Hiring a website designer can be tricky for business owners.
Sure, searching in Google for “ web designer near me” will pull up millions of results.
But hiring a web designer and hiring a good web designer are two different things.
To help you avoid wasting money and time, I’m going to take you through the whole process of hiring a web designer.
I’ve worked with hundreds of small business owners who have told me horrible stories about working with web designers.
They’ve told me about web designers who didn’t meet deadlines. Web designers who were slow about responding to emails and calls or who took forever to build a website.
This is sad.
A website plays a vital role in your company’s online presence and can often be the deciding factor for leads who are researching their options.
In fact, here are 3 research-backed reasons that highlight the importance of good website design:
Basically, you should hire a website designer that can help you make a great first impression on leads by positioning your company as the more modern, professional-looking option in your industry.
A good website designer is also able to help you with search engine optimization.
While there are a lot of components to a great SEO strategy, design plays a critical role in factors that impact user experience (UX).
For example, website design affects how fast your site loads and how it appears on mobile devices. Good design also impacts site navigation, layout, and other aspects of UX.
So, how do you choose a designer that actually knows what they’re talking about?
Well, it’s best to start by creating a website brief for your website designer.
It's easier to choose a designer if you can clearly describe the kind of website you want for your business.
This is where a website brief comes in…
To make sure your project is successful, here’s what you should include in your website brief:
In the first part of your website brief, clearly describe your company and its products and services. It’s important to realize that your website designer won’t know as much as you do about your industry or company.
This means that you need to describe your services in a way that they will understand, without letting jargon or industry buzzwords get in the way.
Also, be sure to list specific reasons why you’re better than your competitors. These reasons comprise your company’s unique selling points (USP) or unique value proposition (UVP).
A good website will present your unique value proposition in a way that tells leads why they should buy your services or products instead of your competitor’s.
Every website has a specific target audience. Defining your target audience is critical because it impacts the design style of your website, the words and messaging used in your website copy, and how you measure your website’s performance.
For example, a company selling products online would prioritize online sales. On the other hand, a food blogger would mainly want to get more email subscribers or shares on social media. Once you understand your target audience, you’ll be able to determine your goals for your website.
Your website should do more than look nice: it should perform. Depending on your goals for your website, the metrics you use to track its success will vary.
Some common goals for a website project include:
Websites can be a great source of leads since approximately 97% of customers use the internet to learn more about local businesses. Additionally, if you rely on referral business, it’s worth knowing that nearly 57% of online users won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed website.
Involved in paid advertising? When you use paid social media advertising, the quality and speed of your landing page are critical to a good conversion rate. Google AdWords even determines your Quality Score based on the quality of your landing page, which, of course, depends on the quality of your website.
What features or functions do you want your website to have? That’s the focus of this question and it’s very important since it can be a dealbreaker (or deal maker) for the website designer you choose to help you.
Some examples of technical requirements for your website project would include:
Try to nail down what types of pages you need for your website. Often, new clients will ask me, “How many pages should my website have on it?.”
While there are different types of web pages, most businesses can have a successful website with the following pages:
Home page: Your homepage should introduce your company, your services, and your unique value proposition. This page should link to all of the main pages of your website.
About page: This page should tell people about your company’s background, mission, and staff members. Make sure you tie everything back to how it helps your customers.
Contact page: This web page should give people a way to contact you. Office locations, contact forms, and driving directions (if necessary) should all be included on this page.
Services page: It’s best to dedicate a page (or pages) to explaining your services for your customers. It’s best to eliminate any jargon so your services are easy to understand for your customers.
Projects (or Testimonials): Although this page goes by different names, the idea is the same: show people proof of your work. Whether it’s customer reviews or past projects, this page helps you prove your expertise and abilities.
Frequently Asked Questions: If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve noticed some common questions. This page lets you give answers to common customer questions and cut down on the time you spend answering them.
Privacy page: A privacy page tells people what information you collect from cookies and analytics. It also describes how you use that information.
