The Dirty Little Secret Website Designers Don’t Want You to Know About

How not to get ripped off by web designers

How Not to Get Ripped Off By Web Designers

Warning! If you’re looking to hire a web designer, read this important message before you take the next step; it may just save your life. Okay, not really your life. But it my just keep you from getting burned from a dirty little trick many web design firms are pulling these days.

I feel a little sick today. Here’s why.

Yesterday I received a LinkedIn invite from a name that seemed familiar but I wasn’t 100% sure who they were.

After some research I realized that it was from a potential client who had contacted me about a year back.

We did a Free Mockup for them, but ultimately they decided to go with another firm, which was fine.

I was curious to see what their new site looked like and quickly clicked on her company’s url.

I was disappointed. The site looked pretty generic to me, especially considering the company’s sizable budget.

As soon as I saw the site, I had a sneaking suspicion that something was not right.

I checked the site’s source code, which if you know what you’re looking for, will tell you everything you need to know about a website.

Sure enough! The website was using a pre-made template for a design.

The site was not custom.

This was a +$20,000 project and the “website agency” they hired used a $58 template sold on

I messaged my contact for the project and asked if she knew her new website was using a pre-made template.

She did not. She was horrified and understandably upset.

So was I.

Not because I didn’t get the project, but because these type of tricks give the entire web design industry a bad reputation.

Unfortunately this is not an uncommon occurrence. Many so-called “web design firms” are just in the business of selling cheap templates.

Listen, if you’re looking to save some money and want to hire a designer to help populate or modify an pre-made template, that’s fine. No problem. As long as there is full disclosure and you know what you are buying.

But if you think you’re buying a ‘custom’ site and end up getting a template, that is just bad news all around.

Here’s how not to be ripped off

So before you hire a design firm, make sure to do the following:

Check to see if the company’s website or any of the websites on their portfolio are using a pre-made template.

How do you do this?

Watch this brief tutorial video or follow the instructions below:

1. Get on Chrome or Firefox

2. Check out their portfolio: Look for websites that have been designed and developed by this firm

3. Once you have the site up, right click and select ‘view source code’

4. Select ‘Find’. On a Mac this is Command + F on a PC it is Ctrl+F

5. Find ‘theme’ – you should see a code that says wp-content/theme/name-of-theme

6. Check the name after theme/ . If it’s a custom WordPress theme, then  it should be the name of the website. (there are ways of faking this, but that is harder to spot). If the theme isn’t the name of the site, then copy that name.

7. Go to Google and type in ‘Wordpress theme ‘name of copied theme’’ and hit enter. The first result will likely by the them in question.

Other signs you’re not getting a custom site

1. You do not get photoshop mockups of the site before it is developed

2. The designer says ‘they can’t’ change that. (usually you have to stay within a strict framework with templates)

3. The word ‘Custom’ doesn’t appear anywhere on the website of the design firm.

4. All the websites in their portfolio looks the same. Same layout. Same framework.

5. Their contract mentions ‘custom header graphic’ or only certain graphic elements as custom.

Wrapping it up

So there you have it. A dirty little secret revealed that most web design firms don’t want you to know about.

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

So, if you want to make sure your new website isn’t a cheap pre-made template, do your homework and investigate the portfolio of the companies you are looking to hire.

Or better still, let me make you an offer you can’t refuse. We’ll design a fully Custom Mockup of your new website before you sign or pay for anything.

Want to learn more? Click this link to check out our offer. It is 100% risk free.

San Francisco Web Design


If you’re looking for a new website, I’d like to make you an offer you can’t refuse.

I will design an Custom Mockup of your new website for Free, before you sign or pay anything.

If you like it, we can move forward working together.

If not, there are no hard feelings and no further obligations.