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New Poll: Would You Work on a Website You Thought Was a Stupid Business Idea?

Published by Chris Coyier

I've mused about this before, but I thought it would be good to put it to a poll this time. The discussion before was absolutely fascinating. Many folks saying that it's our ethical duty to inform clients of our true opinions, and that part of the value of what we provide is those opinions. Many folks saying we should take the work and do it, as it's not our job (or expertise) to judge business ideas (e.g. do you want your hair stylist to refuse to give you the haircut you want?).

Note that I did not include an option for "it's complicated" or "it depends". I'd rather just see the final judgment call. Poll is in the sidebar, and you can discuss below. RSS readers have to make the jump over to the site!


  1. Everything has its price. Even “shut up and do it”. Say what you need to, do what you are paid for. Its not personal, its business. And it should be kept that way.

    • I think the result of the the poll will have a bigger percentage of people that take any kind of project. I don’t.
      What happens is that when we turn down a project, those clients come to you guys that take anything, to create their project. It’s ok to work on that projects, but remember: If you take shitty projects you will end up doing ALWAYS shitty projects, if you want to get out of there, you should start by turning down some of them.

    • For my situation I want to get any client I can get, even if they have a bad business idea. But that is the difference, a bad business idea does not necessarily mean a bad client.

    • We’re talking about client’s BUSINESS, not the design or coding of their web site. If a client wants to sell stupid things or offers stupid services (or better said, what I THINK is stupid), than it still has no effect on how I approach the design and coding process. I think Twitter is kind of stupid, but I’d still design the web site for them….

    • You could look at it as a challenge. If the company succeeds with such a horrible business plan, than you can attribute all of its success to your amazing design.

      Just a thought.

      And of course its easy to shrug off the blame when they fail… :P

    • Dakko

      I think it’s the responsibility of a developer to bring up possible issues. The Web is our arena, and its incumbent upon us to make a fair argument for potential issues the client might face. Obviously this falls short of calling the client’s business model stupid, but I’ve ostensibly turned down by work by pointing out to a client that what they were looking to achieve likely would never happen; people who were looking to recreate ebay or amazon or something else.

      I won’t turn down business just because it’s something I think is silly. If I see flaws in the business model, I will at least make my best case as to why the investment may not be worthwhile, but at the end of the day, the decision is the business owner’s.I will have at least said my peace.

      The same goes for a given design/development decision. I’ve had incidents where I’ve developed functionality I’ve found dumb, un-useful, etc., but only after I’ve stated my case as to its issues. If I was scraping the bottom of a budget, at some point I’d just abandon it, but if they could pay and they ignored my sage advice, I’d capitulate.

  2. @Palusko, still attaching your name to something that could potentially be seen as a pile of steaming “something or other” can be detrimental. I am a perfectionist; I want every one of my clients to be equally as satisfied with my work, as I am. If we both can pat me on the back and say “Good Job”, then my work is done.

    In the end, we are the internet “experts”. We know the current trends and techniques that are popular/effective.

    • I think you misunderstood the question. The question is – would you work on a web site that YOU THOUGHT was a stupid BUSINESS idea. It’s not about design, it’s about whether or not you agree with the owner’s business idea. BTW, there are many great business examples, that were pronounced stupid ideas yet they turned out to be the exact opposite (FedEx, computer mouse etc)

    • In almost all business models, plans, and ideas, there is a space reserved for the web. This section will include the approach, colours, layout and so forth. This is all part of the business idea. As Web Developers and Designers, this is our area of expertise. We are supposed to know the current trends, what works, and what doesn’t work. This is why we are hired. Our input concerning the web section of the business plan/idea is usually welcomed for the reason that this is our area of expertise. With out us there business plan/idea has the potential to fail. Over all the web is part of the business idea, any which way you look at it, and if my self and the client can not come to an agreement, than chances are I will decline the job offer. If you want the bigger better jobs, than you may have to start picking and choosing. What you have done in the past will stick with you, and chances are, you will be remembered for it..

  3. Mads Kjaer

    I’ve done simple psd to html/css and wordpress theming before without paying attention to the client’s business. That stuff is just work.

    However, if I do any information architecture or general design, I will almost always comment on the model and/or give recommendations to how it could be improved. Usually the client appreciates this.

    • This is a good point. A lot depends on what they client is paying you for.

      Chances are the client knows more about their business than you do and there is reason behind each decision they make that you may not be aware of. Just because you are a “web expert” doesn’t mean you have the expertise or knowledge to understand their decisions. It’s requires teamwork and compromise on the part of the designer/developer and the client to create the best possible outcome.

      I voted for doing the job. You can always make recommendations but ultimately what it boils down to is business and the client having the final say. Sometimes they’re just not paying you to hear your opinion.

    • Gaz

      Surely by definition when your commission a designer your asking for their opinion.. their designs, ideas and creativity.

      I dont think you should turn down a client just because you do like, understand the idea or where their comming from, that said, if you cant tell the client that you dont get it, and cant get them to communicate there concept to you in way that inspires you, you have far bigger problems to worry about and then walking away should be considered.

  4. Don’t you think it’s a bit arrogant to assume that you, a designer, have the credibility, education and experience to qualify a client’s business venture as stupid?

