f you have your own business you’ve probably heard of bad experiences people have had when it comes to web designers.
The unfortunate fact is that too many people have ended up with a half-assed end product that doesn’t work, or the whole experience has been one to quickly forget.
Talk to many business owners about web designers and you can already hear the groan in the voice before they even speak.
Instead of simply accepting this broad generalisation of our industry, we have decided to tackle this head on and do something about it.
Here are 3 reasons why the web design industry sucks – and what we’re doing to change it:
Why the web design industry sucks
REASON ONE: Low Barrier to Entry
Let’s face it, becoming a “web designer” takes little to know knowledge or experience.
Well, that’s not entirely fair.
I’ll change this to say that becoming a web designer is actually very hard, but pretending to be one is very easy.
To create your very first website, it costs exactly $0.
Is there any other industry that has such a low barrier to entry?
With free DIY web building tools such as Wix, Weebly, and SquareSpace, learning to put websites together is ridiculously easy.
The problem that this has caused is that every unemployed recluse has decided that being able to put up an image and some text on a free web builder makes them a web designer, so they start charging people for it.
This has left a trail of destruction as far as the eye can see and we now have a “Wild West” situation where it’s every man for himself and everyone is an expert.
Not only is everyone trying to make a quick buck off their new found skill, but the low barrier to entry now means that “web design is easy” and many business owners have dabbled at becoming their new “on-staff” web designer to try and save a few dollars.
Being able to place an image and text on a website does not make you a web designer. In the same way that putting paint on a canvas doesn’t make me Vincent Van Gough.
So, how can you tell the difference between a cowboy and a professional?
1. Check their website
Does it perform well?
Is it functioning as it should be?
If a “web designer” doesn’t have a website – or their website isn’t working at 100% – RUN!
Why do you think a company (or individual) that doesn’t know how to look after it’s own website would be able to create a website that would help your business?
Think about it this way: Would you go to a dentist with missing teeth?
So why would you want your company’s most important sales asset build by someone who isn’t capable?
2. Look at their previous work
Do you like the quality of their work?
Bear in mind that it is a web designers job to not only deliver a great product, but do so with the client having the final say, so while the examples of previous work might not be your exact taste, has the designer clearly been able to deliver a quality product?
3. Contact previous clients
To a great web designer, there is no such thing as a previous client, only a current one. But make contact with the designers clients. Usually, this is pretty easy to do. Just look up the previous projects the designer has worked on and then contact the business owners of those websites.
They will be able to tell you exactly how the designer works and what to look out for (if anything).
If you can’t find any previous client to say something positive, don’t move forward.
What are we doing about the low barrier to entry?
Unfortunately, there isn’t much that we can do about how easy it is to create websites. Although, in saying that, making web design easy to access is something that we see as a good thing.
Instead of focusing on the low barrier to entry, we are making it easier for our potential clients to do their due diligence on us as a company and on our work.
We have an entire section on our website that is dedicated to previous projects and we are happy for any of these previous clients to be contacted – we haven’t asked their permission on this, but we’re sure they won’t mind.
We feel that the more open and transparent we are with regards to our work, the more people will expect this from others. We’re not naive enough to think that this will change the entire industry overnight, but trust and transparency has to start somewhere, so we have decided to do what we can and hope that others follow.
Why the web design industry sucks
REASON TWO: Communication / Social Skills
Sure, many web design firms are headed by outgoing sales-types, but the reality is, many people who shy away from social interaction love web design because it can get very technical and these people can get lost in their work without having to interact too much with others.
This is a wild generalisation, but how many of you that are reading this have had (or heard from others about) an experience with a web designer that wouldn’t communicate.
Perhaps they refused to speak on the phone, or meet in person, or just simply didn’t respond in a timely manner to email communication.
This is down to the majority personality type of this industry.
Just like most people automatically assume that door to door sales people have and outgoing personality, web designers are generally thought of to be a little socially unaware.
Unfortunately, this can lead to extreme frustration over the lack of communication, or the quality of communication. The client has questions, but the designer takes several days to respond, and when they do respond, it is a two word answer and doesn’t do anything to bring warmth to the relationship.
Ultimately, this leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the client, as the process feels clunky and becomes hard work.
What are we doing to change this?
