How Can I Find the Right Web Designer for My Business?

Author : , Date : April 13, 2015

How-Can-I-Find-the-Right-Web-Designer-for-my-Business

 

Over the last decade I discovered that finding the right web designer was one of the hardest things to do for a business owner. It can be a high ticket priced item and knowing if someone is competent and capable and can follow through is important to every business owner or entrepreneur who is assuming the risk of making this all important item.

There is lot at stake for a business when it comes to a website… money, time, potential prospects, sales, ecommerce, automated efficiencies, messaging, branding and more. Ultimately, it comes down to risk as you choose to give money to someone you don’t know.

How do you hire someone to help you when you don’t know the hiring criteria or what questions to ask?

After all, you’re not a coder, programmer, layout expert… you just know what you like and what you don’t like when you see it. But creating, that’s another story!

When I was in web design, I met a lot of business owners who were deeply frustrated by the experiences they had over-and-over again with web designers. In fact, it almost felt sometimes that we were right up there with attorneys, used car dealers, etc.

It wasn’t uncommon to meet with a business owner who said that they had hired two, three or even four web designers who they paid several thousand dollars to and still had nothing to show for it.

They knew they need a website and couldn’t do it right themselves, but they also didn’t know who to buy it from.

Another common confusion was when interviewing web designers and developers the business owner would get a different set of confusing opinions on how to get what they wanted. Complicating it was the fact that there isn’t a standard price for this kind of thing.

I’ve seen swings from $1,000 – $7,000 for the same exact website.

If you’re about to build a website for your business there are several interviewing questions you can ask to determine the risk level your business may face when working with a web designer.

Of course there is no full proof method to get rid of risk, but these diagnostics will certainly help you gain some clarity around the process of hiring a web designer.

So let’s get started and talk about the process of finding the right web designer for your business.

 

#1 – Know Your Business

 

One of the biggest challenges I faced with a prospect or client as a web designer was helping a business gain clarity around their own business.

For over a decade web designers have marketed themselves as being able to help you meet all the people you would ever want to meet through your website and that your website is the main conduit through which your business will grow.

This is a half truth. There are now way too many variables to make that claim.

 

  • What industry are you in?
  • What is your business model?
  • What is your level of knowledge about networking?
  • What is your level of knowledge around how the internet works for business?  (check out the video on this subject)
  • Where does your audience hang out or look for information?
  • How is search engine optimization, social media and online engagement changing the game or is it?

 

The internet is not a catch all. It’s not a mass marketing tool to help you gain as many customers as you can handle. That’s why I wrote my eBook titled “The Shift – Making the Fast Paced Transition from Mass Marketing to Context Marketing.”

The truth is that the internet is turning into a relationship building tool that allows you to attract an audience when you know your business so well that you can match it up to someone who has an issue, problem or need and is looking for someone to help them with it.

When you know “what business you’re “really” in” you position yourself to build a case for how good you are at what you do because you know how to talk to one person with one problem.

That’s how the internet works in the big picture. But if you don’t have that down, and the overwhelming majority of businesses do not, then all you can do is talk about you, your product or service, and why your prices are better than you competition.

But you also have to be really clear about why you do what you do and why you do it. If you’re confused at any level; so are your prospects. I have seen very established businesses muddy the water and leave their audience feeling confused.

In my article last week I used this article by M&T Bank as an example. In it, they will introduce their client who is a manufacturer.  They will tell us they have discovered they are in the “people business.” So what? Aren’t we all? When you watch the video and think about what is being said you will realize how easy it is to get off message.

 

You MUST know your business.

A web designer is not a business or marketing coach!

A web designer will not be able to communicate your business for you nor will they be able to break your business down for you. They will only be able to tell you how the technology can help your business or offer some ideas to make an online experience for your prospects and customers a great one.

But you must be able to tell them not just what you want; but who you are so that they can build your site with that in mind.