    You must be a pretty important designer.

    Keep your role in perspective.

    • I can’t agree more with this. I have personally worked on a site that I was convinced was doomed to failure.

      The paychecks were coming in though, so I just shut up and worked.

      After a really rough start, they got the business side of the venture together and everything is (I think…) working out just fine for them.

    • Not if, you yourself, are also an entrepreneur and/or have been involved in the life of start-ups. Just because someone’s a “designer” doesn’t mean that’s all they know.

      Me personally, my profession is a web design/development, but my business is business.

      Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you on a certain level. In this case, it’s true, keep your role – if your role is exclusively design.

    • …and Patrick knows what projects you should work on, because he’s not arrogant at all.

      It comes down to this: if you don’t want to be part of a project, don’t be! Someone else certainly will. There’s no shortage or designers, or failing projects for that matter.

      How come no one is ever happy with “do what you think is best”? why do people need to be told what to do?

    • I agree with Roman. I honestly have a hard time focusing on a project that I don’t believe in so I don’t. I never stopped anyone else from doing so. However, it’s just as big of a disappointment if you try to do it for the money and end up being a disappointment to your client anyways.

  5. I’d be pretty annoyed if someone had’ve asked me to help with Twitter and I turned it down thinking it was stupid…

  6. lucky141

    I have done it a couple of time in the past (the company I worked for told me to do it…) and maybe I could do it again in the future.

    The big risk about that is: if the developer was right and the idea is truely stupid, the client will not admit his failure. Instead, he could blame the developer (“the idea was good, your implementation was’nt”).

    It’s a hard job…

  7. I’d do it for the challenge, can you build them a website that transcends the shoddyness of the concept? That’s the kind of work I live for.

  8. Yeah, I think I’ve done something like this at least a couple times.

    I did a website for a now-defunct business known as FOOD: Fast On-Time Orderly Delivery. They delivered food to you from any restaurant that didn’t have normal delivery. Sounded like an interesting idea, but they were out of business in a month.

    Another website was for tuxedo rentals. A guy I know started buying used tuxedos and renting them out himself. Again, may have been a good idea except when your entire inventory is 7 mismatched tuxedos, you’re going to fail.

    But the websites turned out alright!

  9. I’m literally doing that as we speak :P

    If you ask a builder to build you an ugly shed with flaws (requested), would the builder refuse the work?

    • WC

      Yes, the builder would refuse if the design was not safe.

      If it was merely ugly, they might still refuse on the basis that others will judge them on it, even though the design wasn’t theirs.

      If it’s just a bad idea, they probably would do the work.

      Designers/Programmers don’t have any legal responsibility for the safety of the site, so that’s out… It just leaves the ‘ugly’, which is not what was asked.

      For the record, I -have- worked on sites that I thought were stupid. Sometimes I’ve told them (nicely), other times I’ve just done the work… It depends on the employer.

    • Jack Feefofe

      I think it might make more sense to compare this to what you would _use_ the shed for. This is not necessarily saying that the shed is ugly or has flaws. The shed could be built perfectly, but the owner wants to use it for some absurd reason. But the builder would not be judged on what the owner would use the shed for, just the construction of the shed.

      The same goes for web design. You can design a beautiful site for a business with a bad idea. No one will judge you as the web designer if the business idea stinks, as long as you did a great job designing the site, which was your job.

      Plus, it really wouldn’t affect you if the business failed, as long as you were just being paid for the creation of the site. After that, you receive your money and can move on.

      All in all, I think that it is not the web designer’s job to judge the business idea. I would take other factors into consideration instead of the business idea, but everyone has their own opinion!

      These debates can be pretty interesting!

  10. Sometimes I have to tell the client I’m not sure about the value vs cost you are going to get of a project, but usually that is if they hire me to consult for them.

    I don’t propose to know what everyone’s potential business model is. And I don’t think you can.

  11. If I think a business is doomed to be a failure and you know it up front, it’s your obligation as a professional to say something. I’ve actually managed to spare a couple of potential clients from heartache, such as the woman in mid-1999 who wanted to create 10,000 Y2K bug T-shirts. Or the guys who wanted to sell install-it-yourself Personal Tornado Warning Devices at Walmart as an “impulse item” for $200 apiece. (They gave you a 20-second warning before a tornado hit your trailer. But the alarm also sounded sometimes if a helicopter flew by.) Um… no.

    There are other companies that don’t seem viable that I’ve also worked on, but at least they’ve got a business plan and the chance to succeed, however slim. I’ll usually talk to them about it and point out the angles that they may have not considered– and it’s surprising how much a new entrepreneur doesn’t take into account when starting a business. If I think it’s a possibility that they’ll succeed, I’ll consider working on it, but not always, because like others have said, I don’t think it makes good business sense to invest a lot of time and money into something that will fail. Better to develop relationships with clients who will be around in the long run.

    • Dwellindel

      As someone said early, What if you pass up a job because the business model is not what you think would succeed. It then turns into something like twitter. I am selective about the jobs i will work on but it is in the end a paying job. If you work hard to turn their idea into something good for web then it should not matter. You did your job. If it then turns into something “shoddy looking” nobody ever said you had to promote the fact you worked on it.

