- Vanessa Rowley-Matthew
How To Choose A Website Designer For Your Business
Updated: Feb 25
Websites help businesses showcase their brand and all their brand has to offer. They should also be profitable with the perfect blend of visual appeal and visitor usability. Websites also help deliver a message explicitly crafted for a specific target audience. Messaging that can articulate a brand’s promise and build brand trust. So, hiring the right website designer is key. But, all website designers are not created equal.
Many brand guardians are figuring this out the hard way. They are learning that a crappy website will result in nothing but slow profits. And, with so many people out here creating poorly designed websites, I know you are scared — scared of getting ripped off or stuck with a design that makes you sad, so here’s my holy grail rundown of how to best go about hiring a website designer for your brand.
1. The website designer should ask you for and know what a brand strategy is.
If a website designer does not ask you for any brand guidelines, do know you are on the road to wasting money and time.
When you are not clear about your brand personality and the colors that align with that personality, you will be missing the opportunity to create a website with a greater chance of converting visitors to quality leads who understand the value you offer.
If you are excited about having your website designed more than once, please proceed with creating your website without a brand strategy.
2. The website designer should have a good-looking website.
It is okay to judge a web designer based on their website. If you visit a web designer’s site and are not impressed, you can expect your website to look the same. Now, if you feel like you don’t have an eye for design to judge, here are a few things to check for:
Does the website look outdated?
Do page elements seem too close for comfort?
Do page elements look out of alignment?
Does the website have numerous typos and broken links?
3. Don’t judge the potential quality of a website on price.
You could find website pricing guidelines, but many designers do not know that this type of research exists. However, some do know general guidelines exist but don’t care to align with them. For the most part, many designers are just trying to provide fair pricing if they are ethical. Unfortunately, this attempt to figure out pricing often leads to designers underpricing or overpricing their services. Just expect that the more reputable to company, the more you may pay for the service. Price differences would be like comparing a Michelin-star restaurant to a fast-food joint.
What you must do is work within your budget. This means that you must have a realistic budget. I know you want quality work. But, realistically, quality work will never be cheap. And if it is, someone is cutting some corners. So, penny-pinch if you want to, but it’s very likely you will be doing yourself no favors.
You may not see the value in investing more money than you want to in your brand. But going dirt cheap is what has led to a slew of bad website designers on the market. These are designers who have clients flooding social media timelines with website design horror stories.
4. Determine why there is a price difference between website designers.
There are various reasons for price differences, and you must compare them with a leveled head. A designer may be more expensive for a few reasons, including:
Having high-touch clients
Offering more website deliverables
Creating custom vs. templated website designs
To find out where the differences lie, do not be afraid to show the deliverables of one designer to another — ask why the prices are different.
Now, if you really like a designer but cannot afford them, don’t desperately go for the deal that seems too good to be true. Instead, ask the designer to scale the website design back to something in your price range. This way, you can have a website design you can build out over time with them, which is better than working with someone who will not provide your website with a solid foundation from the start.
5. Check to see if the web designer has a portfolio.
If a designer does not have a portfolio, they could be new to freelancing or consulting or do not have any good designs to show.
If the designer is new, prepare to be a guinea pig and pray they can do the job well. If they are not a good designer, best believe they will not do much better at designing your website.
And, please do not hire a company just because they list many clients but show no work. You don’t know if these clients are real or fake. You also cannot discern the scope of the actual work they performed for the client they’ve listed.
Now, if the web designer has a portfolio, see if they show variety or if their designs look very similar. If their designs look very similar, and it is what you like, by all means, contact the designer. In any event, always check portfolios before signing a contract.
6. Does the designer only compose layouts, or do they create graphic designs as well?
Technically, web designers are responsible for the computer-related aspects of a website design project. These responsibilities include:
Writing code for website functionality
Making sure the layout of a website looks well put together
The graphic designer handles visual concepts. One person can do both, or two people will need to complete your website.
If who you hire is just a website designer, you will need to hire an extra person. But, if you find someone who can provide both services, pay that one person the same way you would pay two people or close to it.
This person had to double-duty to build up both skills, and you’re paying for expertise and convenience.
7. Beware of poor customer service.
From the start, if a designer is unresponsive, has a bad attitude, or jerks you around, don’t do business with them. Also, stay away from designers that take more than 1-2 business days to get back to you.
If they are too busy or lazy to reply promptly, you can expect this when working together. Don’t expect a response on the weekends, holidays, or when the designer is on vacation. Be considerate.
Something else to be examined is the designer’s onboarding process. If a designer does not have one, you should rethink working with the designer. A designer should have a step-by-step approach to get you to your end goal of having a fabulous website design.
They should also have questionnaires and document the discussions they have with you.
8. Is your website designer in your location?
Guess what? It DOES NOT MATTER where they are located! There’s NO NEED to sit down with a website designer in person.
If you need to have a meeting, a video call or phone call should do. Creating a website is a computer-based service. Be considerate and think about travel time and costs. If you’re not willing to pay for transportation, travel time, and the meeting time, don’t make designers travel. What should matter most should be the designer’s customer service and work.
9. Your designer should give you options.
A website designer should either give you more than one design option to choose from or give you the ability to request design edits. Some designers will do both but find this all out before approving the quote or proposal.
10. Don’t expect your website designer to be your marketing agency.
You should not expect a designer to do more than website design, like content writing. Some agencies offer more than one service because they have the staff to handle the request. But, most consultants do not excel at a laundry list of marketing tactics. Instead, have an honest conversation with your designer. Learn what their strengths and weaknesses are.
11. Good designers and good clients respect deadlines and meeting times.
A website designer should provide you with a rough timeline of how long the design project will take. Just know that it can never be exact because edits will be part of the design process. So, be realistic.
Also, you, the client, often end up being the bottleneck in accomplishing the design deliverable. With this said, treat people how you want them to treat you. For example, if you don’t want a designer making you wait forever for a response, don’t make the designer wait for you. It is not only unfair but borderline abusive.
12. Your designer should offer a formal service contract for your project.
Even if you provide a deposit to start work, a designer should be clear about what you want and if they can do it for you. They should also follow up on your conversation with a service contract. The contract should outline:
Terms of the service
Who owns the domain and copyright to your website (as you should)
Graphics and content ownership (once paid for, should be all yours)
What happens in the event things go badly
Photo ownership (the photographer owns the stock photos)
And their termination policy
13. Will the designer maintain your website after the initial design?
Not every designer wants to or can manage the websites they create. In this case, you may have to find someone else to do manage or maintain your website. Whether it is another designer or a virtual assistant, you will need someone to update your website.
14. Does the designer create easy-to-maintain websites in the event they cannot, or will not, manage your site for you?
The worst stories I hear are from people who have a website but are unable to update it. Now, their business is suffering.
15. Does the designer provide original and editable source files?
Source files will help you to make website changes in the future without any problems. And you don’t want problems.
This wraps up the 15 things you should consider before hiring a freelance website designer.
Now, let’s get more personal. Lastly, think about how you feel after talking to the designer.
Do you feel like you can have a good rapport with them?
Do they seem comfortable discussing their expertise?
Was the initial conversation productive?
Can they turn the design around by the time you want it?
I hope you like the bonus questions. All I want is for you to be armed with the information you need to make the best buying decision. No one wants a headache, only a smooth design process.