some of the ways creative agencies fleece their web design clients…

Six agency tricks

John McConville | 14 Nov 2019

Six tricks agencies are using in their web design services

Recently I was approached by a local business who were having difficulties with their shiny creative design agency, who were charging a hefty fee to build their website. Nothing wrong with that I hear you say, and true, we do expect high costs when you use agencies. After all, you get what you pay for… or do you?

The client had asked me to review the work they were doing mid-job because they were less than impressed with the service they were receiving. Alarm bells rang when I saw that the website was being built on the Wix platform. This was not the first time this month I had seen cheap websites built by Wix and Nettl being passed off as bespoke work. I mean no disrespect to either of these platforms – they are great, but when you are spending a four or even five figure amount on a website I would expect my website to stand out from the crowd. If you want to use these platforms go directly to them.

Equally there is nothing wrong with farming out your work to third party designers and programmers. However it is important to be upfront about who is delivering the work.

This made me think. What are the absolute basics you should ask your agency before you put pen to paper. So…

1. Who will be building my website?

2. … and how? 

Will it be made with a content management system, like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. This answers the important question: Can I move the website and can other developers take it on and update it? Unless there is a truly compelling reason, avoid proprietary solutions which cannot easily moved when a relationship breaks down.

3. What does their quotation omit?

The quotation for work should include everything you need for a functional website. Your website should be fully responsive, and be search engine ready, using the best technologies and highest standards to ensure a longer lifespan. I was once asked to help a client who was unhappy with the website that was delivered (in fact I have come across this a few times!). The website was not responsive, nor was it search engine ready. The agency had delivered on what had been agreed and wanted an additional £20k to for this remedial work. I consider these things fundamental rather than an add-ons.

4. Hosting and speed

There is no point in having a beautiful website if it is so slow and erratic your visitor will not wait for it to load on their phone or browser. The last figures I saw suggested a visitor would move on if the page did not load within four seconds. I suspect it is less than that now. Get your agency to commit to fast load times and make them fix it if they don’t deliver.

5. Are the people who sell me the contract the same as those who will be delivering?

Once the sale is made and the adults with super white teeth disappear, you are left to deal with an inexperienced office junior. Who will be managing your project and who is your point of contact? How many hours will senior staff devote to your project?

6. After care and ongoing maintenance 

A website that is built, launched and abandoned will not do well. Remember to include scope for website updates, new features and search engine marketing if your website is to be a success. Don’t forget hosting costs. Make sure you know how much will be charged for keeping the website up-to-date. What about security and technical updates, are these all included? Can we update the website ourselves and is training included.

Finally, I learned the other day of an agency offering a three month “warranty” with their website. This is totally inadequate. Make sure any problems with the functionality of your website will be addresses for a much longer period. Any decent provider will take pride in ensuring the quality of their work.

That’s it. Don’t be caught out by unscrupulous creative agencies, who sometimes don’t have the skills (or the desire) in-house to deliver a good product. There are a lot of great agencies out there, choose carefully!