      To Each Their own……

      All I am saying is times are tough, it is a judgment call.

  12. I came on here from Twitter thinking “I definitely would not” but once I got here and thought about it, I realized that I have and would again. I won’t work for crappy people and I won’t work in a crappy industry and I won’t help people take advantage of others but if it’s just a dumb idea and the rest of the conditions are good, game on.

  13. I have to be somewhat motivated for the job. I can not get behind and want to work on something that I feel is stupid. Now, it is not my place to just someones business idea, but it is my place to accept or deny a job based on how into it I am.

    Let’s face it, all of us have done things we did not totally agree with when they were proposed to us, and the work reflected that motivation. I think that with the proper dialog between yourself and the client you can come up some with some great ideas.

  14. For something I though was a bad business Idea, yes I would probably take it. For something I didn’t agree with ethically, no. That said I’m pretty sure everyone has a price, myself included.

  15. Stormchild

    Do they have money? Will they let me do my job and pay me what I’m worth? Done deal. Don’t care what their business idea is. Show me the money, you’ve got yourself a web guy.

    If they *don’t* have money, and they have a weak business idea…sorry, talk to someone else. I don’t bet on startups, unless they have a pretty damn cool idea (which hasn’t happened so far).

    Simple as that.

  16. Oliver

    You’ve got a typo in that title.

  17. Are you kidding? I do it every day at my “day job”.

  18. We wouldn’t (although we have thought about it) but we arn’t really a code monkey shop – hired to do what we are asked. We are more of a solution shop.. we make recommendations in technology, direction, seo etc. and we look better when the clients site works. So if its a bad idea we don’t believe in, it ultimately wont help us or the client.

  19. Rafael Camara

    I think its a matter of necessity over principles, and it really depends on the situation you find yourself in. And in this case you should ask yourself some questions: Do I need the money? Do I need this job for Portfolio reasons?

    I already found myself in situations like that… I guess what? I did it.

  20. Definately!
    Business is business, as your client needs to make a living from his business idea (soon), you need to make money with your own business.
    When it’s really stupid, I will tell the client, but in a way I would still be there for the job, in a friendly way:

    “Before starting on this project though, I will have to inform you that your business plan includes some flaws and mistakes, and for it to be successful, it needs to be changed here and there.”


    I think there’s nothing wrong by telling the client, but do it gently, do not insult him/her and make sure he/she will come back to you, as soon as they have improved their plan

  21. We are Designers, not business managers. You may not believe in their business but they have put a lot of blood sweet and tears into it. I never give my opinion unless asked and I always ask for the customer to explain their business to me, so I can see their concept throuhg their eyes. My business is to put together their dream site. Anything else does not matter, as long as the contract is completed by both parties. Oh yeah, I also do not promise the world, know your limits and strengths.

  22. Eduardo,

    Building a “dreamhouse” website for a client who is guaranteed to fail (such as my examples in the posts above) is akin to building a dreamhouse on a swamp. I think it’s the obligation of a professional designer to share our business experiences and insights with our clients. They’re paying us to help them be successful.

    • Who’s to say you know exactly what will sell and what won’t. You may think it’s a bad idea, but i’m pretty sure you shouldn’t be telling a client their idea is a big basket of fried turds. The best way to learn is from experience, allow them to make their own mistakes. It takes a load of brass ones to go around saying, “I know everything about all ideas. I can smell out failure from a million miles away. And your idea has the stench of raccoon piss.” I’ll design anything, i’m not pretentious enough to say, “my designs are too good for failure.” Hell, maybe my design will help turn a bad idea into a good one. In the end at least it’ll look good.

  23. I believe what Amy Stewart said earlier is quite important. As designers and developers the best clients we can have are the ones that come back to us time and time again and spread the word about us.

    If the company fails within a couple of weeks, there’s unlikely to be repeat business, at least not until they come up with their next idea and they still may decide to hire someone else.

    • Dwellindel

      That is why you don’t rely on referrals alone. Market yourself or your company, then as long as you work hard on their project they may still give a referral. Their business may fail but that doesn’t mean they do not have friends in high places……

  24. EVula

    Business is business. I’d draw the line at something illegal or unethical, but other than that, I’d prefer to keep the lights on than be sitting on my soapbox in the dark.

    That does not, however, mean I wouldn’t up my rates selectively.

  25. EVula

    To comment on what Amy Stewart said: sometimes clients pay for us to do the work, and sometimes clients pay for our expertise. While I’m a huge advocate of trying to convince the client of not being stupid, sometimes they simply don’t care what your opinion is.

  26. Ha ha.. Good question Chris! I guess it depends if you need work or not. No work = sure! Lots a work = no thanks.

  27. My reason for turning it down may be a little more practical.

    Every time I’m offered a job for a newfangled business idea, the client is typically looking for the cheapest work possible (usually trying to stay below budget on Angel investor money), but demand a massive amount of control over the design process. I’m tired of doing that kind of negotiation.

    Inevitably, they try to sweeten the deal by offering “stock options” (which will never be worth anything if the business fails) or the promise of “future work” (as if that’s some kind of incentive). Typically, that’s when I end the conversation.

