How to choose a web designer you’ll love
Finding and choosing the right web designer doesn’t have to be a painful process. I’ve been on both the client and business side of web design and I’m very familiar with the struggle. Keep reading for 7 essential steps to follow when hiring and selecting your next web design pro.
BEFORE YOU REACH OUT TO A DEVELOPER/DESIGNER
STEP 1: Get Organized
I teach a class “Website in a Week” and I always begin the first class with the phrase…”Content comes before design.” My students are always ready to get in and start designing, picking colors, and thinking about logos.
But design can only come after you’ve thought through your content, mapped out your pages, and conducted a content audit.
Before you reach out to a designer, make sure you go through these items:
A. Determine the type of site that you need. Do you need a blog, a one-pager for your app, a landing page, a 5-page business brochure site, a membership site, an e-commerce store or some other style? Here are some examples:
- 5-page brochure site :http://www.buildandgrowharlem.com/
- Blog style: http://www.blacktravelhackers.com/
- E-commerce site: http://www.shopchildish.com/
- App info site: http://sworkit.com/
B. Conduct a quick content assessment: What pages do you need on your website? What has to be on the homepage? This article from Websites for small businesses provides a list of essential pages you’ll need for your site: (HERE)
Note: If this a site re-design use your analytics to guide you. What pages are accessed the most on your current site? How long did users stay on those pages? What’s the general path users took after they landed on your site? What’s your bounce rate?
C. Do you need a custom or semi-custom website?: Do you dream of a website that’s 100% custom? Over the years I’ve found that most businesses do not need a custom site and that template, or theme, will do the trick. The biggest pro to a custom website is that it is unique, however, you can also create a unique internet space with a theme site by using custom photographs, content, and with some modifications to the style sheet. (Example of a Custom website) (Example of a semi-custom website)
D. How much dynamic and static content will be on the site?: Will there be any content on the site that must be changed daily, weekly or monthly? Dynamic content is a page that is changed frequently, for example, a blog post. A static content example is an ‘about us’ page; you will hardly ever change that page.
E. Determine your integrations: Will you need a payment portal, donation portal, newsletter add-on, forms, video embedding, private members area, locked pages, membership login? What are the extra elements that your site will need?
STEP 2: Set your budget and Research
I’ve been involved in some web design projects that cost $2,000 and others that cost $40,000. Every web design client and project is unique. Set your budget based on what you can afford and the amount of the customizations that you will need. Be mindful that the more customizations, the higher the price.
To help you establish your budget, create a swipe inspo file. Go and research 5 websites that will inspire your design. Reach out to 2–3 of the web owners and ask how much they spent for their site.
If you need additional help in getting your web inspiration juices flowing check out this article: http://www.awwwards.com/6-web-design-trends-you-must-know-for-2015-2016.html
Did you know: if you find a site you like, you can check out their source code to see a) what it’s built with b) if it’s a custom site: Just follow these quick steps
- Navigate to the site
- Scroll down the page. Right click → View page source
- At the top of the site you’ll see something like “This is Squarespace” or wp-content/themes/presence/ or static.wixstatic…
STEP 3: Determine if you can D-I-Y
Do you really need a web designer?
Can you create it yourself? Answer: Yes
Every few months I teach budding entrepreneurs and bloggers how to create their own websites. In just a week these students learn how to create their own semi-custom website using a web builder (wordpress, squarespace, wix, etc).
If your budget is small, you only need a few pages on your site, and microsoft office suite, google docs, wufoo forms and canva don’t scare you…you are more than capable of creating your own basic site. Checkout Squarespace and their tutorials, set-up a wordpress theme, or stay in the know about when my next class launches.
Can you create it yourself? Answer: No.
Then keep reading.
STEP 4: Set up an RFP Process
This is the step where your research will come in handy. Toggle back to the swipe file of your ‘‘inspo sites’ and look in the footer of those websites. If there is a “designed by link” click that link and you’ll be sent directly to the web designer’s page. Be proactive and send a quick note to the designer that you like their work and you would love if they sent over a proposal. I’ve found one of my top and most dedicated developers by using this trick.
Step 5: Let your friends and networks know you’re looking for a designer
Referrals are the key to my business.
If reaching out directly to designers doesn’t work, be sure to let your friends and networks know. Also, to expand your pool or options post to places like,
- Upwork.com, also be sure to
- Email your contacts
- Post your need to social media
- Post your RFP on LinkedIn
STEP 6: Begin the interview process
After you’ve completed your RFP process, narrow your submissions down to your top 3
Reach out to your top candidates. Before your interviews decide on the factors for your selection. Will you select your designer based on price, previous projects, the size of thecompany? What’s important to you? Location?
Set up a grid using google sheets to record your submissions (example below)
SAMPLE SELECTION QUESTIONS:
- LENGTH OF PROJECT: How much time would a project or your size take?
- RESPONSIVE: Do they design responsive websites? Websites have to work on all devices. Be sure they can provide examples of this.
- CONTENT STRATEGY: Will they help you think through the most optimal content strategy for the site and the scalability of the site as it grows?
- EASY CHANGES: Do they design with content management systems? If so, which ones?
- TRAINING: How will you learn how to update your new website? Will they offer a tutorial, worksheet? Or will changes have to be filtered through the web designer? (Note: you need to be able to make simple changes to your site and a content management system will do the trick. Never get a site made without a CMS)
- TECHNICAL BUGS: How do they handle bugs or technical glitches once the site is finished? Do they offer maintenance packages?
- CONTENT MIGRATION: If you previously had a site, how will they assist in migrating the content? Will you have to move the content over yourself?
- REVISIONS: A great web designer/developer will put a limit on the number of revisions offered. While ‘unlimited revisions’ seems tempting, it’s actually a time suck that keeps you away from your end goal — a finished website. Establish boundaries on revisions at the outset.
- HOW TO PAY: Get clarity on the payment schedule and be sure not to agree to pay more than 50% upfront as a deposit. I personally like a 50/25/25 ratio for payment.
- BILLING: Do they bill by the hour or per project? Billing by the hour can get out of hand, negotiate to get the cost by the project if the designer doesn’t offer that.
- COMMUNICATION: To minimize ghosting, determine what hours they’re open. How do they prefer to be communicated with? Some designers are email only, others schedule weekly calls. How would you prefer to be communicated with? Does do your communication styles fit?
- INTEGRATIONS: Are they comfortable with the integrations you’ve outlined? Do they have experience with them?
- SIZE OF COMPANY: Are they a one-person shop? Are they a freelancer? How are projects handled? One at a time or multiple? The purpose of this question is to determine their overall availability and to manage your communications expectations.
- WORK IN PROGRESS: Will you have access to the website while it is in development or will you only see mock-ups? How will you see it as the project progresses?
- PORTFOLIO: Discuss their portfolio. Ask for a referral from one of their previous clients.
- PROJECT MANAGEMENT: This is, perhaps, the most important question. How do they manage the bits and pieces of projects? Are they using project management software? What’s their process for getting content they need from the client? If they say they ‘do everything through email’, run away from them FAST. A top notch web designer will have a system in place to manage the totality of projects and to keep both of you on track and meeting deliverables.
Once a project has started I never use email for project communications (unless it’s an emergency). Instead, I centralize all communication to Basecamp.com. Now, almost all clients have pushed back on using project management software, initially, instead of email. But once things kick off and there are checklists, the deliverables and timelines flying they understand why email is bad for managing projects.
Step 7: After designer is chosen // Kick-off Call
- TIMELINES: Your timeline should be clearly articulated in your contract. From the designers end, they should outline what happens when YOU/your company don’t meet deadlines and what happens when THEY don’t meet deadlines, and how that will be communicated. This is important because I’ve had clients go ghost midway through the project, and I’ve had to pull their project. Be sure not to be a bad client, communicate if things are changing.
- DELIVERABLES: The designer will need something from you. It could be logos, written content, pictures. Make sure you understand how to get it to them and the tools they are using to collect the content (dropbox, google drive, etc).
- COMMUNICATION: How often will you communicate? Will it only be via email, text message, your project management system, a weekly status call or skype? You both should understand the standard time frame for follow-ups in the kickoff meeting. I always put in the contract that I have within 24–36 to respond to request. This helps to manage client expectations. Understand fully how long you both have to respond to each other’s requests.
STEP 8: Your project is complete!
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