I am sure the title of this page may cause a little controversy but in this day and age we still come across web design companies that are screwing business owners out of their hard earned money especially small business seems to be a target. So what inspired this is that we are currently working with a client that paid for someone to stand up a website for their business and now that its been 2 months past the actual date that the site was promised they are still struggling with out a proper website.
This made us decide to write a guide on how to not get screwed by your web design company so other businesses that are looking to have a web presence built can avoid some costly mistakes as well as just plain aggravation in having to struggle to get a website built for their company.
What You Need To Know To Not Get Screwed By A Web Design Company!
In this guide I am going to give you 7 important points that you need to think about when you engage a web designer that will keep you out of trouble and will make sure that a website that will help your business move forward online will be delivered!
Have Realistic Expectations Based On Your Budget!
Please keep in mind that you get what you pay for. If your budget is $500 to get a website built it will be very basic and simple where if you have an actual budget of somewhere in between $1500 – $3500+ you can get a site built that will work for most small to medium sized business. Keep in mind with those budgets your best solution is a site built using Word Press. Word Press itself is currently the most widely supported Content Management System around and it can accommodate a small as well as a very large site as well as having the ability to handle e-commerce and being a perfect solution for a SEO friendly website at an affordable price. WP is an out of the box solutions that can be highly customized but for a true custom solution you will need a to find a web developer that can build you a custom CMS which will require a much bigger budget but will allow you total control over how your site acts and looks in its entirety.
Make Sure You Own Your Domain Name
This is probably the most important thing of all. Make sure you own your domain name. The best way to assure that you own the domain name is to register it yourself and then guard that ownership like you would the deed to your house!
You can easily register a domain with GoDaddy which is probably the most widely known registrar around. However do not let them sell you extra services just get your domain name and register it. Some others are Domain.com and Network Solutions which is the original and oldest registrar!
Somethings To Remember When Registering Your Domain:
- Make sure the domain is registered in your or your companies name and that the contact information you use is up to date and current.
- Keep that contact information current at all times so any notifications that come your way actually get to you.
- If you do not want your information to be public then you will also need to purchase privacy which will keep your information private from anyone that is looking at who owns a domain.
- Lock the domain so it can not be moved
- CAUTION – You will get emails that will say your domain is in danger or its about to expire and you are going to loose it. Do not fall for those scams. When you receive something like that. Log in to your account where ever you chose to register the domain name and just double check when its set to expire just to give yourself peace of mind. 🙂
- Do not share your account information with just anyone. It is better to have your web developer talk you thru how to change your DNS information then to give them access blindly unless you can do so safely. Think of DNS like an address where your website lives. Talk to your domain name registrar on details of pointing your domain name to your hosting company.
- We also always recommend that you register .com, .net and .org extensions of your name. Those are primary extensions that will keep someone from just knocking off your business name and site. Some people even go as far as to register many more domains that are close in name to the business just to prevent anyone from misleading people.
Owning your domain will stop anyone from holding you hostage and will also allow you to take control of your website if things do not go as planned with your web design firm. A real nightmare for your business can be letting the web design company register your domain on your behalf. Mainly because they can do so but register it to themselves instead of you making them the owner.
Do Not Pay For The Whole Website Upfront
This seems like a no brainer but plenty of times people feel comfortable enough with their web developer to just pay for a whole web design project up front. Its just best to not do that. What most reputable web design companies ask for is half down and the other half upon completion. This makes the most sense. In handling payment this way both parties are invested in the project and no one holds all the cards. Once the project has been signed off on and is complete the remaining balance should be paid at once.
- So sometimes the question is why should I pay anything at all until the site is done? Coming from the other side of this and being a web design company among other things the work that we put into a site is always a custom job so its not like we can build a website and if you decide well we decided we don’t want a site now that I could sell that work to someone else. Therefore its fair to get half of the project cost upfront so the design company has at least some compensation if a client pulls out last minute and they designer has already sunk hours in to the project.
- Why should I pay half and not all of it at one time? This simply ensures that the web design firm will not just let your project sit around just because they have got all your money and now they are not so invested in getting the web site done. It keeps them invested in finishing the project in a timely manner because they certainly want to get paid!
