Web Design Company Red Flags to Watch Out For

Choosing a web design company for your small business can be overwhelming. We’ve all heard the stories about how someone hired a company or freelancer to make them a website. They end up with a half-functioning website, or worse yet, the company/freelancer disappeared with their money.

We hate hearing those stories but they happen far too often especially when dealing with pricing that seems too good to be true.

It’s going to take some effort and homework on your part to find a good web design agency. You want to find an agency you mesh well with, who is affordable and knows what they are doing.

Below I’ll address some of the top red flags to keep an eye out for when you’re looking to hire a company to make you a website.

1. Do they say they can do everything?

An agency doesn’t have to have a fancy office or employees to be legit, but they should be knowledgeable. Small agencies that say they can do everything, may or not be able to, but it’s usually something to be wary about. Keep an eye out for small companies who say they specialize in 10 different areas. You may also be able to look at LinkedIn to check out the employees and their depth of expertise. If what you find doesn’t match up with what the company is claiming, it may be best to look at other options.

2. Do they make promises no else is making?

Does the agency offer something no one else is offering for a price that seems too good to be true? A couple examples I’ve seen are below.

Does the agency include things like professional copywriters or photographers for no extra cost?

Chances are they’re using a sketchy freelancing site or someone with little experience. Professional copywriters and photographers cost thousands of dollars. Agencies that offer quality copywriting or photography, do so for a higher price tag.

Do they claim to get you to #1 on Google in 30 days?

Search engine optimization is a time consuming process. It can take anywhere from 6-12 months to really see results. Any company guaranteeing you’ll be #1 is making a promise they probably can’t keep. I’ve seen this before, and it turned out the company was buying Ads, or going after keywords that were irrelevant.

If the claim seems to good to be true, it probably is. Ask questions about who does the work, their process, and to see proof.

3. Do they practice what they preach?

Why hire a web design agency that has an ugly, old outdated website? If they can’t make their own website modern and effective, how are they going to do it for you?

This goes for things like SEO and marketing too! How many times has a marketing company approached you, only to be impossible to find on Google?

Or maybe you need a copywriter, but notice the copy on their own site isn’t great and has grammatical errors.

If the agency is selling services they don’t do (well) for themselves, then move on.

4. Do they send a proposal before you’ve agreed to work with them?

Many small companies are quick to send a proposal complete with timeline and cost, before even getting a commitment from you. I’ve seen this happen before without even having a discovery call. How can someone promise a cost/timeline without deep-diving into what your goals and need are? It’s like hiring a plumber who tells you how much it will cost to fix the problem, without ever coming to diagnose the problem.

Another thing to keep in mind is that experienced web designers and agencies won’t convince you to work with them. They don’t need the work and are selective about who they work with. They want someone who is hiring them for their expertise, not to be an order taker.

You also want a web design company that can act as your partner, and guide you along the way. There’s a ton that goes into creating a profitable website and you need to hire an expert.

5. Are they unwilling to offer personalized service?

Some agencies only offer packages, and don’t offer personalized services. Your business is unique — packages may not be the perfect fit and the agency should be able to accommodate that. Although we offer web design packages —which are good for many small businesses — most of the time people fall somewhere in-between.

Look for an agency that asks you a lot of questions before you get recommendations.

6. Do they claim to have a secret formula for success?

Many agencies claim they have a secret recipe or proprietary methods for success. If they respond with anything other than hard work, run as fast as possible. This is a huge red flag and might mean they’re overcompensating for lack of experience — or worse — they might actually believe it themselves.

As a business owner yourself, you know there are no secrets formulas to success.

7. Do they claim you won’t have any ‘homework’?

If an agency is claiming you won’t have any homework during the design process, this should be a huge red flag.

You know your business and industry best. A good agency will need your collaboration throughout the process. Be weary of any company touting a process that won’t require your time.

8. Do they provide mockups?

Good agencies will provide you with high-fidelity mockups. At the very least, they will provide a mockup of your website homepage so you can see exactly what it is going to looks like.

A company who only mentions wireframes or a style guides is cutting corners.

You wouldn’t buy a car by only seeing the technical drawing of the framework and some color swatches. You shouldn’t do it with a website either.

9. Do they skip over competitive analysis

This a crucial step in any website build, whether it’s a new website or a re-design. The agency should be using various marketing tools to look at your business and your competitors. If your competitors are doing something right, they should emulate it. If they’re doing something wrong, the agency will work hard to not make the same mistakes. Without this step, they could make costly mistakes that can waste time and even cause you to lose business.

10. Are there photos of the team or owner on their website?

  • Do the head shots look stock?
  • Are the photos of contractors?
  • Are there any photos at all?

This is something that has become an issue recently for small agencies, or agencies who are new. They get stuck in the trap of thinking they need to appear ‘bigger’ so post photos of the contractors they work with. While it’s not a red flag for companies to use contractors, portraying them as employees is questionable.

A more sinister scenario are actual scammers. The site looks nice and the head shots look amazing — almost too amazing. Do a Google Image Search on the photos and see if they come up on stock photo sites. These are scammers pretending to be web designers, who will take your money and run.

Another potential issue is not having any photos of anyone on the website. There are many reasons companies do this, but most of the time it’s a one-person company worried about not seeming credible. There is nothing wrong with a one person company, but they should be transparent about it. At the very least, a photo of the owner should be on the website. People want to know who they are working with and it can be really easy to be skeptical if there’s no photo at all.

Summary

Now that we’ve covered 10 red flags to look out for when hiring a web design company, lets end on a positive note and look at a few good things to look for in a web design agency.

  • They specialize in a couple well though-out services
  • Their web design process is clearly outlined and requires your time and commitment
  • They ask you questions and learn about your business
  • They practice what they preach

When all is said and done, you want a company you feel good about. While it might be tempting to go with the cheapest option, quick-and-cheap never lasts.

Still Have Questions?

Reach out to us! We’re happy to help and hope you take what you’ve learned here and find a web design company that’s perfect for you and your small business.

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