Top 16 Web Design Complaints from Actual Clients

Web design complaints are becoming common place. We hear them all the time (not from Canny’s clients, but from clients that have been let down by their last design agency.)

While we always strive to build amazing websites that convert, not every agency understands the complexities of web design.

Just because someone calls themselves a web designer, does not mean that they are going to give you the website that your company deserves.

Creating websites that convert visitors takes a lot of know-how, but it’s a two-way street.

We thought it would be fun to write a “top complaints from actual website design clients” post because, unfortunately, many companies come to us ‘after’ they have invested so much time and money on a website that just isn’t working.

So before you go online to find the perfect design agency, read this blog post that outlines 16 of the top web design complaints.

We’ve compiled this list from ‘actual clients’ that worked with other design agencies.

But first, let’s ask ourselves:

What Makes a Good Web Design Agency?

Working with Canny Creative has been an immense pleasure over these past few months.

I have learned a lot about what quality creative agencies have to offer and would recommend the team here at Canny here for any website design project. They understand more than most agencies that a creating a website is just one part of the overall branding strategy you need for your company.

But in today’s online world, having a website is one of the most important parts.

I have worked with many clients who are simply not happy with their current websites and after investing the bulk of their budgets into it, they just feel stuck with whatever they currently have. This is why I decided to create this blog.

Before you hire any website design agency, you have to know what you are looking for.

Here are a few things that make a good web design agency:

They ask about budget right away.

We’ve talked a lot about the importance of budget here on the blog, but we have to mention this again. Knowing your budget beforehand is vital to getting the website you want. Of course, we will always advise you on how to get the most bang for your buck so-to-speak.

They have experience creating websites that convert.

I have personally worked with many web designers and I have realised one thing — anyone who knows how to create a website on Wix can technically call themselves a web designer. Yet just creating a website is only part of the task.

You want a team that understands the valuable tool websites can be for your business. Without some sort of strategic digital marketing plan in place, your website might look good but be pretty useless. A good design firm thinks ahead and wants your business to grow.

They are not just website designers, they are graphic designers.

If you really want to create a website that looks good, you should hire a team that understands design principles. There are a lot of assets to create when building a site, especially if you are creating any kind of e-commerce store.

Without design experience and understanding of what looks good, what doesn’t, and what font(s) to use, your site might look amateur. Not only should your website design team understand the principles of design, they should be pushing you to integrate or create your branding online as well.

Branding is important if you want to build a business and if your design team isn’t discussing other assets that will support your business, you have to ask why not?

They have a killer web design portfolio.

This may seem like an obvious quality, but you’d be surprised at how many companies or clients hire a website design team without looking at their previous work.

Not only should you be looking at their work, but you need to ask yourself a few questions: Are all the websites eerily similar? (They might be using the same template for every site? How do the e-commerce sites function? (We recommend clicking around the sites to see for yourself.) Do they have seem to cater to one type of look, or does every site feel fresh and different?

They talk about search engine optimisation.

Not only does a good website design team understand basic design principles, they understand SEO and know how to build traffic to your site without spending all of your budget on Google Adwords.

This is where good content helps.

Not only should a web design team know how to give you the look, and functionality that you need, they need to know how to work with you to create the content on your site that Google will love.

They discuss responsive websites before you do.

Today’s websites have to work on mobile. If you do not have a fully responsive website, you are missing out and will soon get left behind as Google continues to cater to the mobile-friendly websites when it comes to getting organic traffic.

If you want your site to rank well (meaning you get to the coveted first page of Google), then you need to have a site that looks and feels just as good on a mobile phone as it does on your desktop computer from home. We are a society hardwired to Google everything on our phone, from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep — our smartphones connect us.

They understand the complexities of online marketing.

Creating a website is just one component of an online marketing strategy. If you hire a website designer that doesn’t consider other assets, or ongoing, or long-term online marketing strategies, you could be missing out on big opportunities.

There are different considerations to keep in mind whether you are B2B, or B2C – a great website development team will know how to create something that works for your specific needs, and target clients.

They get to know your business.

Smart web developers know how to ask the right questions so they get to know your target audience — maybe better than you do. If you are interviewing possible website design teams ask them questions, sure but make sure they are asking you the right questions as well. It’s imperative that they get to know your business inside and out!

They understand branding as well.