 

#2 – You Must Understand Who Web Designers Are

 

Many come to web designers assuming they are experts at helping businesses achieve their online goals. This is not who the majority of web designers are if they are good at what they do.

It’s now to specialized and there is too much to know.

Most web designers learned their skill by tinkering with code and studying layouts. Some have degrees or formal training and most are freelancers or have small companies.

Web designers understand their business; but they have no clue about your business. They don’t know or understand your industry, industry trends, audience, psychology or sales processes or product delivery.

The truth is most don’t care about you or your business.

In fact you should expect in a first meeting for them to ask you want you want, do you have a budget and how soon would you like to begin.

That is NOT want you want!!!! I’ll explain more about a process you should consider following that will help you significantly in a few paragraphs.

Okay, now that you have an idea of who they are not, I can get into who they are. They are incredibly talented and gifted people at making you shine when you can help them to do that. By themselves, they can create you a site; just don’t expect them to create one for you that will be you.

Many web designers are not extraverts. They love to study web layouts, plugins and flashy items that are neat and can be helpful to a website.

They love to build things and create something from nothing.

And the really good ones have a process and workflow that make the process easy for you as well as provides with you expectations for your project.

 

#3 – Be Prepared to Meet with the Web Designer

 

The biggest problem many business face is that they are not really prepared to meet with a web designer.

Remember, you’re interviewing a prospective vendor who will be creating an extremely important product for your business. They may be helping you create a marketing tool or they may be helping you build automation or efficiencies in your business through the use of online technologies.

You want to know if they understand business and can think outside of your box to help you.

Researching your competition and coming up with an example of a website you like is not preparation. Preparation is when:

 

  1. You can walk them through your business model to include the “specific” problems you solve, who you solve them for and how your business offers “a” solution or meets a need (check out the Begin Here page for more details). You can also provide them with resources on your business (flyers, brochures, other marketing materials, etc).
  2. Be prepared to talk with them about your challenges. It could be marketing, efficiencies, processes or systems.
  3. Be able to tell them very specifically what you need or want so that you can see how they interact with you.

 

The consequences of not being prepared can be numerous:

  • You hire the wrong company.
  • You lose a ton of money.
  • You have to start the process over again.
  • You don’t have the right website for the right need.

 

#4 – What Questions Should I Be Asking a Prospective Web Designer

 

Now to the fun part of what you really wanted to know when you started reading this article. What questions should you ask a prospective web designer?

The key here is that you are in control. It’s not about what you do or do not know at this point about the internet. You want to assess they prospective web designer to determine if you’re a good fit before you ever get into discussing your needs.

At a minimum, you will want to interview or engage with a web designer at least three times before hiring them.

You want to learn how they think, what their processes and systems are and you will want to learn their temperament to determine if you will have a good working relationship with him or her.

Here is a short list you can ask in the initial interview:

 

  • What industry sites and blogs do you read regularly?
  • In your opinion what are the top 5 or 10 characteristics of a good design.
  • What is your level of understanding regarding design constraints on the web?
  • How do you handle suggestions/criticisms of your work?
  • Tell me about a success in one of your recent projects, and knowing what you know now what would you have done different?
  • Given the opportunity whose website would you want to design or redesign and why?
  • Have you ever built a website for a business in my field and if not how would you approach my project?
  • What is your assessment of my website?
  • What are your specific processes for building a website?
  • Do you have any literature that you can leave me that explains the process and what I can expect?

 

Before leaving the meeting, if you feel comfortable moving forward you will want them to email you a list of what you can expect mover forward including their written list of processes.

 

Conclusion

 

You want to be as certain as possible that you are hiring the right web designer who has the skills, talents, capabilities, training and temperament to help you.

If they are merely interested in getting started as fast as possible that might be a warning sign. You have to go at your speed. Now, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t ask you to get started either. If the person you are talking with is a good business person they understand that securing the deal in a timely fashion is important.

But, they should also want to know as much about you as possible so they know what they are walking into as well. That should be an important consideration for you.

