I hate it — what now?

"I hate it."

The words every designer dreads hearing.

When you hate your first (or second or third) website design, it’s easy to assume that somebody must have done something wrong. Maybe the designer was lazy, or your sales representative is an idiot, or maybe it’s you, maybe you didn’t "ask right." But there’s really no "right" and "wrong" when it comes to designs. You probably didn’t do anything "wrong" and your sales rep and designer probably didn’t either. You just don’t like your first design. The question is not, "what went wrong?", the question is "where do we go from here?"

The first thing is, try to figure out why you hate the design. Review the specifications and example sites you supplied to the designer. Sometimes it will be because the designer actually did miss one of your specifications, sometimes it will be because the designer didn’t understand your requirements, and sometimes it will be because your requirements didn’t include something crucial. If that is the case, it should be fairly simple to add or clarify the missed specifications.

Of course, sometimes you will hate the design simply because it doesn’t look like how you imagined it would. Or, really, because your reaction when looking at it is not the reaction you hoped you would have. Maybe you didn’t even know your requirements included "no green" until you saw a site that used a lot of green and hated it. Or you didn’t know that you wanted soft edges, or a curve in the header, or a background that’s not white, or an extra-glossy wet look throughout. Well, now you do know. So, even if you hate the first design, you’re now that much closer to a design you’ll love.

All that assumes you can pinpoint what you don’t like. But sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you just don’t like it and that’s all there is to it. In that case, it might be a good idea to supply your sales rep with a longer list of sites liked and sites disliked. Be sure to explain why. If the designer sees a list of six sites that you like, he or she might observe something they all have in common — such as rounded edges, or a textured background or a smaller than usual header image — that you never consciously noticed.

Finally, if you really, really dislike a design, it is important to let the designer know that you want to see something completely different next time. Otherwise the designer might produce a second draft that addresses your individual problem points (wrong logo, different colors, etc.) but still give you a design that looks very much like the one you already know you hate.