Intuit Web Design Review – Scam or great deal?

As I’m sure you’re well aware, there are a couple of web design firms out there, somewhere to the tune of 100,000, which means that things can get pretty competitive. While the average firm charges at least $2,500 for a site, a few large companies have gotten into the business of extremely cheap web design. If you searched for “cheap website design” or a similar phrase, you’re likely to have come across one of the very biggest of these low-cost leaders – Intuit.

The company itself is enormous – taking in over 4 billion dollars a year – but Intuit’s web design segment is run by Homestead (an Intuit acquisition). The site is surprisingly bare (take a look here), and seems to provide little information about who is actually designing your sites, which feels a little mysterious.

I love nothing more than a good web design company mystery, so when I saw the site, I was intrigued and decided to look into it. So, without further adeiu, come along with me on this magical, detective-novel inspired look into the heart of Intuit web design!

Note: Intuit offers both a web design creator (that allows you to make your website yourself) and a custom web design service. I’ll be talking about their custom design.

Rating: C+

In one sentence: Good front prices, strangely hidden monthly fee, and very poor quality – similar to 123 Triad web design, without all of the blatant deception.

What their customers are saying – a strange dichotomy

When you search for “intuit web design reviews” or the like, you find an Intuit website that shows an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars, and a page from Consumer Affairs that rates the company with just one out of five stars. Assuming we’re using the same rating system, there’s a bit of a disconnect here. Which site should we listen to? Let’s take a look.

The Intuit reviews site proudly proclaims that 100% of their reviewers suggest recommended their web design product, yet the second review on the page gives the product one star, and doesn’t recommend the product at all – which means the site is either poorly programmed or is intentionally deceptive. For now, let’s choose to believe the former.

When actually examining some of the five-star reviews, many are entirely fake and come from external spam websites who are using the review form as a way to promote their website. That being said, there are still a number of very real¬† customers who gave the service five stars. Also, several of their conspicuous one-star reviews are from customers who clearly haven’t used the product, or are complaining about Intuit’s other products (Turbotax and such). So, all in all,

The Consumer Affairs site is far more telling, and contains a pretty long laundry list of grievances, including:

  • High monthly fees ($100 or more)
  • Poor site quality
  • Inability to actually deliver website
  • Search engine issues
  • Plenty of Turbotax complaints

It’s a good idea to keep in mind that with a company as big as Intuit is, there are likely to be a few bad reviews. So, while we shouldn’t necessarily take these reviews at face-value, let’s at least evaluate them.

What was most notable to me was the mention of a $100+ monthly fee, which isn’t mentioned on Intuit’s site. A fee like this would normally be for hosting and maintenance, but Intuit says outright that they won’t maintain your website (although they do offer training to help you edit it yourself). That means the charge is $100 a month or more for hosting, which, frankly, is an absurd amount, unless you need enough disk space to run a social networking site.

For most simple business sites, you should never pay more than $40/month for hosting.¬† $100 a month = $1,200 a year, which is more than it costs to purchase the actual website from Intuit. Hidden hosting charges are nothing new for big web design firms, but they’re still very sneaky, nonetheless.

The other thing that should be worrisome about these reviews was the repeated mention of search engine issues. Virtually no automated web builder (like the one that Intuit offers you to edit your site) is particularly good at search engine optimization, partially due to the fact that it’s a discipline that takes a lot of human logic and input. Normally, clients can go to their web design firm to request a search engine optimization service, but Intuit doesn’t offer SEO directly. Instead, they offer advanced web design training classes that allow you to learn on your own (their basic package includes a 30 minute webinar, and their advanced package uses a screen sharing program to connect you with their training team).

Their Offerings

Basic Site (called QuickStart):

  • $799.99 up-front
  • One, 30-minute design consultation
  • One revision cycle
  • 5 pages, 2 products
  • Basic group training on how to use the tool.

Deluxe Site:

  • $1299.99 up-front
  • 60 minutes of design consultation
  • Two revision cycles
  • 10 pages, 5 products
  • Flash animation
  • Advanced training

Value for your money

Either of these packages is, in my personal opinion, a pretty awful deal.

First off, I’ve never seen a firm limit the time they were willing to consult with their customers, and certainly never to 30 minutes. I can tell you from experience that 30 minutes would be cutting it pretty close for many projects, and even 60 minutes might not be enough. Clients (quite rightly) have questions about the design process, and the specific features of the website’s they’ll be paying thousands of dollars to purchase. Between their queries and your queries about their business, it takes a little bit of time.

One or two revisions are also, frankly, an incredibly low number of revisions, especially when you haven’t had much time to consult with your designer.

Intuit limits you to two products for their basic site, and 5 for their deluxe site. Now – when designing a very basic site, it’s sometimes necessary for web design firms to limit the number of products you’re allowed to have on the site, as they’ll likely have to program them all in by hand, but this number would still generally be at least 20. For an actual eCommerce store (like Intuit’s Deluxe package) it’d be pretty inane to put a limit on the number of products you’re allowed to add. It just wouldn’t make much sense – the entire reason you’d be getting an eCommerce site is to be able to manage your online inventory and add/remove products as you see fit. In short – those product limits are extremely low, and completely unnecessary.

Site design quality

Very poor. Here are their example sites. The designs themselves are really of a very low quality, even for a low-priced firm. Additionally, one of the sample site links is broken and points to Homestead.com (an Intuit website) and another site had been transferred over to Blogger, another website provider.

The bottom line

Although Intuit’s design is moderately priced, you’re still hardly getting what you’re paying for. Very poor design, strict limits on consultations and products, and high monthly rates make this an unattractive service.

Casey Ark

Casey Ark is the CEO of Plato Web Design, a custom web design and marketing agency. His writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Newsday, The Tampa Bay Times, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

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