Do you want more information?

web-design-process-kitAwesome!
I have a few PDF Web Designer Interview Process Kit that can help you immediately.

What do you get in the kit?

  1. The Web Designer Interview Process PDF that will help you understand the process you should take to ensure you hire the right web designer.
  2. A website Survey you can send out to your friends, colleagues, or clients to get feedback on your existing website.
  3. A PDF articled titled “You Don’t Have to Be Ashamed of Your Website”

 

To access the free documents fill out the form below

 

If you have a questions, thought or contribution to this article, please share below in the comments and let’s have a conversation about finding the right web designer for your business.

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Don Purdum

Don Purdum

Don works with businesses to help them discover who their customers are and what business they are "really" in. He is an award-winning blogger and branding / marketing consultant.
Don Purdum
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31 thoughts on “How Can I Find the Right Web Designer for My Business?

  1. Hi Don
    This is a great article and I love the way you have given both the client and the web designer’s perspective. Having a small web development company myself, there are so many times when we speak to clients who haven’t thought through their basic business and marketing strategy, including who their target market actually is. Luckily I come from a marketing background so I have the ability to work with clients on these fundamentals, but as you say this is not the typical web designer’s area of expertise and clients who don’t understand this will often be disappointed. I’m also very familiar with that major frustration of designers – clients who don’t understand that in a typical design scenario, they need to provide their own content. We actually write our clients’ web copy as well as designing their site, which overcomes this issue, but people who don’t give as much thought to the content, as well as the design, of their website can be left wondering why their website isn’t working as they hoped.
    – Sarah

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Thank you so much for the very kind words! I was away over the weekend for my birthday so I wasn’t able to reply to your comment as fast as I normally would. Thank you for understanding.

      You provide a service similar to what I did back when I owned my web development company. It was such a struggle trying to get them to take the time to sit back and think about their business so that the copy would resonate with the site visitor / prospect / customer.

      I really wanted people to understand what a web designer / developer goes through and to help them see that if you don’t know your business, neither will they. They can only help you to the degree that you’ve helped yourself.

      With that said, many also don’t know how to identify when a web designer is a good fit or not. I’ve had a lot of downloads on the kit and some great feedback that it is really helping businesses.

      Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your point of view and experiences!!!! I really appreciate you taking the time.

      I hope you have an awesome week Sarah and I hope to see you again soon!

      ~ Don

  2. Great article. I wish I had read it a while back when I had someone design my website for me, even though they were great. I think that the main thing is to know what YOU want and to not expect the web designer to do the entire business model for you. Like you said, the web designer will know about their own web designing business and how to make a website look professional, but you should do the research on how your website should look based upon other successful websites in your niche. You should have an overall layout on how your website should look and give it to the designer, as they will make adjustments.

    1. Hi Lawrence,

      You are exactly right. I was having lunch today with a very respected business owner of a web development company and he shared his biggest frustration is that he cannot get content from his clients. They expect his team to come up with the content.

      A web designer / developer doesn’t know their clients business nor are they content or copy writers.

      I appreciate your comment and thank you for sharing.

      Have a great week.

      ~ Don

  3. Hi Don,
    Your posts on web design and related topics are always awesome. They often reveal what we miss when it comes to web design for our online business. Its helpful knowing what questions to ask an intended website designer for our business. These details are timely and help us understand what we really need from website designers.
    Just downloaded the PDF Website Design Questionnaire Kit! Awesome PDFs!
    This comment shared in kingged.com as well.

    1. Hi Sunday,

      Thank you for the very kind words! I really appreciate your encouragment.

      Knowing what questions to ask is the difference between spending money wisely and throwing it away. There are web designers who know how to help a particular person and those who don’t. The only way to find a right fit is to ask lots of the right questions.

      I hope you found the kit helpful?

      Have a great end to your week.