    These days, with some experience under my belt, I just avoid clients with terrible business ideas. It’s so much more rewarding to stick with established companies, guaranteed checks, and some design freedom.

  28. If someone wholeheartedly believes in their business idea and has the required amount of money to back it up, I would probably do it. If the business website was not a great idea and went against my personal beliefs I would turn it down no matter what.

  29. Robert DeBoer

    I would say it depends partly on your current business situation. I’m sure there are a lot of web projects that no one wants to do just because it’s not their favorite style, but because they needed work, they took it; and then there is times when enough work is present one can pick and choose what to do.

    I would have to say the final decision resides with the client. I definitely believe that as designers and programmers we have an obligation (and yes, it is part of our services too I think) to inform the client when we think they are making bad/weak/poor decisions and help them make better ones, but if that is what they want and are willing and able (ABLE being a key word) to pay for it, then unless it’s illegal, the client should get what they want. Besides, for many clients how well do I really know the nature of beet selling, or the glue chemical market? Yes, I can be an expert on their web site, but not on their business.

    Lastly, one can always refuse the work. I think that isn’t always a bad thing: if you really think it is a horrible idea that you don’t want the negative stigmatizem from, then don’t do it. What speaks better: I cave into every clients wish, or I am trully interested in the clients future enough to warn and even refuse to do work I know will harm them.

  30. Mike Madison

    Hey, its a job, that i like doing. Someone Asks me to make them a website, they pay me, I move on to the next one. Why should I care if the website is a success for failure. As long as the client is happy with my work I could careless if his or her business fails. I don’t mean to sound rude, but thats just life. Does a gas station care if u fill up you car with gas and drive a block down the road and get in an accident and total the car? No! So why should us webdesigners! And frankly if I was starting a business and a web guy that i was gonna pay money told me that my plain was stupid i would be offended.

  31. Tim P.

    I’d take the work for a bad business idea. It is when the client compromises the creative integrity of a project or is simply unethicall is when I feel like walking away.

  32. Coming from a business owner background (non-web based), most of the web projects I get are ill conceived at worst, and poorly planned at best. Typically, my web client wants to put too much money and resources on the web and it’s so hard for me to bite my tongue and tell them. They wouldn’t listen anyway.

    On the other hand, is the client that just wants a minimum for their website, and then thinks it’s my fault when they are not #1 on google in a week.

    Now, I typically start a conversation with a new client on what they can expect for their money and their plans. It’s so hard not to sound preachy.

  33. In theory its not our place to judge a business idea. We’re simply there to provide a service and offer solutions on technical/creative implementation.

    In practice, we’re still human. If we think something is dumb we will usually say it. Even if its in a very subtle way. No designer/developer wants to work on something they don’t believe in. However when rent is due, I find it much easier to put my opinions aside.

  34. we will usually take it. Its not my job to consult or offer opinion on how someone runs their business. I’ll do the best we can to educate, and get them the best tools for the job.

    that said, if its a pain in the rear, we’ll walk away. if its against our high ethical standards, we wont even give them a proposal.

  35. There’s a typo: “buisness” >> business.

    My answer is: Yes, I’d probably would.

  36. I’ve a couple terrible business ideas come across my plate in the last 6 months. I didn’t flat out reject them, but I basically talked myself out of doing them.

    If part of my job is to make the site successful, then it won’t do us or the client good if there idea sucks massive balls.

  37. I think calling it ‘stupid’ is a bit of a harsh way to ask the question and really, it does depend. I think perhaps saying it as ‘a business idea that you don’t believe in’, is a better way to phrase it. It’s semantics in the end, but I definitely have my reservations about taking on certain sites.

    For example, I was approached by a pair of hunters that wanted a site that would make it easier to get hunting licenses. I chose to turn down the project as it was just simply not an idea that I felt was sound nor was it in line with my personal beliefs. In fact, every idea that I’ve taken on just to get the paycheck either was so painful I ended up giving a refund or the project fizzled out and I never heard from the client (even though they gave me a down and never asked for it back).

    I tend to feel that there’s the right client for every designer and there’s more than enough business to go around. I’m not to proud to turn down a job that I didn’t believe in, to make room for a job that I want to work on. This is not only my work but my enjoyment as well, and I would prefer to work on an idea that resonated with me. That way it’s better for me, it’s better for the client, and they will most likely get a product they are much happier with.

  38. I’ve had to do this for work on numerous occasions; what ends up happening is that I try to make suggestions to improve at least the website side of things. It doesn’t always work- in fact most times it just results in the project getting delayed while I get told that I’m the designer not the business owner.

    But when I DO get a small improvement through, it makes it more bearable.

  39. I often take on design projects, whether I think it’s dumb or not.

    If I have ideas that I think might help them to have a better chance of success (even if it is out of the scope of the job) I’ll share them, unless they seem to be closed-minded. Our job, in addition to making it look good, is about making communication more effective – sometimes it’s the “how” they intend to communicate that is dumb, rather than the idea. (granted there are times when a turd project is still a turd – no matter how many coats of paint you add)

    I’d be more curious to hear if people would work on a project they were *morally* opposed to (eg: a vegetarian asked to work on a hunting website).