Unfortunately over they years we have seen this to be true. The client pays for the whole project upfront and the web developers drag their feet! So a half down half on completion keeps it fair for both parties.
Get A Detailed Web Design Contract That Spells Out The Deliverables
Getting a detailed contract that spells out exactly what you are paying for is very important for both parties. For the client it spells out exactly what you are going to get from the web design firm and for the firm it gives them a very precise set of deliverables. The contract should be signed by both parties acknowledging that both agree that these are the deliverables that were agreed upon for the project.
This protects you as well as the web designer. So make sure that everything that was promised is in writing and make sure that nothing needed is missing that you will need to have to pay for or add on later to make the site work in a manner that supports the business online by either capturing leads or selling products.
Simple List Of What Should Typically Be Included In A Web Design Contract:
- What coding language or platform will the site be delivered in. This could be html, php, .net or a CMS platform like Word Press, Magento, joomla etc. If its a platform and has an administrative section make sure that you become familiar with how administering on that platform works. If its a custom Content Management System then make sure some hours of training a included with the site. If the site is custom coded will the site be updates as needed or what extra charges will be incurred to upgrade a site as it becomes obsolete? If the site is In Word Press this will generally not be an issue.
- How are design changes handled? This is important to understand. Some web design companies limit you to 2 or 3 runs of changes and some will say you can make unlimited changes to the design until your happy. Generally this becomes a matter of price. Your more expensive web designers will let you change your design until you get exactly where cheaper web design firms will limit it and then charge you for anything beyond the agreed to amount of changes to the design.
- Exact Breakdown of Functionalities Agreed To – This means anything that you want the site to do needs to be spelled out. For example does it need forms to capture client leads, does it need a shopping cart, is a newsletter signup needed. Be very specific with your web developer on what you need and make sure its spelled out in the contract. If you do not what can happen is that you will incur extra charges for the project as well as time delays.
- Hosting – Many web design companies also have a hosting arm or they will refer you to someone that they find reliable. The best web hosting company we have found so far is Siteground. They are very reliable and their support team is exceptional. This does not have to be spelled out in the contract but its nice to have it there so everyone knows where the site will live once its ready to go.
Check Out The Design Firm Your Going To Use
A good practice for dealing with most businesses these days is to check them out online and its not different when your looking at a web design company to handle your site build.
- Take a look at their Google My Business Reviews as well as looking at any other reputable review sites like Yelp, TrustPilot and many more that are out there.
- Getting some references also goes a long way. Ask them to provide you with some references of some clients that they have worked with.
- A personal referral is always nice when you can get it. See if anyone in your circle can recommend a web design company to you that they have dealt with or know about. Still do your due diligence but personal referrals will usually narrow it down to someone reputable.
Are You Small Businesses On A Budget That Can Not Afford To Pay For Constant Updates?
If you are a small business that needs to be able to handle their own updates and things like adding pages or a blog post you will need to make sure you get a site built with an admin side that is user friendly. We highly recommend Word Press for anyone that needs to be able to run their web site after its built. WP makes adding pages and blog post easy as well as having many plugins that are available free or at a small price to add any functionality to the site you did not think you needed but now you know you do.
Using Word Press is generally the best solution for any small to medium size business looking for a web presence they can manage on their own. Joomla, WIX and Magento are other platforms to do this with but in our opinion these all have issues we do not like dealing with where WP is easy to use and manage once you become familiar with it.
Last But Not Least! Think About Functionality & SEO Not Just Pretty.
Many times over the years have we seen clients spend lots of money on a really pretty website but when it came time to optimize the website for visibility online it could not be done.
An SEO Friendly Web Site will contribute to the bottom line of the business where a pretty one may never be seen by anyone to be appreciated. Its always a difficult situation when someone contacts our SEO company in Houston and we have to break the bad news to them that their entire site has to be redone due to bad coding or some other obstacle that can not be remedied to get them ranking organically in Google.
Now this does not mean that you should not have an exceptionally looking professional feeling web site just that you should look for balance and really think about what you want the site to bring to the business in the long run.
We hope that we have armed you with enough knowledge to help business owners not get screwed by unethical web design companies in their search for their place online!
If we can help you in your quest for the best web design company for your project please contact us and we will do our best to assist you.