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I am having trouble trying to explain to my client in a non techie language, on why he should follow responsive typography.

Let me give a little bit of context: The project in question is for creating a web portal with dynamic quiz based content (we ask users questions and then reveal the answers to them). So, in the backend I have setup a rich text editor for the client using which he can fill up the question box and the answer box. The rich text editor is needed because our questions need symbols/images attached inline and have ways to highlight part of the line in a different color.

Now, my client is obsessed with "fixing" which part of the sentence will be in which line. For example, lets say we have a question:

"Jack is looking at Anne, but Anne is looking at George. Jack is married, but George is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person?"

My client would insist that, for example, the first line should ALWAYS start with "Jack" AND end with "Anne", second line should be from "is looking... George",third line should be "Jack...George" and finally fourth line "Is a married...person", and so would give a forced line break after "Anne", to make it go to the next line, and same with the other lines. He would check the result in his computer to ensure everything looks good, and be happy that the text would look this way everywhere.

The trouble is that the question/answer box is meant to be responsive and adjust according to window width, and forced line breaks would cause the text layout to go haywire.

I have tried explaining this to him on several occasions, but every time I do, he seems to get irritated and says "it does not look good", "There must be a way you don't know of", and would show me how its easily done in say power point, and I would strain to explain that power point isn't the same as web.

How should I go about trying to explain that what he's doing isn't manageable/maintainable? Maybe point him to a very basic article with some do's and don'ts of responsive typography ? I googled for some but all of them assume that the reader is a designer himself.

Edit for clarity This requirement is not just for the quiz section, but is for any text in the site, even plain content, like say "About us" or "How it works". He wants complete control over long each line would be.

I did not work on the content management of the site until recently, when I took over the site from the previous developer, I found all the content of the website (stored in mysql) peppered with sporadic <br> tags to make the lines go as wanted, and the previous design had all the content areas set in fixed pixel sized div tags, and simply showed horizontal scroll bars when viewed on mobile.

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    Just to be clear: Does the client want specific line breaks for the purpose of the quiz? I mean sometimes these types of things in these types of situations are relevant in their psychological impact on the quiz-taker, and very important to the quiz questions, ensuring responses aren't influenced by line-break positions, etc., that kind of thing. – Jason C Sep 8 '16 at 4:35
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    Also, as an aside, the fact that the client is insisting on a feature combined with the fact that the system you already have in place would go "haywire" if you implemented the client's request sort of suggests that requirements weren't adequately communicated ahead of time. Could be a communications problem on your end, the client's end, a combination of both, or nobody's fault at all, doesn't matter, but regardless of how you resolve the current issue you should consider taking this opportunity to iron out the remaining requirements so there's no more surprises for you. :) – Jason C Sep 8 '16 at 4:43
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    Edited the question for some clarity. – coderkane Sep 8 '16 at 5:16
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    Perhaps the site is only viewed on devices with a large enough screen so that the requirement will be met in all normal cases. Perhaps it is not used by mobile devices? (question did not specify) If it will be used on mobile devices, and scrolling will be forced on actual users, they will likely complain. Then the customer can say: "sit down at a normal computer when you are using this site" which is fair. Not everything must be accessible from a phone. (for small values of screen size) – user67695 Sep 8 '16 at 13:40
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    This isn't even really about responsive design. This is just web design 101. The best way to handle this is to hire a good account executive who can deal with idiot clients like this on your behalf. – DA01 Sep 9 '16 at 4:03
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OK, first thing first: what your client wants is easily doable, more precisely because that's the whole point of responsive typography. So this isn't really a problem.

However, from your example description, it seems your client wants some specific format, and there seems to be an obvious pattern. So I'd ask her about the reasons why she wants this, if this pattern needs to be maintained and what are the limitations and boundaries of such pattern (as in what you can and what you can't do). This way, you'll be able to understand your client's reasoning and how the problem can be solved, even if the solution is to follow her instructions to the A.

I don't know if your example is real or made up, but this kind of patterns are quite common in psychology, and usually very rigid and strict in its formal presentation.

In short: in order to convince your client, try to understand her motivations. And at the same time, be ready to accept she might be right

  • Edited the question with some more context, which might help understand the problem. – coderkane Sep 8 '16 at 5:17
  • ah I see. Well, again, I suggest you ask why (seriously, WHY is the most powerful world ever in UX, design and programming, so powerful you could even lose your client, so be careful). If there's room to work around the reasoning, great. Otherwise, just do as she wants and call it a day, these are battles you can't win. Telling you after 20+ years of dealing with this kind of clients, and up to date I still get them. Keep in mind EVERYBODY is an expert in design, UX, coding, psychology and marketing and you're just the guy that does the grunt work. Sad, but true in most cases. – Devin Sep 8 '16 at 17:15
  • Everyone is an expert on what they want to see achieved. Else, we would just push the clients out the door and take over their businesses. But I think I am agreeing with you? – user67695 Sep 13 '16 at 14:06
  • me no comprende – Devin Sep 13 '16 at 17:42
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Tough situation. It seems that you and your client want to optimize for different things. "it does not look good" tells me that your client wants to optimize the site for his tastes. While, you seem to want to optimize for a best practice instead. If your client believes that your position on this reflects a preference (as his does) then you will not get him to budge. Preferences are subjective, so there is no right answer. But since he's paying for the project his preferences automatically become 'right answers'.