  40. I would and have taken on websites that I think were based around poor business. I have and always do inform the contact/client of my opinion as I feel it is my duty. However, if they choose to ignore my opinion, I have no problem taking the work on so long as I get paid. At the end of the day, “the customer is always right!”

  41. Josh

    I would take it.

    The reason is that you never know what will work and what won’t work. My job as a designer is to make what that person wants to do appeal to the market he is trying to reach.

    I think all of us would be surprised with what actually worked and made money, so I’m not sure I’m ready to pass judgment on someone their business idea.

    The lines I draw in the sand for design are my moral viewpoints (like adult websites) rather than my personal opinion on what will work and what won’t.

  42. I think is an interesting poll, lets see I think, I first won´t accept to work in this kind of projects but well story has also told us that stupid ideas sometimes are the ones the rock the world so maybe If we as web designer can be a part of the next stupid boom well I think we should give it a try with the respective warnings to the client. Also money is never enough so why not.

  43. I’m the expert, I make it very clear how I feel if one of my clients have a bad idea. Sometimes I can talk them out of it, but others they are just so gung ho to go a head I’ll do the project.

  44. I would, but I would also try to help them develop the idea to make it better.

  45. If it’s borderline illegal then clearly I leave it well alone.

    Sometimes however, as much as it sounds to me like a bad idea it’s their business idea and who knows, they might know their target audience much more than me and more power to them – so long as they pay.

  46. Paul

    In the immortal words of Steve Miller:

    “Go on take the money and run.”

    If you’re being paid to act in some role, don’t jump to conclusions and butt in. If you think an idea or venture is bad; the only only concern you should have is whether repercussions will cause a void in payroll.

    Awe, but you want to help. Educate the founders, etc. About their idea is … Don’t!! Just excuse yourself; forfeit the pay and bolt if it bothers you that much.

  47. Linus

    That’s not up to me to decide whether business ideas are great or stupid. Do what you’re supposed to.
    Let the company – and their customers/website users – do their decisions.

  48. trice22

    I’ve once worked on a website for a stupid and IMO extremely annoying business idea. Wouldn’t do it again.
    Doesn’t make you feel any better, doesn’t make anyone else feel any better. Not worth my time.

  49. Absolutely take the work….

    After all we are web designers not business gurus.

    The way I look at it, they have a business and they can run it how thtey seem fit. They want a website, all we can do is give them our opinion on what would be best for the site, not the business as a whole. but only from the web point of view.

    but ultimately they have the say on what they want, we should just code and throw it up for them, make sure it works the way it should then take the money.

    After all it is our business to make money by making websites for clients…

  50. I haven’t had time to read all the comments, so maybe someone has said this already, but if a business concept is reliant on a design to sell it, then it can’t be much of concept.

    Just because a business start-up failed, and you were the designer, doesn’t give you a bad reputation. No one will say, “oh but Alex designed a site for that company that failed, I won’t use him for my site”, they’ll say, “It’s a shame that business didn’t turn out right, it had an awesome website!”. My point is that design work is design work, as I’m sure others have said. If the company fails, it says nothing about the designer.

  51. If you were contacted to work on a website and then later found out the idea behind the website was garbage, I think it’s up to you as a creative professional to lead the client in a direction where there are possibilities for them. Most business ideas are stupid to someone. To me Twitter is the dumbest thing around, but I use it on a daily basis to connect with other people who probably think the same thing.

  52. Depends on how much they are paying. Whether it conflicts with my morals is a whole different story.

  53. This question is basically the same as the following one:
    Reporter: If you know for certain the patient will die, will you do the surgery?
    Doctor: hmmmmmm

  54. Been there, done that…
    (this was the result:

  55. Web010

    Many stupid ideas turned out to be brilliant.

    For example twitter was made so people can write what are they doing at the moment(at least i think so), isn’t that a stupid idea, but you see where twitter is now.

    So, no idea is a 100% failure no matter how stupid it is.

    So, i don’t give my opinion about the business idea my client has i just make it possible.

  56. Ok. I’ve made up my mind. I woul[…see all of the above for details…]


  57. This is a tricky one, but I think I wouldn’t comment on a client’s business idea. If I’m getting paid to design their site, then that’s what I’ll do – it’s none of my business (no pun intended) to make judgements on what their actual business is.

    Would you want a business guy who knows nothing about web design telling you to make design choices that you know would hurt usability or SEO? Same idea.

  58. old9

    as long as I get paid, lol

  59. I frequently comment to my client about ideas that strike me as especially good or bad. I have one that is terrified to link to a site that competes in part of the client’s market. I have tried to argue that the web works differently than two stores in a shopping mall.

    I turned down a chance to do a web site for an exercise treadmill to condition Pit Bulls for fighting. In this case the business idea wasn’t stupid – if the guy could have made as many as he promised, everyone would have made money. I just didn’t want to have that much to do with those dogs and those people.

    So the poll lacks the answer I would pick – “maybe”. There are grand and glorious romantic gestures, tiltings at windmills, and I don’t know everything there is to know about every product, service, or community. If I can help present the client’s ideas, I will give it a try. Unless the topic (like a tribal cigarette site, Pit Bulls, etc.) is something I don’t want to get into.

