20 tall-tale signs of bad web designer

It’s normal that browsing offers of web designers, you’ll find ones that are simply bad. Industry newbies might not possess enough technical skills to hide their shortcomings in other areas like customer communication. Here’s a list of 20 signs that a web designer you’ve hired might not be the best fit for the job.

web designer

The pricing looks suspicious

If a designer offers to build your website for less than a $1,000, it’s quite possible that they’re not experienced (or serious) and won’t be able to deliver an efficient and well-designed product. We all wish we could spend such small amounts on functional websites that look great and have killer search rank, but it’s just no going to happen.

With a cheap website comes cheap experience and design. And those aren’t your allies for advertising your brand on the web. You simply get what you pay for. If you decide to hire a cheap designer, it’s likely that you’ll be coming back to more expensive offers for corrections – this way you’ll not only pay for the good designer, but the cheap one too.

No regular contact

Projects are usually approached with lots of enthusiasm and energy – and the same should be happening to your website development. Maintaining this momentum is key throughout the entire course of a web project. If your designer loses contact with you, the project automatically loses momentum.

That’s why a sudden silence on the part of the designer is a bad sign. They should be in contact with you at least weekly – if not daily! If the designer isn’t that keen on contact, you should demand it and agree on a specific time and date for meetings until the project’s completion. Only then you’ll be able o keep a close eye on their work.

They’re from Craigslist

If you found your web designer on Craigslist, then well… This is a platform where people find cheap professionals, so we’re back to the very first sign on this list – being cheap. This doesn’t mean of course that there are absolutely no great deals out there, but they happen very rarely. Just do yourself a favor and look for a web designer in a different place.

Their goal is creativity

If your web designer tells you that their number 1 goal for this project is creativity, then you can expect trouble. Take cue from what other users demand and do the same. Most want a website which makes it easy for visitors to find information. A great layout and engaging visuals are just a part of the experience – and someone to equip the design with seamless functionalities is much harder to find than a professional interested exclusively in the look.

Aesthetic beauty is not as important as good content organization – the better structured the content, the longer users will stay on the website. And the longer they stay on the website, the more likely they will become your customers. Double check the priorities of your web designer before hiring them.

They’re related to you

Hiring someone you cannot fire is always a mistake. If your web designer is your relative, chances are the project will require corrections from a good web designer to make up for the shortcomings of your relative’s creation. Even if they’re a pro and give you a great discount, at some point they will discover that the project isn’t really worth their time and treat it as secondary to other tasks.

They live in a different country

Before you consider looking at other job markets to find professionals who will do the same job for a decidedly cheaper price, you should know the risks. Even if they speak English and know their way around the trade, you’ll need experience in working with people form different countries. You need to know how to vet foreign designers and if you don’t prepare for a very frustrating experience managing someone who doesn’t understand your vision.

People have a wrong idea about web design

This is a common mistake which happens due to misunderstanding what web design means. Web design is not about IT, but about marketing. Sadly, many companies are still convinced that having their IT employees reach out to web design agencies is a good idea.

If you work in IT and someone asks you to help in building the company website, you should politely decline and suggest that they contact someone from the marketing department. If you agree, it’s safe to say that the web project won’t realize company goals – after all, you’re not a marketer.

You are your own web designer

Being your own web designer leads to serious problems. If you designed the website yourself and you’re not really a designer, you can be sure that the website won’t perform at high standards. Remember that web designers have years of experience building different kinds of websites and you cannot learn the trade in just a few hours.

You built a website using a web design tool

A cheap web design tool is understandable and can be used by amateurs within an hour of training. But it cannot equal the knowledge web designers have acquired over years of experience. Knowing how to use a website builder is not the same as knowing how to design a highly performing website which brings traffic, converts visitors and boosts sales. Even if you’re a Photoshop pro and know your way around design, it still doesn’t make you a good web designer.

Forbidden imagery #1 – the headset hottie

This image has become something of a joke among marketers. How often have you seen a stock photo of an attractive woman wearing a headset on the contact page of a website? That’s right, plenty enough.

If you spot an image like that on the prototype of your website, you’ll know you’re dealing with a bad web designer. And if you think your conversion rate will flourish with this woman, you’re being naive. It will only make your website look cheap – and you’ll risk ending up on headsethotties.com.