If you are going to spend the money on a website, you really do have to be thinking about the entire brand of your company. Branding is more than just a logo and a colour scheme, as we have discussed before. It’s about building brand loyalty and ultimately about having the kind of success you want with your business.

They care about growing your overall online presence.

While it’s wonderful to have a killer website that drives traffic to your business, this is only one component of your online brand. A smart creative agency will help you increase your entire online presence, through branded social media accounts, upcoming promotional landing pages, or whatever you need to build your business online. A website is great, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.

They know how to create a fully functional e-commerce store.

If you are looking for a great ecommerce website, you have to hire a team that knows ecommerce. Imagine the frustrations customers can have if your site isn’t user friendly. You’ll also want to have as many metrics as possible so you can see how much money you are making each month!

There’s a lot that goes into creating an ecommerce store that sells. It’s all about delivering the kind of customer service online that builds brand loyalty. If you frustrate your customers in the beginning, they won’t come back.

16 Actual Complaints from Website Design Clients

I wanted to write a blog about the complaints that actual clients of web design firms have. It’s something that comes up a lot with my colleagues and clients. Everyone seems to have some sort of horror story about the web designer who did them wrong, or the website project that took years to complete!

While we pride ourselves here at Canny at avoiding these problems, we thought it would be smart to discuss some of the complaints we’ve heard with you, because these clients often come to us to fix what’s not working.

It’s true that you truly can’t please all the people all the time. But as a client, you can take some steps to make sure that you’re as happy as possible with the services you receive from your web design firm.

You may be shocked to hear that we, as web designers and creative professionals, aren’t perfect!

I decided to ask around – I asked people online and checked in with some colleagues – and they gave me some of the biggest complaints they, as web designers, get from their clients.

Our hope is that this list of complaints helps you when it comes time to choose the best web designer for you.

Before we look at the list of complaints, let me just say that sometimes the customer is right, and sometimes… well, let’s just say that communication is key.

So, without further ado, here are the top complaints we found:

1. It wasn’t what I expected.

This is by far the most common complaint. “The website wasn’t what I thought it would be.” “This logo doesn’t look like what I had envisioned.” “There are too many circles; I hate circles.” “What is that giant yellow thing?” And so on.

How does this happen?

Well, it comes down to communication. I can’t stress enough how important it is, as a client, to clearly communicate what you’re looking for. If you hate yellow, please say so. If a certain style (say, sleek, modern lines) makes you cringe, we need to know that, too.

As web designers, we can do our job much better with too much information than with not enough, so the more information you can give us – however insignificant or unimportant it may seem – the closer the finished product will be to what you had envisioned.

That said, it’s super important to not look at your website design as “something you like.” The job of a professional design agency is to sell your services to your clients. So if you don’t like yellow, but your brand and customer base calls for yellow, yellow it is!

And it certainly goes both ways.

It’s critically important for the web design company you hire to clearly and effectively communicate what they can and will do for you based on your budget and time constraints.

There are some web design companies out there who will promise you exactly what you’re looking for without really knowing what that is. This is (obviously) not a good situation.

Make sure whoever you decide to hire on makes a decided effort to clearly understand what your needs are. If you hate yellow, they should make it their priority to find out. Then, they need to find out if your customers also hate yellow and decide how to act on the information.

2. Not enough creativity!

Some clients state that the web design company they hired just gave their ideas back to them. There was hardly any design work or creativity on the party of the design team.

Remember the Seinfeld episode that dealt with the Penske file? George was hired for a new role in a company, but the manager was off that week so there was no one to get him set up properly. They ended up just giving him the “Penske file” to work on that week. No instruction, no guidance, just a file. George did with it what a lot of agencies seem to do. He organized – or, rather, reorganised – the ideas without any kind of input or thought. He basically just took the file and added it to a folder.

The Seinfeld example may be somewhat of an exaggeration, but sometimes clients do feel like all the web design company did was shuffle a bunch of papers around. Just like George did.

3. Not enough actual design.

Similar to not feeling there’s enough creativity, not having enough actual design work done can be a common complaint.

“My experience with creative agencies is that they typically have asked me to provide them with what I’m looking to accomplish. So I provide tons of info including self-designed mockups to paint a good picture. Then they send me something that is not much different than what I sent them. In fact, I question why they call themselves “creatives”. This happens in my day job and also various businesses I’ve had.” Leo Tintinalli, Director of Product Management, RDM Corp and Owner, Life Changes University

When people hire a web design agency, they’re being hired for their professional input, ideas, and design ability, not just for their ability to plug things into WordPress; that’s something the client can probably do on their own.

