It’s a really sad reality that there are tons of dishonest people out there, and worryingly, we’ve come across a lot of them in the web design world! One of our values is transparency, as we are always open and honest with our clients throughout the whole process.

The first thing a lot of people say to us is: “How can I trust you, because I’ve just been ripped off by the last web design company?!” It’s so worrying how many people say this to us! And then we hear the stories… Gosh – they’re horrible!

So, we thought we’d put together a list of the complaints that our clients have had about previous web design companies so we could warn people what the real situation should be!

1. Taking your money and not doing the work

This is the most common worry anyone has when hiring someone to do work, not just web designers. If you’re dealing with a reputable company with a good online presence, you usually do not have much to worry about because they wouldn’t risk their reputation by doing this. Be wary if you use a freelancer or a company without much of a track record.

Ways to avoid this scam:

Go with a trusted company and ensure you have a legal contract in place for the services. Look at how they invoice you for the work – is it professional and do they offer various forms of trusted payment methods? If you’re still concerned, use a credit card via a trusted payment gateway such as Stripe, or use PayPal as these methods contain buyer protection.

2. Not delivering the work that was agreed

This is a very tricky one, as web designers will notoriously complain about the situation being the other way around – where clients will demand way more than was originally agreed.

Ways to avoid this scam:

The way to get around this and protect both parties is to have a very clear Scope of Work document which states what should be agreed and by what timescale. If both parties agree to this document, then it’s in writing and there should be no disagreement on what’s a deliverable and what is not.

3. Adding random and inflated costs on

Some web designers will insist you purchase certain themes/plugins/software from them at a very inflated cost. You then also end up not receiving the actual software and when it comes to updating your website, you have to purchase a license for them yourself afterwards anyway!

Also watch out for additional costs that keep being added on for various things! You may have an agreement that states a fixed cost but then additional items will be extra, but they cannot just add things on the bill at the end without your permission.

Ways to avoid this scam:

Whenever there’s a suggestion to buy a certain product, look up the product, check the price and then purchase it yourself directly and make sure the license is in your name. This way, you have full control and you can see how honest the web designer was about the cost to get an insight into them.

Always negotiate additional costs before the work is carried and make it clear that you will only be paying for things that are agreed upon beforehand.

4. Holding your website hostage

This is possibly one of the most common, yet disgusting web design scams around. We get around 3 people per week complain that this is happening! It’s horrifying!

This scam comes in many forms:

  • You give access to your website so that the developer can “check out the backend” or edit your site, and they fill it with malware or spammy links to their own website. Worse still, they remove the site and try to get a “ransom” for it.
  • Your web designer buys the domain name for you as part of the website deal, but then they try to claim they own all rights to the site and demand an extortionate fee as they own that domain name.
  • You have a WordPress website designed by an agency/freelancer and they hand over the website and what you think are the login details. However, they’re a restricted access and you can’t actually do much with it. You’re locked out from major changes. They try to then charge you for the admin login details.

Ways to avoid this scam:

Always back up your site before giving away any access. Don’t give away any cPanel/hosting access details until you fully trust that person.

Always purchase the domain name in your name – they actually do own the domain if they purchase it in their own name, so technically that will become their IP. Be careful and just purchase it yourself.

Ensure that the agency puts in writing that they will provide full administrator access to your website. If not, always ensure you have the access to the cPanel yourself so that you can change over access at this level.

5. Charging for things which are free

The problem when you hire an “expert” in an industry you don’t know anything about is that you have to trust what they say entirely. We’ve seen proposals from web design companies which charge for things like “Implementing blog functionality to WordPress” or “Adding e-commerce capabilities” and charging thousands of pounds for both of these, when the first is already built into WordPress and the second comes from adding a free plugin to the site! They then charge thousands more to customise these parts!

We’ve also seen agencies charge £10 a photo for stock images they’ve taken from free sites, not even from paid subscriptions.

Ways to avoid this scam:

Do some research every time someone tells you there’s an additional charge. Whenever you receive a web design quote from someone, run it past another agency, or someone else who’s already had their website done well and are happy with it. Just be careful though – another agency might be jealous that you’re not going with them and say bad things just to be spiteful. Try to get the opinion of someone you trust.

6. Not making the site responsive, or charging way extra to do so

In this day and age, EVERY website should be responsive. Google even has certain rules about it and will give out penalties or even just refuse to rank websites that are breaking too many rules!

So, if you hear a web designer say that they’re unable to make your site responsive and gives some excuse, don’t accept it! The usual case is that they do not know how to do it. Most templates these days are responsive out of the box, but if you’ve done any customisations at all, you may have to tweak things so they look perfect on each device. Also, sometimes the natural mobile view may not suit everyone’s liking, so it will require some custom coding to look better on mobile devices.

Ways to avoid this scam:

Check their capabilities BEFORE the project starts. Specifically ask if custom mobile tweaks will be included. Of course, if you go so far as to create an entirely different mobile site, they’re right to charge you more!

7. Forcing you to host the website on their servers

We host and manage of our client sites, so the scam is not that they sell you hosting. It’s the fact that many of these companies insist on you using their servers and not supplying any login details to them! All of our clients have their own cPanel access in their own name. Therefore, they have full control of their own files and they can move them whenever they want to another server.

Many of these web design scams won’t provide you with login details “for security reasons”, which is super dubious!

Ways to avoid this scam:

If you use their hosting, always insist on the website hosting being in your name and you have the login details for the full cPanel access. After all, if you want to manage your business emails etc., you want to have access to this.

If a company says that you have to host with them and no one else, refuse, as that is unacceptable.

8. Insisting they have to make all changes to the website

Despite WordPress being so user-friendly and ideal for people who do not know how to code, web design scammers will insist that it’s still “too complicated” and you will mess up the website if you’re given access.

Therefore, they will need to make all the changes to the website, including basic text or image changes, and charge you their steep hourly rate for this.

Ways to avoid this scam:

Get full administrator access from them right from the start and make changes yourself! If you have a backup of the website, then it doesn’t matter if you mess it up a little bit!
Get WordPress lessons if you would like to feel more confident and just save money by doing it yourself.

In Summary

We’ve made it sound like you should avoid website designers at all costs! That’s not true at all; we have plenty of fellow creatives who we love and trust to do the job very well. However, the sad truth is that there will be people who try to rip you off.

Follow the tips here to try and avoid these scams, and if in doubt, please ask for a second opinion! Feel free to even ask for a second opinion on this article too!