In an industry dominated by experts who don’t have a lot of time to explain things, it’s easy for clients to be suspicious of getting ripped off by web designers. Much like car mechanics, web designers are infamous for overcharging for services, struggling to fulfill promises, and not putting the proper time and care into getting results for their clients.
This suspicion is not without reason. Plenty of web designers do function by overcharging their clients for services they don’t understand. That’s why a huge part of any valuable web design company is making sure clients understand what they’re paying for, and not pitching a service to them if they don’t need it. A web designer should have the client’s best interest in mind- not their own.
When a web designer doesn’t explain the way their services work, it doesn’t show the client the respect they deserve to make informed choices. Even more, it misses out on the opportunity for clients to see their growth in action and how successful certain tactics are. Every client should be able to understand how a digital marketing agency will help their business and their personal goals.
Hopefully, this won’t happen to you. But in case you’re wary, here are 13 ways to tell your web designer is ripping you off– or how to spot a bad one.
1. You don’t have access to your own website.
It’s smart to have a web designer manage your website to make regular site updates so you don’t have to worry about it. This is normal, and most companies do it. But that also takes a huge amount of trust.
If a web designer is the sole owner of your online properties, if you don’t also have the ability to access your own websites, or can’t access or download your website’s files and database (or worse, if you state that you also want access, and they shut you down), don’t walk, run, to the next agency. You should know your own passwords and have administrative access to block out anyone (including trusted partners). You wouldn’t give just anyone the keys to your office. Your website should be seen in the same light.
Anyone who makes themselves indispensable through demanding exclusive control of your assets is not someone you can trust.
2. They don’t explain their services.
It’s true that it’s difficult to explain technical or niche-specific industry tools and techniques in plain language, but it is 100% doable. Ideally, this would be a priority for every web designer. They should want their clients to understand the technical value of what they offer so the client can see how great it is. This takes extra time and planning, but if your business’ success is on the line you should be willing to spring for an agency that is equipped and able to explain the pros or cons in website design techniques or strategies.
There is also the concern of whether a web developer really knows what they are doing. In a world of “DIY” website builders, any tech-savvy 10-year-old can create a website. But building a website and building a website for business that can generate leads and sales are two totally different things.
3. They don’t ask you about your goals.
It’s also part of a web designer’s role to include you in the brainstorming process. They might have an innovative idea about how to revamp the way your clients book appointments online, but if you already have a good system in place, that feature is of absolutely no use to you. Your needs as a client should always come first, and a web designer should use their skills to creatively make them happen for you.
If you don’t get the feeling that they care about investing in your business goals, news flash: they probably won’t be able to help you reach them.
That being said, there is such a thing as too much investment in your goals, which brings us to our next point.
4. Your web designer makes you promises they can’t keep.
If a digital marketing agency guarantees that ads will make you X amount of dollars, deliver X amount of conversions, or generate X amount of engagements- they are lying to
It’s true that with the right skills and strategy, it can be reasonably possible to predict increases in your engagements or sales, but a web designer or digital marketer should never, ever promise you something they cannot guarantee.
If a digital marketing consultant says, “I can get you 15 new clients by the end of the week,” or “I promise I can get you the number one ranking in Google search results,” watch out. (Unless, of course, they are also willing to wait to get paid until after they deliver- which means your service is probably free!)
Instead, a digital marketing consultant should explain to you how exactly this new strategy will impact your chance of acquiring new clients or earning more conversions, so you can make the decision. They also let you play an active role in measuring your success.
In the real world of web design and digital marketing, things are spoken of in probability and previous indicators. And backup plans are always in place to rework designs or strategies if the results are not living up to projections. That way,
5. They don’t answer your questions.
If a web designer gives you vague, evasive answers when you ask them questions, that is red flag number one.
Everything a web design or digital marketing agency does should be entirely focused around you and your needs. If they dismiss your concerns with a “we know best” attitude and no explanation, you probably shouldn’t trust them.
Having said that,
6. They give you Analytics reports that are basically just massive chunks of unintelligible data.
Did your company choose a digital marketing agency to run your Analytics or Google Ads? Great choice. You probably don’t have time to do that yourself, and it’s a great way to measure how your digital presence is faring.
