Problem Web Designers

This winter as I was sitting next to a web design company’s salesman at a local chamber of commerce event, I was surprised to hear him tell the table of small business owners that Google was going to stop listing template websites in viewers Google searches. Since most small businesses typically use WordPress templates, this certainly got attention. It isn’t true, of course, since templates are simply code like any other website, but the salesman was emphatic and put the date at which this would happen as the summer of 2016, a few months away. His firm, of course, didn’t use WordPress templates, instead coding pages in HTML5, so this was an excellent scare tactic.

Like any relationship, a web designer/client relationship that seems promising at first can quickly sour for a number of reasons. Sometimes there is unethical behavior based upon clients’ lack of knowledge about technology. And other times there is simply a mismatch between designer and client. Here are some areas to consider before hiring a web design company:

Is there a mismatch between you and the designer?

The process of creating webpages can appear too expensive, too long, and too complicated. If your goals are simple, find a web designer who will honor your smaller fee (approximately $1000) and your desire for a few, uncluttered pages. Do your research up front. Try to find someone who communicates well, is patient at explaining, and willing to train you to do future updates yourself. Make your exact goals as clear as possible from the first meeting and find a few sites to show the designer that you like. Or if you can afford and need a large, complicated site ($5000 and up) find a company that can provide all the bells and whistles and manage updates for you.

Avoid companies that hijack your webpages.

Does the design company charge a fee for moving to another developer? You should own the pages’ copyright, not the web developer, although they usually want a credit at the bottom of your pages.

Has your designer gone AWOL?

If weeks have gone by without the final completion of the website, what is the reason? Have you forwarded all text and image content requested by the designer or are they just not working on your site? If your designer is no longer responsive to your requests for updates, check your contract. Does it include response time for update requests? Or will you be trained to do your own updates.

Are you being held hostage?

All websites have two parts with two separate fees—the domain name and the hosting server. These are annual expenses outside of the web developing and maintenance fees. You, not the web designer, need to own your own domain name (the URL or website location of your site.) You should pay for this in case you need at some point to transfer the domain name to a different hosting site and get a different designer. You also need to have administrative account access to your hosting site if it is a WordPress template or other managed site. You won’t have administrative access if a company creates your large, complex website with customized code and is self-hosting. But web designers of managed sites, meaning templates that allow anyone to just fill in blanks for updates or click for functionality rather than write code, should allow the owner access.

Does the company employ scare tactics?

Has your web developer, designer, or salesman warned that Google won’t search templates soon? Or have you been given any other doom-and gloom story about the Internet that will scare you into a particular web design company or service? There are a lot of ways to do this with frightening stories about the lack of Internet security, badmouthing other companies’ abilities, overly complicating the technology process rather than simple explanations, or confusing rhetoric about SEO (search engine optimization).

To be fair, there are also problem clients. Those who expect updates within the hour, those who take weeks to turn in content for the webpages, those who don’t pay their bills, and those who milk web designers for information but won’t hire them. It goes both ways, so it certainly is best to have a good contract in place as the relationship is starting.

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