Look Out for These Website Designer Red Flags…Or Else!
Are you reading this article because you’ve seen some scary website designer red flags with your current website build team? Maybe you’re second-guessing your freelance website designer. Or you’ve interviewed a few website development candidates and realize you have no idea how to tell if a website designer is legit or not? Here are some common red flags we’ve seen that can warn you (before it’s too late!) that it’s time to fire your sucky web designer and start fresh with a professional, affordable website design agency like LoudBird.
Our Top 10 Web Design Red Flags
In our 10+ years of agency and freelance experience, we’ve witnessed every variety of website train wreck. Mostly due to amateur or downright dishonest website designers and developers. If your web dev is guilty of any of these all-too-common website designer red flags, close your wallet and run for the hills!
#1 They Don’t Have a Discovery Process.
When you begin work with a reputable web designer or developer, they will ask you about a MILLION questions. Their job is to get to know your business—your business model, website functionality goals, and branding and design preferences. If they don’t ask many questions, they are either a newbie designer and may bomb your project due to sheer lack of experience…or this is a major website designer red flag that screams SCAMMER.
Make sure the designer or agency you choose to build your small business website is just as invested in your success as you are! Most legit agencies will deliver an in-depth discovery questionnaire to assess your needs, goals, and priorities long before your project begins. They will also discuss the questionnaire with you in detail and ask any follow-up questions to ensure they understand exactly what you want.
At LoudBird, we also give advice and suggestions as to which website CMS platform is right for your business, fun ways you can bring your branding to life on your site, plugins and tools you might find useful, and lead-generation tactics (like popups, forms, and landing pages) that will help your business grow and climb to the top of Google search. If you aren’t getting this level of collaboration and expertise from your web designer, look elsewhere!
#2 They Don’t Answer Emails and Calls Promptly.
Website designers and developers have a pretty bad (dare we say accurate) reputation for being unresponsive. You can expect to only hear from many web developers a few times throughout your website build. And if you have an issue with their work? Good luck getting a straight, timely answer to your email or call.
To us, this culture of unresponsiveness is completely unacceptable. We only work with website design professionals who are engaged with their work, courteous of others, and respectful of OUR time and our clients’ time. It’s taken us a ridiculously long time to build up our development team for this reason, so we know first-hand how hard it can be to find great (and responsive) web design talent! As far as website designer red flags go, this is one f our pet peeves. If your web dev won’t email you back, save your money and give it to someone who isn’t rude af.
If everyone refused to work with unresponsive web devs, would the world be a better place? Sigh…a girl can dream.
#3 They’ve Missed a Deadline or Two…Or Three.
Look, delays happen sometimes. We completely sympathize with that. Many freelance website designers and developers are a team of one. They have no backup plan if they get super ill, if their childcare falls through, or if there is a sudden tragedy in their family unit. And we empathize completely as entrepreneurs ourselves. Sometimes interruptions in the timeline are unavoidable—both for you as a client and for your web design marketing agency.
However, project deadlines, and ESPECIALLY missed project deadlines, should be clearly communicated. You should always be briefed on exactly why there’s a delay and be given a new, amended timeline. If deadlines continue to whiz by without explanation, look for a new website designer and cut your losses.
Or, to bypass this issue entirely, hire a website agency with a design team. This ensures that even if something unfortunate or unexpected happens with one designer or developer, your deadlines will still be met by another talented professional. And if there IS an unavoidable delay, you will always be informed immediately and given a detailed plan of action for how we will get your project back on schedule to meet your desired website launch date.
#4 They’re Not Experts at SEO and Content Marketing Strategy.
Your website needs to be fast, user-friendly, and intuitive to serve the needs of your customers, clients, or patients. And it needs to fulfill customer needs better than your competition. This is no small feat.
Does your website designer have ample experience in search engine optimization and have they recently designed a website with user experience as a top priority? Do they completely understand how your website will need to function to support your content marketing strategy? With web design freelancers, we have discovered that the answer is usually a big fat NO. And that’s ok if we are bringing on an employee to work with our web design and development team—because in a team everyone has their own specialty that they contribute to make the finished website awesome.
But you’re wandering helplessly into website designer red flags territory if your web designer or development team has no experience with these vital strategy areas. Just say no.
#5 Your Web Designer Values Aesthetics Over UX and Functionality.
Always ask for wireframes or mockups if you let a website designer dictate the aesthetics of your site. We say this because we have heard horror stories of shattered website dreams! Plus, be very wary if they’re all about creative work and design without any actual marketing strategy involved.