As such, the principles of graphic design shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle just because we’re online. Our work should require the same amount of dedication and attention to detail as any graphic designer would provide.

4. Chasing the designers for updates.

This is definitely one of the complaints I hear most often about website design firms. Sometimes, design companies – for whatever reason – get in over their heads and find they’re incredibly pressed for time. Working with a high number of clients who want to change their content or website structure can make it difficult to address multiple requests for website changes in a timely manner.

However, design agencies should be honest enough to front up about this sort of situation. Again, communication can go a long way here to help everyone understand what’s going on. Leaving clients out in the cold is a sure fire way to lose them.

Communication should never drop. At Canny, we like to make sure of it.

5. Not being able to make basic changes, like adding a blog or changing a background image.

So, you’ve got a new website up and running and it’s great, but you and your team think of a brilliant addition that’ll really help your sales along.

You ring up your web design company and excitedly tell them. And they say “no”.

Why not?

The reasons vary: Too complicated; too much work involved; no time; not part of the original agreement; doesn’t fit into the budget…

I have a client who runs a very successful private chef business. She is an amazing personal chef, who comes into your home and makes you food for the week, or a dinner party, or just for you and your dietary restrictions.

Her website is nice and functions for her needs, but when she wanted to change the main image on her homepage, her website team flatly told her that they could not do it. That it was stuck there forever.

While she wanted to expand some of her services and update her branding, she couldn’t. There was only so much we could do with content. She couldn’t even add a blog.

I guess she has to find another team, or create a new website, or just be happy with the one she currently has. In the end, knowing what kind of flexibility you are going to have is important when hiring a team to develop your website.

Why, then, even hire a web design company? Sure, the original website work is often what the client is looking for, but if you’re not able to make simple changes to a website that is yours, to begin with, it just doesn’t seem right.

6. Timelines

While we all understand that there’s a process in place and that great work doesn’t happen overnight, we also don’t want clients to be stuck without any updates for months on end.

If your design firm isn’t in regular contact with you throughout the process, what’s going on?

Are they too busy to update you? Are they avoiding you because they’re behind schedule? Because they don’t think you’ll like what they’ve come up with? Do they even care?

You should be hearing from your design firm regularly. They should have frequent updates for you if nothing more than to make sure that any problems or design components you don’t like are nipped in the bud.

7. Not listening to the client.

Believe it or not, some clients stress that their web design company won’t listen to them. Listening to the client is important in any line of work, and this certainly holds true for web design.

How else can the designer know what to produce in the way of design work if they’re not listening to what you’re saying?

I’ve heard clients of other companies say that web designers don’t have a good process for listening to the client. Questions aren’t structured, and not enough correct or pertinent information is obtained by the web design firm.

Again, this boils down to communication. A good design firm knows which questions to ask. This also goes both ways. If you’ve never hired a web designer before, you might not even know what questions you should ask.

A good web design firm will make sure you know what you need to know before you even think to ask.

8. Not understanding basic design principles.

It’s one thing to know how to code; it’s another thing entirely to understand image placement, typography, etc. Proper design work takes someone who has an extensive background in that area. It appears that almost anyone can call themselves a web designer and sell their web design services these days.

It frustrates me when I hear that many clients of other web design companies are unhappy because the services they receive are truly subpar. A good web designer will know how to design as opposed to just placing a bunch of information on a website.

9. Creating websites that only they can “fix” or make additions to

You should always be able to edit and add to your own website. Especially with the invention of tools like WordPress. Creating editable websites is easier than ever before!

Tying clients to your web design agency by creating websites that only you can fix or amend is one of the most annoying things I’ve come across since I started Canny. It’s simply not fair on the client. And you shouldn’t need to lock them in like that! Tony Hardy, Founder, Canny

Your website is your website.

You should be able to make changes when you need to. I can truly understand how a client would be frustrated if they were denied access to making necessary changes to their website. It’s just not right.

This point is similar to number five above. Ultimately, your web design company should not serve as an inflexible gatekeeper for your website.

