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What are web development agency red flags? Osom checklist.

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By Robert Cnotalski

4 min read

How can you make sure the agency you're working with is a partner you can trust? This Osom Checklist will guide you through what to look out for when working with a development agency.

The guys that are taking care of your website – they rank high on Google, have stellar reviews, and their own site is plastered with big names praising their work. But your gut is telling you something’s just not right…

But what is it exactly?

Since few businesses flourished on gut feeling alone, you’ll stand a much better chance if you know what red flags to look out for. That’s where our checklist comes in. It should come in handy both before and after you hire people to maintain your website or online store.

We created it having seen too many situations where an agency should have been shot down a long time ago – but wasn’t. Often because it was great at something other than building websites – like playing a game of make-believe.

So how do you know if your agency is playing it fair? What are the things to look out for when hiring one? Go ahead and check below.

Web development red flags

 

  • The agency developers don’t maintain a source-code repository. 

(That’s it. If you’ve ticked that box, there’s no need to check the others. That agency is sloppy the same way a person keeping their credit card PIN in their wallet is.)

 

  • They don’t provide regular site backups. 

(You’ve had an unsaved Word doc crash and be gone forever. Now imagine an entire website.)

 

  • If you have a WordPress website – they don’t update your plugins at least once a week. 
  • They only use one type of server.

(While they should be maintaining development, testing, and production environments.)

 

  • They code everything manually.
  • They don’t do anything manually and use plugins in excess.

(If you need to have a plugin for every single section of the website – it’s bad!)

 

  • They upload code to the server manually via FTP.

(It’s not a red flag if it’s a one-time thing. However, relying solely on FTP is asking for trouble; it is prone to human error. The best option is a Continuous Delivery process coupled with a code repository.)

 

  • They use tools and plugins that can’t be easily verified with a quick Google search.

(Sometimes it’s being sloppy, other times – malicious. When they suggest developing a custom version of a readily-available tool, they might be planning to make you dependent on their services.)

 

  • They recommend a CMS developed by them.

(It’s another way of making you dependent on their services. When in doubt, opt for WordPress or HubSpot – two popular and reliable systems.)

  • They try to get you to buy tools or register for services via affiliate links without explaining why you might need them.

(While affiliate programs aren’t wrong in themselves, the agency should be transparent about them and explain why a specific solution fits your needs best.)

 

  • Your forms aren’t captcha-verified.
  • They leave the doors open for security breaches.

(Read our blog post on that here)

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Customer service red flag

While all of the below may seem pretty arbitrary, there is an industry standard that good agencies do their best to keep. You should watch out if:

  • They haven’t established a single point of contact.

(Aka. you don’t know whom to email. Or do you even email them at all? Maybe there was supposed to be a communication platform that they didn’t mention?)

 

  • They take too long to answer.

(When talking industry standard, 48 hours is the maximum an agency can go without reaching back to you without you calling it a strike.)

 

  • They are suspiciously quick.

(This might mean they’re either cutting corners or they’re bad at planning and respond first to whoever is the fastest to contact them. That doesn’t bode well for when you want to be sure they always book some time for you and you only.)

 

  • They don’t raise their hand even if the project is on fire. You’re left in the dark until the very last minute.
  • They paper over the deadlines.

(If they’re not willing to inform you about delays, what else are they not telling you?)

  • They can’t for the life of them explain what they’re doing in plain English.

(Are you sure they get it themselves though?)

 

  • You don’t know what you’re getting billed for.

Bottom line?

The motto to live by here is: trust but verify!

Keep the checklist in your bookmarks tab and go over it every once in a while. If bad comes to worst, don’t hesitate to look for a new partner. Your website (or online store) can only take so much.

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