Avoid the Trap: Why Cowboy Web Designers Are Bad for Your Business

Is your web designer a bit, useless? Do they make you dread dealing with your website? You may have been caught out by a Cowboy Web Designer.

This type of web design agency promises to deliver top-end website for your business at an excellent price. However, it’s important to be aware of deals that sound too good to be true. As the old saying goes, often they are not. These web designers offer enticing low prices and quick turnarounds but delivering subpar products that don’t live up to your expectations or are simply unfit for purpose. This article aims to shed light on this issue and offer guidance on how to avoid falling into such traps.

Identifying a Cowboy Web Designer

What to Look For

A typical cowboy web designer often promises quick results and low costs. For example, a recent client was caught out by a business offering a new website design service for £500. Now you might be thinking that this isn’t a low cost and still sounds quite expensive and you are right. This is not a small fee. But, a modern quality website can range from £800 up to £10,000+, depending on the complexity and size of the website, of course. So, they are in fact undercutting the market rate.

In addition to the initial outlay the cowboy designer in our client’s scenario was expecting more money in order to correct issues that they created with the new website. Something a simple job of placing the right content in the right page with a suitable call to action was an ordeal and our client felt that they’d reached a hopeless place. With no end or quality website in sight, they started looking elsewhere.

After they made contact with us, we decided to investigate for ourselves. On further examination of the business that provided this service they appear to be offering lost cost fixed term monthly payment plans and a range of services that sound too good to be true for the price tag.

One such service they provide is SEO strategy and Google indexing but require a fixed-commitment of at least 6 months. It’s true that SEO strategies can take up to 6 months to come to fruition, but this agreement locks clients into a long-term contract and doesn’t appear to offer any guarantee or reference backing up their ability to offer a successful SEO campaign.

Cowboy web designers will often produce error ridden websites

Purely on appearance, their website also seems to be lacking a quality edge. At first glance it seems ok, but looking closely most of the text, layout and animation is all image based. This won’t rank well for SEO and it won’t work well responsively. It seems their own website is a flawed example of the product they are selling. The website claims 5 star reviews on their website, but they are all self published as a posed to coming through a reputable and independent review source, like Yell.com or a Google Business review.

The real nail in the coffin is that their portfolio shows images of websites that they’ve completed, which look ok. But, when you search for the website (no direct link provided) and navigate around, there are broken pages and inconsistent layouts every where. This is exactly what our client has described and the proof wasn’t too hard to find!

Red Flags

  1. Vague Descriptions: Lack of clear information about the services offered, lots of images and false claims to “wow” the customer.
  2. Long-Term Commitments: Locking you into a contract without first proving their capabilities. Sometimes agreements like this are legitimate, but be wary if no guarantees are in place.
  3. Hidden Costs: Additional fees that are not disclosed upfront, such as hosting costs or fees to edit content on the website.
  4. No Independent Reviews: Google, Yell.com, Trust Piolet, etc – are all independent reviewers that specialise in accurate reviews directly from the client.
  5. No Access to CMS: Modern day websites allow the customer to control their own pages, content and images – if you are not offered this, you may be expected to pay for updates.

Example of a Poorly Built Website

Our client’s old website serves as a prime example of a poorly built product. The site lacks a coherent structure, and the content is disorganised and doesn’t appear to have any SEO consideration, so will probably fail to rank well in search. It’s also not aesthetically impressive in any way, which is a shame for the business brand in question. Overall, this is a wasted investment.

Signs of a Bad Website

  1. Broken Webpages: Some pages are totally missing any styling, navigation or footer!
  2. Inconsistent Design: The layout is not uniform, affecting the user experience.
  3. SEO Negligence: There’s no indication that SEO best practices were followed.
  4. Lack of Mobile Responsiveness: The site doesn’t appear to be optimised for mobile devices.

How to Get a Refund

Know Your Rights

If you find yourself stuck with a poorly designed website, it’s crucial to know your legal rights. Make sure your claims are well-founded and justified. Gather evidence that shows the designer did not meet the agreed-upon standards or deadlines. Remember, you must be able to show that you’ve tried to work things out and have cooperated with the web designer.

Steps to Take

  1. Contact the Designer: Try to resolve the issue amicably. This should always be your first port of call. Sometimes direct communication can lead to a suitable resolution.
  2. Document Everything: Keep a record of all correspondence and work delivered. You may need to refer to this later.
  3. Get a Professional Second Opinion: Sometimes it is worth while contacting another web designer or agency, they may be able to help you identify key issues that help your evidence.
  4. Seek Legal Advice: Every case is different, so it is important to consult a legal professional to know exactly where you stand.
  5. Legal Action: As a last resort, consider taking legal steps to recover your money. If your website is less than £10,000, then you should be able to make a small claim

Unfortunately, this process can be time consuming and can bring some additional costs. It should only be done as a last resort. If a full refund is not possible, but the opportunity to negotiate a partial refund presents itself, then consider this carefully as it could bring closure to the subject sooner and allow you to move on.

Note that you should always seek professional legal advise before taking action. This article is not intended as a legal guide, but gives theoretical examples and poses considerations under the general hypothetical circumstances stated.


Finding a good deal and choosing the right web design agency is crucial for your business. Be wary of cowboy web designers who promise the moon but deliver far less. Always do your due diligence and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you find yourself stuck with a subpar website.

If this story sounds like something you’ve encountered with your own website, then get in touch with us as we’d like to help. We will build you the website you deserve and do our very best to turn around your online experience.

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About the author

I'm Joseph D'Souza, an experienced .NET developer with a speciality in Umbraco and WordPress development. My professional journey began in 2010, when I graduated with a degree in computer science. Since then, I've navigated the web development world, honing my skills as a full-stack developer across front-end, back-end, and database design.Today, I'm proud to be the Director of Alpha Labs, a leading web development firm based in High Wycombe. I use my broad expertise in various web development technologies to deliver high-quality, user-centric web solutions, setting Alpha Labs apart in this fast-paced digital world.

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