How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off by a Web Developer
Being in the web design and development business, I heard my fair share of horror stories. Unfortunately, the majority of our prospects timidly approach us about having a new website design. Their timidity is typically the direct result of having recently been ripped off by a web designer.
Actually, just this past week I spoke with a prospective client who shared her story of being ripped off not once, but twice on the same project. She paid one designer a $1,000 deposit only to have him disappear, having provided her with nothing. She then hired another designer. Again paying him a $1,000 deposit.
The second designer at least delivered something. He created a mock for her to review. Then, according to her, he stated the project would require more work than he anticipated̶̶and like the first, he was gone, with her $1,000 nonetheless.
Unfortunately, stories like this prospect’s are far too common. After hearing her story, I decided I would take some time to provide you with a few warning signs. My goal for taking time to write this is honestly two fold:
- To teach you how to avoid getting ripped off by a web developer.
- To try and prevent the dishonest web developers from ruining the name and perception of all honest web designers.
How to Evaluate a Web Developer
Most people mistakenly judge their quality and integrity based on one thing:
- The coolness of their portfolio.
We’ve all been taught to never judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to having our website designed, we all too often abandon this sage advice. Design is important, but it won’t help you determine the integrity, nor skill of a web designer. There are actually four R’s to remember when selecting the next designer of your website:
Reach – How far geographically has their work reached? Have they designed and developed websites outside their geographic territory? Is all of their work from only one geographic area?
You want a web developer who can work effectively remotely. Why? When issues arise, which they will, do you have to wait to schedule a meeting to visit with them in person? Or, can they efficiently and effectively work remotely?
Reputation – What is their reputation in their specific market? Do they have a “local” reputation? If so, is it good or bad? What have others said about them? Do they have testimonials from previous clients? If not, why?
Results – Have they successfully completed other websites similar to the size and scope of your project? Are those websites still online? Any documented results?
Referrals – Can they provide you with a list of others that would heartily recommend their web design and development services? If not, why?
Have you ever heard the saying, hindsight is 20/20? Well, when it comes to hiring a website designer, you don’t have the privilege of hindsight. Instead, you first invest in hiring a web designer, and then at a later date you discover if you made a wise investment.
I can’t offer you hindsight, but what I can offer are a few warning signs. If you hear any of the following from a prospective web designer – you should probably run, not walk, the other way:
What do you want your website to look like?
If a web designer begins their conversation with a question like this, it should tell you their focus is solely on the look and feel of the website. What’s wrong with that you ask? Actually, a lot!
First, your website is about the following:
Stranger –> Friend –> Client –> Evangelist
Nothing more. And nothing less. The process of taking someone from a stranger to an evangelist requires far more than having a cool website design. We actually believe there are Five Critical Questions for Successful Website Design.
Have you seen all the awards that I’ve won?
Again, the focus here is on amazing design. It completely ignores the process of transforming website visitors from Stranger to Evangelist. Last time I checked, there isn’t an award for the highest converting website.
Don’t worry, I don’t make people sign a contract.
A web design contract should be in place for both your protection, and the web designer’s protection. Having the contract clearly spell out exactly what the designer has agreed to do, and exactly how much they’ve agreed to do it for should protect you.
The designer needs some protection to ensure that you keep up your end of the bargain by paying what you’ve agreed to pay and when you’ve agreed to pay it.
We’ll figure that out when it gets to that part of the process.
If you’re having some part of your website designed or coded that your prospective web designer is uncertain about, be sure they figure it out before agreeing to the project. Just like the prospect I spoke with last week, her second designer agreed to the project, only to then back out once he realized how complex the scope of the project was.
You’ll need to pay everything up front.
Run! That’s all…just run.
I can finish your project by next week.
Obviously, the scope of your project will determine how long it will take to complete it. But if the timeframe given by your prospective web designer seems too good to be true, then it likely is. Most websites typically take somewhere around six weeks to complete.
Worse Than Getting Ripped Off
Sure getting ripped off by a web designer is never a good thing. But there is something that is worse than getting ripped off by a web designer, and that is believing that if you have a new website built everything will get better.
It’s important to remember that a website is merely a tool. It’s a tool that must be used, and the more effectively you learn to use the tool, the better the results you will get from it.
A website is not a magic bullet.
Have you had a negative experience with a web designer or developer? Looking back, were there warning signs that could have prevented you from getting ripped off a web developer? Please share them in the comments below, and hopefully we can prevent others from getting ripped off.
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