Many times that I meet a prospective client they eventually begin to tell me their stories about working with previous designers and agencies. These stories are rarely positive, and as I continued to think on it, I realized that 90% of my initial meetings all contained stories of mismanagement, miscommunication, poorly designed and unfinished work.

Let’s look at the four main causes that I hear about all of the time: Miscommunication, Poor Designer ability, Wolves in Sheep clothing and lack of knowledge.

Miscommunication

Taking the form of simple email misfires, poor project communication, or the dreaded incorrectly setting of expectations, this major problem is the root of most problems on projects. In the form of not describing the process correctly.

The most important question you can ask when you meet a prospective client is “What is your expectation of working with my company?” Understanding a clients design threshold, or their tolerance for design is the most important thing you can learn during that first meeting. This will help you both understand what they can tolerate, and it will help you understand whether you can work with that client.

Solution: Over communicate. Truly inform your clients about everything that will impact their project and their budget. Glossing over major details early on can lead to immense problems during the project.

Poor designer ability

Nothing makes my blood boil more than poor design, bad kerning, bad typography, bad layouts, lack luster use of imagery, awful grid creation and reliance on templated websites. Bad design is everywhere, along with a whole slew of poor designers and it is increasingly difficult to know whether you are getting the best design for your project. What makes this worse is that poor designers are enabled by poor creative directors and art directors who allow clients to make design decisions.

The most important thing a client can do is to find an agency with good designers ebbing out of their ears. Then, and most importantly, allow the designers to do their job.

Solution: I recommend taking an honest look at your design skills and recognition of what good design is. Understanding what I call your “design threshold” – this is your tolerance for design style. If you understand this, you can save everyone a lot of time and angst.

Wolves in sheep clothing

The ‘A team’ comes into the meeting, they give you a slick presentation, promise you the world. And then… you get the ‘B team.’ Your project sucks, the process is terrible, and you end up speaking to the project manager more and more. But you are charged the A team price tag. Classic agency.

This trick is as old as the industry. Most agencies only have one or two good creatives working for them, and they always want them working on their next project, meaning they are only on your project for the pitch.

Solution: Ask questions about who you will be actually working with, demand to interface with the entire team and not just the project manager. You should never discuss design or functionality with a project manager.

Knowledge

The world of the internet is a complex mix of technology, hardware and software that is expanding at an amazing pace. I cannot stress how fast things change while remaining the same. There is so much bad information, and companies rely on web solutions that they purchase and do not understand.

Typically I hear about how the client requested a type of functionality, and the agency said “no problem” we have done that many times before. While this may be true, there are many factors that impact whether an agency can deliver. It mostly surrounds communication.

Solution: Never ask for a solution before the problem is fully understood and investigated. It is more helpful to state the problem clearly without suggesting any solutions or other websites that you like.