Having a great website is a basic essential for most businesses these days, whether it exists to provide information, manage appointments and bookings, or showcase goods and make sales. Although how you would define ‘great’ may depend on personal preferences, at the very least it needs to load fast, be easy to navigate with clear signposts, and of course have relevant and engaging content.
Getting it right is crucial if you want browsers to both find and engage with you, so whether you are looking to set up your first website, or to spruce up an existing site which is out of date and/or under-performing, the best route to take starts with you hiring a talented web designer.
It’s important to take your time when looking for the person who can bring your visions of the perfect website to life, so do some research and planning and use our handy tips below on what to consider before making that final hiring decision.
Individual or agency?
Sometimes you may need to use both. It’s not unusual to employ freelance specialists for some aspects of a job and have an agency deal with the remaining work. The only drawback is that maintaining communication and managing timetables between several parties can be a headache.
Do they have experience in or knowledge of your area of expertise?
People who browse the web may not know exactly what they want but they tend to know quite clearly what they don’t! Whatever area your website covers it will have a target market, and the most suitable web designers for you will be able to identify their needs and meet them in an engaging way.
To do this they obviously need to understand what you do or sell, so even if they never worked on a website like it before they do at least need to have informal experience to bring to the table.
Do you know what you want? Can they offer advice?
This follows on from the first point to some extent, as if you are looking for input and advice on how to structure your site the designer needs to understand what will appeal to the target audience. However, you may have some ideas of your own, and they should be able to advise if these are unrealistic or unworkable.
Can they meet your timescale?
Always check what kind of time period a web designer will need to work on your site. Ideally get an agreed date in writing when you have made a final decision about who to hire. The last thing you want to deal with are endless delays which hold up your launch or re-launch of the website because your designer is juggling dozens of clients at the same time and unable to keep up.
What experience do they have?
In some ways this is more important than paper qualifications, (although of course they are always welcome), as many highly skilled web designers are self-taught. However, you do need to consider what experience they do actually have, and to see some of that work in action on the web.
Ask for a portfolio of work, or examples of other web design projects they have been involved with. (It is also a good idea to cross-check some of these examples with the site owner, just to be sure that the site you see is the final product delivered by the web designer you are interested in working with.)
Do they have any online reviews?
An established web designer will have their own site, and perhaps a Facebook page too. Run a Google search of their name (or business name) and ‘reviews’ to source any reviews lurking around the Internet.
Where are they based?
There’s nothing wrong with working exclusively online with a web designer, but it helps if they speak (and understand) the same language as you. Cultural and language differences can lead to misunderstandings at times. Their time zone also matters if regular real time communication is necessary.
How will you communicate?
Some people prefer to do everything by chat or email, others like to talk in person. It doesn’t matter how you communicate with a web designer so long as you both agree on the best way to do it.
What is their work process?
Some web designers may expect to be in touch with you almost constantly, checking every detail carefully, others may send updates at regular, agreed, intervals, or even to maintain radio silence until they are done. The question is how much do you want to be involved? At which points? It’s rarely wise to see nothing until the final result is revealed, unless you have the time and the opportunity to start tinkering with anything you don’t like.
How much aftercare is included?
Don’t be that horror story of the website owner who paid good money for a website but got absolutely no follow up work if needed. Be clear about exactly what happens once the end product is delivered. Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect a web designer to make changes simply because you decide it needs non-essential changes, but they should be prepared to fix anything which is broken or missing, without asking for extra payment.
Do you have the budget to work with them?
Unless you have access to an unlimited amount of cash you may prefer to negotiate a set price for the entire job, rather than pay per hour and have less control over the final total. However, make sure you are clear in the contract about how delays on their side, or work which needs to be redone will be handled within this budget.
It may seem like there’s an awful lot to think about when looking for a web designer, and to be fair, there is. But it’s not a decision to make lightly if you want your website to be worthwhile in the long term.
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