Hilarious Web Design Stories of Nightmare Clients

This Halloween, we asked our community to share their most gruesome client stories. These stories cracked us up, and we hope they will do the same for you!

* Note! Videos are best viewed with a wifi connection

Providing the best possible service to clients is always the best practice.

Halloween, however, is a great opportunity to let off some of steam and talk about the more… let’s call them challenging clients.

That’s why we decided to ask our very own community about their most memorable web design client horror stories:

client-halloween

After collecting dozens of gruesome, nightmarish client stories, we picks the most horrific ones, and animated them for your viewing satisfaction.

Here they are in full gruesomeness.

Nightmare Client #1: The Case of the Mad Scientist

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Some clients get the latest technology updates from movies like “The Avengers”. Technology like 3D websites and  AI contact forms. There’s just no limit to the the client’s imagination.

Alex Gill told the story of a client with some rather unrealistic expectations:

Client: “Why don’t the icons animate when I hover my finger over them on my mobile?”

Designer: “As discussed in my first email, that technology simply doesn’t exist.”

Nightmare Clients #2: Attack of the 'Movie-Website'

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Strange, unrealistic client requests are quite common. Usually, though, you can at least foresee what the client has in mind.

Brian McCracken had a client who didn’t quite get the concept of a website:

Client: “I want the website to be like a movie.”

Designer: “You mean, to tell a story and take you through a narrative?”

Client: “No. I mean, like a movie. Here, like this YouTube video.”

Designer: “So, this is a video of guys sitting around a desk, talking. Do you want me to develop that imagery?”

Client: “No. Just the movie.”

Designer: “So do you want that specific video on the page?”

Client: “Yeah, but like a website.”

Designer: WHAT THE ^%$ DO YOU WANT EXACTLY?!?!? It’s a %$# YouTube video, that you want on the page “But like a website?”

…So I literally made a header, footer, put a video background in the center as a GIF that I made out of the YouTube video they gave me.

Their feedback: “But, can you make it more like the video?”

Nightmare Clients #3: The Abominable Font Shrinker

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Following the line of strange client requests, this trickster of a client decided to use a font so small, it would not be visible to the naked eye.

Nigel Hancock shared a client with sneaky intentions:

Client: “Can you make that text smaller?”

Me: “Yes, of course, how small would you like it?”

Client: “How small can it be?”

Me: “Well, in theory 1 pixel, about 1/72 of an inch”

Client: “That’ll be fine”

Me: “But nobody will be able to read it”

Client: “That’s the whole idea”

Nightmare Clients #4: Invasion of the Body Exposers

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Meeting a client for the first time is awkward enough, but this client took it to a whole other level by removing a key calming feature  — clothes.

Joshua Slot shared an extremely embarrassing meeting with a client:

“I once had a request to create a website for a nudist camping site which I didn’t know off until after they invited me to their location. They didn’t have a website or any promotional materials available.

Once I got to the premises, things started to get awkward really fast. After the tour (which I endured, given that the average age of the residents was around 80)

I kindly thanked them for the tour and told them that this kind of establishment was not my expertise and left ”

Nightmare Clients #5: The Four-Headed Monster

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Opinions are like… well, you know how the saying goes. Everyone has one. This is especially true for clients. What do you do when a single client turns into several?

Kayla Curry had to deal with more than just one nightmare client:

“This one client I knew through another client seemed cool and totally laid back. “Do whatever you want, just make it pretty” type of client, right?

So I take her on and all of a sudden, she’s got this ENTIRE TEAM of people who want to give input on the site. Literally, 4 other people who are not my client trying to tell me what to do… UGH. I made it through without losing my shit, but just barely. The project turned out gorgeous and I stood my ground on some of the more picky requests from the team. I explained that from a marketing standpoint what they were asking was unnecessary and counterproductive.”

Beware the Nightmare Client!

Don’t expect too many encouraging words here. 

Nightmare clients will always be a nightmare. Once in every dozen or so clients, you’ll come across a strange request, an overly demanding schedule or simply someone without clothes. Keep calm, keep smiling, and remember that what doesn’t kill you, only makes your portfolio stronger.

Do you have your own creepy client story? 👻 Share it with us in the comments. Who knows, perhaps we’ll turn it into a funny animation.

About the Author

Ben Pines
Ben Pines
Elementor evangelist & head of content. Ben has been in the online marketing industry for over 10 years, specializing in content marketing. WordPress has been Ben's platform of choice since the time it was used solely for blogging.

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Comments

54 Responses

  1. I’ve got two more of those kind of stories:

    1. The project is nearly finished and the client states. “Nah… Don’t like the colours as much I thougt I did. We need to start over again.” Like a slap in the face after carefully chosing the colours together with the client at the beginning of the project (1 year earlier!!) with a moodboard, visual design and everything.

