You know you need a new website. Maybe your website is outdated, frustrating to update, no longer fits your business, makes customers complain, or is declining in performance. These are all common signs it is time for a website redesign.
Once you have recognized a need, what do you do next?
6 Steps to Hire a Website Designer
Follow these 6 steps to find the right website designer for your business.
#1 Outline Your Needs & Budget
To get started, outline what you like about your website versus what you would like to change. Then, define what functionality you need. Is it an informational website, a website with a product catalog, an online store, or a directory? Do you just need a contact form, or do you also need an employment application or volunteer application?
On a piece of paper, draw a table with a column labeled “Likes” and another column labeled “Dislikes.” Write your thoughts down and then ask a friend, coworker, employee, customer, etc. for their thoughts and add to your list. Create another label for “Necessities” or “Specifications” and outline your “must-haves” for the new website.
Lastly, identify a reasonable budget you can afford. You don’t want to stretch yourself to thin. Starting with a budget range is a great way to find designers who fit your project. You don’t want to find the perfect designer, get all excited, and realize they are way out of your price range. You can save yourself time by being upfront with this. Who knows, you might just contact a website designer who is out of your budget but can refer you to a good contact in the industry who fits your budget.
#2 Research & Search for Inspiration
Why reinvent the wheel when there are plenty of examples to inspire you? Look at a few competitors’ websites, revisit your favorite websites, or do a google search to browse other websites for inspiration. Example websites can help you identify what look you are going for, what looks modern, what feels user friendly and intuitive and may generate ideas for new pages or content.
#3 Identify a List of Potential Website Designers
To identify a list of potential website designers, you have a few options:
- Search Google for website designers in your local area
- Revisit your networking groups
- Check out who is in your local Chamber of Commerce
- Ask a fellow business owner or networker for a referral
- Visit your favorite websites and scroll to the very bottom to see if a designer’s name is listed
- Create a Request for Proposals (RFP) to share with your network and see who is referred and/or responds.
Once you have checked these six sources, you will likely have a list of 5-10 providers.
#4 Qualify the Potential Website Designers & Narrow Your List
Now, narrow down the list by visiting the designer’s website and other online channels. Most designers are very transparent about what it is like to work with them and are proud to display work samples. Look at their style, approach, and process to see if it is a good fit for you. Maybe, you can even find baseline pricing to see if their services fit your budget. Also, make sure to look for reviews and testimonials. Hearing what customers have to say and what they valued the most is a great way to evaluate if the website designer is going to be the right fit for you.
#5 Schedule Consultations & Get Proposals
If you like what you have seen online, now it is time to get in touch with your top 3-5 picks. Call, email, or send a message via their contact form to start the conversation. Indicate that you are looking for a new website and any specific needs or preferences. Most will start with a qualifying phone call and/or consultation. Be open and honest about your needs, preferences, and what you are looking for. This is your time to ask questions, qualify the designers, and evaluate if they are the right fit. Try to talk to at least 3 website designers and get a quote from each.
#6 Evaluate Your Options
With three quotes to evaluate, you will be in a good place to weigh the cost vs. benefit, the tradeoffs, and ultimately choose the one that is the best fit. If you have follow-up questions, ask for clarification via email or schedule a time to discuss the specifics. You do not want to sign an agreement without understanding the deliverables and what you are agreeing to. Most importantly, you get to choose and feel confident in your decision after weighing your options.
There is no worse feeling than acting on the first person that comes to mind and later wondering did you make the right choice? After comparing various quotes, you will likely identify a clear winner. When you know why you choose someone, you are more likely to value their services and have a productive engagement. You have done your homework, evaluated your options, and made a decision you can stand by.
8 Key Considerations
When you are reflecting on your interactions with the website designers and evaluating multiple proposals, what should you be looking for?
#1 Experience & Capabilities
Make sure the website designer has the experience and capabilities you need for your website. If you need an online store, look at similar examples created by the designer to evaluate the look, how user friendly it is, the functionality, and if it is built to last.
Be mindful that there are various capabilities required to build a website – overall design, coding and development, search engine optimization, copyrighting, content creation, etc. If you already have a marketer in house, then someone more technical may be the right fit as the two will complement one another and work together well. If you don’t have a marketer in house, then you will want to hire someone who can help with both design and marketing in addition to development.
Look at their portfolio and work samples. Designers tend to have a style. Make sure you like their style. If their work is custom, make sure you provide accurate specifications and inspiration for them to draw from. Whatever you do, make sure you are being accurate in your specifications and preferences. If you provide the designer with a logo and color scheme, then during feedback decide to change your logo or color scheme do not be surprised if the designer requires additional design hours to go back and redo it.
#2 Soft Skills
Communication, listening, accommodating, accountability, organization, and customer service are essential for a successful project. Make sure your website designer communicates clearly, listens to your needs, is accommodating, is accountable and timely, is organized, and prioritizes customer service. Ask about average response times.
