Choose your web agency wisely!

By Richard Jennis 22nd March 2022
Graphic of a person and an exclamation mark
I have been sitting on this story for a while, it’s a story that bothered me at the time and still does. So it’s time to get it off my chest and if just one person who reads this avoids a potential disaster I’ll be happy.

Several years ago, in a pre-covid time, we were approached by a company who were in a mess with the development of their new website. A proper mess. A mess that lawyers had been recruited to help sort out.

The company in question contacted us because they wanted to start again, this time employing an agency using lessons learned.

What they experienced

A year earlier they had embarked on the rebuilding of their website that sold products. High-quality, big-ticket priced products that required the website to have a slick premium feel. The project went out to tender and a web company local to them won the work.

The chap who ran the web agency visited them regularly and sold the dream of a slick new website; designs were created and the client was wowed by the creativity and promises. In terms of the platform chosen, WordPress with WooCommerce was favoured by the client.

50% deposit was handed over. Away they go, with a project plan aiming for delivery within 6 months.

The kick-off to the project went well, communication was great, the relationship was blossoming and the client was looking forward to a brand new website that they can show off to their customers and improve their online sales performance.

As the 6-month deadline loomed, a request came in for a further 25% down payment. Discussions were had, including a demo of an incomplete website. Money was needed to help the small business with cash flow. As a much larger business with a sympathetic Board of Directors, they agreed to release the additional funds to the agency.

The wheels started to fall off

he agency cannot be contacted. Emails go unanswered, phone calls aren’t answered.

The unfinished website disappears from the test address they were previously given.

Then, out of the blue, a company from India contacts the Company saying that they had been sub-contracted by the Agency to build the website on their behalf.

This was news to the Company, but not uncommon in our industry, however it's highly unusual for them to reach out directly.

It got worse

The Indian outsourcing company hadn’t been paid! And, if they wanted the website they were happy to deliver it, but would need payment first.

Effectively, the Company were being asked to pay twice for their website.

Out of frustration, a Director for the Company got in his car drove the 30 minutes to the office of the Agency to, I guess, get some answers.

The agency wasn't there

I can imagine a little bit of panic was starting to set in at this stage.

On return to the office, he started to Google the company and the chap who ran it. He was able to quickly ascertain that the agency wasn’t a team, it was just one person. A person who had a history of setting up web design businesses, trading for a short time, and wrapping them up. Companies House showed that this latest business was being wound up too.

The Director admitted to me that he regretted not doing the Google search before even talking to this agency, let alone handing over tens of thousands of pounds.

Now you can understand why the lawyers were called in.

I have heard stories similar to this, and it worries me

To start trading as a web designer is easy. You need no experience, no one will check your credentials, our sector is unregulated.

SimpleClick was created by me after 11 years of working with websites, the first couple of years as a client and then with an agency. Experience and depth of knowledge were earned the hard way. SimpleClick now has 14 years of trading experience that back up our claims of what we can do for our clients. There are loads of agencies out there, many, like us, are fantastic and you’ll be very happy!

However, occasionally an agency will crop up out of nowhere and pitch themselves up against us and on a little bit of digging, you may find that the business, or the people representing it, have no history within our sector to back up their claims.

I urge you to do your homework too

Ask questions. Visit them. Meet their team. Speak to their customers. Do your due diligence!

A reputable web agency like ours will welcome the scrutiny.

On the issue of web agencies sub-contracting development, SEO, or related work, to an overseas company. Yes, this does happen and is common, and some very successful agencies make this work extremely well for both themselves and their customers. But you need to ask the questions when speaking to a prospective agency. Understand what they do and how they mitigate against the potential pitfalls around the long term maintenance and support of your website.

At SimpleClick, we don’t outsource any of our development work

That is our choice and how we run our business.

The main benefit is that we understand how our websites and apps are put together, from the ground up. If an issue presents itself, or enhancements are required, we can jump on it straight away.

As it happens, in this case, we didn’t win the project. We were 100 miles away and they felt that given they were still licking their wounds, they needed to work with someone much, much closer. And I can understand why!