Being in the web design and digital marketing business, I’ve heard my fair share of horror stories. Unfortunately, the majority of our prospects timidly approach us about having a new website design. Their timidity is typically the direct result of having recently been ripped off by a web designer.

Actually, just this week I spoke with a prospective client who shared her story of being ripped off not once, but twice on the same project. She paid one designer a $1,000 deposit only to have him disappear, having provided her with nothing. She then hired another designer paying him another $1,000 deposit. The second designer at least delivered something. He created a mockup for her to review. Then, according to her, he said the project would require more work than he estimated and he was gone – with her $1,000.

Another prospective client is paying upwards of $1,500 a month for a website that isn’t finished…after nearly a year. Another is paying $800 a month for hosting and a developer that only communicates by email about once a month. Another cannot get his “rep” to call him back to cancel the $600 monthly SEO and web hosting plan. He signed a contract that auto-renews every year unless he cancels within a 30-day window before renewal time. Gee, I wonder why he’s not taking those calls…

Unfortunately, stories like these are far too common…there are some excellent sales people finding time-stressed business owners. They confuse them with talk of first page rankings, super cool graphics, mobile focus gizmos, page inceptualizers, geographic GPS disgronifyers – most of which I completely made up, but they sound like they’ll work and they give you incredible reports of the thousands of hits you’re getting.

After hearing these stories, I decided I would take a bit of time to tell you some truth:

  • Hosting a website is mainly an issue of how many people will use it. Most hosting plans start around $10 a month, but you could pay more if you have Amazon-like traffic. Most small businesses don’t – certainly not $800 a month traffic.
  • SEO is a process and not just “set it and forget it.” It needs to be managed on a long-term basis and is more than just stuffing your meta-tags with a bunch of keywords. A minimal investment in SEO can run around $100 monthly. If you’re a highly competitive industry like an auto dealer, you’ll pay more. $600 a month for a roofing contractor is about $500 too much.
  • Searching for yourself is easy and you’ll be listed first if you type in your business name. However, most people don’t search that way…they search for what you sell.
  • Search ads aren’t expensive unless you’re doing it wrong. Being the highest bidder will certainly get you listed first, but a competitor who does it the smart way will provide relevant links and content…they’ll pay less, be listed higher, and convert more clicks to sales because they’re not just sending visitors to their home page.
  • Clicks on your ads don’t do anything other than cost you money. It’s how many of those clicks convert to a sale (which can be easily tracked) that you should care about.
  • Design is nice, but functionality is better. User experience should be your first concern – and with mobile devices using expensive data plans, having them sit through an auto-play video or goofy animation will make people leave really quickly and not come back.
  • Google Analytics are free, but understanding them is not. It’ll take time because there’s a lot you can learn beyond just “hits” to your site. Still, just getting the basics like time spent, bounce rate, device use, and traffic reports can help in both your website and your brick-and-mortar.
  • Speaking of hits, 80% of them are not human. See previous item.
  • Device responsive is better than a mobile site. With a separate mobile site, you have two websites that don’t talk to each other in most cases. Device responsive will save time and be a much more user-friendly experience.
  • Speaking of mobile…design for mobile first because that’s how most people will first view your site. Desktops are so 2000.
  • Impressions are meaningless unless you know how many converted to leads or sales. 1,000,000 impressions is fantastic, but if only 20 people clicked and none converted to a sale…you’ve got a problem.
  • The number of “pages” are also meaningless unless you know how many of them were individually designed. Limiting a site by the number of “pages” is an old 1990’s way of selling you on how the web works.
  • A cool portfolio isn’t a judge on the quality and integrity of a web developer. Ask for actual results.
  • Outsourcing is common for most web design companies. You’re often working with a sales rep or consultant who farms it out to someone else. Ask to meet someone personally who will be working on your site design.
  • Web “pages” are different than web “sites”…a good developer will charge you based on the number of actual designed pages, not actual pages. In most cases, you can have as many content pages as you need.
  • A great web developer can and will mostly work effectively remotely. When issues happen (and they will), will you have trouble reaching them? Do you have to schedule a meeting? Or, can you meet with them in person at all?
  • Most people aren’t “friends” with a business on social media. They’re friends with friends…so be friendly and not salesy.

Whew. I feel better. That’s all I can think of right now. We’d also love to hear some of your horror stories if you have some. Your comments are welcome below. We’ll do our best to make you feel better about wanting to improve your business when we meet.