10. Making you pay outrageous monthly fees for maintenance.

Well, that’s just plain mean. I liken this to holding your website hostage. “You pay us a ridiculous amount of money each month, or the website comes down.”

While some companies do charge a monthly fee for maintenance or web hosting, any such charges should be discussed and agreed upon by both parties before any work is done. You, the client, should not have any surprises when it comes to charges.

11. Unresponsive web development team.

Nobody likes to be ignored, so it comes as no surprise that clients of web design companies don’t appreciate designers who are unresponsive. It is up to the web design company to keep in regular contact with clients.

You, as a customer, should expect to receive regular and comprehensive updates on your project. And you most certainly should expect to hear back promptly when you contact us with a question or comment.

While there is a process that takes time building a site, a great team will automatically give you updates along the way. You shouldn’t have to wonder what’s going on during the process.

12. A one-stop, overnight shop.

You don’t want a short-lived business designing your website. What happens if you need support or want to make changes in the future? As a client, you would do well to choose a web design firm that’s been around for a while.

Find one that is well-established and has some good reviews, either on Google or LinkedIn.

Keep in mind that cheaper is hardly ever better. When deciding which company to hire, one of the main deciding factors is how long-lived the company will be.

Imagine investing £10,000 into a website and then two weeks into the project, the agency goes bust or disappears off the face of the earth.

13. Not working within your budget.

I find this just shows a total lack of respect for the client. A reputable web design firm will work with a client before starting any work to determine a budget as well as exactly what the client’s needs are. It is then the responsibility of the firm to make good on this agreement, including staying within the budget.

It is usually plain to see well ahead of time if we run the risk of going over budget. This is the time to contact the client and explain what the situation is. At no time do we have the right to go over an agreed-upon budget. Plain and simple.

14. Not agreeing on a budget beforehand.

I truly don’t understand why any firm would go ahead with any work without first agreeing on a budget; it protects both the firm as well as the client.

It is also one of the key things we recommend to our clients who we work with, we have an entire blog about this very thing: Seriously, We Need to Know Your Budget! Here’s Why.

Part of the discussions that take place with a client before we do any work centre around the budget. This is an important time to make sure that you, as our customer, have a realistic expectation of how much it’s going to cost you to get you what you want.

This doesn’t imply that we charge exorbitant fees; it just makes sure that we’re all on the same page before any work gets done.

If your budget is more than what we have projected our services will cost, we will work with you to expand on what our design services will entail. You might find that you’re able to get more than what you had anticipated.

15. Not including key things that every site needs.

This just boils down to either negligence or inexperience on the part of the design firm. If your site is not being equipped with the most basic of important features, then run – don’t walk – in the opposite direction.

Again, this boils down to making sure you hire a reputable company and clearly and openly discussing what the design company is going to do for you well before anyone starts any work.

16. Rushing the process of creating a site.

I know we talked about extending deadlines and about sites that never seem to get created, but a quality site is a process. As I’m sure you know by now, web design involves more than just throwing a logo and all your business information onto a website.

If someone promises you the world in a matter or mere days, they are either: (1) not sleeping, or (2) incompetent. Either way, you’ll probably lose.

Conclusion: Do Your Homework Before You Hire

While we pride ourselves on helping our clients get the website of their dreams, we realise that not everyone who hires a creative team gets that.

It can be a frustrating process if you don’t do your due diligence first before you hire a team to get you online. We’ve seen many clients pass us off for cheaper website developing projects, then come back months later because they aren’t getting what they need.

It can cost your business much more money in the long run if you hire cheap. Trust us.

How many leads are you losing because your site is down? Or worse, because it’s up but it’s frustrating clients or buyers! Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can save big bucks and just hire anyone.

If you want to grow your business online, talk to a team that can get you where you need to be!

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2 comments on “Top 16 Web Design Complaints from Actual Clients

  1. Avatar
    foxnangel on

    Really great post, You well said Branding is more than just a logo and a colour scheme, effective brand management goes a long way in the growth of the company. A good brand attracts loyal customers who are always coming back for more. Thanks for sharing a very valuable article.

    • Amy Aitman
      Amy Aitman on

      Thank you! We take our branding very seriously around here! It’s not just about getting out there, it’s about having a brand last a lifetime (or more)! Brands that we love become so ingrained in our lives. We are always asking ourselves here at Canny: What can we do to build that brand that will become part of our lives?


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