Avoid Website Scams & Find The Best Website Builder For Your Launch
Here, we give you tips on how to avoid getting scammed and how to find the best website builders for your small business.
If you’re looking to create a website for your small business, you’ve never had as many options as you do today. When it comes to all-in-one website builders that combine website editing with hosting and domains, a wide range of products are available to meet your needs. From the supreme ease of use offered by Wix to the sophisticated design and content management functionality of Webflow to the unmatched eCommerce tools offered by Shopify, modern website builders let you do much more than they did back in the GeoCities era.
Alternatively, larger businesses and companies with more specialized needs may want to enlist the skills of a web developer or website agency. It’s generally a costlier and more time-consuming approach, but for businesses in need of a custom website solution, the investment of time and money can pay off in spades.
However, both approaches require you to exercise your due diligence. There are a number of website building services out there that combine inadequate functionality with shady business practices, just as there are some web developers who will promise you the world, only to sell you services you don’t need (or even simply run off with your money).
With this article, we hope to give you an understanding of how to get the website you want and how to avoid website design scams and other industry pitfalls.
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8 Tips To Avoid Website Design Scams
Let’s say your business is at the point where it needs a professionally-built custom website, and you’re worried about getting hit by website builder scams. Whether you go with an individual designer, a contractor, or a web design agency, there are things you can do to weed out the unsavory operators and end up with the website you want.
- Get a contract. When someone offers to build you a website without a contract, you might take it as a gesture of friendliness and be flattered. Don’t be! Having a contract that spells out exactly what is to be done (and for how much) protects both you and the web designer. Hashing out the terms beforehand also helps keep everyone’s expectations in line with reality. A business owner might not fully appreciate how much work a requested task will take, so having a contract will ensure that there are no surprises on either end.
- Read the contract. Don’t just assume a contract says what you assume it says — verify that it does before signing.
- Ask for a portfolio, testimonials, and/or references. The best way to assess a web developer or agency is to look at past results. Does the developer tend to meet the expectations of clients? And while seeing a portfolio can be helpful, it doesn’t tell the whole story — a website can be both visually appealing and have little functionality. If the designer has built websites similar to what you want, spend some time with the websites in question and see how they actually perform.
- High-pressure sales tactics are a red flag. A skilled designer shouldn’t have to rely on pressure to earn a living. Pressure is a form of manipulation — always keep in mind that you have other options when negotiating with a developer.
- Don’t spend too much money upfront. While you may have to pay part of the costs upfront, you typically shouldn’t pay more than a third to one-half of the total cost upfront. If they request more than that, consider going with someone else. What’s more, paying via credit card or digital payment (such as PayPal) gives you some protection, as you may be able to get your money back if the developer doesn’t deliver on the services promised in the contract. If you pay via cash or check, you don’t have that protection.
- Check the BBB and/or user reviews. When seeking the services of an agency, a check of the agency’s BBB page should provide a window into the company’s record of dealing with clients.
- Check the developer/agency’s website. Is it well-designed? Does it load quickly? Is it easy to navigate? It certainly should be!
- Consider hiring a consultant to aid your search for a developer. A recruiting consultant can save you time and money by assessing your top candidates for the job or even taking on the entire hiring process.
Of course, none of these questions will arise if you decide to use a website building platform and build your own website. If you choose to go this route, you’ll have to know what to look for in a website builder — and how to avoid the platforms with poor business practices.
Your Checklist To Find The Best Website Builder
If you’re looking for the best website builder for your small business, consider the following ten factors before making your choice.
1) Cost Structure
Once you know the kind of site you want to build, compare a few options to see how much you’ll have to pay. See that the provider is transparent about pricing — not just for the monthly/annual website builder fees but also for domains, business email accounts, or any other additional service. Also, consider the cost of any feature integrations you may need.
2) Professional/User Reviews
This goes for just about any product — it’s always a good idea to check the reviews. Of course, the largest website building companies — the ones with tens of millions (or even hundreds of millions) of users — will tend to have a lot of disgruntled users. In these cases, look to see if the company bothers responding to user complaints. If a provider makes good-faith efforts to resolve the complaints of its users, that’s a good sign.
3) SEO Features
You can build the world’s nicest website, but it won’t get seen or drive conversions without solid search engine optimization (SEO). Look for features such as built-in XML sitemaps, support for image alt attributes, auto-generated meta tags, and the ability to integrate with Google Analytics.
4) Integrations (The Ones You Need, Anyway)
Unless your website needs are on the basic side, you may need software integrations to give your site the functionality it needs to support your business. From accounting to marketing to eCommerce, the top providers offer some key integrations to fill any feature gaps in their in-house offerings, so check to see if the website builder in question offers the integrations you need.
Most website builders offer prebuilt templates (also referred to as themes) for different types of small businesses (restaurants, retail stores, fitness, online stores, etc.). These templates are often viewable on the platform’s website, so it may be worth your time to see what they have to offer.
6) Mobile Responsiveness
Most modern website builders let you create websites that display well on both computer screens and mobile devices. However, some website builders do this more effectively than others. Particularly if you anticipate a high proportion of your site visitors to be on mobile devices, you should preview some of the builder’s website templates in mobile view and read up on how the builder’s mobile sites perform.
7) eCommerce Features
Website builders such as Shopify offer great built-in eCommerce tools. With other website builders, you may need to integrate with a third-party shopping cart to access the eCommerce tools online merchants need.
8) Ease Of Use
With a website builder, such as Wix or Weebly, just about anyone can produce a decent website if they make good use of the tutorials and help features provided. Other website building tools, such as WordPress.org (not an all-in-one website builder, but a very popular tool nonetheless), require more technical know-how.
9) A Free Trial
A free trial (or, better yet, a bona fide free subscription plan) is a good way to see if you can comfortably work with the site editor. If you can’t, well, no harm done. And if a website builder requires you to enter your credit card information just to access the free trial, that’s generally not a good sign.
10) Customer Service
Not all website builders are known for the quality of their customer service. With the more intuitive builders, most issues you encounter should be resolvable by checking the support materials provided. However, if you need help from an actual person, it’s handy to have live support options. Phone support is ideal, as is live chat. Some providers reserve this level of support to customers with pricier subscriptions, however, so be sure to check exactly what’s on offer with each subscription tier.
Building A Website: FAQs
Find The Best Web Builder & Launch Your Site
Should you decide you need a web developer or agency to build and maintain your website, you’ll need to find one on your own. But if you think a website builder can give your business what it needs, we can help with your search!
Our article The 9 Best Website Builders For Small Businesses summarizes our favorite DIY site builder options, while eCommerce merchants will want to check out our post, Find The Best eCommerce Platform To Create Your Store In 2021. Lastly, if you want to look through our full list of website builder and eCommerce software reviews to find a platform you’re curious about, you can do that as well.