Stuff and Nonsense

Malarkey is Andy Clarke, a UK based designer, author and speaker who has a passion for design, CSS and web accessibility.

Andy has been working on the web for almost ten years. He is a visual web designer and author and he founded Stuff and Nonsense in 1998. Andy regularly writes about creating beautiful, accessible web sites and he speaks at events worldwide. Andy is the author of Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design, published by New Riders in 2006.

Getting client sign-off

An eagerness to please should always push a designer to do the best for a client. But there are times where just when you thought the job was finished, a client will say, Can we just add.... The four stage sign-off sheet can be our best friend.

There is often little written about the business aspects of running a design company, the often forgotten matters of contracts, paperwork and that small matter of getting paid for your work.

Get the paperwork right

After almost seven years of running Stuff and Nonsense, business life still has it's challenges, but one of the most important things that I have learned is to get the paperwork right.

Professional pride and an eagerness to please should always push a designer to do the best for a client. But there are times where just when you thought the job was finished, a client will say, Can we just add..., Wouldn't it be good if... or I thought it was going to do.... It's called feature creep, but there are simple proceedures that can nip it in the bud, or better still can offer an opportunity for us to charge a little more.

Our friend, the four stage sign-off sheet

Along with site specifications, contacts and project timetables (we'll come back to these in another column), the four stage sign-off sheet can be our best friend. This is the format that I use most regularly.


Client name:____________________
Project name:____________________
Commissioned by:____________________

Please complete the following information and fax the printed document to <Designer name>. on <Designer fax number> or post to:

<Designer name>
<Designer address>

I use this sign-off sheet four times during a project, and ask the client to sign-off or make a definitive list of corrections at each stage.

This sign-off, giving your "OK" to continue, is necessary to conclude the development stage below:

( ) Deliver design layouts and/or concepts
( ) Completed web page templates
( ) Back-end or web page functionality
( ) Finalised web site for Launch

Next, it is important to ask for a definative list of corrections or alterations.

Please mark one of the following and attach any necessary source materials:

( ) I'm happy with the project stage and give permission to begin the next phase of the project, or

( ) I've reviewed the project stage and would to make the following changes.


Lastly, get a signature and (most importantly) remind the client that changes to any project elements after sign-off may be subject to additional charges.

In signing this document, you are in agreement that the above work meets your specifications. Please note that changes to any project elements after sign-off may be subject to additional charges.

Client name:____________________

It is very important to introduce all your company's paperwork early on in your relationship with a client to ensure that they fully their understand their own obligations as well as yours.

I hope that this might be useful. What has been your experience of getting sign-off? What horror stories do you have to tell?


I'm a designer, not a solicitor or legal eagle, so the opinions expressed here are just that, opinions, and definately do not constitute any form of legal advice. So there! :p


  1. #1 On May 27, 2004 12:12 AM Luc said:

    Excellent method !!! It is indeed a PITA sometimes when you think you're finished and then those "little" adjustments come up.

    This method is a keeper.

  2. #2 On May 27, 2004 09:40 AM Fishmonster said:

    I have been in the Web business for 9 years now and I think that getting things down on paper is extremely helpful and promotes professionalism.

    BUT it also means that we as designers must be very careful about what we promise. I had one horrific project some 6 years ago where during the specification process one of the items that slipped through unnoticed was that the database was to be SQL Server instead of Access. The budget was tiny and at the time, SQL hosting AND development were much more expensive than now. The client held us, (quite rightly), to what we had written in the contract and we ended up going 3 times over, it cuts both ways.

  3. #3 On May 27, 2004 12:07 PM Nick said:

    creeping featurism is a well documented fact:

    I have found that a lot of the fine details of a site only become realised once the site is either finished, or up for final testing. The content grows into its space and starts to breathe and come to life. I have often found myself telling the client that the real design will come once the we have the content in!

    P.s. Nice site ;-}

  4. #4 On May 28, 2004 02:50 PM Chris Rizzo said:

    We've implemented 4 rounds of revisions both into the design phase and construction phase of our production process. We have a sheet very similar to this which goes out once the client has indicated that they are happy with the design. That may be after round two or after round 4. I think we'll change that though and present this sheet at each round instead. That will give the client a concrete way to indicate they are happy with the design or ready for more edits. Thanks for the great idea!

This article was originally published by Andy Clarke on his personal web site And All That Malarkey and is reproduced here for archive purposes. This article is published under a Creative Commons By Attribution License 2.0.

Andy Clarke Stuff and Nonsense Ltd.
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