But here’s the great thing about metrics and Analytics: they are, well, analytical. This means that you can objectively view average ROI for each
Any digital marketing consultant familiar with Google Ads or Analytics knows how to compare this to average cost-of-purchase and measure the value of conversions for that particular ad- which brings it full-circle back to language business owners understand a bit more.
If your web designer or digital marketing consultant hands you
A good digital marketing consultant or web designer should narrate these reports, write up their takeaways, and explain what they mean so you can make informed decisions. Otherwise, you’re clearly not their priority.
7. They’ve never heard of SEO.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a set of principles and best practices for how to help your digital assets (website) get more organic traffic (people clicking on your site from search results, not ads) so people can find you on the internet and you show up in search results.
Web design plays a huge role, if not the single most important role, in SEO. If your website is not designed with SEO in mind, you are wasting your time on the internet and you are wasting your money on that website.
8. They don’t technically exist
A web designer should have a portfolio of previous work. You should be able to look at websites they’ve designed, and you should be able to verify (on the internet) that those websites actually exist.
Are those businesses real? Also, does your web designer have Google Reviews? Are they referenced on internet sites other than their own, such as local business aggregators like Thumbtack, Manta, or Yelp?
If they have reviews (which they should), read those reviews. To find out how a web designer treats clients, listen to what their current or former clients have to say.
9. They offer to work without a contract.
Red flag, red flag, red flag. This is a terrible business practice. Not only does offering to work without a contract
Contracts also firmly solidify which services you are paying for and what your expectations should be. That way, if someone doesn’t meet their end of the deal, or if any misunderstandings arise- and misunderstandings happen- communication is so much easier on both ends. It saves everyone time.
Any web designer offering to work without a contract is not a professional- and if you’re paying a web designer to professionally design your website, they should at the very least be qualified.
10. They charge way more than their competitors, or way less.
This is also a red flag. It’s as simple as doing a Google search to find out the average price range for the services you want.
Cost of services, especially with web design, always varies depending on the service, but there is a standard range of what’s generally to be expected.
If their price is dirt-cheap, it’s probably dirt-cheap for a reason. If their price is totally exorbitant, you are probably just getting ripped off (unless your website requires a lot of custom design or custom web applications).
11. Your web designer is the human equivalent of a disembodied voice.
You should be able to meet with your web designer on a regular basis.
Your web designer should check in with you, show you mockups, update you on reports, and basically keep you in the loop of the entire process.
Otherwise… What exactly are they doing, anyway?
If your web design agency is terrible at communicating, expect that to be an ongoing problem.
If they don’t answer their phone, don’t reply to emails, and refuse to set up in-person appointments (and yes, video counts as in person)– how do you know they are not a man living in a basement in
12. They have way too many clients.
This one ties in with number 11. There is nothing worse than committing to an agency, feeling great about what they can offer you, and then realizing they have way overcommitted to too many clients.
While lots of agencies are careful, skilled, and adept at managing large numbers of client portfolios, you can quickly tell when someone is overworked- they forget what your business goals are, you always feel like they’re in a hurry, and sometimes you even feel like you’re wasting their time by checking in with them on the services you paid for.
Taking on too many clients is something a lot of designers are guilty of (especially freelancers), but it does every client a disservice: when an agency overcommits, none of their clients get 100%.
And if you’re paying for web design or digital marketing, you’re putting a huge asset of your business into someone else’s hands- and that deserves 100% of their attention.
13. They haven’t learned new web design skills since 1997.
There are tons of free tools online for checking your website’s speed, last update time, and if it’s running on an outdated version of current software. If a web designer promises you a website that’s fast, sleek, or accessible, you are literally paying them to know what they’re doing.
A good hint is to check the page speed on their own website. If their page speed is slow, their site is an antique and they clearly don’t maintain it- which means your website will probably not be up-to-date either.
Even if their website looks flashy on the surface, it’s the stuff underneath the hood that reveals whether or not the designer knows what they’re doing.
Especially in the web design industry, if your brand-new custom website runs on old code bases or takes longer than four full seconds to load a visible page, you definitely just wasted your money.
You deserve trust, transparency, and the very best. (And a website that doesn’t run on techniques used in 1997.)
Have you hired a bad web designer?
If you want a web designer who has the best in mind for you, contact us at Jonroc.