404 page: If you’ve ever encountered a broken link or “Page not found” error on a website, you’ve seen a 404 page. It lets people know that a page or resource was moved. This is one page that you don’t want people to see often.
Here are some additional pages or features to consider adding to your website:
An online store: This feature is best for companies who want to use their website to sell products or branded merchandise directly to customers.
A company blog: Having a company blog is a great way to tell people about your services and company. In fact, it’s one of the first ways you can step into the world of content marketing.
Press page: If your company is frequently featured in industry publications, newspapers, or on television, a Press page is worth considering. You can display your brand’s press mentions in one place and provide reporters with important media contact information and a press kit.
Careers page: You can use online job boards to advertise job openings within your company. Larger companies have web pages that tell job applicants what positions are available and how to apply for them.
Events page: If your company frequently sponsors or hosts community events, it may be a good idea to gather that information into a page on your website. This lets potential customers learn more about your company and builds their trust in your brand.
Landing page: If you’re interested in targeting customers in a specific zip code or industry, a landing page is a great way to do it.
There are many different styles of design that can be used on your website. While you may be tempted to leave any design choices up to the designer, this forces a web designer or UX designer to guess at what you want.
Most companies looking for website design inspiration will list out their competitors or other websites they’ve seen online. This is a great idea, but it’s important to be clear about what you like and don’t like for the websites you provide.
Besides providing website links, it’s helpful to know the meanings of website design styles so you can communicate with your web designer.
Here are some common website design styles:
Providing beautiful tents to Londoners for a luxurious camping adventure, Pitch uses illustrative design to convey its classy, adventurous spirit to customers.
Using hand-drawn illustrations and cartoonish shapes and persons on your website is a great way to convey complex or abstract information to website visitors.
This type of design is often used by company brands that are built on creativity or playfulness. In the last couple of years, it’s also become more common among software companies.
Based in South London, full-time photographer Katharine Peachey uses a minimalist website design to accentuate her photography. Her website has just the right balance of text and images to immediately tell her target audience what she does. With no distracting elements, people are free to browse Katharine’s portfolio and contact her if they’d like to work with her.
Minimalist website design focuses on removing unnecessary elements and text from the website, so visitors can focus on the content. Although these websites are usually black and white, they can also incorporate other colors.
Although the minimalist design style can be used in nearly all industries, minimalist design is commonly seen on sites with e-commerce stores, portfolio websites, and some marketing agency websites.
Characteristics of minimalist design include:
Sweet Magnolia uses texture and kitchen-inspired illustrations to tell people about its gelato. Their About page even features an interactive illustration about their company’s origins.
Using textures and patterns in your website design is a good way to add depth or context. There are various ways to incorporate textures and patterns in your website, as shown on Simply Chocolate’s website.
Simply Chocolate is a chocolate-focused company that makes healthy yet tasty products for health-conscious consumers. Using a lot of product photography, textures, and colored backgrounds lets them tell people about their chocolate in a way that communicates their company culture.
You can use pictures and images on your website to introduce people to your staff or to highlight the best features of your product.
Displaying photos of you, your company, and your services helps you establish your company’s brand and visually connect with your customers. Whether you sell a product or want to visually engage website visitors, having good photos on your website is a great idea.
According to Website Builder Expert, most website designers charge by the hour, typically about $75 per hour.
A website generally costs between $500 and $7,000 or higher. The cost can vary depending on the complexity of the project, the number of pages for your website, as well as any additional services you might need, like copywriting or graphic design.
Determining your website budget before you search for a website designer will help you filter out possible designers who are beyond your price range.
When you decide to hire someone to design and develop your website, it’s easy (and common) to focus only on the website design itself. However, there are many other services that will help your website be successful.
Additional services that complement a great website design include:
Thanks to modern technology, there are multiple website builders available that let you create a great website using a template or predefined layout. Popular website builders like Wix provide a cheap option for businesses who just need a basic website and aren’t concerned about SEO.
You should use a website builder if you don’t have the budget to hire a professional website designer. For example, if you are starting a new business, using a website builder will help you quickly get up and running without breaking your budget on a custom website design.