  60. Isn’t it our job to help businesses succeed… regardless of what that business is. It is our job to create something that catches peoples attention, and if we are truly good at our jobs we should be able to help a person sell any business idea or product by creating clear, functional, great looking sites that make visitors feel positive things about that business.

    That is what our customers pay us for. They dont pay us for valid code, they could care less if the site validates (when I tell my customers about validation and standards I see their eyes glaze over).

    What they want to know is will this website help my business grow, and will my customers be able to find information easily. I think our answer should always be yes, regardless of what the business is.

  61. well I learned to make websites plain and simple, as did a lot of us here, I don’t think many have done any sort of marketting degree to help grow their business….

    I say take all work, (for a site you don-t think is a good idea…make a wordpress site, & let them fill in the details as they like)…

    I believe all we are hired for is getting that business on the net, make clear, make it fancy, make it work give good SEO…

    Another question for everyone (based on same idea), if any of you work for a web design company and your bosses/team got you client, would you do the site although your company has taken on the work?

  62. Bert

    After reading the comments i think its strange that no one did say anything about illegal activities. Yes, i take on anything as long its legal business and doesn’t deal with porn, illegal downloads, etc.
    So my answer would be NO, i don’t take any assignment.

  63. You should never do such a project.

  64. Matt

    We turn down any business that might pose defamation to the studio. Plain and simple.

  65. Karl Oakes

    I would take the work as long as it was an ethical business and although I do have some business knowledge, who am I to judge on a business concept. Remember a lot of us are designers/developers who live in a internet/technical bubble and therefore our opinions are warped anyway.

  66. NEVER

  67. Trent

    If we’re talking about putting food on the table then of course, yes. But the missing passion would show in the final product.

    Care equals quality.

  68. pingin

    Interesting debate and comments.
    Generally speaking I’m in the “who am I to judge whether a business idea is good or bad” camp. If I was setting up a business and I had to justify the concept to, say, the electrician before he would accept my contract to rewire the building, I would find it a bit weird… The poll leaves no wriggle room for imaginary scenarios etc., so I’m voting Yes.

  69. My boss, doesn’t want me to use h2 after h1, because h2 looks too dominant, big and boldy.

    I’m not allowed to alter the CSS (external dev company does that), and it’s a huge portal site, so there won’t be any alterations on the stylesheets.

    Still, I do what I’m told. It’s their loss and I’ve told them, but in the end they’re the ones paying my rent/food/whatever.

  70. I have been there and done it. I’m not going to mention the site or the nature of it, but, he was going to pay someone else to do it so he might as well have paid me. I felt bad taking money off him and tried a couple of times to shake him off but he just kept on at me to do it.

    Think he was just someone who liked the idea of owning a website, thought it was a good idea and had the money to work on it… I didn’t enjoy working on it….

  71. I actually have a client like this and I tried my best to cooperate with her and explain to her everything but she keep saying “aww, but i really prefer ___ or ___, hope you understand.” It’s kinda annoying too because you’re the one who’s doing the hard work and sometimes I make extras for my clients which should be added to their payment…

  72. As a good consultant, it’s certainly you’re duty to ask qualifying questions to help them consider things they had not yet thought of or to shine a light on areas you think make it a “stupid” idea. Beyond that, unless you have a crystal ball, I think it’s arrogant to dismiss a project simply because you think it’s stupid.

    How many infomercials have you glimpsed channel-surfing thinking “what a stupid idea”? Most of them are making cash hand over fist.

  73. BTW, what would you think of a any non-designer that would refuse to deal with you (and get paid!) only because they would think your site looks stupid?

  74. ha

    I made a website for a guy who invented a seat cushion that absorbed the sound and smell of farts. Seriously. I thought it was kinda stupid, but made the site to the best of my ability.

    In the ‘end’ he was happy, I was happy, I got a paycheck he got a website.

    I checked on the website a while ago and found that it was gone. He apparently got bought up because someone else liked his idea so much.

  75. I think you have to take the job, but very kindly and tactfully tell the client “Here’s another possibility…” or “You might want to consider…” without giving the impression that you disagree or don’t want to do it.

  76. We’re talking stupid business idea, not stupid website design, so yes. (In fact, I have actually done so.)

    I’m an expert on making the web work, not an expert on all business ideas. It’s the client’s responsibility to come up with a good business idea and make it work, it’s my responsibility to create the website used to do that. I’m not endorsing the product any more than FedEx endorses every product it delivers.

    Lots of ideas I think are stupid (can anybody say “Pet Rock?”) make money. I don’t have enough arrogance in me to claim I can identify every single business failure before it occurs.

  77. When a project presents itself the first thing I analyze is the client’s business. If it seems as though the business is “stupid” or ill-conceived / sure to fail, then I make sure that the project is a one time deal. Idealistically, I try to pursue clients who have clear long-term goals and staying power. This provides a greater chance of continued business. Other than that, I would have preferred an option in the poll that conveys “it depends”, because, in the end, I will take work if I need it.

  78. I did. And made everything to make the business model evolve…

  79. Mistro

    If it’s a bad business idea, you should do it. It’s business.

