Is Your Web Designer Going to Finish the Job? Tips For Finding the Right Team

Avoiding a bad web design experience.

Unfortunately, the following is a very common story.

Chris, a small business owner, needs a web site for his new business. He does a few Google searches and comes up with a company in a different state and finds a “Gold Package” that seems to cover everything he wants for his web site. The price is less than half of what he thinks a local developer would charge (though he has never checked) and the web site of the company looks nice, so he submits his credit card data pays for his new “Gold Package.”

He then sets about to describe in writing (the company only communicates through email) what he wants. After sending his design ideas and content, he waits. And he waits. Finally, a few weeks later, he finds all of his content placed in a web site template and is told his website is “done.” There is no custom design and the box-like web site template looks like thousands of web sites he has seen–in the early 2000s. There is no custom graphic design work, and his web site looks very old-fashioned.

When he contacts the company, they respond with a email saying that if he wants to upgrade his package, he can have a better web site. All the samples on the web site are from the “Diamond Package”, which, of course, is more expensive.

So, after tens of hours of work and a few thousand dollars spent, Chris has very little to show for his efforts. It also turns out that if he wants to keep the web site, he will have to pay high monthly hosting charges and he is not able to modify the web site without using the development company.

Chris has wasted his time and money.

What could Chris have done to save money, time and get a great web site?
1. Chris’ first mistake was not to check for local web designers. Almost every community is served by at least a handful of local web designer. He could have met with a few local designers, checked out their references and received price quotes from them.

There are several advantage to local sourcing. The most important is responsibility. A local developer is much less likely to take on projects she can’t complete, because failure to complete a project will subject her to spending a lot of time in small claims court. An out-of-state developer, or worse yet, an out-of-country developer is unlikely to feel the same legal responsibility. Furthermore, a local developer is most likely well-aware of the value of referrals and developing a network of references. Finally, a local developer will be able to communicate face-to-face–an invaluable option when talking about design-related issues.

2. Chris also would have been wise to ask the online company a lot of questions. How much would the XYZ web site in their portfolio cost? Can I have the phone contact information for some of your clients? How many revisions am I allowed? Can I have the web site hosted on my server of choice? Does the price quote include setting up email accounts, changing the nameserver information, setting up the server, a grace period for changing typos?

3. While it’s a matter of great discussion in the web developer world, a client should not be expected to make more than a 50% deposit. No reputable web developer would accept less (except, perhaps from established clients), but to demand 75%-90% before any work is begun should raise some red flags.

4. Examine the web design contract closely. If there is no contract, find another developer.

5. Don’t base a web design project solely on cost. A good web site should represent a business well for a few years (or more). Look at the total costs, including the cost of your time, when determining the cost of a project. Also consider the risk of losing everything if your developer is out of state or in another country. If you can’t meet with the designer and have to describe everything in email, your time costs will be much higher. A poorly designed web site might not be of any use to your business.

Unfortunately, web design businesses can appear and disappear as fast as it takes to set up and turn off a web site. A smart business person will look at the all the risks and costs in the web design process.