I think to win this argument, you need to establish that your recommendation for responsive typography is not a preference and is objective and trustworthy. I would consider doing the following:

  1. Provide articles from authoritative sources which explain how this practice represents a step forward for UX.
  2. Since the typography of the site already reflects his preference, highlight areas or scenarios where his implementation 'breaks down' and provides either a poor experience or poor performance.
  3. Get feedback from users or prospective users of the site on the reading experience. If it represents a major challenge for them, responsive typography can be pitched as a solution to a 'bug report'.
  4. Provide examples of well known sites which implement this practice to show that it has traction within the industry.

P.S.

I don't agree that your client's request is unmanageable or not maintainable. It may be ill-advised but that's a different matter. If it doesn't square with your responsive implementation and he's willing to pay to change it then you should probably do so.

  • Great points for convincing someone. The question is: do they need convincing, or will the site always be used on a reasonable sized window? – user67695 Sep 8 '16 at 13:46
  • @nocomprende good point. I tried to stay away from taking a side for the reason that we only have one side of the story. But going through the exercise, of following the suggestions made, should help the OP encounter points that both support and oppose his own. – Andre Dickson Sep 8 '16 at 13:55
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    Unless it's a Kiosk being designed for a specific device, with a specific set of fonts installed, sing a specific browser, there's no argument that it will "always be used on this screen..." that is valid. – DA01 Sep 12 '16 at 16:21
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    @DA01 I think that the argument with validity is "what would a reasonable person do?" If the site is not suitable to a mobile scenario, then no reasonable person will try to do that, and we can say to anyone who does: "the site was not designed for mobile use." We don't watch cinemascope through a keyhole, and no reasonable person would give it a moment's thought. If the problem is that people are no longer reasonable, then I guess that would be a new Question? – user67695 Sep 13 '16 at 13:51
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    @nocomprende I hear what you are saying, but it's an idealistic and unrealistic view. Users aren't universally reasonable. Furthermore, it's completely reasonable for people to assume they can use a web tool regardless of the device they happen to be using. You seem to want to argue with the customer that they are being silly for using a mobile device to get work done online. That's a rather ridiculous stance to take as a UX person. It's a rather typical stance to take as an enterprise software developer, which is why so many people get frustrated with a lot of enterprise software. :) – DA01 Sep 13 '16 at 15:45
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Short Answer: You can't.

What they're asking for isn't difficult. Just throw the <br> tags back in and call it a day. If he complains about it being ugly, tell him it's because line breaks defeat the purpose of being responsive.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. If your client wants the stupid line breaks and he's signing your checks, give him the line breaks. If you've made your case, at the end of the day you can at least say "I told you so."

As a developer, I do things all the time I know aren't the best way, and knowing full-well I'll have to go back in and correct it... all because the PM/Client thought he knew more than I did.

But, at the end of the day, people are gonna believe whatever they want. If you're a doctor who doesn't beleive in acupuncture, and your patient demands to be treated with acupuncture, then perhaps they would be better off dealing with an acupuncturist. Otherwise, either you're gonna do something you perceive as a waste of time, or the customer isn't gonna get his way.

  • This might be an OK business answer (though I've found the "I told you so" rarely pays off), but it's not a good UX answer. It's just plain bad UX. – DA01 Sep 9 '16 at 4:10
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    So, what's a good "UX answer?" Developing a CSS class that forces the client to accept the truth? This is the answer to the question. If this isn't a UX answer, then it isn't a UX question. – Hill Sep 9 '16 at 17:07
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    Christ... I'm so tired of people on Stack Exchange who act like this. "Meh! It's not a UX answer!" Who freaking cares? Sometimes technical questions have NON-technical answers. He's asking about his relationship between he and his client. That is a business question! This is a freaking answer to his question... and it's one that's been upvoted. Screw off. – Hill Sep 9 '16 at 17:08
  • I agree. Sometimes that's true. But this is a question that has a very explicit UX answer...actual research. But if you insist it's a business question, that's fine too, but then it doesn't belong on this site. Also, you seem like a very angry person. Relax or something. – DA01 Sep 10 '16 at 4:08
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    @DA01 - I mean, the whole question is regarding "How do I deal with my client." So the answer should be, "Here's how you deal with your client." If the answer is business related, then the question is business related. I don't mean to come off as rude or whatever, but... attack him for asking the business question, not me for answering it. – Hill Sep 13 '16 at 17:37
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In 131 B.C., the Roman consul Publius Crassus Dives Mucianus, laying siege to the Greek town of Pergamus, found himself in need of a battering ram to force through the town’s walls.

