There are some topics that companies don't openly talk about with their customers, Cell Phone companies have their early termination fees, Big Box stores have their return fees, and doctors offices have their no-show fees. Well Web Design companies have their bag of dirty little secrets as well.
# 7 - Email Management Fees:
Now 10 years ago this would have applied, but now with the advent and widespread use of Google's Gmail Email Client, this has become a thing of the past. When a website is set up, through any domain registrar, you have the option of using Google's "FREE" email client to manage all of your company emails. This gives you the ability to create new email addresses, mange all of your companies emails through one easy to use web panel, and even use exchange servers and still retain an @YourDomain.com email address. The fact that there are companies that still charge $100.00 - $200.00 per month for this service is a blatant insult to any business owner that pays them.
#6 - Initial Consultation Fees
I never understood how a company could charge a potential new client for just sitting down with their company to have a conversation about possibly buying a service from them. If a web design company wants to charge you just to sit down and have a conversation then there are a few things to think about. First, if that company decides not to take on your website, you are out that fee. Second, if they are charging you before they even start working, what are they going to charge you if they do take on your website? Hundreds of dollars per question that you have? Thousands for every page that you want to modify on your site? In the long run you may end up spending much more then you anticipated.
#5 - Phone Consultation Fees
Imagine that you had a question about whether a medicine that you are taking will negatively interact with another medication you were prescribed, and you called your local pharmacy to ask a simple yes or no question and they charged you $100.00 just to speak with the pharmacist, regardless of their ability to answer your question. How many people would actually call their local pharmacy? The same line of thought could be applied to your web design company. If you are considering changes to your website, and want to ask your web design company whether changing the verbiage on your site will negatively affect how your site performs in search engines, but they charge you just for calling them, how likely would you be to actually change the site, ever? No matter how badly the site is performing or how incorrect the information on the site may-be? Not very likely if you ask me, and that could very much hurt your company, and turn away customers and that means that you are loosing money.
#4 - Search Engine Submission
Search Engine Submission is the process of getting your site listed in multiple search engines. Not getting it ranked, in layman's terms letting the search engines know your site is on the internet. This is something that some web design companies charge for. This is "FREE" as in doesn't cost any money to do...ever. There are even tools available on the internet that allow you to enter an email address, and your domain name, and they will automatically submit your site to over 1000 directories FOR FREE. If your web design company offers this to you as a service, consider doing it yourself, or finding another company that will do it for you for free.
#3 - Tracking and Reporting
This is an interesting thing to cover on this list, there are very few circumstances that a web design company should charge for this. 95% of the tools that are associated with Tracking and reporting are free. Google Analytics, is one of the best out there and it is provided to anyone who has a Google account. The only things that a Web Design company could charge you for is implementation, and if needed consultation. Then you should be given access to the email account they used to set up the tools. Because Gmail accounts are free, when they set up the tools they should create a new email address for you and then provide you with access to that email account so you can login to the site statistics and view them yourself. Then, if you have questions about what the numbers and information mean, they should be able to sit down and have that conversation with you. This is the other part of the service that they could charge you for. Because you are using their time to explain to you what this information means and how the information could benefit you.
#2 - Monthly Hosting Fees
This is one of the biggest things that people pay for because they don't understand it and it is big business for web design companies. The average cost for yearly hosting through a web design company is $1200.00 per year, that is $100.00 per month. That may seem reasonable, but in reality it is extremely expensive. Consider this, purchasing your own hosting can be done for less then 120.00 per year AND any company can build your site on your server. Meaning that it unlimits you when you are looking to have your site built. Its like going to a Car Dealership with an approved loan in hand, you have the ability to tell your prospective Web Design company, "If I don't like your service, I will go somewhere else" and it is extremely easy to do. You control your web design companies access to your site no the other way around. So if your web design company is charging you obseen amounts of money to make little changes, then you can cut off access and go somewhere else and ANYONE can take over where the old company left off. With a little time and a little research, its easy to see the advantages of hosting your own website. Not just from a financial standpoint but from a business standpoint as well.
#1 - Charging You For Services You Don't Use
This is the biggest thing that can increase the cost of doing business on the internet. People don't ask questions, they just assume that their web design company has their best interest at heart. This may not be the case, in most cases the bottom line is what people are worried about when it comes to business. The simple fact that web design companies know that you won't ask questions about what they list on their invoice means that they can list erroneous services that mean absolutely nothing on your invoice. Always ask questions about what is on your invoice if your web design company won't or is unable to answer your questions about what is on your invoice, this is the red flag to start asking more in depth questions about what is going on. I have had clients come to me asking about things that are on their invoice and I sit down and explain everything that is on it. I have had friends come to me with invoices for $5,000 for a few hours of work changing a few pictures on their site. I have seen services being billed that were never requested, things like site coding updates, monthly website optimization. I have seen these services performed without speaking to the owner of the website and then if these charges aren't paid the web design companies threaten to pull the site down for non-payment. The best thing you can do when dealing with any web design company is ask questions, and if you don't understand the answer seek clarification. This will save you time and money and will make the experience of owning a website less of a headache.
Chrtistopher A Graser
COO Last 7 Studios
Chris Graser is Part owner of Last 7 Studios Web Design
and has been building websites and serving his clients needs since 2003.