Forbidden imagery #2 – handshaking

Another typical stock photo done to death by web designers is an image of two men shaking hands. Many consider this kind of imagery a red flag and a sign of the web designer’s lack of skill. And that goes not only for professionals working in web design – an average web user will notice it as well. It won’t help your website achieve its goals and will only occupy precious space.

Lack of quality copywriting solution

Good web designers realize that content creation is the biggest challenge clients usually go through and will be prepared to tackle the issue on the very first meeting. A bad web designer won’t have any solution to help you with this issue and will never warn you about the complications and delays that can be caused by lagging content marketing effort.

What are the possible copywriting solutions available to clients building a website? They can create all content themselves, hire a freelance copywriter to do that for them or delegate this task to an internal resource. Sometimes the web designer can offer a solution if they’ve got a copywriter in their team or a frequent freelance collaborator.

Not enough questions asked

If your web designer isn’t asking too many questions, especially at the very beginning of the project, it’s a bad sign. They should ask about literally everything throughout the kickoff and strategy phases of the project.

They should ask about your target audience, primary and secondary goals for the website, online competitors, marketing efforts, brand guidelines, assets you’re able to provide and access to current site analytics. If they don’t, they’re clearly not prepared to take on the task.

Lack of conversion strategy

A great web designer will be there to help you define your primary and secondary conversions – those can be phone calls, email sing-ups, e-commerce purchases, contact forms or clicked buttons. While primary conversions are sales made on the site or sale inquiries, secondary conversions are forms meant to capture email addresses and establish a long-term relation with consumers.

The job of every web designer is to ask you how you’d like to be contacted and how your clients prefer contacting you. If they don’t spare a thought about it, you’re in for trouble.

They’re working for too many clients

Some web designers believe they can take in a new client anytime, regardless of how many they’re already working for. This is bad news for you – the designer simply won’t be able to properly focus on the project and the design will suffer. You might be ignored for weeks or given little amounts of attention at a time. Expect the designer to breach deadlines and deliver projects in need of corrections.

Lack of architecture strategy

Custom web design is more similar to building a house than you’d expect. Before the designer sits down to work on different pages, they need to provide you with basic site architecture. Mapping out and delivering a wireframe for each and every page of your website is crucial for the entire development process.

Every such wireframe should get your approval before being designed, developed and deployed. If your web designer isn’t keen on delivering website blueprints, maybe it’s time to hire someone else.

No project management software

Most web designers use project management software. How else can they keep everything necessary for their work organized and easy to find? Software like Basecamp helps them to track the project’s progress, organize assets, create helpful timelines and divide tasks so everyone is aware of their responsibilities. If your web designer doesn’t use any project management software, it’s a sign that they might not be that professional.

They didn’t define their scope of work

Lack of definition when it comes to scope of work leads to major problems which usually arise during the development of a project. An effective scope of work will detail all work to be performed and delivered. When meeting your web designer for the first time and discussing the details of your collaboration, it’s key that both of you agree to the scope of work before the project begins. If that’s not something your web designer feels like discussing, it’s a clear red flag.

Lack of SEO strategy

Your web designer should possess a fair degree of knowledge about SEO. Otherwise he or she will be selling you a project without providing you with key information about its critical part. If your web designer scoffs at the mere mention of SEO, pointing how it isn’t really their job to think about such trivialities, you’re not dealing with a professional.


Finally, there’s no reason for a web designer not to use a decent CMS for building a website. If your web designer doesn’t use it, you can easily consider it quite strange. Not using a CMS won’t save you any money. In fact, it could be far more expensive not to use it since a good CMS like WordPress offers lots of prebuilt functionalities which can save you both time and money.

Following these rules, you can be sure that you won’t fall victim to any mistakes when hiring a web designer – your project will proceed smoothly and the web designer will deliver a great website with excellent conversion rate and an engaging experience for your visitors to enjoy.

Author’s Bio:

Tanja Sznuk works for a UK bank branches directory – http://www.bankopening.co.uk/. She combines her passion for writing with her love for web design. She is also a tutor lecturing about making the most of SEO-oriented web design for business.

Allen Ray

is a graphic designer. The Design Mag was founded in 2008, and since then she is constantly looking for new ways to serve the Design community both online and offline. It is her ultimate goal to make The Design Mag the best source for Design related Tutorial and Resources. Follow on Twitter@thedesignmag

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1 Response

  1. Bodhi says:

    You mean “tell-tale,” not “tall-tale.”

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