5 Ways That a Web Developer Can Rip You Off Without You Knowing6 minute read

Creating a website can be fraught with technicalities. As people who put these platforms together, we understand that in most cases the client doesn’t understand what is involved and that there must be a large level of trust so that we may guide them appropriately.

However, the more unscrupulous web developers can use this to their advantage, so we have listed five ways you could be caught out. Everything listed comes from conversations with our own clients about their past experiences with their old developers.

Charge for items that already come with your website

It seems to be common practice to charge for some items as extras when they simply come with the theme of the website.

A common element is having a contact form, or “your package allows for three forms”. Often, contact forms (and other such elements) are bundled with the existing software of the website and a standard form takes less than 5mins to set up. There will be exceptions to this of course and some more complicated forms may require dedicated software which will warrant the extra cost for the work involved, but usually, forms and other elements are charged when there is simply no reason why they should be.

Recommend products or services in which they are paid a commission

Almost all platforms sold on the web have an attached affiliate program which will pay a commission fee to the affiliate when a new user signs up from their link.

This is how it generally works. The developer will join the platform’s affiliate program and in doing so, the platform will give the developer their own unique affiliate link, which links back to that platform.

The web developer will then ‘recommend’ said platform to the client and ask them to sign up and create an account so they can then connect everything up. Unbeknown to the client, the link they are clicking on which has been given to them by the developer is their affiliate link – it may even appear to look like a standard link on the surface as the developer has adjusted its structure to remove the visible affiliate portion of it. Instead of it looking like https://platformx.com/afil/000477362 it may simply appear as platformx.com

When clicked, the platform will place a cookie on your web browser and any purchase made over a set time period, usually 12 weeks but could be longer, the developer will receive a nice commission fee.

The danger here is that apart from obviously not being transparent, the recommended platform may suit the developer’s needs more than your own, or could be overkill for your requirements.

Overcharge for hosting when they simply have a reseller account

Generally, with website hosting you get what you pay for, even if what you are paying for doesn’t seem obvious or you don’t even know what it is, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Often, web developers will try to sell you their own web hosting to serve your brand new website, and this hosting is usually more expensive than from the major hosting companies. But it’s good to support local businesses and you have a good relationship with your developer so why not?

Unless your web developer has their own data centre, filled will tens of thousands of dollars worth of servers on a high-speed junction of the telecommunications infrastructure in their area, the chances are they simply have a reseller account, sometimes referred to as white label hosting from one of the major hosting companies.

A (real) web host often sells packages of their hosting accounts to anyone who wishes to open their own web hosting business. These packages can be renamed and rebranded by the seller to suit their own business model and then sold on to customers as if the developer has their own web hosting business.

There are two main issues with this and why we would always recommend our clients to stay away.

Price. In a lot of cases you are being overcharged for a package that costs less should you simply sign up for the parent web host direct.

Support. ALL large web hosting companies have support 24/7/365. This is usually via an online chat or phone, but all can be contacted at any time should you have a sudden need.

It is a part of the contract when a reseller account is purchased from the parent web host that the reseller is responsible for support with their own clients.

If you purchase a reseller account from your web developer, this leaves you at their availability should you require assistance. Is your developer also available 24/7/365? Chances are they won’t be.

We know of a few cases where websites have gone down over the weekend and the developer wasn’t available to offer assistance until Monday morning. This is not a good situation to be in, especially if the crash is time critical.

In both of these scenarios, it’s simply better all around to purchase web hosting from a dedicated web hosting company, which, in effect, is what you are doing anyway!

Lock your website and make you pay for edits

Sadly, we have now seen this on three separate occasions where clients have come to us for help because their current website was ‘locked’ and they we not allowed access to make edits within their own website!

For some reason, some web developers think it is a good idea to lock clients out of their own websites so that they can then charge for any changes that the client wishes to make.

In an unregulated industry, this appears to be more common than you would like to think. It is the client’s website, after all, they legally own it and a developer has no business locking them out of the website’s administrator area or removing editing options.

I know it seems obvious and you shouldn’t have to ask, but make sure that you will receive a fully open and unlocked website on completion.

Promising results that are untenable

This is usually more to do with SEO (search engine optimisation) and digital marketing than actual websites but beware of those promising a definite particular outcome.

For example, it can take a whole heap of work, many months and manhours to get a website to rank highly on Google or any other search engine.

If your keywords are popular, it could take years to achieve a first page result, if you even get that high at all for a new website. Proper SEO needs continual tweaking and adjusting and it can be very expensive.

Be very aware of those promising you a high ranking immediately. There is just no way of knowing where you will rank until your SEO strategy is underway. SEO is a long game with continuous work to keep your position and nothing that throwing a few keywords around your homage will achieve (although it will certainly help).


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