How to Spot a Bad Website Designer

In this article, I will give you the heads up on how to spot a bad website designer.  For the purpose of this article, we’ll call them “webjacks”.

These are some things that should be a red flag before you hire someone.


Do they have links to their work, or just some pictures of websites?  If they don’t have actual links to websites and you can’t view the actual websites, you can’t verify that it’s actually their work.  If  they actually designed the site, it should have  a link to their website at the bottom of the pages.  Do webjacks put up photos of websites they didn’t design?  Yes, they do!  Do webjacks find sites all over the country that don’t have a webmaster link at the bottom and link a screenshot to them?  Yep.

Main Focus of their Website

Is their focus mainly on SEO, Marketing or Graphic design?  If so, this is a sign that they are not an experienced  website designer and are “winging it” to make some extra cash and upsell you on their main service(s).  You may want to hire them if you need SEO or marketing services, but your website is too important to put in the hands of a webjack who is just going to slap something together (or outsource it) without really knowing what needs to be done to make it a good return on your investment.

Experienced with HTML and CSS?

If a webjack only talks about designing WordPress websites and doesn’t mention any experience with HTML and CSS, they probably know just enough to get themselves into trouble when you need any kind of special feature on your website that isn’t included in the WordPress theme they are using.  I have to use HTML and CSS skills on every website I design in order to give my customers what they are asking for.

Are their prices really cheap?

You may think you hit pay dirt when you get an estimate for $500.00 to build your awesome website.  Ask yourself this – Why is this webjack so cheap?  The answer will most likely be one or more of these:

  • They charge very little for the website so they can up-sell you on expensive SEO, Social Media or other overpriced Marketing.
  • They just started and don’t have any real experience – or skills.
  • They have very little confidence in their own skills.
  • They don’t know the first thing about web design, but realized they can sell websites by taking in jobs and outsourcing them outside the USA.
  • They have a full time job and are designing websites as a sideline to make some extra cash.  So, where are they when you need help quickly?  At their real job!
  • They are independently wealthy and just design websites to kill time.

A heads up on some very unethical web design practices

There are a lot of webjacks out there who make it so you are “stuck” with them.  They try to make sure you have to continue being their client even if you want to fire them.  I know this because I get calls from people all the time who want to get away from their current webjack, but don’t have the information I would need to take over their website.  I occasionally lose a client to a webjack, but they almost always come back within three months.

How to Spot a Bad Website DesignerI don’t know why the webjack would try to force you to stay with them.  I can only guess that they have had a hard time keeping clients in the past and want to make sure their clients don’t get fed up and bail on them.  Any good webmaster will give you full ownership and access to your website.  Once in a while, I have a client leave me – I have hundreds of clients – of course I lose one once in a while (they usually come back).  I hand over the keys to their website without question.  It’s their website and they can hire anyone they want to work on it, redesign it or host it.  I don’t own my client’s website or any part of it. I keep my clients by being responsive, reliable and not nickel-and-diming them for every little thing I do.

Here are some things you need to make sure you get from your web designer.

Username and password to Hosting control panel and FTP.  You may not know what this is, but trust me, you want to have it and keep it in a place where you can find it if you ever do need it.

Your domain name with your email listed as the owner.  I strongly suggest purchasing your own domain name, but if you leave to the designer, it must be registered to your name and email address or you don’t own the domain name or the website, and the webjack does not have to give it to you if you want to hire someone else.  How do you know if your domain name is registered to you?  Do a whois search at Network Solutions.  This will show who the domain is registered to.  Your name and email address need to be on the Administrative Contact information.  If a webjack insists on purchasing a domain name for you, just say NO!

If you have a WordPress or another CMS platform website, you should be given full Administrator rights to the website.  Some webjacks will give their clients “Editor” rights to the website.  They may say this is to keep them from doing something stupid and messing up the website.  The fact is, you can mess things up, but it’s your website to mess up, isn’t it?  I install a backup plugin so you back up your site regularly and save it to your computer.

I was recently in LinkedIn WordPress Web Design Group and I was really amazed at how many web designers do not give their clients Admin access to add plugins, do site backups or have any real control over their websites.  I simply don’t understand the logic behind this – other than it gives the webmaster control that I don’t think they need or should have.

If you log into your website and you can’t access anything but posts and pages, you don’t have Admin rights.  With Admin rights, you will be able access all plugins, install plugins (be careful with this) and add users.  You can give Editor rights to someone who is just going to update pages or add articles because you have the right to prevent  someone else from messing  up your website – your webjack doesn’t.

The Good web designer checklist:

  • Has a good portfolio with links to the actual websites and their link on the client’s sites
  • Does web design as their main focus as a full time job
  • Doesn’t have too-good-to-be-true prices
  • Gives you a written estimate with itemized cost breakdown
  • Will allow you to call their clients for references
  • Gives you full access to your web hosting account and FTP
  • Gives you ownership of your domain name if you really don’t want to purchase it yourself (I suggest you purchase it yourself)
  • Gives you full Admin rights to your WordPress website, and hopefully enough training to keep you from doing any damage.
  • Will give you a complete backup zip file of your website for safe keeping.