You’ll end up with a website that looks really pretty…but doesn’t convert customers or bring patients through your door. Can this type of one-sided website be fixed? Totally! We do it all the time. But it’s better to build your site for performance the first time, so you don’t end up paying for a website twice. Ouch!
#6 They Won’t Give You Firm Pricing and They Insist on Charging Hourly
Charging hourly is totally fine…if they give you a reasonable scope of work beforehand. But we have encountered many designers and developers who refuse to even give a broad (low to high) hours estimate before starting a project. We understand that building a website can be full of unexpected hurdles—especially if the website professional is tasked with repairing or editing an existing site. There is truly no way to know what shape a website is in until you “crack the hood”.
But any competent website designer and/or developer will give you a solid quote with a high and low range, plus detailed stipulations for what happens if they reach their hours cap and have not finished your project. A pay-as-you-go hourly pricing model can cause you to blow your budget without even realizing it—since no one informed you and “you kept asking for things” because your website was not completed as promised.
Don’t let it be you! Always make sure you have a signed contract and statement of work that details project scope, pricing, and the timeline BEFORE you pay a website designer a cent. Which brings us to red flag #7 …
#7 They Don’t Have a Contract or Statement of Work
While contracts can seem intimidating, in reality, they are there for your protection as a client and to help your website developer feel confident that they’ll be paid for their work. Even if your cousin’s friend offers to do your site for cheap—get a contract. If we had a nickel for every time we heard the “well my cousin’s friend started building the site but he’s MIA” story, we’d be relaxing on a beach right now 🏖️ instead of writing this article.
Aside from being super shady, failing to offer a contract or statement of work shows that your website designer isn’t into planning, time management, or being professional. Not a great indication of work ethic, if you ask us. This falls immediately into the website designer red flags category.
#8 They’re Dismissive or Belittling
We hope this never happens to you. But it DOES happen. If your website designer refuses to give you straight answers, dismisses your questions as if they are too smart or busy to explain, or belittles you, claiming that you would never understand anyway…tell them to go F themselves and come work with LoudBird. There is absolutely no excuse for a professional who cannot or will not explain their pricing, workflow, or inability to meet your expectations.
I don’t care if they’re Mark freakin’ Zuckerberg. There’s no excuse. RANT OVER.
#9 They Want To Manage Your Domain Name or Hosting.
This might be an unpopular opinion, but we don’t think a website development or design agency should EVER hold the keys to your domain registration or website hosting. Many web design companies offer a one-stop-shop for websites, bundling your domain and hosting into an easy package. While this seems convenient on the surface, you are then beholden to them.
Get in a billing dispute? Your website is taken down without your permission. Want to change or upgrade your hosting so your website is faster? Too bad. What if they aren’t responsive and you can’t even regain control of your website and domain name in the event that they disappear with your passwords?
While there are absolutely reputable agencies that offer this all-in-one solution, to us it is just not as secure for the client. For that reason, we classify this one as a tentative red flag.
#10 You’re the One Building Your Website.
No offense, but if you’re a busy small business owner attempting to build your website, you’re ONE BIG RED FLAG! We’re joking…but we’re also NOT joking.
If you’re building your own website without training or expertise, it’s time to hire a professional before you go bald from the stress! Stop puttering around and take this off of your plate—your website is the most important part of your online presence. It needs to look professional and welcoming for customers, clients, and patients.
How to Hire an Awesome Website Designer in 2022
Now that you know which website designer red flags to avoid, you’re probably wondering how to choose a skilled and communicative web designer or developer to build your small business website. Ya know…someone who DOES’NT SUCK!
First off, we don’t advise hiring a freelancer for this important customer-facing project. There are absolutely amazing freelance website designers out there, but for all of the reasons we detail our Why You Should Never Hire a Freelance Website Designer article, it’s best to steer clear.
When considering an agency, we suggest that you ask a TON of questions to sniff out whether the agency you’re chatting with is a diamond…or a red-flag-throwing dud like we’ve described above.
And remember that an enjoyable website build and launch is just as dependent on finding a great personality fit! While you might get a just-fine website from many reputable agency partners, to get a truly awesome site that ticks all your boxes you should find a web design agency that truly understands your brand. That can translate your branding guidelines from concept… to a real-life embodiment of your brand’s mission and vision.
If you’re looking for that perfect-fit web design agency and you’ve enjoyed reading this article, then we’d probably get along! Reach out to LoudBird with any questions, learn more about us, or book your free one-on-one consultation with our Foundress, Clair, to get a quote for your new website. LoudBird specializes in small business websites with an emphasis on women-owned businesses. Let’s work together!