Some popular website builders include:
If you decide to use a website builder, make sure to read the fine print since many platforms make you give up ownership of your website.
Often, people use the terms “website designer” and “website developer” interchangeably. However, these two roles are different from each other and knowing the differences between them will help you make sure you hire the perfect person for your web project.
A web designer creates website mockups and graphic designs for use online. The job of a website designer is to create website mockups and graphic designs that look great on the various screen sizes of computers, smartphones, and tablets.
Website designers typically don’t code the website at all. Web designers are primarily concerned with user experience, typography choice, and other visual and design elements.
Typically, website agencies will employ both web designers and web developers so they can work with clients from website design to the website launch.
If you don’t have the time to build your own website, hiring a website design expert is the next step.
As you look online, you’ll come across web design agencies and freelance designers who both seem to have the skills you need for your website project.
But web design agencies and freelance web designers offer different benefits and drawbacks that can make a big difference in your experience throughout the web design project and its results.
There are two main advantages to hiring a freelance designer: cost and flexibility.
Since freelancers can set their own rates, working with a freelance website designer can cost you less than if you hired a web design agency.
If you need a budget-friendly option, a freelancer may be worth considering for your project.
Since freelancers are one-person shows, they can set and adjust their schedules more flexibly than a typical web design agency.
If you want to work with someone on a one-to-one basis, a typical web design agency may not be the best fit for you. After all, most agency owners delegate client interactions to an account manager, rather than doing it themselves.
There are two main drawbacks to hiring a freelance designer: accountability and capacity.
When hiring anyone, you most likely have one major concern: accountability. Specifically, you want to hire someone that’s reliable, experienced, and well-respected in their community or industry.
If you hire a freelancing website designer, you risk choosing an amateur who may not be skilled enough for your project. In contrast, a web design agency has to support a team which means they’re more inclined to hold themselves responsible for delivering a top-notch website.
When you hire a freelancer, you depend on one person to handle your website project from beginning to end.
On the other hand, hiring an agency gives you an entire team of experienced designers, developers, and managers to handle your project. This ensures that if something happens to one team member, your website project will still be completed on time.
There are two primary advantages to choosing a web design agency: experience and credibility.
While freelancers may get involved in a variety of projects, hiring a web design agency gives you access to a team of graphic designers, website developers, and SEO professionals, and more. Often, these professionals have been in their respective field for many years, meaning you’ll get well-informed insights and advice from them throughout your web project.
Freelance designers can work on their own terms and may not be as tied to completing a website project as a web design agency. This is because a web design agency is often more established within their city and community, which means that they'll be more inclined to produce work that upholds their great reputation.
There are two main drawbacks to hiring a web design agency: larger investment and slow-moving bureaucracy.
Working with a web design agency, you’ll usually need to invest more than if you’d hired a solo website designer. This is because agencies typically bring multiple branches of expertise to your website, including user experience (known as UX), search engine optimization (SEO), marketing expertise, and more.
Having access to an expert team of web designers, web developers, copywriters, and other marketing professionals can provide immense value throughout your website project. However, working with a large agency also means that decisions and deliverables will need to pass through many more hands than with a smaller agency or freelancer.
This can cause website projects to drag on for months or even years. If your company is hierarchical as well, this may not be a problem. But smaller businesses or solopreneurs may find their patience wearing thin as the project progresses.
When you’re looking for the best designer to build your site, you should look at online reviews and testimonials, browse each designer’s portfolio, and research the payment and contract details.
When you’re searching for a web designer, check out the number and quality of their online reviews. Testimonials and reviews let you get a glimpse of a designer’s quality of design work, how reliable they are, and their overall reputation online.
If there are negative reviews, it’s a good idea to read the top reasons why past customers were concerned. Most credible companies who are active online will respond to bad reviews online to apologize or offer a solution or explanation.
Reading through a company’s responses to good and bad reviews can help you learn how the company deals with negative customer feedback.
It’s true that you can’t please everyone, but if you spot recurring themes, it may be a red flag that you shouldn’t hire that web designer or agency.
