Getting Started

Basic information about websites and the web design business

Web Designers are Flaky

Getting Started

Okay, they’re not all loony, some of them are actually quite good, but there are a lot of web designers that are just plain flaky. They don’t call when they say they’re going to call. They don’t show up when they say they’ll show up. They don’t do what they say they’re going to do, and they ultimately disappear (sometimes after haphazardly piecing together a sorry excuse for a website, and sometimes before finishing so much as a concept).

I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who have at least one horror story to share about their past designer or developer. “The guy did some work and then suddenly told me he didn’t have time to finish,” “the website never got finished because she said her grandma died and she had to leave town,” “The website isn’t working, I have no way to edit anything, and I can’t even get a hold of the guy who built it.” So, what’s the deal with web designers? Why do I keep hearing these stories?

I think there are two main reasons people fall into the trap of wasting money and time with a lousy web designer. The first is that there are a lot of them. Let’s face it, it’s easy to call yourself a web designer. There’s not a whole lot of start-up cost. All you need is a cheap laptop, an html book from the library and a counterfeit copy of Adobe Photoshop and you’re a “web designer.” Any fool can learn how to piece together bad code to roughly change the appearance of a web page, and you don’t need a Bachelor’s degree to do it. I think a lot of undisciplined people decide on a whim that this will be their new profession because it’ll be fun, easy and something they can do from home.

Of course, a knowledgeable developer can tell the difference between someone who is experienced and knows what he’s doing and someone who doesn’t even know what a database is, but a business owner who’s in the market for a website design may not. This is the other reason it’s such a common occurrence. If you can’t distinguish between a good designer and a bad one, if you don’t know what questions to ask or what you really need, and you’re looking to get the “best deal,” you’re taking a real gamble. There are a lot of “good deals” for web design on Craigslist, but even if you come out of the deal with a complete website, there’s a good chance it may not be coded correctly, optimized for the search engines, easily modifiable, scalable, secure, etc.

Now, let me backtrack a second. I’m certainly not saying that all of these inexperienced designers are evil scammers, just waiting to rip you off, or that the people who get stuck working with them are complete fools. In all honesty, I think it’s fairly (usually) understandable all the way around. An inexperienced developer who’s getting into the business can’t know what he doesn’t know, and he may not realize how poor of a product he’s offering (and may not have the self-awareness to realize he’s taking on a job he won’t be able to finish). And the prospective client may be enamored by the low price and not have the experience or web knowledge to know he’s wasting his money.

Furthermore, in some circumstances, it may be appropriate for a business to hire someone who is pretty inexperienced for a lower price to work on their site. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. When I started out, I knew pretty little about web design and development, and am thankful my first clients were patient and kind enough to work with me (and in turn receive a pretty good deal). I think the key here is honesty and communication. A web designer who is thinking about taking on a project that will require a lot of “on the job learning” should just be honest about it. Even now, when a prospective client requests something that’s beyond my immediate capabilities, I’ll just tell them I either don’t feel comfortable doing it or believe I can do it but will need to do some research first. I find it works out better for everyone that way.

Communication and honesty would solve the problem in a perfect world, but in the real world there are still a lot of people offering web design services they’re not qualified to provide. With that in mind, what can you, the person in need of a quality website, do to ensure you’ll get a website that’s worth the money and will work for your business? Here are a few tips:

1. Inform yourself. Understand the basic differences between a good website and a bad one.
2. Learn how to distinguish between a qualified designer and a bad one.
3. Figure out specifically what you need (refine your understanding beyond just “a website”).
4. Figure out your budget and find a quality developer who will work within it.

I’ll be writing another article soon that will discuss what you can do to find a good web designer more in depth. For now, ask for references, thoroughly check out portfolios, do some basic research and get multiple proposals from different designers. Also realize that you get what you pay for. Not all web designers charge a mint, and you don’t necessarily have to go with a big design firm to get a good site, but you’d do better to get a more basic yet fundamentally-sound website from an experienced designer than invest your time and money in someone who promises you “anything you want” for a low price.

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1 Comment to "Web Designers are Flaky"

  1. Matthew Shuey

    October 18, 2012

    I’ll say! We’re a growing company and every web designer that I’ve interviewed is a flat out flake! Either they don’t answer their phone or have some excuse.


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