Why Are There So Many Bad Web Designers?

Matthew Broderick

I was speaking to a colleague of mine over coffee the other day and the topic came up of why web designers get a bad rap. Many of our clients come to us with valid complains of being unable to get in touch with their web designer. Lots of clients feel their web designer did a sloppy job, didn’t finish the website, or didn’t listen to what they had to say. I’ve even heard a case where the designer did something that could only be described as criminal (comment and maybe I’ll tell you). Sometimes it seems that we get the clients we do because someone else messed up. So why are there so many bad web designers?

There are a few good explanations for this:

Web Design is too easy a field to get into

The perceived cost of starting a web design business can be small. In truth, anyone could watch some online training videos (for free), get familiar with WordPress or Squarespace and go looking for web design work on any job search website. In fact, many respectable web design firms started out this way. The problem is that this entry point often attracts unreliable or undedicated web designers. Some of them might be looking for an easy career (it’s not), some of them try it for a time then drop off for whatever reason leaving their clients hanging. Many of these people are better at selling than they are at making websites which is why they get clients in the first place.

If the entry point to being a web designer was more difficult, we would almost surely see a lot less disappointed business owners.

Web Designers Don’t Know Their Limitations

One of the misconceptions we often have to overcome is that web design is simple. Many people that come to us assume that its akin to designing a flyer or that it can be thrown up in an hour or two. What’s worse is that some web designers I meet think this way as well, forgetting all the other projects that went on for months and months. They look at a project that looks easier than the last one and assume it can be done in a short space of time. I’ve been guilty of this in the past and been thoroughly punished for it.

What these sunny evaluations almost never take into consideration is all the things they have no control over. For example:

  • When it takes clients longer than usual to send text or images,
  • When the theme breaks and you need to troubleshoot,
  • When the client doesn’t like your 1st, 2nd, 3rd draft and you need to redesign from scratch
  • When you need to make or find custom artwork or images
  • Integration problems.

The point is that when a one day project turns into a 3 month project, many inexperienced web designers get sloppy or simply drop everything and run. Web design is complicated, this is why we put so much effort into educating our clients so they can make better website decisions.

Web Designers Are Bad At Setting Boundaries

Many web designers promise the world to their clients without actually knowing if they can deliver it. I can understand this, it’s tempting to try and handle everything for a client that doesn’t know what they’re doing or what they’re looking for. On top of this, many designers will make grand customer service promises that they couldn’t possibly achieve. Some will say they’ll be available 24/7 or promise a maintenance call every day, or even promise to have their new website ready by the end of the week. All of this sounds great when it’s being promised, but when it comes to delivering there is often no way to consistently keep up that level of support and their customer service will suffer as a result.

When web designers take on a client is it incredibly important that a set of respectful boundaries are put into place. The client needs to know what the designer can and can’t do. They need to know how and when to contact them. Most of all they must only promise what they 100% know they can deliver.

What can we do about it?

This is a difficult problem to approach because many small business owners don’t know what they’re looking for when they hire a designer. I’d like to say the answer is better web designers, but there will always be charlatans and people in way over their head. The entry point is only getting bigger and with a shrinking job market we can look forward to more sub par web designers to come.

I think the answer fits squarely with the clients – you small business owners. I know you have a mountain of work and there’s an even bigger mountain of misinformation on the internet. But there are ways to effectively hire a web designer. See if they’re a registered business. Check their online reviews. Check if they have been recognized as a top web designer by third parties such as DesignRush. View their list of top California Web Design Agencies. Get a second opinion on the websites that the designer has made. Ask yourself if you think they’re promising more than they can deliver. I know it’s not your fault that there are so many bad web designers out there, but it is your responsibility to hire correctly.

Actually, stop reading this and just hire us!

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Matthew Broderick

Owner. Web designer and video producer at Jolly Good Media. Focuses on creating beautiful and targeted content for small business owners. Website designs are also responsive to ensure they are mobile friendly and part a strategy targeted to reach your audience.Originally from England before moving to California. Currently located in the AV.