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How to choose a web developer

by Kasia Gospos on April 11, 2012

It has been a while since I wanted to build a cosmetics review website. Instead of launching my new business I was very unlucky to hire wrong web-developer who not only damaged my reputation but also hurt financially, not mentioning emotional stress of going through legal case….

I signed the contract with website development company in August 2010 for what had meant to be a 2 month project. It turned out to be a 13 months nightmare that ended up in September 2011 with the money orders on the web-developer from Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal. The reasoning of the tribunal was the failure of the web-developer to produce the website in accordance with the agreement within the reasonable time frame and that the work provided has not been performed in a workmanlike manner. Although I won the case  seven months ago, the web-developer still hasn’t paid the money. He claims his business has no assets to pay off and is completely broken down. Instead I found he runs other businesses and maintains a blog of a committed businessman and human being. Here are my learning:

How to choose a web-developer

How to minimise the risk of becoming a victim of the web-developer scammer:


Make sure you do all the important checks on the person/business (including directors) you are going to deal with.

– Credit rating (check www.dnb.com.au, www.veda.com.au)

– Call OFT and ask if there were no complaints on the company (free)

– Directors check www.dnb.com.au/express/results/director_list.asp ($55)

This is how I found out that the web-developer owns two identical businesses and ASIC consultants suggested that the web-developer could have moved all assets to the other company to avoid paying his debts.


Check the contact details, address, and phone number. Do you see anything suspicious? If you can only find a PO box, 1300 phone number, the address is somewhere in your city but without details, and when you call the business you hear an assistant always saying that the person is on the meeting and will call back – you might deal with a scammer.


Check the references. Ask the developer for the references. Don’t just look at his portfolio on the website. Developers very often create magnificent portfolio while in fact they might have added only Facebook button in the footer. If testimonials are given, call them and ask how the project was implemented, was the budget and time fame met, communication process etc. You will be surprised how easier is to make a decision when you have more information.


Structure the contract that protects YOU. It is typical that the IT projects are delayed. There is always something that needs to be added, something you didn’t think about before, something took longer than expected. Design will need to be updated etc. Make sure your contract states expected due date, the scope of the work is as detailed as possible, that you do not pay full amount until project is completely signed off, that any issues are resolved in the local court for you. It is good to have a lawyer reviewing your contract but it can be expensive ($500).


Check how many fans have the business on Facebook. Maybe it sounds trivial but every respected business now has social media. If you can’t find any social media icons on the website, no testimonials, no way the visitors can say what they think it could be a scam…. Check the directors on Linkedin. Zero connections? Very suspicious.

Other risks you might need to take into account:

1 Have you heard of virtual offices? In short this is where the business is located while physically is located somewhere else (sometimes no-where).

Virtual office is there to have a meeting room on the ad hoc basis, prestigious address, proper mailing address instead of PO box, phone answering service etc. Unfortunately this is also sometime to cheat new client about the size and professionalism of the business. The business pays fee that is much lower than a rent. It makes sense for the small entrepreneurs but there is an inherited risk in dealing with such businesses. I don’t mind when the developer works from home. But this is wrong when the businessman pretends to be bigger than he really is. It is called misleading. And here my next point starts…

2 Misleading about the size of the business, number of employees, experience When I signed the contract with the web-developer he used to talk about the senior project manager who will overlook my website, teams of graphic designers who would compete for the best design, office in Melbourne (the reason why I couldn’t meet the project manager) etc. What I discovered later was that the web-developer was outsourcing everything to India. Obviously long-distance communication didn’t work very well as the web-developer never built the website for me.

3 Risk of hiring web-developers from websites like e.g. www.freelancer.com. As far as I believe there are also good people who look for jobs, please be aware that this world is full of scam artists and therefore always look for reviews of real people.

If I knew all this before I would probably avoid going through :

  • writing tones of instructions for the project manager to understand simple requirements,
  • embarrassment caused by plagiarised design from other popular website,
  • constant delays due to different reasons including alleged car accident taking month to recover,
  • receiving an invoice for 200% of our contract without permission to exceed contracted hours,
  • lots of stress and ultimately not having my website ever done.

This is my unhappy-end story of hiring wrong web-developer. Have you had a similar story? Do you have any bad experiences with web designers? Share your experiences.

Kasia Gospos
Founder of Leaders in Heels. Passionate about using Leaders in Heels to empower and connect all women in business. Loves all 'sorts' of technology and on most days can be found happily typing away at her desk or looking up things on the web. Is a feminist at heart and loves to meet new people. Australia, Sydney
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