't seem to get through to clients that being pretty/cute/slick is less important than communicating their message. It is especially hard when they have shown something to their friends and all their friends have exclaimed at how pretty/cute/slick it is.

4 Answers 4


I have been in similar situations where clients won't listen to sensible advice.

One approach is to accept that the customer is always right and proceed with whatever they instruct. Under these circumstances, you might like to consider:

  • not including a link back to your website (if the website could affect your reputation)
  • seeking an up-front payment (if the project is not the success the client expects, then they may be more reluctant to pay you even though it's not your fault)

Another approach is to dig your heels in and say you can't continue with the project under the particular circumstances. You may not receive your full fee or any fee though.

A third option might be to urge the client to get some independent professional advice. Rather than relying on friends and relatives, is there someone else they know in the industry that could provide some unbiased advice or do you have a colleague that would be willing to weigh in on the issue?

The best option might be to implement an A/B test where page A has the cute kitty and page B has something more suited to the business. Measure the success of the page via newsletter sign ups or analytics or some other metric and you may be able to convince the client with some real world data. Be prepared to be wrong though, in case the cute kitty is a winner! :)

  • 1
    +1 for A/B test! Jan 20, 2014 at 19:04

I would not bother with such things as you simply cannot change everyone.

I simply offer my solution, explaining why it's good. I can spend 10 sentences to explain it if need be. In the end I say something like "of course you're financing the project and your word is last one".

Things like "customer is always right" apply only if the customer is well educated for the field in question. If I am expert in XY technology, then it's my professional duty to be boring to the client by directing him to the right path. Only if the client is so stubborn, I quit. But in the end, I will stop working with such a client since there are small chances I will be able to put his project into my portfolio.

  • I agree! If a client is paying me for my expertise but constantly chooses to ignore it and do something else, then it's probably time for them to find someone else. Jan 18, 2014 at 10:38

I take a different approach depending what situation it is, the first being the most easily persuaded the last is for clients who really do need a bit of a wake up!

1 Examples for a lot of clients this will be enough. Get to photoshop with a screenshot, show them the alternative in a mockup

2 Comparisons show them sites that do convey the message very well, make it clear that you aren't saying you need ugly images of their products/services but emotive images they should associate with, and make them look professional

3 Try to highlight that it doesn't look professional and that it is the wrong image (semi heavy worded)

4 A strongly worded chat I have previously had to say this "i am not cheap, and I am more than happy to help but it is only worth it if you trust my professional opinion"


Ask the client if he/she would put the same image on a business card or product sell sheet. If the client says no, but still wants the image on the site, then you know you're working for an idiot.

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