So where should you look for a website designer or web design agency?
Well, the first place to start looking for a website designer is with your friends, family, and business partners.
If anyone in your circle of friends and family has had a great experience with a specific website designer, it might be worth hiring them for your own project.
However, as you get recommendations, make sure that the website designer is experienced. Many times, I’ve had clients hire my web design agency to redesign a website that was designed by a friend as a favor.
In addition to asking family, friends, and business partners, here are a couple of review platforms to search for a great website designer or web design agency:
As you search in Google, local options will appear with the designer’s number and quality of reviews.
A fast-growing platform to find high-quality, US-based service providers, UpCity lets you search for local and national service companies based on ratings, testimonials, and services offered.
Each review and testimonial is rigorously vetted to prevent fake reviews or reviews from competitors. You can find their 2020 National Excellence Winners here. If you’re in Fresno, California, you can find the top web designers for Fresno, CA here.
As a global freelancing platform, Upwork lets you search for website designers in any city, region, or country. If you don’t mind working with someone virtually, this can provide you with many more choices for a website designer.
Designed to speed up the process of finding freelancers and contractors, Fiverr offers budget-friendly rates for having freelancers complete specific, one-time projects. While Fiverr does have ratings, and you can filter by country.
Though similar to Upwork, 99designs is an online marketplace that exclusively features freelancers who create logos, graphic designs, and websites. You can either work directly with a designer or create a contest and accept submissions from multiple web designers.
While not as well known as Upwork or 99designs, Toptal is another online marketplace that lets you browse freelancers who offer various services, including web design. Toptal boasts a rigorous screening process, which it says eliminates 97% of its marketplace applicants.
For business owners, it can be challenging to know the difference between a good web design portfolio and a bad one. When you’re hiring a website designer, it’s best to determine whether their portfolio matches the style you want for your new website.
Some designers focus on designing for companies in only one industry while others design for companies in any industry. This can be good or bad, depending on your needs.
Your business is unique. Your web designer should understand that and design a website that meets your specific needs.
Asking web designers this question may unfortunately get you vague answers. This is mostly because most agencies and freelancers charge for websites based on hourly rates.
This is a legitimate pricing model that works well for website designers, but it can make it hard for you to nail down a specific price as you search for someone to help you with your website project.
A typical web agency or designer will ask you some questions about your website project, then send you a proposal. Or, they may have monthly website management plans that include website design services.
Either way, getting a clear idea of the cost at the onset will help you quickly rule out designers that are too cheap or too expensive for your website project budget.
Next to payment and experience, asking about the website quality and build process is critical before working with a web designer.
Before you put any money down, you should be confident that you are paying for a well-designed website that will help you achieve your business goals.
Looking at a web developer’s past website projects can give you an idea of their quality. But asking the web developer directly about their design process and website quality will give you a better idea of whether you’re working with a professional designer or an amateur.
When you’re choosing a designer to build your website, it’s vital to make sure that they have experience with your type of project beforehand.
For example, if you want to let website visitors register for events on your website, ask your designer to show you examples of websites they’ve developed with a booking and registration feature.
Even if a web developer doesn’t have experience with building a specific integration or feature, a professional will be able to walk you through how they’d research and build that feature into your website.
Even perfect websites need to be updated as your business changes and grows. Most agencies will require hefty invoices for small changes and website updates. Other agencies will insist that you handle any post-launch website changes yourself.
At AMARQUEZ, we handle website design, website updates & changes, and search engine optimization for one flat monthly fee. This makes us a great option for companies who want a long-term partner to handle their website support and optimization.
Ultimately, your website needs to work. Even a pretty website is worthless if it doesn't help you rank online or persuade leads to contact you or buy from you.
Talking to your web designer about how results are tracked can help you determine whether they really understand your needs for your online marketing.
Now that you’ve learned how to choose the right web designer for your project, it’s time to get out there and find a web designer who’s as committed to your online success as you are. Then, you’ll be ready to start transforming your company’s online presence.