Since day one, we have made a real effort to put communication at the forefront of our business.
To the point where we have started explaining to clients, before work even begins, about why they might get a lot of emails from us during the project.
Of course, this is followed with permission given to the client to tell us to stop communications if it’s too much for them.
Our belief is that the websites we build are not for us, they are for the client.
With this in mind, we put our clients at the forefront of everything we do.
Essentially, we’re not successful until our clients are, an for this reason alone, we aim to make the whole process as easy and stress free as possible.
If a client wants a phone call, we call. If they want to meet in person, we are happy to do so (if geography allows). We know that we only exist for our clients, so we are happy to communicate in a timely and professional manner in their preferred method.
Along with this, we set up every one of our web design clients with a personal dashboard and login where they can get essential information on their project 24/7. This includes a link to their development site so they can check on the progress of the build, a link to any other information they need (dropbox upload link etc.), and a progress bar which shows them exactly how far along the project we are.
Along with this, we continue to give email updates at every stage, and don’t hesitate to ask for more information or clarify important aspects of their content if required.
We are also available to answer any questions they have with a very short turnaround.
We have found that this puts our clients mind at ease, as they know we are available and working for them. We do our best to make each and every one of our clients feel as though they are the only client we have.
Why the web design industry sucks
REASON THREE: Payments & Trust
We are contacted 5 – 10 times each month by people who are in desperate need of professional web design due to their “current web guy” taking their money and not delivering a suitable end product.
Unfortunately, in most of these situation, people have no funds available for the work to be completed by a reputable company because they did no due diligence and ended up in a bad place.
The sad fact is that too many “web designers” are snake oil salesmen. They promise you the world and end up taking the world from you.
When putting this article together, we weren’t sure whether to make reason 3 about payments or trust.
The reason for this indecision is because while payments to web designers are a huge issue, it’s actually an issue on trust – if I pay, will they do the work?
This issue of trust has left both sides incredibly cautious when dealing with each other and you have a situation now where some clients refuse to make payment until they are delivered with a final product that they are happy with, and you have “designers” who refuse to do any work until they are paid in full up front.
When clients fail to do their due diligence on the designer, and pay in full up front, it often leads to the client feeling like they have been scammed, or conned, out of their money, and this is when we often hear from these people.
It actually doesn’t need to be very difficult at all, and protecting both the client and the designer can be done pretty easily.
What are we doing to change this?
In the 3 years that we have been in business for, we have not once had a written contract with a client (including when we did a complete redesign for a large national. non-profit), neither have we had any issues with regards to payments.
We build a relationship with our clients that is built on trust.
Our clients trust that we will deliver what we say, while we trust our clients to make payments as per agreements.
The way we operate with regards to payments is as follows:
1. We prefer payment in full before the project begins.
This is pretty standard across the design industry, and when we started out we were caught in too many situations where we had to wait until the end of the project to get paid, but the client took months to get us the content we needed to finish the project.
Getting paid in full, up front, means that the onus is on the client to speed the process along, while we have incentive to move the project along as quickly as possible as well.
2. For those who are hesitant to pay in full up front, we offer no interest payment installments.
Typically, this looks like 50% non refundable deposit up front, then 10x equal weekly installments of the remaining amount.
We have found this to be incredibly popular, as it means that clients don’t need to have the full amount of a web deign build available to be paid immediately, and they can plan their business cash flow much more easily over the next few months.
Another way we are changing the perception around payments and trust is that not only are we happy to deploy a website before the payment installments have finished, but we contact clients regularly after we deploy the website and ask them to be brutally honest about the quality of our work.
We let our clients know that if they’re not entirely satisfied with the finished product, they can contact us and we will do everything we can to make this right.
This contact is typically made within 14 days for going live with a new website, as this gives the client enough time to determine if their expectations have been met (hopefully exceeded) or not.
All of this goes a long way to building trust with our clients, and we hope it also goes some way to changing how web designers are managing their payments processes.
All in all, as mentioned earlier, everything we do is to create an environment where our clients feel valued and appreciated, and while we completely understand that there is a real stigma around web design businesses (and for good reason), our aim is to be part of the solution.
So not only are we in business to deliver web based solutions for businesses that actually help increase profits, but we aim to be be a leader in our industry when it comes to client/designer relationships