      ~ Don

  4. It’s definitely important. These are great suggestions to keep in mind. I’ve talked with so many business owners that got burned because their designer either bailed on them (closed shop/took the money and ran) OR just flat out couldnt produce what they wanted (and refused to do another design unless they paid more)

    1. Hi Dennis,

      If I had a dollar for every horror story I heard that was avoidable I would be a multi millionaire from that alone. It was so frustrating but it was also a real blessing to me that so many were incompetent because I know my craft and the capabilities of the technology.

      As a result, it was easier to sell if I just took my time instead of trying to get the money immediately. If they were ready immediately they would tell me; otherwise I would ask them their decision making process and then work with them through the sales process.

      I got the job 90% of the time against my competition. I mean that literally. There is that much incompetence out there or designers didn’t understand business and sales and couldn’t get outside of their tech bubble to talk the language of the prospect.

      Thanks so much for commenting Dennis!!! I hope you’re week is off to a great start.

      ~ Don

  5. Hey.. Hiring a web designer can be a tough go but it is all about communication. We do have to know exactly what we want. It is great that you have put together a Web Design Questionnaire Kit to help people clarify how to communicate to a web designer. I guess for me I was just trying so hard to find what I enjoyed doing the most so I could start building a solid business around that. I listened to way too many people giving me advice and telling me I’m still too broad.As far as hiring the right web designer I know that’s not always easy, I’ve heard some bad stories and not everyone calling themselves a designer really knows what they’re doing…

    1. Hi Sneha,

      You are absolutely right, it’s all about communication and if a client doesn’t know what to communicate the web designer doesn’t know how to help them!

      I know a lot of people have really good intentions and want to learn how to build their business and use the internet to help them. There is so much advice out there it can feel overwhelming and even contradictory at times. The most important thing anyone can do is really become familiar with their business as I outlined in the article.

      Coming from that industry, I cannot tell you how many supposed “designers” have no clue what’s going on in the industry or with the technology. They are giving bad advice and creating badly designed and coded sites.

      That’s one reason I created the kit so that people can at least have a tool to help them discern the reality.

      Thanks so much for commenting Sneha!

      ~ Don

    1. Hi Matt,

      I don’t think there is a right answer here… so long as you know and understand the technology and if you’re willing to put in the time and work. There may be a time when it’s a appropriate to use a Wix or Weebly… and the artificial intelligent based systems are coming out now like The Grid that has the potential to change the entire industry.

      The key always comes down to #1 – Know your business. If you do that well then the strategies, tools and goals are easier to determine based on the business needs and the audience needs. I plan to do an article soon on SEMrush’s blog talking about “Clarity + Content + Community + Collaboration = Success for business who are marketing online.”

      Thanks for commenting. I hope you have a great weekend!!!

      ~ Don

  6. Hi Don,
    Hiring a web designer is a tough job, because our businesses rely on that. And
    you have well put the statistics. @Naomi, your views are right. Web designer
    should well know the industry standards. Only then we can get what we expect.

    1. Hi Binujha,

      While I agree with you and Naomi, I do want to add that there is a lot of room for subjectivity when it comes to web designers knowing industry standards.

      First off, whose standards?

      W3C?
      Your school of training?
      A group of designers that share ideas?

      A client can’t get what is expected until they know what they need and want; and then talk with someone who is competent and they’re comfortable with who can inform and educate them.

      So, it can be a little more complex than it appears sometimes.

      Have a great end to your week!

      ~ Don

  7. Hi Don,

    I’m a business owner and I really empathize with other business owners who have to hire a great web designer to work with.

    The question you ask in your Blog post:
    How do you hire someone to help you when you don’t know the hiring criteria or what questions to ask?
    Is really pertinent one.

    Putting website designers at the same level as attorneys, used car dealers, touched a chord in me and definitely made me smile. I love a touch of humour in a anything I read.

    I completely agree that there is no fool proof way of identifying a great website designer, that said your guidelines
    are a big help in bringing some clarity to this space, and helping add some standards to the approach of identifying a great web designer to work with.