    2. imagine this… The structure for the website is set up, the functional design is ready, the whole customer journey is carefully set up and so was the marktingplan. We started to set up the website, when the client states: “An about us page, we don’t really need that, oh and do we really need a page with our services or our workshops? Can’t we just use the brochure we made with a link to the PDF on the home page with a slider and that’s it?” …

      1. Exactly 😀

        Even if you cut a project in steps and with every step you ask for their ok, these things can still happen. Can’t please every one. But I am more selective nowadays with choosing my clients. 😉

  2. I revamped Events Management for a client. Previously they were selling seats on their shop site but doing publicity on their main site, so every event had to be entered twice. Their deeply embedded processes were burned into their DNA so I knew we were in for some training issues for the Event Managers.

    1. Me: There are some issues with your events. Did you read the help info I gave you before you created them?

    User: What Help Info? Where is it?

    2. Me: Look under the Help menu

    User: I’ve read it and I don’t understand it

    3. Me: OK let me explain it some more

    User: I still don’t understand it

    4. Me: OK, here’s step-by-step video tutorial

    User: How do I view it?

    5. Me: Click on the play button?

    User: I can’t follow the video – why aren’t there any written instructions?

    6. Me: Um…. Go to step 2?

  3. You lot in web design have it easy. You should be in content management. SEO just doesn’t get through the fog of buying-in links and endless repetition of keywords.

    Once every sentence has been optimised, alt text for images perfected for SEO, the whole damn lot, you stick the site on your CV as it gradually goes up the search list. They cancel the contract as they think that’s it. Six months later you see the site on page 14 of Google and you find all the copy and links you cut are back.

    I just write SEO copy now. So much easier, much less hassle and you don’t have to talk with clients all that often.

    Clients – Room 101 is too good for them.

  4. Great content!
    Everyone has some stories to share about crazy clients.

    There is one that wanted by all means me to work with him.

    He seemed crazy, and started to competing with me in the BRIEFING!

    I sent a proposal to a website, one week of silence: Look! I made it faster than you in WIX!
    Now you have to teach me how you do “your stuff”. My “stuff” is 14 years of Marketing.

    I don’t think there is enough money in this Earth that would make me work with such a guy.

    I just asked politely him that I wouldn’t accept him as a client.

    “Give me your price, everybody has a price”.
    Not me, pal.

    Then he started to send SMS like: “Sorry”, “Go to hell”, “Sorry again”, “Let me pay you a lunch”, etc. At 1 AM…

    I had ( no kidding ) to treat go to the police.

    I never worked so hard to deny a client in my life.

    1. Client: ‘I just want my existing site re-created in WordPress, it’s been built with Joomla and I don’t understand how to add photos etc’.

      24-page site re-created in WordPress, many graphic elements created (and many hours spent) to ensure the WP site matched the existing site and delivered it to the client. I sit back waiting for the ‘wow you managed to get it exactly the same’ only to be get a phone call with ‘what is this? I hate it! It’s the same as the old site!!’

  5. Oh! this was hilarious… i’ve had a couple who’d ask like 10 people around coz they didnt want to own the responsibility of the website on them… well… I told them who is the final decision maker, call that person in -else too many cooks spoil the broth

  6. I had a client once for a book publishing website who was literally measuring the design elements on his monitor with a ruler and comparing them with a real world objects. He told me that coins doesn’t much with a real ones, and he even sent me a photo to proof it.

  7. A client asked me to design a pet shop and then requested to “copy and paste” the same website for a traveling project. Said that it should cost $0 because it was a copy that didn’t need any changes.

  8. This client asked us if it was possible to let a pigeon fly some centimeters behind the mouse pointer. And would it be possible to let the pigeon follow the mouse pointer wherever it goes? Maybe we could let the pigeon sit on the mouse pointer when you are not moving the mouse?
    Turned out he had an obsession with pigeons. Luckily we could talk him out of this idea. We thought it wasn’t really a useful functionality on his construction company website.

    Would have turned out one great eye catcher though.

  9. Great entertaining read. Here’s mine: I’m a ghostwriter as well, so I contracted with a lady whose husband encouraged her to get her book out and to a publisher. Good start. I worked out a payment schedule. She was working with me for about 4 months. It can be a long process depending how fast the client gives me research from her files or takes vacations in between. Then the husband said she was paying too much. It was spelled out in the contract. But he kept pressing. “We need a new washing machine. So I have to cancel our contract,” she said. I agreed with her right to cancel. I was disillusioned. Then he asked for a full refund. Nope, sorry. I collected as I worked, therefore you have paid me for my work. Period. He didn’t press.

  10. Why do none of these surprise me? Had a client ask for multiple websites. Instead of one website with multiple pages, he wanted each page as an individual website. All with different but similar domains. I tried to reason with him but gave up and then gave him a quote, for 11 different sites. Called me the c-word and told me to f-off. Dodged a bullet there I think. Lol

    1. That is a challenging situation. You definitely dodged a bullet, but the problem is the client might tell other people you are expensive and this can hurt your brand. Perhaps explaining to the client why you can’t take on a project like this because you do not believe this is the proper way of building a website is better.