He had seen a couple of hefty ship’s masts in a shipyard in Athens a few days before, and he ordered that the larger of these be sent to him immediately. The military engineer in Athens who received the order felt certain that the consul really wanted the smaller of the masts. He argued endlessly with the soldiers who delivered the request: The smaller mast, he told them, was much better suited to the task. And indeed it would be easier to transport.

The soldiers warned the engineer that their master was not a man to argue with, but he insisted that the smaller mast would be the only one that would work with a machine that he was constructing to go with it.

He drew diagram after diagram, and went so far as to say that he was the expert and they had no clue what they were talking about. The soldiers knew their leader and at last convinced the engineer that it would be better to swallow his expertise and obey.

After they left, though, the engineer thought about it some more. What was the point, he asked himself, in obeying an order that would lead to failure? And so he sent the smaller mast, confident that the consul would see how much more effective it was and reward him justly.

When the smaller mast arrived, Mucianus asked his soldiers for an explanation. They described to him how the engineer had argued endlessly for the smaller mast, but had finally promised to send the larger one. Mucianus went into a rage. He could not concentrate on the siege, or consider the importance of breaching the walls before the town received reinforcements. All he could think about was the impudent engineer, whom he ordered to be brought to him immediately.

Arriving a few days later, the engineer gladly explained to the consul, one more time, the reasons for the smaller mast. He went on and on, using the same arguments he had made with the soldiers. He said it was wise to listen to experts in these matters, and if the attack was only tried with the battering ram he had sent, the consul would not regret it. Mucianus let him finish, then had himstripped naked before the soldiers and flogged and scourged with rods until he died.

The 48 laws of power, Law 9: "Win through your actions, never through argument."

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    I am willing to upvote if I can see what action should be taken in this case. Please clarify? – user67695 Sep 13 '16 at 14:05
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    @nocomprende - Yeah, for real. Nice anecdote... doesn't really answer the question. – Hill Sep 13 '16 at 17:38
  • Demonstrate, do not explicate, arguing will only offend your superior. Learn to demonstrate the correctness of your ideas indirectly. In this case, it would be a good idea to show the client how gross the page looks at different resolutions without stating his own opinion on the matter. Hopefully the client will see for himself that the design is flawed and will think of himself as the genius initiator of a redesign. Key thing here is to make him think it without telling him, so he thinks its his idea. – Shadetheartist Sep 13 '16 at 20:17
  • Hell, you could even consider the dissenting opinions on this forum. Maybe peer pressure will sway him. – Shadetheartist Sep 13 '16 at 20:18
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This isn't really
about responsive design nor
is it
even about web design in general. It's really just about
standard writing style.
Point out that adding line breaks
to a paragraph that create disjointed line lengths is just plain bad typography and that
no publication would condone it
for the obvious
difficulties it adds to the legibility of the copy.

Perhaps the easiest way to communicate this to the client is to type up some sample text. Just grab some random paragraphs from article online and present it on two sheets of paper. One with random line breaks everywhere and another with proper typography where you only have line breaks after each paragraph. Ask them to pass these two articles around the office and poll their employees as to which they feel is easier to read. (I bet this second paragraph was a whole lot easier to read than the first)

  • Yeah, all those poetry books got it wrong. – user67695 Sep 13 '16 at 14:04
  • @nocomprende who's said poetry got it wrong? The difficulties it adds to reading is exactly why poetry uses it at times. I don't believe the OP was referring to a poetry collection, though. – DA01 Sep 13 '16 at 15:24
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    Maybe the client wants to add difficulty to the reading? To cause the user to pause as they parse the text? Who are we not to give it to them? Strange things happen in the brain as the eye retraces to the next line. Maybe, even comprehension or framing occur. This is an area for research. Or, maybe the client already knows about these things and we don't? – user67695 Sep 13 '16 at 15:47
  • @nocomprende, yes, if the client purposefully wants to make something more difficult, this is a way to do that. I'm not aware that was the impetus of the request. It would be a good question to ask the client. You are correct it is an area for research...in fact, it's been well researched. It's a typography 101 type of thing. – DA01 Sep 13 '16 at 15:50
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    It seemed clear to me from paragraph 5 ("the first line should ALWAYS start with "Jack" AND end with ..." etc) that the client had a reason for wanting this. The reason is not our purview. Unless it is simply impossible to accomplish (it isn't) then there is no reason to argue on this point. People came back with saying that it would break on smaller screens. The client would probably reply that because this formatting is crucial, we sacrifice usability on smaller screens. Two questions, two answers: whole issue settled. There is no room for argument, it is a specification of the application. – user67695 Sep 13 '16 at 16:09

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