Turn on the 6 o’clock news and you will hear of the companies getting in trouble for various reasons. All of these reasons have a single common denominator – ethics. In this day and age, maintaining a high ethical standard has never been needed so badly. Yet, it is seemly impossible to find. The web design and development industry is the same. Today, we will outline a few of these common unethical practices and what you, as a consumer/client, can do to avoid them.
Many agencies and design companies will bill an hourly consulting rate. This is a standard practice and necessary for most companies. However, “time management” can be an area where unethical practices take place at the client’s expense. For example, if a company charges an hourly rate for consultation, the “consultant” will take a much longer amount of time to go over everything with the client. Some of our clients have told us about their terrible experiences with consultants talking to them for three hours when only a half hour was necessary. When the bill came, the clients were charged for the full three hours. This happens for two reasons: 1) the consultant does not know what he/she is talking about and came to the meeting unprepared, or 2) the consultant is intentionally trying to prey off of the client for monetary gain. Neither of these reasons should be tolerated.
What you can do
Typically, an initial consultation will take place when you want a company to build a website for you. This initial consultation is the perfect time to figure out their ethics. During this initial consultation, decide whether the consultant is knowledgeable and direct. First impressions are often correct so really concentrate on the quality of the consultation. If you think the consultation is taking longer than necessary, you should make that your last meeting and immediately start looking for a new company or agency. Although it is a pain to find a new company and you may get billed for the consultation, you will be much better off with an ethical and knowledgeable company.
Several design companies and agencies will bill an hourly rate for any work done outside of the initial quote. This is a standard practice and is perfectly fine to do. However, some of these companies participate in unethical “billable time” procedures in which they will bill in increments that they have not disclosed to the client. For example, a company may bill in half hour increments – this means if they do 10 minutes of work, you will get charged for 30 minutes or work. If this is disclosed to you before any work is done, you know how the company operates. If a company bills you and does not disclose the billable increments, it is very unethical and you may want to consult with an attorney.
What you can do
The solution to this problem is simple if you know what to look for. First, check the entire contract or proposal for billing increments. If the contract or proposal does not include this, be sure to ask and get the answer in writing before any work is done.
The internet and websites are always changing. Most websites are meant to be dynamic, not static. When a website is constantly changing, it is extremely hard to make sure there are no errors all the time. The ethical problems arise when a company or agency will correct certain problems that are a result of their designs/actions and bill the client. This unethical practice is a way for a company to make more money by making changes to the design or site that are not necessary, or charging you for their mistakes. Within this same topic, some agencies have been known to change approved information or add unnecessary features to a website without getting the client’s approval because they “think it works better.” Even if the change is beneficial, a company/agency should ALWAYS request approval from the client unless they have a specific agreement for these changes.
What you can do
If you have a contracted a company to build or maintain a website, make sure the changes on the site reflect the instructions and content that you have supplied. If your website does not accurately match what you have supplied, there is a good chance you are being billed for it. Contact the company and ask for an explanation – you should not be billed for this.
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