Your Web Designer Cheating You?

Posted by on Apr 14, 2018 in Small Business

Web Developer Scams

Web Designer Scams

This is truly a subject I wish I didn’t have to talk about.  But sadly, 80% of the stories I hear from new clients are about being cheated from their previous web designer/developer.

About half are cheated due to the web person just being plain incompetent.  They probably thought they could do the job in the beginning, but then quickly ended up over their heads and not wanting to have to refund the money the likely already had spent, they just kept digging a deeper hole by charging an hourly rate, yet not being able to complete the job.

The other half come from a darker story.  These web “professionals” purposely cheat their clients.  It is these people I want to talk about here. (The incompetents will be covered in a future article – and how to avoid them!)

First, let me list the ways they cheat you, then I’ll cover each issue separately..

  • Domain name theft
  • Extensions, templates & themes theft
  • Overcharging
  • Unnecessary “extras”
  • Services you never receive
  • Incompetence (future article)


I’ve written about domain name problems in at least two previous articles – “You Only Thought You Owned It” and “Free Domain Names“.  So I’ll just sum things up here and say, register your own domain names, using your own email address (preferably gmail) with a secure password and don’t share this info with anyone you wouldn’t trust your entire business to.

Unfortunately, my latest client had already been through the domain name theft problem with a web designer / web developer prior to their latest former web person.  She’d been hit with every item listed above with this latest web person.  Let’s talk about the Extensions, etc. first..


She had a Joomla website and it hadn’t been updated in quite awhile.  there were 18 extensions (including plugins, etc.) that needed updating.  Eight of the eighteen failed their updates.  Half of those failed because, although she was running the “pro” (i.e.: paid) version of the extensions and templates, the license codes hadn’t been entered, thus they refused to update.

My client had been billed separately for each of these items, yet had never been given receipts or anything she could use to validate her ownership.

What seems to have happened is that her previous web person ordered the “developer” level of the templates and extensions, put the licenses in their own name and billed my client for the entire cost plus some extra.

Now, just a few months later, her money is gone and the extensions and template are nearly useless.  I was able to patch the template so it would work again, but each time Joomla updates, we risk having more template issues, since Joomla doesn’t seem as concerned about backwards compatibility as WordPress is.


If you’re being billed for extensions or templates (plugins, modules, themes, etc.), either deal with the third-party vendor yourself or demand a written copy of the transaction with the license code and be sure you are listed (with your email address) as the owner.  Write on the transaction copy, the last four digits from the credit card used for payment.


This client had paid over eight thousand dollars in the past several months for a nice-looking home page, but broken layout website with bad links, uneven columns and just plain sloppy work.

I can’t think of any reason for it to take longer than a week to create a website for 95% of all small businesses.  $8,000 is a bit above the average pay for most web developers!  (Unfortunately!)

Most websites can be easily built under a $1,000 budget.  (I’m going to take a ton of heat from other web designers/developers for saying this, but it’s true.)  If you are demanding some heavy-duty custom stuff, or having to convert product data from various data sources, it may shoot up to $2,000.  If you’re looking for a fairly good-size custom application, maybe $3,000 or more.  But just a website – even a large website should be doable within a $1,000 budget – and done very well.


Carefully lay out your project in writing.  If possible, use an existing website (any website) as a starting point for your project description.  Then get a flat-rate bid.  Understand that anything you add afterward will increase the costs.

Nail everything down and get a firm bid for the whole project.   Include in your written agreement, deadlines and what will happen when deadlines or other criteria are not met.  It’s usually best to pay for no more than half the work up front and the balance when you are satisfied that the project is complete and matches the details in your written agreement.

Be sure your agreement includes your right to terminate the agreement at any time you are dissatisfied and owe no more than the portion of work satisfactorily completed up to that point.

If the project deadline is more than one week out, lay out milestones for each week.  Divide the project total by the number of weeks and pay just 1/2 at the start of each week.  Pay the rest upon proper completion of that week’s work along with half for the upcoming week.


My new client’s website had 18 extensions!  She had a lot of content, but very simple website needs.  Many of these extensions were totally unnecessary in my opinion.  For instance two were for clearing cache – two!  Joomla has a built-in function for clearing cache, so why install an extension?

Some extensions were for doing jobs that any decent web developer could do without the extension.


If your web person cannot explain, in simple terms just what the extension is for or if you are not convinced that you need the extension – fire the web person!  We (web developers) are a dime a dozen (well, there are lots of us ‘out there’, just not so many really competent ones).  If you don’t have confidence in their competence or don’t feel you can trust him or her, go with your intuition.


Regular backups of files and database; continuing SEO work; server “maintenance”, updates, etc.  Are you really receiving these services?  How do you know?  If your web person isn’t sending you weekly or monthly status reports listing work they’ve done, there’s a good chance that no work was done at all!


I spend nearly one full day each week doing client backups, updates, checking server logs for potential security attacks, checking their websites search position for changes, etc. and I send reports to my clients so they can stay informed.  If your not getting reports like this, request them.  If you still don’t get them, maybe you’re getting phantom services!

One more point – who is getting those backups?  If not you, then they’re next to worthless!  You should receive your website backups at regular intervals (depending how often your website or data changes) and your should test to ensure that your website can actually be restored from those backups!


This is one of the most frequent ways that clients get ripped off by their web developers / web designers.  Very often the black-hearted ones listed above are also incompetent (which is why they feel they have to steal, I guess).  But how can you tell if your web person is competent and truly able to perform the work you’re paying them for?

Even if you get a finished website, how will you know if it will really bring in customers and sales and be secure?

Stay tuned!  That article is coming soon.