Some designers estimate 24-48 hours response time, others may take a week or longer to get back to you. Some designers are accommodating and easy to work with, while others may be difficult to work with. As an example, say your board of directors went through a transition, and you need to update your website. Would you rather (1) email your website designer the updated list and have automatically know what and where to update the information, test it, and send you the link to review upon completion, or (2) email the website designer with the exact specifications of what to update and where and then go back double check their work? Different designers will provide various levels of customer service and quality assurance.
Website designers have various skills, experiences, and capabilities. Some designers are loyal to a specific platform and may steer you in that direction. Be cautious of platform-specific designers and their recommendations. Their recommended platform may be more about what they like working with rather than what works best for you. Others will work in a variety of platforms, listen to your needs, and make their recommendation.
Some specialize in a specific industry, which can be nice when they already speak your language and know the jargon. Others who are more generalists will have to research before copyrighting or request the copy from you.
Specializations to consider:
- Does the designer specialize in a website platform such as WordPress or Wix?
- Are they focused on a specific industry (i.e., real estate, entertainment, etc.?
- Do they bring specialized skills to the project?
Pay close attention to the “Scope of Work” and/or “Deliverables” to see what is included in the quote. You may have a range of quotes to evaluate. The lowest cost one is likely bare bones – simply a website design and layout without copyrighting, search engine optimization, training, consulting, or testing. These are the websites you pull up on your phone and realize they look terrible, have overlapping items, or are a template with text copied and pasted without any visuals or design.
Also, pay attention to any add-ons or clauses. You don’t want any surprises. Pay specific attention to meetings, consulting, and training – how many times, how long, where, etc. Some will work entirely remotely, others may be willing to come to your office. Some type of cap is normal as that prevents scope creep and sets boundaries.
#5 Availability & Timeline
See when the designer can get started – are they available now or booking a few months out? Then, evaluate their timeline. Can they get the website done in time for your upcoming tradeshow? Also, make sure the timeline is realistic. Everyone wants their website design done yesterday. Hearing “one month” may sound great, but remember you will have to provide some necessary materials and feedback in addition to your normal duties. If your busy time of the year is coming up or your largest event of the year is in the planning phase, then schedule your website for afterward so that you have time to dedicate to it and get it done right the first time around.
Evaluate the cost and if you can afford it. Remember you get what you pay for. For a 5-to-10-page website, be suspicious of any quotes under $1,000 for a website design or above $10,000. For the $1,000, the necessities are likely missing. For the 10,000 website, it likely very custom and no telling how it will transfer to you or if you will be able to update it yourself without contacting the designer.
Remember your website is an investment and it is okay if you need to save up for it! You don’t just enter a new lease or redesign your entire office on a whim. Your website is no different. Take the time to evaluate your options and look for value! You can likely find a happy medium between the lowest cost provider and the premium high-end provider.
Understand what you must provide to the designer, what the milestones are, and how feedback works. Understand the website designer’s process and know what your must-haves are and what you may be willing to sacrifice for the price.
In terms of necessary materials, it is really important to know if you are expected to provide the copy and images or if the designer included copyrighting. If you are looking for an online store, expect to provide the product information. Most designers will require you to complete a spreadsheet before starting work on the store.
In terms of milestones, know what the order of operations are and the timeline. This helps set the expectations and correlates directly with the cost. If you are looking for design mock-ups one-by-one for feedback, you are likely looking for an agency and are going to have a higher price point. If you are looking to get it done with minimal involvement, then it may be lower cost as it is more efficient and takes less time and resources.
In terms of feedback, know how feedback works. Is written feedback required or can you schedule a meeting with the designer to dictate your changes? How many rounds of feedback are included? Do you get to approve the feedback implementation to ensure there were no misinterpretations? Every designer is going to have their own process and that is one way they set themselves apart from one another.
#8 Transition and/or Training
First off, can you edit your own website or will you have to continue to go back to the designer? Do you even want to edit your website or would you prefer to have a continued relationship and outsource the website? Make sure you have a plan in place after the website launch to keep the website functioning, secure, and up-to-date.
If you want to edit your own website, consider what training resources are provided. Do you get a website guide? Do you get one-on-one training and for how long? Can you get additional training? Understand what training resources are included and what your options are for additional training especially if there is high turnover in your organization.
If you need to hire a website designer, follow these six steps:
- Outline your needs and budget
- Research and search for inspiration
- Identify a list of potential website designers
- Qualify the potential website designers and narrow your list
- Schedule consultations and get proposals
- Evaluate your options
When evaluating your options, keep these eight key considerations in mind:
- Experience and skills
- Soft skills
- Availability & timeline
- Transition & training
Kreative Solutions always recommends doing your homework and considering multiple providers! When you do your research and ultimately choose a provider, that is how great client relationships start and grow! You know why you choose the website designer and value their expertise, rather than feeling like you went with the first available option. Not every designer is right for every project. That’s okay! Here at Kreative Solutions we recognize the important of the client-contractor fit and won’t hesitate to provide a referral if we know another contractor who would be the perfect fit. Reach out to schedule a consultation to discuss your needs and see if we are the right fit for each other!