    Every business owner must be intimate with their business model as well as where their customers hang out on the Internet.

    Expecting a website designer to be able deliver that to you is expecting too much. A designer knows design they are not expected to know business models, profitability, customer demographics and so on. This is what the Business owner must bring to the designer it can never be the other way around.

    Quote:
    Web designers understand their business; but they have no clue about your business. They don’t know or understand your industry, industry trends, audience, psychology or sales processes or product delivery.
    UnQuote
    How very true. Regretfully, there are very few business owners, looking for a great website designer, who actually understand/appreciate this.

    I truly liked the way you’ve structured a series of pointed questions for a business owner to ask a designer. They are well thought through. Their answers will clearly indicate whether or not to go forward with the designer or not.

    I really enjoyed reading this Blog post Don. It’s well written and really educative.

    I came to your site from Kingged BTW.

    1. Hi Ivan,

      Thank you for affirming that there is no full proof method to ensure you get the right web designer. It is always a risk and a challenge. However, those risks can be minimized.

      Expectations are a big deal… and too many have unrealistic expectations. That’s true of both web designers and of those who need to hire them.

      I so appreciate your full comment Ivan and I’m glad the article was able to help you in some way.

      I hope you have a great end to your week!

      ~ Don

      1. Thanks Don,

        Friday morning has just started in my neck of the woods as I read your reply.

        I’m so looking forward to this weekend, my wife and I are driving up into the hills which is about a 1.5 hour drive away from where I stay to take a short two day break.

        Enjoy the weekend yourself. Its going to be a great one.

  8. Hi Don,

    Excellent. I love your list of questions; helps both parties gain clarity in what they’re doing. I’m blessed because I became friends with Phillip Dews years ago. We bonded, and then when I really dove into my old blog and Blogging from Paradise he was there for me every step of the way. He just designed the cover of product #20 on Amazon, and if I didn’t have his design skills and his reachability, no way in hell I’d churn out products as quickly as I do.

    Fab post Don, and really, you MUST know the business you’re in to convey that idea to other people, including your web designer.

    Thanks for the share.

    Tweeting from Bali….and have a GREAT Week!

    Ryan

    1. Hi Ryan,

      It’s really good to have someone who knows what they are doing, you know what they are doing, and you have the right relationship whereby trust is fully established. It can be a very rare thing in the web design industry.

      The biggest challenge facing many web designers is trying to overcome the negative stereotypes.

      I appreciate your comment as always!

      ~ Don

  9. Hi Don

    Hiring a web designer gets more complicated if someone does not have sound background of the whole process of first inviting the interest of professionals, short-listing them, interviewing them, taking a final interview and in the last picking the best one.

    But the whole points you mentioned to follow this process are so simple and one can fully follow them without any confusion.

    The selected questions to be asked to an aspirant are really very important because a stereo-typed techie geek can’t give as much results as a passionate designer fully associated with the field can produce.

    Thanks a lot for sharing this very relevant post especially for expanding businesses

    1. Hi Mi,

      It is so intimidating for many business owners. They are not “techies” or have any idea of what to expect or how the process works. They just know what they want; and they many times don’t even know if it’s a good idea or not.

      I was just thinking and should have included that a web designer ought to be a very trusted advisor and someone a business owner can lean on for advice, suggestions and ideas. They can be much more than just a “web designer.”

      Thank you so much for your comment and sharing Mi!

      Have a great week.

      ~ Don

  10. Hi Don,

    Hiring a web designer can be a tough go but it is all about communication. We do have to know exactly what we want. It is great that you have put together a Web Design Questionnaire Kit to help people clarify how to communicate to a web designer.

    I was fortunate with my designer because he knew me already. He was a regular visitor to my blog and we had conversations off line also. So when it came time for me to have all that I needed, he knew so much about me that it was a breeze. He even had some great suggestions that I’ve overlooked. I even use his hosting company that I love.

    When we hire someone to do something for us, we really need to have a checklist of exactly what we want them to do.

