Ethics & Web Design

I think ethical standards are important. The purpose of this site is to provoke discussion about the role of ethics in web design. If you care about ethics, please share your ideas.

Reader Comments

Picture of Jamie Maing Jamie Maing

Great article! It’s always nice to be reminded that we have to continue to sell our designs to clients even during the process.

Picture of susan susan

But when you’re working corporate, you do need to know how to give in gracefully and work within their decisions to make a usable/accessible as possible.

Picture of Andres Max Andres Max

It’s very easy to fall in the ‘Doing whatever the client wants’ trench. As stated in the article, the client is paying so they get what they pay for right? Wrong.

It’s your duty as a designer/ux expert to educate the client on best practices, guidelines and always always keep focus on the end goal of the website you are building.

Picture of Dennis Kardys Dennis Kardys


I am in total agreement with your points, in fact the second half of my article argues just that. I would never suggest that the client dictate the design…in that scenario the relationship ceases to be a partnership.

Just as you mention that it’s easy to fall into the “Doing whatever the client wants” trench, it’s equally easy to fall into the trap of “Designer knows best”. I think that by putting aside ego and tying design decisions back to project objectives and user needs, it’s much easier to convince the client to accept your recommendations. And there certainly are times when you need to say no.

Picture of Jon Raasch Jon Raasch

This was a good read.  In my personal experience, back when I started out I got into these conflicts a lot more because I thought I knew everything about everything.  It turns out the client is often smarter than I gave them credit for, they certainly know their business / audience a lot better than you do.  (And yes they can be idiots a lot of the time too wink)

Picture of dbonneville dbonneville

This was such a good and timely read, I got right to writing an article of my own about it but from a different angle. The question I had immediately was “how do I stop this madness”, as you outlined in the first paragraph. At that point, I realized I had gotten pretty good at preventing calamitous decisions by clients. Hey, some clients simply won’t bend, but a lot do. And over time, if you have that kind of relationship, you can build a track record with certain clients and guide them to success repeatedly. Just about.

I found that no matter what I say to make the client “see”, I always follow a broad, simple pattern that includes praise for “bad” ideas coupled with a redirection or “better” idea “based” on the clients “great” idea. You know what I mean, if you know what I mean.

Take a look! I referenced your article as the inspiration for my own, so, thanks for a good read and a great inspiration.

“A handy set of 20 ‘convince your client of anything’ templates with PDF chart”

Picture of Chris Chris

We were obviously motivated in a similar direction after reading Whitney’s article:

I love the way you put the heading “Always be an advocate for the user.”  That frames it so much better than just simply “I’m a web designer, I know what’s best.”  Plus it puts the cause or argument off of you and onto their potential customer/client.

Picture of blind dayze blind dayze

Thanks for this article… im definitely going to show this to my colleagues [read project managers grin] .. this one combined with the article on should bring some positive change here where i work… in the way we deal with our clients..

thanks again..

Picture of Barbara Day Barbara Day

As a one-person shop I often find myself walking the line between the two scenarios, either letting go of control or defending important design decisions. Interpersonal skills are a must here. There’s also nothing wrong with having a healthy ego, since it helps with both letting the client have their way when needed and arguing for what’s important. Thanks for the clear description of both sides.

Picture of Sam Sam

Great article, very straight forward. i Enjoyed it.

Picture of Jason @ Linkhouse Media Jason @ Linkhouse Media

Thanks for this.  I read the article when it came out and just today I may have agreed to more than what was necessary on an already large project. The request wasn’t unreasonable, just beyond the scope of the project.  My client agreed immediately that we would add more buzz around the website by announcing these new features later, as an upgrade.


Picture of Ryan Ryan

Always refreshing to not feel alone in this world when it comes to the balancing act that is designing beautiful sites, and keeping customers that like to micro-manage every little aspect of the design happy. Putting ego aside is always easier said then done too smile

Picture of Guruvayurappan Guruvayurappan

I can completely understand with the author. And I have tried all three, give in completely, fight tooth & nail and also persuade politely with rational / justifications for the design decision.
It’s about knowing what kind of a client you are dealing with which. After all every client is also a human. They have ego too. The article is quite defending in the nature that it only talks about not falling into the trap of designer’s ego. But many a times you realize in spite of completely justified design decision, the client wants to enforce their stands just to show who is in control. Such instances, I just pity them and let go completely. Sometime it works once you surrender; the client feels more relaxed and also ends up taking designer’s view. At times, it’s seen as client’s victory over your expertise. After almost 13 years in the profession, I am now at peace with either way. Call it maturity or simmer down attitude.
It our duty to provide rational to the design and educate the client as and when needed. But it’s the client’s responsibility to decide ultimately. After all its their money mate.

Picture of Maxwell Barvian Maxwell Barvian

Wow, great article.  I must say I agree 100% with all the points made, especially the one about drawing the line when the site’s potential usability is jeopardized and not because your personal ego gets in the way.

Beautiful site by the way. I’ll be sure to add you to my reading list wink

Picture of kevin kevin

This is one of the most innovative yet useful posts that I have come across for the businessmen. It gives a detailed explanation of what all things one needs to do to satisfy the clients. It also explains the different strategies one needs to apply to improve their business.

Picture of covellofredric covellofredric

it helps with both letting the client have their way when needed and arguing for what’s important. Thanks for the clear description of both sides.

Picture of brucebradley brucebradley

It our duty to provide rational to the design and educate the client as and when needed. But it’s the client’s responsibility to decide ultimately. After all its their money mate. 

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About Me

Hi, I’m Dennis Kardys. I’m an experience designer living in Chicago and Design Director at WSOL. You can contact me at Check out some other things I’ve written here: WSOL Blog - Design.