  11. Couple of my faves:

    Had a client that I designed this beautiful website for but didn’t like it because it felt “too digital”…. It felt like a website, so they didn’t like it….

    Had another client I was doing a TRADE project for people I know (I know, bad idea) and what should have taken 3 weeks ended taking 5 months of intense back and forth emails and me repeating myself 1000 times… The trade was for me to take their current website (which I previously designed) and update it with new branding (that I did not design).. The structure, content, and everything else was supposed to be the same, I was just supposed to copy it to a new url and update it with new colors and fonts that I would be provided.

    Well, the “branding” work they did was just a logo and they decided they wanted the website to be totaly different than their current site. I explained over and over and over again that this was not the scope of work and that I would not begin the site until I had all of the branding pieces. Long story short, they sat on it for months and then finally gave me photos and expected the website to be designed IN A WEEK. They still didn’t give me any colors or fonts and told me to use logo colors and fonts, which I did, and then they told me it wasn’t “unique” enough…. Their original ask was for me to replicate their old site and switch out branding and then said it wasn’t “unique” enough, but wouldn’t tell me what they wanted or give me any direction other than that. I told them I would need to do some brainstorming to find what they wanted and that would fall outisde of scope, so they would need to pay me for that time and they said that “well, we don’t want you to try stuff out and waste time until you know what to do….” Needless to say, I will not be working with these clients again.

  12. I had a client who wanted business cards. When I went through the pricing she asked “what if I just want one” I said I can do one but it will be the same pricing as the minimum. She said she would go elsewhere, I said ADIOS!

  13. My nightmare client is my only client, my CEO. He changes direction on a dime and sometimes forgets to tell me and my team so we build pages, find images, set the design and when we ask for an update on where the content is he’ll say “Oh, didn’t I tell you, we decided to change it to (insert mind blowing change here) – sorry”. Oh, and he writes the content – I mean overwrites the content.

    Just recently, I explained that we are working on updating our SEO so please don’t make any changes such as adding or deleting pages. I’ve been asked on 3 separate occasions in the past several weeks to completely overhaul, add and/or delete pages.

    All the changes of direction and lack of support drove the best member of my team right out the door. AND he hired his 17 year old son who admittedly has focus and detail issues to replace this integral member of my team. And I think I will be out the door next …

  14. I have many stories, but here are some:

    – So you build me a professionnal Facebook page, for 350$, but why should I pay, Facebook is free?
    – Because I have work to do, you pay me to do it
    – But Facebook is free
    – Yes, it’s free, but I do the work for you. You can also keep it free and do it yourself
    – But I don’t know how to do a Facebook pro page
    – That’s why you pay me, to do it for you
    – But I don’t want to pay for a free thing

    – I would like to get some WordPress support for my website
    – We can help, minimum charge is 75$ for an hour of work and you can ask anything and we’ll do it for you
    – But WordPress is free?
    – Yes, WP is free, but our work is not, we are a private business you pay to help you
    – I contacted WordPress and they don’t help
    – It’s why we can help you for a minimum charge. Just fill the form on the website, pay through Paypal or credit card and here we go.
    – OK but I thought WordPress was free

    – Since you worked on my website, our network printer isn’t working anymore
    – oh! That is a real coincidence. Both are different things, not related
    – But it’s strange, it was working just before you modified the website
    – I can refer you a nice computer tech guy if you want
    – Can you get back the modification on the website?
    – ahah ! OK let’s me explain you …

    – so you tell me that the website will cost 2000$?
    – something around this, yes, it’s a fair price for all you want
    – but I can ask a student to do it for 200$
    – sorry, we don’t do website “from the basement part time job no experience” things … so ask a student to do the website
    – but they don’t really know how to do it, the process is long and laborious, design is poor
    – so you call us, and we do a pretty website in 4 weeks for 2k$

    … and so on ahah

  15. Great article. I love being busy enough to tell these kind of clients to take a long walk on a short pier.

    I really love the last one, now my printer does not work. -DUH

  16. Mine’s not about nightmare clients, but just circumstances in general. I used to work on Freelancer, and a client approached me to design their homepage. I did it. It was one of my first ever web design projects, so I didn’t realise that I should have finalized the contract before actually doing the work. Duh.
    While I was working on the design, we had a huge storm and subsequently a blackout for three days. When the electricity finally came back, I was in a hurry to contact my client and get their feedback on the design… only to find out there was no internet. My ISP’s receiver had been struck by lightning.
    When the internet came back several days later. My client had given the job to another freelancer who did, in my opinion, a terrible job. Oh well, better luck next time 😉

  17. had a British client living in Spain, required a website in English, when the project was finished he said that he was sorry but he should also have it in Spanish too, I said I would integrate a translation plugin into the website, he replied with “NO” just do another website in Spanish, I said there was no need, as putting a plugin onto the website was a lot better and by far the cheaper and more efficient way, he said “NO” just do another website, so I did and charged him the same amount again…..go figure !!!

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