    Thanks again!

    -Donna

    1. Hi Donna,

      It certainly is about communication… and knowing the right questions to ask. There are a lot of people out there who are great at talking but not so great at doing. The questions I outline will help someone clarify and understand how to find the good ones from the not so good ones so they can minimize the risk.

      You’re very fortunate, most business owners don’t know a web designer personally believe it or not; and as I said in the article it’s not uncommon for someone to have hired and fired three or four designers within a year.

      I hope you have a great week!

      ~ Don

  11. Hi Don,

    I think a lack of communication and too high expectations can often play a huge part. People expect miracles.

    My advice would be…

    1. To to hire someone who has experience designing websites within your industry.

    2. To ask for current examples of their work that you can check out. Web designer names are usually at the bottom of the site so you can see how genuine it is.

    3. Lastly get references. I not sure if this is what’s it’s called in the US but in the UK a reference is similar to obtaining a review from previous people they have worked for.

    If you stay on top of communicating you can make sure you are happy throughout the process and then things are less likely to go wrong, after all it’s your money!

    Naomi

    1. Hi Naomi,

      Yes, they do expect miracles and for those they hire to make something out of nothing. While your advice is really good, it’s honestly not enough to shield you from the risk of hiring the wrong person.

      The process I lay out is pretty comprehensive and helpful in the downloads. After working with over a 150 clients in web design over ten years I can say with confidence that it’s a process that will work.

      Thanks for sharing Naomi!

      ~ Don

  12. Hey Don,

    After having several conversations with you and learning more about where most of us screw up, I can totally see why a company hiring a web designer when they really aren’t clear on their own message is an accident waiting to happen.

    It happens so frequently today Don and I think a lot of it has to do with either not totally understanding the message we’re suppose to convey or not knowing exactly who we are catering to. I’ve always been open when I’ve shared that for the most part I was all over the place most of the time. I guess for me I was just trying so hard to find what I enjoyed doing the most so I could start building a solid business around that. I listened to way too many people giving me advice and telling me I’m still too broad. I think that messed with my head so if I were to hire someone to create my blog for me today I still wouldn’t have a clear message. I’m getting closer though so this is the fun part.

    I think that’s really cool that you’re offering a questionnaire for anyone eager to know the right things to ask a web developer. Now that’s something I would instantly grab if I was shopping for one.

    Great share Don, as always of course. Thanks for the information and you have a wonderful day.

    ~Adrienne

    1. Hi Adrienne,

      I can remember when I was building some high end sites for companies how confused some were. They had no idea what to expect or what was even involved. There are easy sites and complex sites; and most are somewhere in between.

      If a business doesn’t know the basics then it’s easy for them once again to blame the company they hired or the technology.

      The message, that’s it in a nutshell. It’s all you’ve got at the end of the day. If that doesn’t add up the rest doesn’t really matter all that much.

      I see businesses chasing all of the time… chasing ideas, chasing people, chasing dreams, chasing money…

      When you are clear… you don’t have to chase, you can attract.

      Thanks for such a great comment Adrienne!

      Chat soon.

      ~ Don

  13. Hi Don,

    It’s seems that that good old question is still the one to ask when creating our website. What business am I in?

    As per the instruction of my coach who’s helped me in several areas of my business I’ve made some changes to my website just yesterday. In my case there’s always the challenge that there are two businesses, but we’re getting there.

    As far as hiring the right web designer I know that’s not always easy, I’ve heard some bad stories and not everyone calling themselves a designer really knows what they’re doing.

    Thanks for the great info, Don and have a wonderful day!

    1. Hi Sylviane,

      Yes, absolutely. It’s the foundation for everything you will do in your business and it’s your guide for what you should and shouldn’t do.

      I’m so glad to hear you have a coach! I’m sorry we didn’t have an opportunity to work together but I’m happy you’re making progress where you feel it’s important!!!!

      Thanks again for sharing. I hope you have a great week!!!

      ~ Don

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