Whether you are looking to redesign your current website or need to create a new website for your business, pay close attention to these tell-tale signs of a poor website designer. There is a pattern we have discovered over the past several years that continues to emerge as we talk with people who were very unhappy with a previous website development project. So what are the common issues that cause a website project to go south?

1. It was a “great” deal, often costing less than $1000.

It really comes down to getting what you pay for. There are designers out there who are willing to throw a site together for under $1000, but it takes time and effort to create an aesthetically pleasing, well-functioning site that actually brings in business. It takes planning. It takes testing and making revisions. If you still think your website should cost less than $1000 go ahead and find a low-cost independent designer. The professionals will always be available to start over and do it the right way.

2. Your web designer is related to you.

Never hire someone you can’t fire! Family relationships are sticky enough without adding the stress of creating a business image that represents your company in the digital world. My recommendation: don’t do it. It’s no doubt your family member will give you an “unbelievable” discount. If they are a pro, that’s great news; however, the bad news is that the project eventually won’t be worth their time, and you will end up on the back burner. If you do have a professional website designer in the family, make sure to pay a fair price for their services so they feel the project is just as valuable as any other project in the queue.

3. You built your site using a web design tool.

We’ve all seen the commercials for “free” website development tools. They make it look so easy that even a middle-aged business owner with minimal computer knowledge could do it. Obviously a young, tech-savvy professional should be able to build a site in his sleep. Keep in mind your website development team has years of Internet marketing knowledge that will be utilized as they build your site. They will create a design that users want to interact with, thus creating more conversions and sales for your business. Here is one of our biggest pet peeves: just because someone learned how to use Photoshop, doesn’t necessarily make them a good designer for marketing, Internet, or print.

4. Your IT Department is building your website.

Don’t. Just plain don’t. What more can I say on this one? Web design is a critical part of your overall marketing strategy. It has nothing to do with your information technology (IT) network. It’s not about your computers, your internet connectivity, or where you store your files. Do us all a favor. If you are in IT and someone in your company asks you to help build the company website, humbly decline and recommend they talk to someone in the marketing department.

5. Your website developer resides in another country.

Outsourcing website development is a common process for some website design companies. They have vetted the developers and know how to communicate with them to get the results needed. While we use all local talent, other companies that do choose to outsource still have a local presence and work directly with the client to relay the development details needed to create all the specifics required in the site. Individuals who attempt to work directly with an overseas company will struggle to get the end result you desire. You may save a few bucks, but your site will lack the key components that make it a successful business marketing tool, not to mention you may end up very frustrated.

6. Your web designer doesn’t ask enough questions.

There are many questions that need to be answered before a designer starts working on a new site design. If these key parameters are not defined ahead of time the end result may not be what you had envisioned.

  • Why are we building or redesigning the site? What are your primary and secondary goals?
  • Who is your target audience? Describe your ideal client.
  • Where are your customers located (local, national, global)?
  • Who are your online and offline competitors?
  • Are you doing any marketing offline?
  • What brand guidelines does your company have in place?
  • What materials do you already have (professional photos, videos, images, brochures, etc.)?
  • Can we access your current site statistics like storage, bandwidth, and keyword analytics?

7. The project scope of work is not defined.

It is critical that both parties understand and agree before the project begins on the scope of work to be completed. 80% of the problems that arise are due to a poorly defined scope. Who will provide content? What functionality will the website have? Will you need e-commerce? Will you need to use stock images or hire a photographer? If we are writing content, do you have resources or people we should be working with?

8. There is no conversion strategy.

A conversion could be a phone call, email signup, a contact form, a clicked button, or an online sale. If your purpose of the website is not defined, then the design may miss the mark for accomplishing that purpose. If you want to sell tickets for an event, then that “purchase ticket” button should not be buried on a sub-page. It needs to be in various locations and be prominently placed on the front page. Knowing the purpose, or what constitutes a conversion, for the site is critical to understand before the design process begins.

9. What is the SEO strategy?

If you were to purchase property for a new brick-and-mortar store that requires a lot of foot traffic, you would be very careful about what neighborhood it is in and what street it is on. This is no different than selecting an experienced website design company. If no one can find your site, what value does it have? Well done search engine optimization (SEO) makes all the difference between a successful website with high conversion rates and a lonely bunch of code that only the owner checks periodically to see if it is still working.  Your development team should be paying attention to image placement, content wording, responsive displays, and site loading time, just to name a few.

10. Can you make quick content changes and manage the site?

Have you ever had the experience of emailing your website designer with a verbiage change on your site, only to have them respond days later, if at all? Most content management systems (CMS) make it very easy for you to log into your dashboard and make changes immediately, even at midnight if you want. Not only does it make things easier for you, but it also makes it faster for your designer. Less time means lower cost to you, and more frequent changes also translate into higher ranking on search engines. A win on both fronts!

There are always exceptions, and by no means are these cut and dry rules that must be followed. However, our experience has shown that if you follow these basic guidelines when selecting a designer or website development company to help with your next website project, you will have a whole lot fewer headaches. And you will most likely see a much higher return on your investment.

BONUS TIP: Marketing is an ongoing expense that should be built into your annual business budget. A website is never finished. It should be kept fresh with new content periodically and site code should be regularly maintained to ensure good performance. A complete site redesign should be considered every 2–4 years.