December 12, 2023

Don’t Waste Your Money: Avoid These 9 Website Design Firm Red Flags

When you get your teeth cleaned or suffer through a root canal, you want a dentist certified with a professional license to practice in your state. You would never go to see a guy who promises he offers quality services because he watched some root canals on YouTube. 

The same should be true for a website designer. Crafting a website that speaks to your target audience is a time-consuming process that should be handled by an expert.

It can be hard to suss out an actual website design professional because you can make a free WordPress website look pretty good on the outside. But in reality, these one-size-fits-all designs lack the functionality to deliver high-quality content that your audience expects. Shoddy code and cumbersome graphics can make your website’s performance plummet faster than a YouTube bumper popping up while watching a video!

So, here’s a list of common red flags to show you how to discover bad website design agencies before they break your budget. Spend your money on a website that converts. Hire actual professionals!

1. They Don’t Ask You Enough Questions

The initial design process should feel like a job interview. The website design agency will meet with you regularly and ask questions covering your:

  • Industry
  • Competitors
  • Social media
  • Past branding
  • Target audience
  • Unique value proposition (what you have to offer that no one else does)

There is a lot of ground to cover in the beginning. The designers need to understand the ins and outs of your business to create a website that intrigues your target audience and successfully sells your product or service. You should answer so many questions that it feels like you’ve run a marathon (or at least attempted a 5k!). They should also complete a competitive audit on your enemies (AKA competitors) to ensure that your website stands out from the crowd.

At e9digital, we send questionnaires to our clients so we can research their target audience and competition. Additionally, we have creative kick-off meetings to guarantee we’re on the same page with our clients before beginning the bulk of the website design.

2. They Don’t Offer a Budget Breakdown

If a website design agency’s budget breakdown has one line item, or worse, only states the hourly rate, run for the hills! Would you let a dentist perform a root canal without knowing how much it will ding your bank account? Never. Websites can be a difficult beast to tame, and you need experts who understand the best practices of coding, content, and design to ensure yours doesn’t fly off the rails. 

Expect a thorough quote with detailed line items describing the work. An expert agency should offer additional services, including marketing and accessibility, to prove their legitimacy.

Of course, there should be wiggle room for when a project may not go as planned. But if the designer doesn’t clarify that up top, you may blow your budget on continual “one more things” that weren’t explained initially.

3. They Shrug Off The User Experience

Imagine you’re an accountant. And you hire a website designer to create a beautiful website. The designer does so, but it’s a modern concept centered around clowns. The website goes on to win many awards. However, it doesn’t convert any customers for you because it ignores the user experience (UX). 

A UX-centered design focuses on creating a seamless user journey. Potential customers should land on your home page, understand what you’re selling, and find what they’re looking for in a few clicks. If a designer doesn’t see how important that is, the final product will make your company look like a clown.

4. They Act Like You’re Dumb for Questioning Their Strategies

You’re spending the money. You have the right to ask as many questions as you need before signing a contract. So if the agency starts to act cagey or belittles you for wanting to understand the process, they may not know the answer to your questions. This means that they’re at worst a fraud, or at best going to be a pain to work with. 

This is your company’s website. Not the designer’s website. Work with someone who will listen to your feedback and address your concerns patiently to ensure you receive the optimal final product. 

Before agreeing to a contract, do your homework about the website design agency you’re interested in. Read through reviews on third-party websites, such as Yelp or UpCity, to learn about previous experiences customers have had with the agency. Ask about their systems for customer support and how they answer questions. Request a quote and don’t agree to anything unless you understand its purpose.

5. They Leave Your Texts Unread

You don’t want to feel ghosted by your website design agency. Quick communication is key for completing a website in a reasonable amount of time. 

A website design agency should get back to you in around 24 hours for non-urgent queries. But when there’s a fire to put out, you should expect your website design agency to hop in the truck and battle the blaze ASAP.

So if you reach out to an agency through a contact form and they don’t get back to you within a week… don’t hire them.

6. Their Capabilities Seem Too Good to be True

Outlandish promises are never completed in reality. So if a developer promises, “I’ll make you an SEO-optimized website in one week,” they are lying

They might make you a website in a week, but it’ll be a cookie-cutter, barely functional website.

Proper SEO optimization is a detailed process. It involves researching keywords, understanding the target audience, and incorporating these elements into the website’s content and metadata (the data that allows search engines to crawl and rank web pages). This process can’t be rushed if it’s to be done effectively.

In terms of visuals, a website built in a very short time frame often relies on templated designs and pre-set configurations. This approach can sacrifice the uniqueness and specific needs of your business. You may save money with a cheap option, but you’ll pay for it later with the lack of sales due to a buggy, confusing website.

7. They Have No Case Studies Explaining Past Projects

Before choosing a website design firm, you should learn about their strategies. Look at their past work and see if they’ve designed websites you resonate with. One of the best ways to do that is by reading case studies. These helpful pieces of content outline the process and explain the decision-making behind each design.

To read an example case study, check out these samples from e9digital:

Ask a designer to send you examples of their past work or more detailed case studies. If the person can’t do that, then cross them off your list. A lack of case studies or a portfolio proves the designer hasn’t created a streamlined process to build a website. This leads to those super fun “surprise costs” at the end of a project that were not included in the original estimate.

8. They’re Google Illiterate

When it comes to the internet, Google is king. 93% of global internet traffic comes from Google. Your website designer must know how to use Google’s suite of tools to help your website rank in the top ten of Google’s SERP (search engine results page). When interviewing website designers, ask about their experience using:

Some people use other programs or plugins to rank on Google, such as Ahrefs or Semrush, both of which are comprehensive SEO (search engine optimization) tools. SEO professionals use these to dig in on strategies to help websites rank in Google’s SERP. Many website design agencies use Google tools and additional SEO tools to ensure no stone is left unturned.

If the agency doesn’t have a plan to get your website to rank on Google, or at least offer the option, they aren’t knowledgeable enough to build your website.

9. They’re Deer in the Headlights When It Comes to Website Maintenance

Imagine you go to the dentist once and think, “Great! I’m set for life.” After a few years, you’d quickly see (and feel!) your teeth deteriorate. To maintain optimal oral hygiene, most people visit the dentist once or twice a year. Your teeth need regular attention to stay healthy.

The same goes for your website. You need regular maintenance performed on your website to ensure it remains secure and safe for visitors to use. A good website design agency will offer an ongoing website maintenance package. For a small monthly fee, they work on retainer to take care of small tasks that keep your website running smoothly.

This can include:

  • Updating software from your hosting service
  • Backing up your website
  • Performing A/B testing to increase conversions
  • Maintaining ADA Compliance

If a website design agency doesn’t offer this, then they don’t know enough about websites to create one that will work the first time, let alone in six months.

Go With the Green Light: Work With e9digital

At e9digital, we pride ourselves on building websites that build businesses. We do this so well because we have skin in the game! This is not a theory for us. The same strategies we use for website design, maintenance, and marketing for our clients, we also do for ourselves. The proof is in the pudding with our happy clients.

If you’re ready to work with professionals who create websites that convert, give me a call today.