    If it’s bad web design, then you should definitely point out the flaws. I wouldn’t want my name going on some horrid website that I had “designed”.

    I can derive an example from two different clients that have approached me recently.

    One wanted me to design a word press theme for their new blog which would host all the latest and greatest celebrity gossip. In their minds it was going to be a very high traffic site and a big hit. Of course, my personal opinion to that was that there are already many such blogs out there and there’s a good chance it wouldn’t lift off. However, in this case, business is business and I made the site for the client.

    The other case I had was a client who kept asking me to do crazy flashy features on the site. They wanted a flash intro page with whizbang graphics and sound. They wanted a page peeling effect on the corners of all pages. They wanted a full page video overlay to have a person walk in and go “welcome to our site!” and have the video point at different parts of the site and explain what’s in them. They wanted an interactive talking head to answer questions on the side.

    And they wanted all of this at once. Now this is a case of bad web design. It’s something I would never want to put my name on. In this case, it is a very very good idea to explain to the client that it is a bad idea, or to reject the offer if they disagree.

  80. Jim

    Oh man. You’ve struck a nerve with this one.

    The customer is always right. Even when he’s wrong. Do the work as well and fairly as you can and take the money.


    If my only value is as a designer, I shouldn’t be in business. Design for commerce requires some sense of marketing and business planning. If we don’t give each customer our best advice, we’re not doing a full and ethical job.

    I do some work for people whose business models just suck. I try to gently let them know at the outset when one or more of the following is true:
    a. they offer nothing that beats the competition
    b. they offer nothing new or exciting
    c. nobody will ever find their site on the web
    d. a web site will cost more than they can hope to make from it

    If they ignore this advice, I do the best I can. I often think that I should have them sign something saying they understand my concerns so they won’t come back a year later with “Why isn’t my site making me rich?”


  81. for example a Pet Rock.. it’s been done before and it’s stupid but if it’s a paying client… of course.

  82. I would definitely still take the job. Though I try to educate clients to the best of my ability and help them make informed choices. You also have to balance yourself. As a freelance developer you have to take certain jobs that don’t make sense or are a “stupid idea”.

  83. yes.

  84. Since I value myself as a partial freelancer (not something I want full-time), I would turn down anything that was against my ethical values. Of course you have to have balance and an understanding that you need to make money to pay your bills, otherwise you’ll need to look into a different line of work. There should be a line drawn so that you don’t decimate your own name or worse yet, get a tainted name because a client is negatively impacting your marketing by saying it’s your fault a project failed. Other times you’ll get clients that want you to work for dirt cheap or don’t value your skills whatsoever, I’d say then is the time for them to go look elsewhere for another designer/developer.

    At the end of the day the only reason anyone does something for someone is because they want experience or money. If it doesn’t sound like it’s right, if it doesn’t look like it’s right, if it doesn’t smell like it’s right, it probably isn’t. Just keep your eyes open.

  85. I’ll implement a design that I think is wrong when the client insists, but not without giving them my professional opinion. I don’t see that a bad business idea is any different. In the end, it’s their decision whether to proceed and my job to build what they want.

  86. Maybe the business idea is stupid in MY opinion. But I could be wrong. So I would do the job.

  87. Excellent Poll subject. I think it is a grey area. I would certainly do my best for the project in order to make the site work. With suggestions regarding both my marketing ideas and design, but at the end of the day, the client has the final say, and if they have the confidence in their idea to approach me for a website then they would no doubt be offended if I declined the project.

  88. Franco

    a) if you do not stand behind either the BUSINESS idea or the client’s pre-defined ‘design ideas’ then better elect to reject the project.
    The question is: how can you do a good job if you think that project will not contribute in a positive way to your portfolio?

    I understand that some people among us have to do the job just because it is paid at all and in the end it comes down to the money: if you can afford to reject projects that do not fit your PHILOSOPHY, DESIGN STYLE, BUSINESS ETHICS, or because you just don’t FEEL IT … then drop it.
    If you dream about becoming a respected designer/developer then you must demonstrate that you are not a puppet who is just the working bee for the ‘man’
    (‘Hey Mr. Designer,… shut up and do your work. I am the one who pays you’) . You don’t get rich or respected by taking every paid stupid project that comes your way.
    However, it depends how you define yourself… I am considering myself a contractor who consults the client and if you feel that the client and you are not on the same page then it is not good to continue. There’s for sure s.o. else who fits better.
    I believe it is not ok to always ‘agree’ and say ‘yes’ just based on your devotion to the client. Show some personality and keep in mind that many clients actually want s.o. with an own brain who contributes ‘different’ ideas to the matter.

    b) stupid business ideas: we cannot define what stupid in general means, for everyone something else appears stupid. Sticking to the twitter example: who needs twitter?. Just another place where you can spend (waste) time. With tons of money and good business connections you can catapult nearly every business to heights they would have never seen if they were the average Joe who starts a business.
    Marketing dollars make it possible…

    c) stupid design ideas: try to never accept such jobs. If a client thinks he/she is the better designer then he/she should hire a student and give directions. Otherwise client should hire a designer and let him/her do job. They more freedom a designer has the more likely it is that he/she comes up with a great design.

    d) another re-phrased poll question could be: would you do any job if you are already a ‘star’ designer / developer? I believe the answer would be NO, 100%. …

  89. I once worked on the site that promotes celibacy. Not really a business idea, but still…

  90. Steve

    I’m sure all of us have had to suck it up and do a site we didn’t want to do. Our job isn’t really to question the client’s business concept. Our job should be to to make the best website we can to make their business concept as successful as it can be.

