1. Scrimping on photography
The problem: For some reason, lots of clients will happily pay for hours and hours of a designer’s time, printing costs, etc., etc., but they’ll freak out when it comes time to pay for photography. Either they’ll want to avoid using it altogether, or they’ll send you a bunch of lame images from their marketing department. Of course, not every project needs photos. But when you know they would make a big difference to the quality and effectiveness of the design, it’s frustrating to be told no.

How to fight back: Tug at their heartstrings so they’ll open the purse strings.
Good photography has the ability to provoke an emotional reaction. Use that to your advantage. Whenever possible, avoid using weak place-holder images in your mock-ups. Before you present any mock, even an early iteration, take some time to find great imagery that helps communicate their brand and your design. And don’t be afraid to draw on some expert advice on the subject. When David Ogilvy wrote his classic book Ogilvy On Advertising, one of the key lessons was the importance of a good image for memorable design. And, as the good folks over at FutureNow write, “Tests Indicate Ogilvy’s Old-School Layout Still a Winner”.

3. Too much information
The problem: The average client seems to have never heard the old adage: less is more. No matter what you’re designing, they’ll want to add more copy, links, calls-to-action, logos, headers, footers, global nav elements and 1-800 numbers. Part of the problem is that they think that if it’s there, their customers will read it. And sometimes part of the problem is that they’re balancing the needs of fifteen different divisions within their company, who all want some of that prime screen real-estate on whatever you’re designing.

How to fight back: Ask them what they want the design to accomplish, not what it should contain. No matter what you’re designing, it should have a purpose. Whether it’s a poster, product packaging or a corporate homepage, the design should serve to accomplish something for the person who will ultimately be viewing it. Once you’re discussing what a viewer needs from the design (rather than what the company wants it to contain) you’re on the right track to reducing the amount of information to only that which is necessary.

The “Long Neck Theory” by Gerry McGovern states that every website has a very short list of “killer tasks” that visitors to the site want to accomplish. His testing indicates that just 5% of content, which serve those killer tasks, is used by at least 25% of visitors to a site. And past that key 5%, the vast majority of the rest of the content is only useful to a tiny percentage of people. Which means that not every little bit of content on a site needs prominent placement.

If you’re designing for the web, hopefully you’ll have an interaction/information architect on your team to help fight this battle. But if not, a little knowledge of some basic usability guidelines can go a long way. If you want to read a very smart and easy to read introduction to the subject, check out the book “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug.