The Internet has made it easy to search for web designers—you can hire almost anyone from around the world to work on your website. It’s possible to find website designers who are highly skilled and ready to work with you to create a beautiful site. However, the global reach of the Internet has also made it easy to come in contact with designers who are unethical.
If you’re looking for a web designer to update a current website or to create a new site, watch out for these most common scams.
This is a serious, but quite common issue. You hire a web designer and things seem to be going well. The designer says they need the login credentials to access and work on the site, and you’ve given them the information. OK so far…until you find you’re logged out of your own site and/or you may find the designer has installed malware or even spam links throughout the site. Oh joy!
The first thing you must do is to contact your hosting company as soon as possible. The support team should be help you to gain access to your site. They should also be able to find malicious files and spam links, etc. Be aware that some hosting, companies may charge for this type of service, while others will provide this help for free.
To avoid this problem, be careful of who you hire, and be cautious of designers located in foreign countries. You can also give create a separate user account for the designer, and when the work’s done, delete the account and/or change the login information.
If the designer is building a completely new site for you, then make sure that contract states that they have to give you the master administrator username and password upon request. Many designers wait to hand over the master admin credentials until the project’s finished. This is normal and understandable. However, it’s not normal for the web designer to without these credentials once the project is completed. This is unethical.
Before hiring the designer you’ve chosen, make sure to thoroughly read the contract. Make sure the contract includes a statement that the website designer must give you the master admin login information upon request—at any time during the project. If the designer’s contract doesn’t include this, ask why. If they will not include this statement in the contract, then move on to another designer who is happy to comply.
Your Web Designer “Disappears”
Also known as project abandonment, this is quite a common problem in the world of websites. It can happen on large or small projects, with freelancers or firms hired to build or update sites. This can be caused by an unethical designer who takes the deposit and never shows up again, or maybe you’ve both made it part way through the project, and the designer abandons the project. What can you do?
1). Portfolio & referrals: ask to see a designer’s portfolio. Why? You can then visit the websites live on the web, then contact the site owners and ask about their experience with the designer. Redflags—if you find the site doesn’t exist or seems to be a dummy site, then avoid hiring this designer.
Don’t hesitate to ask the designer for referrals to past clients. Be sure to contact about 3-4 of these previous clients, asking about their experience with the designer.
2). Stay in control of the project: avoid giving complete control of the project to the web designer. You’re the owner, the one with the plan; stay in control and provide direction. From the very beginning, be clear about project expectations, the timeline and don’t forget to set up a preferred method of communication between the two of you. It’s also helpful to require the designer to give updates on their work and to get in contact with questions or problems as they arise.
This is another common problem: the website designer may promise to create a ultimate, fantastic site, but in the end it turns out to be a dud. Another common problem is when you and the designer agree on a specific website theme, which you have to pay for. However, then designer then turns around and uses a free theme, keeping the extra money you paid for the premium theme. Or you ask for specific types of functionality, but the designer doesn’t/can’t deliver.
To avoid these issues:
1). Contract: always have a signed contract in place that stipulates the expectations you have for the site including the specific theme, functionality, etc.
2). Document everything: it’s a good idea to document all communications such as emails and receipts for everything, including the theme you paid for, extra services, etc. You’ll have a record of what’s been said and what’s been paid for, which can help you when communicating with the designer on any issues.
3). Purchase themes, etc.: the best protection against these types of issues to buy the theme, graphics, fonts, etc. on your own. With ownership, you always have access to these elements, even if the designer disappears. You won’t have to worry about buying them again or paying for new design elements in the event you need to hire another designer.
Additional Signs of a Scammer
Spotting an unethical web designer isn’t always easy or obvious. Scammers and unethical designers are everywhere and know how to take advantage of unsuspecting clients, even if the client is the savviest person in the world.
We’ve put together a list of signs that indication a designer may be a scammer:
- Ask you to pay the full amount in advance—before the work starts. It’s common for designers to ask for up to 50% in advance, as this protects them from unethical clients. However, if the web designer asks for full payment in advance, move on. Scammers will take your money and you won’t have the site you’ve paid for.
- Some designers may not want to show you their portfolio or give you a list of referrals for previous clients. They may not be as good as they say they are, or don’t want you to talk with people who they’ve scammed.
- Keep adding additional charges: if your designer does this, again, move on. The quote they give you should include all costs involved with updating or building the site. And the contract should include a clause that any additional costs should be discussed with you first, giving you the right to decide to accept the cost or not.
We hope this article gives you the tips you need to avoid some of the most common issues with unethical website designers.
Liam is a website designer and digital marketer based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He spent a decade working within the charity sector before moving into the marketing space a number of years ago. Liam always strives to do something slightly different with every project and always designs to deliver results, not just pretty websites.