It is a little known fact is that the web design industry is not regulated in any way by the Government, or any official regulatory body. Unfortunately this means that anyone can simply set themselves up as a web designer or launch their own web design company, which is exactly what happens every day.
Regrettably it is the customer who ultimately suffers after paying way over the odds for a poorly designed website that does nothing to help the business succeed online; in fact a poor website can have the opposite effect and make a decent and well established business look very amateurish.
It is not just web design, there are a number of business models that do not require skill, training or regulation but in recent years it has been the web design industry which has been targeted the most by rogue companies and unskilled individuals, this is due to the fact that a web design business is very easy to set up, requires no premises, very little outlay and can be up and runner very, very quickly.
There are different ways that the unskilled web design businesses can be set up.
First off there is the 'have a go' individual, who tries his or her luck by downloading a selection of web building software, or worse still, uses online drag and drop web building tools like Wix and Weebly and starts to tout themselves a a web designer. These types on people will usually work full time in a unrelated industry and will be happy with getting the odd project to pay for holidays or other luxuries, for the most part their service will be very cheap but we are seeing more and more of these have a go amateurs charging a premium rate, sometimes in line with what a professional designer would charge making them difficult to spot.
There are many skilled, freelance designers working from home or out of small offices, this is because a good freelancer does not need to be tried down to a web design agency, skilled 'coders' as they are referred to in the industry are rarer than people think and a skilled coder is never short of work whether its their own work or work passed on by an agency. This does however does make the have a go amateur harder to spot, but following these guidelines should help.
Are they contactable during the week, during business hours (9am till 5pm)? If not they are probably at work in an unrelated industry, avoid... Is their own website well designed and bespoke? No professional web design should be using an online drag and drop web builders such as WIX, Weebly etc or FREE open source content management system such as Wordpress, Joomla, Concrete etc. Check their website footer for tell tail "built by...." links, type CTRL+U and view the code, look for tell tail META DATA or tell tail folders referencing Wordpress, Joomla etc
Apart from the one man 'have a go' amateurs their are also lots of unqualified agencies who on the surface appear to be very professional, these unskilled web design agencies dupe 1000's of people every year into paying for high price web design that turns out to have been put together using poorly designed templates, drag and drop software or FREE content management systems. Unfortunately to a novice these type of agencies are hard to spot but following these guidelines should help.
Where you cold called? Amateur, unskilled agencies are run by sales teams with quotas to hit who simply cold call 1000'sof businesses a week and try to get them to hand over credit/debit card or bank details using their high pressure sales tactics. You should never sign up or make any initial payments for web design without seeing a full design proposal, any professional designer or design agency will offer free quotations and proposals.
Also, you should be discussing your web design requirement with a web designer, not a salesman. High pressure sales are used to force you to sign up before you do any research into the company as any research into these dodgy agencies usually turns up lot of bad reviews and feedback that they just don't want you to see.
I'd say avoid any company that cold calls you, or advertises for Telesales staff, but it you are considering using a cold calling sales driven company, fully research them, visit their website and view their portfolio, are their websites professional? Are they bespoke? Do they all have a unique design or do they all look very similar? Are there any tell tail signs that their sites have been put together by drag and drop web builders or open source content management systems? Search Google for reviews; never trust written reviews from a company website as they are very easy to fake.
With web design being unregulated it can be difficult to make sure that you are using someone who is skilled and up to the task, even if your website ends up looking quite professional, is it responsive? (a modern requirement ensuring web sites work across multiple devices and platforms) is the code Google complaint? It's no good having a nice looking website if it can't be found on Google.