How to Hire a Web Designer

Anyone claiming to be a web designer should have the software and skills necessary to prepare images properly.

The question I got asked about preparing the web-ready images (see previous post) got me thinking. If this woman has already hired a designer, why does she need me to prepare her images? She’s obviously willing to pay extra for the service, so why doesn’t the designer she hired do it? The fact that she hired me at all for this service raises a big red flag about who she hired to do her site. Anyone claiming to be a web designer should have the software and skills necessary to prepare images properly.

So, as a layman, how do you know that? You’re hiring someone because they have skills that you don’t, how do you know they have the right skill set necessary for your site?

(Full disclosure here: I am a web designer and of course I would like it if you contacted me for a quote.)

Do your homework

Before you even think about hiring anyone, know what you want first. Site design is a collaborative effort. Fill out the questionnaire, get your written content together, think about how you’d like the site to flow. The more specific you can be in your planning about what you’d like to see and how you’d like it to work before you talk to anyone, the better.

Think about your budget at this point as well. Your website isn’t the only cost in your overall  marketing strategy but it is your anchor. Think in terms of what you expect your business to make. If you expect to see $50,000 in sales this year, then spending $5-10,000 on your site is an investment that will pay off. If $1000 is all that you can manage, then be honest with anyone you may hire. Talk with them about what kinds of things you can do yourself to alleviate some of the cost. If you plan correctly, you can start with something very simple and build on it later.

Before you hire anyone, it’s always good to shop around a bit.

Good places to start, beyond a basic web search:

  • – Find listed designers by city and price range
  • LinkedIn – Search for web design and your city under people or companies and you should get quite a list. The ones that are closest to your network will show up 1st.
  • Referrals from friends –  A great place to start, but you should dig deeper and get several quotes if possible.

Check them out

Things that ANY designer you’re considering should have:

  • A site of their own. (You found it useful, easy to find information and all the links worked, right?)
  • Portfolio – Their site should include this. Each site in the portfolio should have a link to the real site.
    • Do you like what you see?
    • Have they built sites that work the way you would like yours to?

Once you have gotten to a site they designed, you should be able to contact that business owner for a reference.

  • How was the designer to work with?
  • Did they provide a proposal and contract that detailed everything they would do?
  • Were they honest and responsive?
  • Did they do the work promptly and on budget?
  • Did they answer any questions that came up?
  • Were they responsive to any issues that cropped up after the site launched?
  • Did they make sure that the owner had the domain and hosting login information and that the billing was assigned to the owner?

Every designer/developer has different skill sets so it can be hard to determine if the person you’re talking to is the right fit. Again, this where close scrutiny of their portfolio and direct questions are important. At a very minimum someone will have to know HTML, CSS and possibly Javascript or PHP to get your site to the web.

  • Do they do the graphic design work and the coding?
  • If  you need complex back-end/shopping cart/database work done, will they do that or hire it out?
  • If they will use other people (and there’s nothing wrong with that), will the designer be the project manager or will you have to deal with multiple people?
  • Is all of the work necessary included in the quote?

Get it in writing

I was asked once to look at someone else’s quote. In six pages there was a lot about branding and a test “mock” site, but there on page 6, one line – “Programming is not included in this quote”. They would have spent $15,000 on a new logo, look and feel and some layout, but at the end would have had a “mock” site that didn’t work. If the designer is a great graphic artist and does no coding, make sure they are working with a developer who can code their designs and that the quote you got included everything needed from concept to launch.

A good proposal and contract should manage expectations for everyone and be very clear on the fee structure. If you’re not clear on what’s in the proposal, please get a 2nd opinion. It should be clear when and what payments are due, how many pages will be built, how the design process works for this designer.  Here’s the basics I always include:

  • Design process – mock-up first, so many revisions, approval stage
  • Construction stage – what will be coded, pages, forms etc
  • Final launch – going live as well as being clear on copyright assignments

Payment usually goes in thirds. A deposit, payment after design approval and then final at launch.

The bottom line? You want to work with someone you can communicate and build a relationship with. This is after all your business and your site.

Further References