So you've thought about long and hard about getting a new website for your business, you've had a few meetings, and you've made a convincing business case for it. Everyone involved is on board, you're personally excited, it's time for your business to have the website it deserves!
There's just one small problem though – you don't know who you're going to hire to build it. In fact, you're not even sure how to start looking.
This is a more common problem than you might think! There are thousands of web designers and development firms out there and if you don't have a lot of experience in the field, it can be difficult to know who you can rely on. Everyone has heard horror stories about web design projects that have gone completely off the rails and burned everyone involved. How do you make sure that won't happen to you?
No problem. Today we're going to go through a 5 step process of how to hire a web designer.
#1. Set a budget
Start by knowing how much you're willing to invest in a new website and be up front about it.
Often, small business owners will be slightly skittish naming a budget right off the bat. The fear is that the designer will inflate their rate to match whatever price you set, that you'll lose the ability to negotiate. This can be a concern when working with bottom feeders, but the rest of our selection process will help you avoid those off the bat. When working with a professional web designer, knowing the budget can be a quick way to match you with the right designer and right services.
#2. Create a list of features you want
Before talking to any designers, have an idea of what you are looking for. The clearer an idea you have, the easier it will be to find the right designer. Know what your business goals are for the site and what features you consider important to achieving those goals.
Take a quick tour of the internet and mark down specific elements you like. Things like design cues, document libraries, galleries, blogs, e-stores, and so on.
Be flexible about this list when talking to designer. This is a guide, not gospel. A good designer will help you pinpoint what is important and essential to have and what is superfluous, what will help you achieve those business goals and what can be set aside. This is good, you're paying them for their expertise after all, you want them to have some opinions about design!
#3 Know who will be making the content for the site
One of the big snags a lot of businesses run into when designing a new site is not fully planning who will be creating the content for the site. Some assume this is part of the designers job, but that isn't always understood on the other end. It is often possible to have the designer supply most if not all of the content, but that will also incur extra fees.
If you are going to be providing the content in-house, you need to get an early jump on it. Content is one of those things that can derail a project if left too late (finding out the content doesn't fit in the layout or looks weird, not having it ready for launch, etc), don't wait until a few days before launch to send it all to the designer.
#4 Get AT LEAST three quotes
Shop around. Approach multiple designers with your requirements and budget and see what they're offering. Important things to keep in mind is how long they predict the project will take, what kind of features they believe should be included, price, and on-going support.
Consider multiple designers before settling on one. You're never committed till you sign on the dotted line.
#5 Check their references
Don't just browse a prospective designer's portfolio and call it a day. There is more to the client-designer relationship than just a picture of a site's homepage. You want to know how they work with their clients, how they deal with potential conflict or set-backs, how responsive they are, and so on. To do that, you need to check their references.
Ask for at least three references along with their quote. If they are evasive or unable to provide them, that is a huge red-flag to simply walk away. When they do provide them, make sure to actually call and check. Yes, this can be a hassle, but one well worth the effort.
Ask their former clients if their project was completed on time and on budget, and why if not. Ask how quickly they respond to requests or queries. Did they live up to expectations? What has the post-launch support been like? A few minutes of chatting now can potentially save you days of frustration down the road.
Finding the right designer doesn't have to be frustrating guesswork. Know what you want, what you can afford, get multiple quotes, and always, ALWAYS check their references. A little homework goes a long way.