If you’ve done a Google search for web design lately (I know I have, but it’s my job to) you’re extremely likely to have seen text ads touting “$599 Web Design!” or “$899 Web Design!” from 123 Triad, a company that claims to be the largest web design firm in the U.S.
Click on one of these ads and you’ll be taken to the 123 Triad website, which (although it includes dozens of testimonials from happy customers) has this vague feeling of being a scam – the strange stock photos, various misspellings and odd logo (possibly obtained from Microsoft Works) can be a little off-putting to say the least. As someone familiar with the web design field, this kind of site almost always belongs to a company that employs heavy-duty outsourcing tactics to all of their work (which often results in extremely low quality), but the company offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so it can’t be that bad, right? I was interested to see what 123 Triad’s true colors really were. Are they really from Raleigh, NC, as their site claims? Are they really the biggest web design company in the country? Is that 100% satisfaction guarantee satisfying 123 Triad’s customers? I did some investigating, and here’s what I found out.
Overall Grade: C+
In one sentence:
Deceptive advertising, great prices, incredibly low quality design work, reasonable coding quality.
Are they the biggest web design company in the U.S.?
The short answer: there’s no way of knowing – there are thousands of web design firms in the U.S., very few of which are required to report their revenue, so even 123 Triad doesn’t actually know if they’re #1. That being said, it’s pretty likely they’ve made it to the top 5. According to an Inc.com company profile, the company made $3 million in revenue in 2011, and employed 150 people, which is quite high for a web design firm.
The deceptive bit – The Satisfaction Guarantee
Here are the terms and conditions of their 100% Satisfaction Guarantee from the 123 Triad FAQ page:
100% Refund if requested within 15 calendar days from date of order, and
- Prior to showing of any design layout, no questions asked, or
- Before 3rd round of revision request.
…which shouldn’t sound too bad, until you realize that almost no work will have been done on your website within the first 15 days of ordering. Designing a website takes time, and a large portion of that time comes in after the third round of revisions (three revisions sounds like a lot, but in reality, with small changes, they add up very quickly). It feels deceptive – a quick Google search on 123 Triad scam will yield a number of unhappy customers who felt duped about the guarantee.
But what’s even worse is that when you search for “123 Triad complaints,” “123 Triad Reviews” and such, you get a number of results that are (surprise!) owned and operated by 123 Triad that showcase some of their best testimonials. Wow. So much for third-party reviews.
When you avoid the sites owned by 123 Triad, you find some pretty awful reviews from dissatisfied customers – this CNET forum post is particularly telling, complaints include:
- Being charged without having any work completed
- Outsourced work with poor grammar/misspellings
- Customer service issues
Now – take these posts with a grain of salt. When a company gets large enough, there will always be a certain number of inconsolable clients – but still, these reviews are troubling.
Now, I’m not one to believe in “getting what you pay for” – my entire business is run around the fact that we can provide high-quality websites at far lower prices than our competition, but in the case of 123 Triad, the adage really might be true. Their work is clearly outsourced overseas, which nearly always results in numerous grammatical mistakes. Creating an effective, sales-generating website is an incredibly difficult art form, and it requires a full mastery of the culture you’re selling to, as well as the language you’re selling in, which makes copywriting and certain elements of the web design process much harder for those who speak English as a second language (could you make a website in another language?).
Also – (and this is entirely my subjective opinion) the quality of the design is extremely poor. Technically, 123 Triad is making custom designs, but it is clear that they’re spending very little time creating them, and even less time customizing them for their clients.
The bottom line:
Not the worst company around, but far, far from the best. If you’re looking for a site that will turn a profit, look somewhere else…