Shopping for a website? Buyer beware.

Shopping for a new website? Buyer beware.

6 warning signs your new website could be in for a bumpy ride.

We’ve built a lot of websites over the course of our 20 years in business. But recently we’ve noticed a number of businesses turning to us for help after they have been led astray by a freelance web developer or other website agency.

The reasons why? Because the site:

  • Hasn’t been built to the standard expected – gaps in code/areas of functionality missing
  • Isn’t responsive on mobile devices
  • Isn’t user-friendly
  • Is built using old/out-of-date code or uses old animation (like Flash) which can’t be viewed on mobile devices
  • Has been built on a fixed template and any sort of customisation will cost the client significantly more money: something not disclosed in the initial quote

As a creative agency that has an in-house web development team, we can help fix your site if you ever run into these sorts of problems yourself. But here are some red flags to look out for when shopping around for someone to build your website.

1. They don’t appear to have a proven track record

Visit their website and check for examples of their work. If their website looks basic, amateur or they don’t have many examples of work available, this is a sign they may not have the sufficient skills to do a good job.

One of our clients originally had their website designed by a freelancer who tried to handle everything but didn’t have the range of skills to complete the work involved. She outsourced the development work, but the developer was unable to turn on the site’s main navigation. The client was also charged for SEO work, but the site was nowhere to be seen when searched for in Google. Basically, one person was too stretched and inexperienced to handle everything professionally.

The downside of cheap websites

2. They’re cheap, offer a super-quick turnaround time, or both

When it comes to web design and development, the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ definitely rings true. No doubt you’ve seen plenty of paid online ads promoting websites from $99 – $500.

Orion’s been designing and building websites for over two decades, so we know how much time and effort goes into every single web solution. If the freelancer or agency is offering a website that’s dirt cheap, don’t expect to get much in return. The same goes if they are promising to build your site within a couple of weeks for a low cost.

Another business came to us for help after getting their website built by an express printing franchise that offered cheap websites.  The client then discovered they’d been locked into a solution that didn’t suit their needs and any changes would come at an extra cost.

The downside of websites built on closed source platform

3. They don’t give the option to build your site on an open source platform

This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but if the company doesn’t build using open source code, it can limit your options in a number of ways. Open source platforms like WordPress or Drupal are great because the code is available to everyone and owned by no one. That means that in the event you need to refresh your site, you’re free to take it anywhere and get it redesigned or customised by anyone who knows the code.

Open source vs. closed source

Open source platforms like WordPress and Drupal are suitable for businesses both large and small. Most of the sites we create are built on WordPress, while some of our other client sites are built on Drupal, which offers more flexibility and functionality. Some of our Drupal sites include Inside Info, Design an Ad and Qualitas Health. Some of the biggest organisations, institutions, even celebrities have their sites built on open source platforms, including  the 2016 Rio Olympics, Red Hat, Lady Gaga, BBC Store, Johnson & Johnson, the Australian Government and The White House.

If the company in question only uses a closed source (aka Proprietary) platform, this means it’s their own system. It can make it difficult if in a few years’ time you decide your website needs a refresh or you want to add new functionality. A site built on a closed source platform is really where that site has to stay. It’s entirely dependent on the closed source code to function.

A closed source platform also means you have little opportunity to shop around unless you’re willing to start from scratch. And if that company happens to go out of business without handing over the proprietary platform to another company, your site will be buried in a virtual graveyard.

Beware of web companies that don't offer training or support

4. They don’t offer support packages or training

Some companies will leave you to fend for yourself without the option of a support package or training. If that happens, that’s a clear sign they’re not focused on your site’s sustainability. A website is a big investment, so you need to make sure you’re using it to its full advantage and ensuring it works the way it should for years to come.

Exercise caution with companies that outsource web development or copywriting

5. They outsource certain skills to complete the website

Outsourcing business processes is common practice these days and pretty much guaranteed if you go with a freelancer or specialist agency (like a design agency). It does save the company the cost and commitment of hiring in-house talent, but it can cause headaches for you as the client.

Outsourcing work for a complex project like a website can lead to miscommunication between stakeholders and confusion with the brief. It can also lead to a lack of quality control, create delays with your project and increase costs.

An agency that keeps all of its web skills in-house results in clearer communication between all stakeholders. That includes designers, copywriters, frontend developers and backend developers. The more they work together, the more likely they’ll build your website right the first time. And that can save a great deal by the time the website is ready to launch. With an in-house team, you as a client will have greater visibility over the entire project. You will also feel more in control throughout the whole process.

Limitations of companies that don't operate within normal Australian office hours

6. They are unavailable during office hours

You’ll often find this with part-time freelancers and offshore agencies operating from different time zones. That can make it difficult for communication, drag out the build time and result in a website that doesn’t live up to your expectations.

So…where to now?

Your website is an essential part of your marketing. Make sure you choose a web company that will give it the time, skills and commitment it deserves.

Your checklist for the perfect web company to build your website

Here’s your checklist for choosing the right company to build your website. They:

  1. Have a proven track record
  2. Don’t bait you with cheap prices or unrealistic turnaround times
  3. Offer the option to build your site on an open source platform
  4. Provide training on how to update or add content if your site is on a CMS
  5. Offer support plans to keep your site secure and up-to-date
  6. Offer a full suite of website services all under one roof – design, development, copywriting, hosting and support
  7. Are readily available to talk during office hours, whether it’s in-person, via email or over-the-phone

And if you’re looking for a company that does it all, look no further than Orion Creative.

Don’t want to risk it with your website? Give us a call!