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Hire the Right Web Designer; Tips for Spotting the Cowboys

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Like any industry, web design is full of talented individuals and companies offering high quality services to their clients, but there’s also a fair share of cowboys out there and a few who just don’t know quite what they’re doing. Fortunately, with a little heads up it’s pretty easy to identify the wheat from the chaff.

One of the most common mistakes made, especially by small business owners new to the web, are the “don’t know what they’re doing” group. Commonly these are students, recent web design graduates and part timers who may have picked up a few basics of web design and decide to drum up some money by undercutting the rest of the market.

Quite often they will offer websites that normally would cost around £1000 for prices like £300; for a cash strapped small business owner it sounds a great deal, and the end result might even look quite good, unfortunately it is unlikely to have any kind of search engine optimisation, you will have to write your own copy or put up with poorly written content, and there are more than a few stories out there about people who simply disappear halfway through building a site because they lose interest in being a web designer.

Most are easily spotted; they won’t have a proper company set up, will take cash payments, will only supply a mobile phone number to contact them on and so forth. They’ll assure you these are all good things that are saving you money when in fact they are just a semi-professional.

Far worse are the second group, the cowboys of the industry, who may well give themselves away with mobile numbers and a lack of an official office but may also have a true company structure.

These web design businesses will simply look to charge as much as possible for the lowest quality work possible. The portfolio websites they show you may not even be their own work, if they are they will be showpiece sites and nothing like what you will eventually receive. You will definitely be writing your own copy, definitely won’t get any kind of SEO in the deal (even though you might still get charged for it, it’s very hard for the average person to know whether a site has been search engine optimised or not) and customer service will probably be terrible during the design process and considerably worse afterwards.

It's common for the blame for this kind of work to fall on cheap international freelancers, but really it can be anyone, anywhere offering a dodgy product.

The smart way to avoid either situation is simply to look at previous clients. Any reputable web designer will have plenty of previous client websites for you to look at, and nothing’s stopping you from contacting them direct and asking them what their experience was.

Naturally, we think it’s always best to go with a larger company who has a team of specialists who will provide you with every web service you could possibly need, and companies of our size always display plenty of previous clients in their portfolios. Smaller businesses and solo freelancers may not have such a big portfolio but will typically go to considerable lengths to make it easy for new business clients to get feedback on the quality of their work.

Like any major business purchase, take your time to consider all the options and apply the same common sense you would buying anything else; would you buy that critical £1000 tool you need from a teenager offering it for £300? Probably not; if it sounds too good to be true it probably is!