Sharp Practices by Web Designers

Recently, I noticed in my Facebook feed the name of a local web designer that was new to me.  Being curious and wanting to keep abreast of the competition, I looked them up.  I was disappointed to discover they had adopted a number of tactics that were clearly pushing the boundaries of what could be described as honest.

It got me thinking, I am the only web designer that is entirely truthful on my site and in my marketing?

So, what was this new entrant doing that was misleading and potentially dishonest?

Their Facebook ad looked like this…

Taken at face value (as many potential customers will do), this is  an unbelievable bargain.  Even outsourcing to the cheapest and least skilled offshore supplier imaginable, there is no way a ‘professional’ website could be created for £49.  And of course, it isn’t true.  Following the link to their website reveals that the real cost is £49 per month (oh and on top of that there is an ‘initial set up’ fee of £199 as well).

Assuming the business maintains the website for five years, it will have really cost an eye watering £3139 before any VAT / sales tax has been added.

Secondly, the business in question had a glowing testimonial from a garage owner who seemed delighted with the service provided.  It sounds as if the new website had already born fruit and was bringing in new business.  Oddly, there was no link to the site in question which seemed peculiar given the situation.  Stranger still, a search on Google for Prestfield Motors returned no matches whatsoever.  In fact, there were no matches for Kenny Sinclair and the motor trade in Edinburgh.  Zero, nil, zilch, zip.

It was a fake testimonial from a fake business alleging benefits that were utterly fake.  It got me wondering who was in the picture, was this really Kenny Sinclair or was he a fake too?

Of course he was a fake!  Using the ever so handy Google Reverse Image Search facility revealed that ‘Kenny’ is a prolific chap.   He appears on a hair loss website in South Africa, an Arizona skin clinic site, a UK house sale site as well as countless social media sites.‘So what’ I hear you say, don’t we all embellish the truth a bit?  Well, yes and no.  It depends on how far you take the embellishment.  In this case, the deliberate attempt to mislead on pricing is pretty close to the widely discredited and highly disliked technique of “bait and switch“.  The use of a stock image in a testimonial whilst you are awaiting a photo from the customer is understandable but deliberately creating a fake identity, a fake business and a whole fake story to sell your services is downright dishonest.  As soon as a potential customer realises your claims are unfounded they should begin to question everything you say.

For example, is your support as good as you claim?  Is your uptime really as high as you indicate?  Are you truly based in the local area or are you a front for a “pile it high, sell it cheap” offshore operation?

It is all about credibility.  Most customers do not want to do business with a firm that feels it is OK to deliberately mislead and be dishonest on their website.  Why would you trust a firm that did this?  After all, if they do this on their own site, there is a good chance they could do it on yours too.

Whatever your line of business, think carefully before making unclear, misleading or entirely false claims on your website.  The consequences will inevitably come back to bite you.

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Nick Hyatt
Chief Developer at QD Design
Nick has web design experience spanning two centuries (well his first page was in 1998)! He is passionate about helping smaller businesses and new ventures make their mark on the web. As well as a web designer he has spent time as a management consultant and business coach and brings these skills to help customers excel. When not designing websites he is likely to be in the mountains be it skiing, climbing or just taking photos of awe inspiring scenery.

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