Getting a website for your business can be scary. There’s so much to think about, like what the heck is a domain name, do I need one, and how do I get one? Finding a web designer to work with can be just as scary.
But when you choose the right web designer, you get someone who’ll help guide you through the process, so you don’t have to be scared. They’ll be able to answer your questions and reassure you about things like hosting and domain names. And they’ll give you a website you love and that works for you and your customers.
With so many designers out there, how do you choose the right one?
1. Know what you need
The first thing you need to do is figure out what you need from your new site.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to get all technical and go into minute detail. But you do need to know what kind of site you need. Are you looking for a simple brochure style site to raise brand awareness and provide information about your services? Or do you need an all singing, all dancing e-commerce site? Or maybe community is your thing and you need a membership site.
Some designers won’t touch things like e-commerce or membership sites, while other designers specialise in things like that. So it’d be really helpful to have a rough idea of what kind of functionality you’ll need.
If you have any preference of what kind of software your site runs on, that’s something to think about too. Maybe your current site is built on WordPress and for your redesign you need someone familiar with that platform.
Or maybe your heart is set on getting a Squarespace site because you’ve heard good things about that. Or maybe you want to use Weebly or Wix because you’ve used them before and don’t want to learn how to use something else.
Some designers work with multiple platforms and if you’re unsure, they can help you decide what’ll be best for your site.
But other designers specialise in just one platform. So if you know you want a Squarespace site, there’s no point hiring a WordPress specialist. You’ll get better results if you find someone who specialises in Squarespace sites.
Need some help figuring out what you need from your new site? Check out this handy guide and free worksheet.
2. Ask for recommendations
Now that you’ve got a rough idea what you’re looking for, ask around for recommendations. If you know people who’ve recently got amazing new sites, ask who they worked with. If they were happy with the service they’ll likely be more than happy to recommend their designer to you.
Or you could ask in place like Facebook groups, or on LinkedIn. If you have specific requirements, be sure to mention them so you get the most relevant recommendations. For example, if you’re looking for a WordPress designer who specialises in membership sites, include that in your ask.
3. Do your homework
With your list of recommended designers, it’s best to do some extra research. Especially if the recommendations came from places like Facebook groups, where people may just be plugging their friend’s, family’s or even their own businesses, rather than telling you about designers that they have actually worked with.
The first step is to head online and look for the designer’s own website. Is it a good site? Attractive? Easy to use? Can you find the information you need?
Have a good look around. What kind of businesses does this designer work with? And what kind of sites do they create? Look for testimonials and a portfolio. If the designer tends to work with big corporations and you’re a solopreneur with a limited budget, or if you don’t really like the work in their portfolio, it’s probably best to move along.
If it all looks good and you love their work, great, they’re still in the game. Or if they don’t actually have a portfolio but you’re still keen to work with them, you could get in touch and ask for samples of their work.
You can also check out things like their Facebook page and other social media profiles, to see what people are saying about them.
4. What kind of designer are they?
Something else you need to consider is the type of designer they are.
Are they are freelancer or an agency? An agency will typically charge more as they have more overheads. But a good freelancer working on their own may be booked up several weeks, or even months, in advance, so you may need to wait longer for your site.
And how experienced are they? That’s not just the experience they have in building the type of site you need, but their overall experience too.
A fresh-faced young designer may seem cheaper but a more experienced one, who’s been running a business for a while, should give you a better experience. They should have clearly defined working processes and customer service experience so your project runs more smoothly.
5. What’s it going to cost?
Price isn’t the only thing you should consider but it is rather important. Imagine falling in love with a designer’s work, being so ready to hire them that you’re actually waving your credit card at your computer screen, only to find that you can’t possibly afford to hire them. Gutted!
People can be really shy about talking about money. You worry about insulting a designer by offering them a really low fee, or risk being taken advantage of by telling them you have a big budget. And designers want to know that you have a realistic figure in mind for the amount of work you need, so that they’ll earn a fair amount.
So check on your shortlist of designers to see if they list any prices on their site. They might have fixed packages with set prices, or they might give sample or ‘starting from’ prices to give you a rough idea of what to expect. And don’t be afraid to ask designers for a ballpark figure.
And if you have a budget don’t be afraid of telling the designer the maximum amount you can afford to invest. You can then work together to figure out how to get the best value for your budget.
You might also like: How to understand design pricing
6. What about maintenance and support?
The beauty of things like WordPress, is that once it’s built, you can totally update your new site yourself. It’s not like the days of HTML sites, where you needed to know code to make some simple changes to the content or add in an image.
Just want to change a couple of sentences, or add a blog post? No problem. You can easily do that yourself, so there’s no need to call on your designer and be sent a bill.
Unless you want to call on your designer, of course. Some people just don’t have the time to take care of these things themselves, and some people just don’t want to.
So find out what kind of support and maintenance the designers offer. Will you be able to make changes to the site yourself, if you want to? Will they train you to use it? And will they be available if you need help later?
Some designers don’t include any training, so you if you want to do something simple like add an image, you need to find a tutorial online. I can understand why they do it, so clients need to come back to them for more work, but I prefer to give my clients the choice. All my sites come with a PDF User’s Guide so my clients have the option to update the site themselves. Or they can upgrade to get an in-person training session.
And if you’ll need ongoing support, ask about maintenance packages. Although you can update your site yourself, if you’re lacking in time and/or inclination, having someone else take care of it for you can be totally worth paying for. Some designers will do ad-hoc work on your site, as and when you need it, some designers offer monthly packages and some may offer both options.
7. Talk to them
The most important part of the process is actually talking to any designer you’re considering working with.
This could be an in-person meeting, or a quick chat over the phone or Skype. But having a conversation means that you can vet each other.
By talking to each other you should get a good feel for how well you’ll work together. They should have lots of questions about your project, your business and your aims for the site. That’s a good sign that they care about the results you’ll get from the site, and that they’re not going to give you something that just looks pretty but isn’t very useful.
And it gives you a chance to ask about things like their experience and support options.
I always find that if chatting about a project over a cup of coffee feels easy, it’s a good sign for your future working relationship. But if you don’t feel comfortable when you’re chatting, how will you feel comfortable asking questions or raising any concerns you have later? And if you notice any personality clashes, consider whether you should walk away to avoid ongoing clashes and future hassle.
Fancy a coffee?
If you’re planning a new site I’d love to hear from you! You can find my work here, my services and prices here, and if you’d like to get things rolling, simply answer a few questions here, and then we’ll have a chat about your project to make sure we’ll be a good fit.
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