There is a huge scam going around the web development industry. It is rampant in every city, every state, and just about every country with an internet connection. This is the scam of the $500 website.
Companies nowadays are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of having a website and an online presence. More and more companies are realizing that in order to succeed in today’s technological world, you need a website. TheTechReader needs a website, the mechanic who fixes my car needs a website, even my optometrist needs a website.
However, there is a huge scam going around, and it targets small businesses. Large businesses do not have this problem, because they have the capital to hire excellent web development services. They will often spend tens or hundreds of thousands on web development, and hundreds or even thousands per month for maintaining the corporate website.
TheTechReader has spent around $8,500 on web development services since launching our website, not including dedicated server costs, although this is handled and managed by our web development agency (Everplex Media). This cost includes regular updates and maintenance, bugfixes, and addons when we want something new. It also included a fully mobile compatible website, and advanced PHP development.
However, many new and upcoming small businesses want to save money and go somewhere like craigslist trying to find the cheapest possible web developer. Many of these craigslist “developers” will charge $500 or less to design a website. Or so they say. However, what small businesses everywhere should know, is that this is a complete and total scam.
There is no such thing as a $500 website. Not from a good developer or established agency who is worth their salt and actually knows what they are doing, and who is not malicious giving you malware, or lying about the final cost. Let me explain why the $500 website is a total scam.
The truth behind the $500 website scam
The first and primary scam of the $500 website is done by some kid in his parent’s garage, or some misfit unemployed miscreant with no morals living off welfare, or some complete scam artist looking to make fast cash ripping off whoever they can in the process.
Here is the meat of the scam. These scammers will take a free website template, and they will either change a couple little things, or they will do absolutely nothing and hand it off as their own work. The first problem with this, is of course that it is a free template and no work was done. The second major problem with this is that all free templates are very poor and uncustomizable.
Does that mean no templates should be used? Not necessarily. However, even if a template is used by a reputable developer (presumably a template designed by that developer), it should be extensively overhauled so that it is unique and so that the thousands they are charging the customer is actually for work performed. It should be customized.
Any website that is legitimate and customized by a particular developer, will take a minimum of around 50 hours of work. However, this 50 hours of work is taking into account that the developer is highly skilled. An unskilled developer will take hundreds of hours to do the same thing, because most of their time is spent googling how to do it and performing trial and error for days on end until they get it working. However, this is assuming they even do any work at all.
The problem with this is that no one can live off $2 per hour. If it takes an unskilled amateur, say, 300 hours, which is a probable number for an amateur counting the extensive googling and trial and error needed, to actually complete the fully customized website, then let’s do that math for a $500 website:
$500 / 300 hours = $2.50 per hour.
So, here is the heart of why the $500 is a total scam. Either you are getting a 12-year-old who has no idea what they are doing who will be working for basically pennies per hour, leaving you will a very poorly designed website that will not bring you any customers, and will look atrocious (maybe you will get lucky and it won’t look good but mainly the coding will be atrocious).
Or, the most common $500 website, you will get a total scam artist who takes a free template and sells it to you for $500. They might take a couple hours to fill in your phone number and business name, but that’s it. They have walked away with $250+ per hour for doing basically nothing, and scammed you out of your hard-earned money.
Thus, there is no such thing as a $500 website. If you pay $500 for a website, you are merely parting with your cash, with zero ROI (Return On Investment).
The malware $500 website scammer
Worse, you may possibly have a negative ROI if the scammer then infects your free template (that they passed off as a custom website) with backdoor trojans and malware, and hijacks your website ads.
They might make a decent looking website on the surface, but $500 is not enough to pay for the website design. They bait you with this low price, and you thought you got a great deal, but the scammers are secretly causing you to lose far more money then you would have if you had just paid for a reputable design company.
They will make their money one way or another, such as by using your website to send millions of spam emails per hour (hidden, behind the scenes) until your website gets banned from your hosting company, or they will just steal all your customers’ personal details, including credit card info if you accept payments through your website. They might even hijack your website to steal your customers.
This is one of those classic cases of “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. You think you’re getting a steal with an ultra-low $500, but in reality you’re the one getting stolen from, one way or another.
And let’s not forget the total scammers. The will offer a very low price, maybe even $300 or less. Then they will take your money and run. Either it’s the “disappearing designer” who sounds good at first but collects the money and when they put it off for so many months they gave up on doing it and they run away with your money.
Or, it is a scam artist who only wants to take your money from the very beginning. Months later, with nothing to show for it, you will have to spend even more to get a website.
The India $500 website scammer
The last $500 website scam is the scam of the foreign website designers, usually from India or similar. This designer sells you a dirt cheapo website design, but it is filled with very poor grammar. But that is not the scam part of it. These India companies never intended to charge just $500 for your website. They have a sneaky, deceptive strategy.
They will charge you up front $500 and promise a website. Then when you begin to request changes because the website is so bad, they will charge you for each little change. Oh, you need a phone number? $50. You need to add your address? %75. Oh, you wanted your state and zip code on that address? $50. The scammed business owner doesn’t realize how fast all these little charges add up. Before they know it, they have paid $4000 and had no idea they paid that much for their $500 website until the bank statement comes in.
And all for a crummy website which you will have to get redone in the end anyway. And don’t worry, there are absolutely no refunds! And due to being in a foreign country, it is impossible to collect your money back through litigation. Your money is gone forever.
How much is a reasonable amount to pay for a website?
You can sometimes find good websites for as low as $1,000 for a good custom design, but this low cost is extremely rare. A more realistic cost is at least $1,500 for a good business website, on the low end. If you need a full-fledged e-commerce website, which accepts payments and has an online checkout system, you are talking $2,500 and up.
If anyone offers to build your website for any less than this, they either have no idea what they are doing, or they are a complete and total scam artist. In either case, you are wasting your money, as well as potentially putting your business as well as your customers at risk.
So I hope this helps you! Don’t be a victim of these evil scams to swindle honest hardworking small business owners out of their hard-earned cash. Don’t try to get bottom dollar for a website design, because if you do you are paying far less than bottom dollar – you are throwing away your money. Be warned!