These were the beginning days of the internet and there were very few people outside of Universities and large cooperation’s. Most people at this time had heard of the Internet but had never visited it. So you can understand that design was very simplistic and we slapped tons of under construction signs on our pages because they were cool at the time. Every once in a while we'll see these signs pop up from people who don't know better but in general you'll never see construction signs. Most people now know that a web site is usually under construction most of the time and just seeing these signs now just annoy visitors.
I remember painstakingly writing my HTML code and working with marble background trying to make our department website stand out. Did this work? Not really most people complained it was hard to read the text on our site so we had to scrap the page and do some research on design principles. Since the web was such a new medium there wasn't much information out there. We would hit three or four search engines and in those days it really was a mystery how we ever found anything. Using Infoseek, Yahoo, or other search engines that only lasted a few years before fading out. So one of the first things I read was readability! Make sure your text no matter where it is on your site is clear and very readable.
When the print media who had tons of experience putting work together on paper and other kinds of solid medium started to pickup on the web they taught us about color theory. Their work has years of experience in this field which we started to see pop up around the Internet. So we started to study how the RGB colors can affect the look and feel of a design. We also started learning how to piece graphics together to help define solid section of our website. Remember this was still in HTML so a lot of tedious work in Notepad was required to make our site have some basic elements.
This lead us into something every one is very familiar with, navigation. Yes in the beginning we stuffed everything we could onto one page because at that time navigation concepts was just budding. Now there are very few websites that don't have navigation. This is because we needed a way to only show information to our visitors that they are interested in.
So what does this have to do with clients you may ask? Well this was just a semi background of how things started and where our experience has taken us in the past. Someday you may run into the client that asks you to do something that in the past was acceptable and you have to ask yourself a very valid question. How do I work with the client when you know what is just wrong.
First evaluate how much of the conflict will reflect on the over all design. This is where we you first meet with the client it is good to really get a feel for what they want. If the perspective client has ideas of how the site should look and work that just don't meet your standards you can say that you have to much work on the schedule and won't be able to get to their project for months, or provide a insane estimate. You don't want them to go away thinking you can't do the work but you also know that you shouldn’t do it since it would reflect badly on you.
If you're in the middle of the project and the client says something that you know won't work. First try and educate them first and show them a solution that would be a compromise from your hard code proper design and what they want. If they still insist on it then just do it! I only say that because your client is always right and you would rather have a happy client than one that would spread word around that you’re incompetent. Don't feel bad about this decision, it wasn't your to make in the end. Besides, a happy customer is a lot easier to get money from then an upset one.