  91. I think in the current economic climate everyone is out to do a job, some better than others.

    However, at 20, I have seen so many people take a lot of money from relatives and not lived up to their full proposal of business (IT hardware, PC builds etc). I think the same applies in the website industry too.

    My business morals are simple: Giving honest, polite and professional service ALWAYS.

    If the job was not a good idea, I would think of ways to take what they want to achieve but modify it so they get the functionality (or most of the functionality) without it hindering on the design or development of that idea.

    If the idea is a bad one, then I would inform them and say, “look, in my professional opinion, what you want to achieve would be pointless, but I would strongly suggest you do *this*. If you want me to design or develop your initial proposal I will, but please take some time to consider your options before you decide”.

    This way you give your recommendations, give them time to think about the proposition, and all the cost implications / development implications (might take longer to do what they want and thus incur more development cost), without being rude.

  92. When im doing the designs i talk to the client and ask them what kind of designs that i used to used any ideas of them and im using the psd html and so i ahve my own nice idea of doing their websites….

  93. If my work load wasn’t bad, I’d probably do it.
    I may try and see if I can improve their design for them…
    But it definitely wouldn’t make it into my portfolio.

  94. I think the idea is irrelevant. So long as you design a nice website, you’re covered. A client is a client.

  95. I usually have a lot of work and only really deal with large clients that tend to have everything fairly worked out already. I am not a freelancer so I generally don’t deal with clients at the beginning of projects. Our client manager does most of the “weeding”. I don’t like the idea of web work being a commodity … very much agree with Andy Rutledge’s point of view on this stuff:

    So no, I would most certainly not take on a project that I thought was stupid. Protect your brand. You’ll make more money in the long run.

  96. Les Hall

    I had a client once who basically spent her inheritance on a really dumb product. I told her it was dumb and that nobody would buy it. But she wouldn’t listen so I made a pretty neat website for her. Of course nobody bought it. I felt bad for her but I guess she had to learn that lesson the hard way.

    It was depressing working on it though. At least she didn’t blame me for lack of business. She later wanted to tweak the site and I flat out told her I wouldn’t and that she was throwing good money after bad.

  97. Sure… working on stupid ideas is part of having clients.

  98. I’d take the project..

  99. I believe that a good designer/developer can take a “stupid” idea and make it look great on the web. This will in turn make users think twice about the product or business.

  100. Ultimately I would because as many have already said here, that is part of having clients. Some cases might bother me more than others though…

  101. Cipha Sublime

    YO! i had to post on this topic. My first ever on this site. But Hell to the Hell Yeah. Get dat paper. Im completing a project as we speak thats is very out there. Its always good to build nice sites and have the sites up for a very long time. But to put your foot into something and have it “flop” really sucks.

    So charge extra and keep it moving. Chris your the Awesomest!

  102. I think I am and its my own site.

    I had an idea , built and maintain a website for it myself. The problem is you can not trust your family or friends to tell you something is a bad idea. If you seem enthusiastic they won’t speak up.

    If I had hired someone to build the site I would of been thankful for their honesty . I do understand developers need to make a living too.

    I would say take the job but let your feelings be known or make suggestions in a polite tactful manner after completion.

  103. I think that designers who work for large firms and solo gigs alike would take on any job as long as it was a paying gig – other than adult content. The only time this question would seem relevant to me would be if it were a joint venture and the question was about investment required. For partnerships, always depends on the idea.

  104. I’ve worked on some “stupid sites” and I think it’s harder to stay motivated on these projects.

  105. Adam G
    Permalink to comment#

    I have a client who always has some new scheme and asks me about them. I tell him what I honestly think. Most of his ideas aren’t bad, necessarily, but not as profitable as he seems to think.

  106. If i get to work on a Website which is a Stupid Business Idea, then I won’t turn it down. I would rather discuss it with the client and try to improve it. I would try to do my best to work on that stupid idea and convert it into a feasible idea because I think giving 100% to one’s work is the duty of any working guy. Anyway, in today’s world any idea can click if it is executed and presented in a proper manner, so why not help the client in executing and presenting the idea in that proper manner rather than just turning it down. It would be like a test/challenge for me :P

    The best example that comes to my mind is that of Bollywood movies here in India. Even if a movie totally sucks and has no proper script, if promoted in a proper way, it turns out to be a big hit [box office wise] even if people don’t like it :D

  107. Permalink to comment#

    It depends why the idea is bad, if its been done a million times before then you can simply point it out. If the idea is something new (but in your opinion bad) suggest some ways the client can confirm demand before they launch a full blown website with payments gateways and all the bells and whistles.

    Some people think the web will increase profits 300% on day 1, it is definetely your duty to advise them to be a bit more realistic.

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