Is Your Web Designer Shady? 3 Ways Website Companies Can Trick You Out of Your Money.

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Is Your Web Designer Shady? 3 Ways Website Companies Can Trick You Out of Your Money.


If you’re like most people, the reason you’re thinking of hiring a web designer is because you lack the knowledge and skills required to do the job yourself. Unfortunately, this can be a risky business– after all, if you don’t understand what you’re paying for, a savvy web designer may try and charge you for numerous extras that cost them little to nothing. Here are some common strategies these shady companies tend to use.

Domain Hosting.

When you’re first getting your online presence off the ground, figuring out a way to get your website actually online and out in the world can be one of the most daunting tasks. Fortunately, many web design platforms, like WordPress, Weebly, or Shopify will handle that for you, sometimes even free of charge. The downside to this is that within the URLs given to you from these platforms will always include some sort of documentation of the fact that the website is hosted on that platform– for example, a WordPress hosted site will always appear as “[sitename]”. While theoretically this isn’t a problem, most professional websites don’t include this, and due to the number of amature fan-sites and blogs that do include this, many viewers will see this as unprofessional. This is why most Web Designers will recommend that you purchase your own domain— a customized URL that is yours and yours alone– but don’t be fooled! If you’re purchasing this through your web designer, it is more than likely that the company you’re working with is merely the middleman, purchasing your domain from a large hosting company such as GoDaddy and selling it back to you at a slightly higher (or criminally marked up) price.

At Tenaya Digital, we’ll help you purchase your own domain, but our involvement ends at the setup. After we work with you to host your website, we no longer add our own monthly fees to the ones you’re already paying to have your website hosted. Unless you want money skimmed from your budget every month, it’s always best to be master of your own domain– pun intended.

The Vanishing Act.

Let’s be honest, working with someone online (especially through email only) leaves a lot to be desired. Not only does it make quick, effective communication incredibly difficult, it becomes nearly impossible to verify who you’re talking to, and how trustworthy they are. Unfortunately, when you’re a small business owner, it’s often difficult to pursue a meeting with your web designer, either due to time constraints, or simply because of distance. This is why you should thoroughly check your web designer’s references before hiring them– specifically looking at the previous websites they have displayed on their own site. Websites with broken links or incomplete designs are a huge red flag. In addition to this, while online resources can often be faked (with the proper amount of effort) phone calls or skype meetings will often serve fairly well to establish trustworthy connections. While it’s true that some people can effortlessly lie, it’s doubly true that the voice is often one of the most telling factors in someone’s reliability and honesty.

However, even with trustworthy (seeming) phone calls and plenty of satisfactory references, there’s still a chance the designer could bail with your money when the site is in an incomplete state, or even before it’s been created at all. That’s why you should always choose a designer that offers a multi-phase deposit plan. Paying them step by step will both keep them “on the hook” and encourage speedy and high-quality work– after all, we all want our paychecks ASAP.

And, of course, never discount the value of a face-to-face meeting. If building trust is your main concern, nothing can measure up to looking your designer square in the face while you work out the details of your website.

The Airline Fee Strategy.

If you’ve ever booked a flight online, you probably know about the myriad fees an airline will charge for every step of the process. Booking fees, seat fees, bag fees, varioius taxes and tariffs– here at Tenaya Digital, we would be honestly unsurprised if airlines started charging fees for the oxygen they pump into the cabin. By the end of this process, you could often end up with more losses from fees than from the ticket yourself.

With something as complex as a website, the same strategy is often applied. When your contract simply reads “a website based on the client’s specifications will be created”, don’t trick yourself into believing this will be fully customizable! Many web designers will take a set of basic desires from the first meeting and create a “bare minimum” site based on these, leaving out many of the simple design tweaks that makes the website look complete. After this, they’ll require more money (often as much as the first deposit, since you’ve already invested and are less likely to drop them) to do an overview of the site, add menus, navigation, or even simple content. The shadiest web designers may even hold your site hostage once it’s created, either by simply withholding login information for you to add the edits on your own, or by installing complicated enough plugins that adding new content from scratch is nearly impossible for the average person without recreating the entire website.

The best way to avoid this is to trust and know the designer, but, of course, that’s easier said than done. Another way to accomplish the same thing is have a contracted period of content editing and design tweaks– making sure that your designer is working to impress you, not just to fulfill an initial contract. As nice as simple contracts are, they can often be the biggest trap of all– so be wary, be watchful, and get a web designer that works for you!