Finding Help: How to Hire A Good Web Designer

This is an article in the Website ClickStart: Simplifying the Steps to Creating Your First Website series. This plain English series is written for regular people (not web programmers or rocket scientists) who need to create their first business website.

Making a good first impression on the web is critical to online business success. Therefore it pays to have a professional design your website for you, especially if you don’t have a good eye for design.

Hiring a web designer can be daunting–What if I don’t like the design? What if I don’t know what I want? Where do I even begin?–these are some of the concerns that we’ll try to address in this article.

Where to Find Good Designers

The first step to hiring a web designer is find a few of them. Here are some places to begin looking:

1. Referrals. Referrals are your safest bet for finding good web designers. Ask your friends and family if they know any. You should also pose the question to your social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

2. Search engines. You can also go directly to search engines to find web designers online. Use search terms like ‘[your city] web design’ to find results close to your location.

3. Directories. Directories are sites which list individuals or companies who provide web design services. It’s best to only search specialized directories, e.g. CodePoet for WordPress professionals or the ExpressionEngine Pro Network.

4. Freelance job sites. Finally you can also browse sites like Elance or Odesk to find freelancers with the skills you need.

Shortlist Candidates

After coming up with a list of potential web designers to hire, shortlist them by asking the following questions.

Do they have a portfolio? Look through their portfolio to get a sense of the designer’s style and types of projects that he has experience with. Shortlist those who’s work appeals to you.

What’s their speciality? Not all web designers are equal. Some will be more skilled in graphic design, while some may be stronger in the development (programming)side. The designer you choose should be able to do a bit of both, and hopefully has experience in marketing too.

What’s their reputation like? Look for testimonials on the designers website. Also try to find their Facebook page or Twitter account to see how many followers they have. These give you a sense of how well-respected that individual is by his peers.

Are the websites they built listed in search engines? Ideally you want your designer to be well-versed in search engine optimization as well. Search for a few of the designers’ recent projects in Google. You’ll know that they have enough SEO knowledge if their projects show in the rankings.

Submit a Request for Quotation and Job Brief

Narrow your shortlist to about 5 candidates or less. It’s time to contact them about your project. Contact the designer and provide him with a short brief of your project. This will ensure that the designer has all the necessary information to provide you a quotation. Your brief should contain:

  1. Background of your business
  2. Your website goals and audience
  3. Specific deliverables of the project
  4. Example of website designs that you like
  5. Your budget
  6. Your deadline
  7. Your contact details

A word on deliverables

It is important to let the designer know the deliverables that you expect from him for the project. Examples of deliverables include:

  • Assets or goods, e.g. “Website logo and branding” or “Custom WordPress theme”.
  • Description of website functionality, e.g. “A website homepage that displays 3 products in a slider format, which I can update myself.”
  • A desired outcome, e.g. “Visitors must be able to find my website through search engines.”

Selecting Your Designer

Hopefully, all of the designers you contact will get back to you. Take note of the following to make your decision.

Timeliness of response – designers who don’t respond within 2 business days should set off warning bells

Language skills – If ur dezigner responding like tis, or doesn’t speak the same language as you, you should drop him from your shortlist.

Client liaison – bonus points for your designer if he has a questionnaire for new clients and / or he takes the time to explain his design process to you. These are signs that you are dealing with a seasoned professional.

Project terms – the designer should provide you 1-2 rounds of design options or revisions so that you can provide feedback and tweak their design. Be sure to have this expectation upfront.

Payment terms – Expect to pay $1,500 onwards to work with a professional designer. Make sure that you are clear about the payment terms and schedule.

If you followed the steps above, you should now have found a capable professional to design your website. Admittedly it’s quite a bit of work selecting a web designer, but it is time well spent to ensure that the website he designs achieves your goals and looks and functions the way you want.

Final Thought: Do You Really Need A Designer?

Before we part ways, I want you to carefully consider if you really need a professional designer for your first website. Hiring a designer is a significant investment which can turn out less than satisfactory if you’re not ready for it.

Take some time to consider some DIY alternatives, or stock website templates. If you are building your website on WordPress, there are lots of professional themes that you can consider from WooThemes, iThemes or Headway Themes.

Next Actions

  1. Investigate the DIY alternatives above. Verify that you really need a professional designer.
  2. If you do need custom branding or functionality for your website, then begin searching for a web designer following the steps above.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

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