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:
- 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).
- Be prepared to talk with them about your challenges. It could be marketing, efficiencies, processes or systems.
- 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.
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?
I have a few PDF Web Designer Interview Process Kit that can help you immediately.
What do you get in the kit?
- The Web Designer Interview Process PDF that will help you understand the process you should take to ensure you hire the right web designer.
- A website Survey you can send out to your friends, colleagues, or clients to get feedback on your existing website.
- 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.