3 Web Design Red Flags You Should Never Ignore

The deceit and deception of unscrupulous web designers is a real issue. Here's what you need to know before you hire a web designer.

Megan Stewart, Founder of Design the Conversation | Source: Courtesy
Megan Stewart, Founder of Design the Conversation | Source: Courtesy

The web design industry is riddled with mistrust. We all know one person who has been taken advantage of financially, had money stolen with no final product in sight, or purchased a website that was anything but what they wanted.

Could these web design problems have been avoided? Did their web designers exhibit red flags that could have prevented the business relationship from developing in the first place?

It’s time to dive into the deceit and deception of unscrupulous web designers. How can you tell the difference between a dishonest web designer and a professional one? Here are  3 red flags and 3 signs that you’ve found the one.


3 web design red flags


1.  A web designer doesn’t work on contract

When you’re about to spend a large sum of money on a digital service, especially if you’re submitting a deposit for work to begin, you’ll want to make sure you’re legally covered.

So many times when you hear a story of a web designer disappearing after a deposit has been paid, you find out there was no contract in place. Still, many web designers, especially those that work on a freelance basis, don’t use contracts. Even legitimate web designers should always use a contract.


Photo: Rawpixel.com, Unsplash
Photo: Rawpixel.com, YFS Magazine

A contract is mutually beneficial as it protects the client and the designer. In the event that your web designer doesn’t perform for any reason, you have a legally binding document. Should the client not pay the designer, the reverse is also true.

Aside from the obvious legal benefits, a contract is a great way to document exactly what is promised on both sides. As a result, there are no miscommunications as to what is expected from either party.


2. A web designer charges more for a mobile-friendly website

In today’s multi-device world it’s more important than ever that your business website is mobile-friendly across all devices (smart TV’s, desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones). Surprisingly, some web designers charge extra to design a mobile-friendly website.

Most reputable web designers already include mobile-first as a part of their standard services, since it’s a requirement for today’s web-based platforms.

Read your web design agreement carefully. If you don’t see a mobile-optimization option, you may want to hire another designer.


3. A web designer overlooks SEO standards

Google regularly changes its algorithms and these updates directly impact the SEO of your website. A reputable and skilled web developer will exhibit  familiarity with SEO best practices and implement the latest trends.

Your website must be SEO-friendly. A properly optimized site will regularly appear in search engine results, which helps your business be more readily found and drives traffic to key pages. “A search engine utilizes a web crawler for this task, and we are trying to work with the search engines rather than against them. Unfortunately, there are many ways to make a website, and not all technologies are built with search engine optimization in mind.”

SEO is mainstream so if you find a web designer that wants to nickel-and-dime you for a feature that should be included – it is a serious red flag.


What to look for in a great web designer


1. Clear communication

You’ll want to work with someone who understands you on a personal and professional level. This means they take the time to go deeper than what you need for a website, and learn how you communicate best. Added to that, they’re serious about taking your wants and needs into consideration (not their own vision or what they think you want).


Photo: Rawpixel.com, Unsplash
Photo: Rawpixel.com, YFS Magazine

Part of good communication is understanding the full scope of work, gathering all information up front, and providing a consistent point of contact.

Do you prefer to be contacted via phone, email, or text? When your web designer communicates according to your preference, human error and overlooked deliverables are less likely.


2. Realistic expectations

Does your web design project have a lot of moving parts with bells and whistles? If so, it will take time and money to bring it into fruition.

Let’s say you want to build a multipage site with interactive content, an e-commerce platform and graphics. A quality designer will set honest expectations from the start.

Meanwhile, a standard website is built with conversion, search, and social optimization in mind and these features should not be add-ons, they should be baselines for any website project.


3. Live portfolio with links to real websites

Have you ever browsed a web designer’s portfolio and found it curious as to why you couldn’t click through to a legitimate website? That’s because they are showcasing mockups and not real websites.

Many web designers who are not fully above board will showcase templates, mockups, or even pull work from other designers and claim it as their own work.

A great web designer not only showcases actual work in their portfolio, but they also provide a link to view the live website (if they have client permission).

More than just viewing actual sites, you will want to see what types of clients a designer works with. Do they have familiarity with multiple industries? Do the websites look similar or are they all unique?

A reputable web designer will have a clear design aesthetic and active portfolio.


Ultimately,  a beautiful website provides the immediate impact you want visitors to experience, but unless the site actually converts, builds your brand and drives sales for your business, it’s not worth the investment.


Megan Stewart used her 10 years of experience as a journalist, while creating digital platforms for publications who didn’t have a online identity, to open her business, Design the Conversation, a web presence development company specializing in customized websites, landing pages, and more for entrepreneurs, business owners, and coaches. Megan’s story and expertise have been featured in several magazines and online publications, including Badassery Magazine. When she’s not creating kickass websites for her clients, you can find her reading a good book or spending time with her pups. Connect with @Megan_Stewart21 on Twitter.


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