How To Hire A Web Designer

How do you hire a web designer? Our answers may surprise you. Many will tell you it’s about price and experience — well, yes and no. We would say it’s more about value and capability, among many other factors, but read on.

Will the company or individual you engage be a partner or will they just get you from A to B? Your website is important — maybe more than you realize — and, having a trusted partner for the long haul is critical. A partner should be open and tuned into your vision. That doesn’t mean that you’ll already have a design mapped out or have a color scheme in your back pocket, but any good designer will listen more than talk. They will want to know things about your business that you may think are not relevant in web design. They should key into the vision you have for your business, understand the customers you want to attract, the growth you want to achieve, and the overall message you want to convey to your audience — prospects and customers.

At Delegal Digital, we begin all of our projects, regardless of any preconceived notions, by getting to know your business, your customers and all relevant stakeholders. That gives us the opportunity to proceed with understanding and the answers not only the what and how, but more importantly the why.

You should never enter into a project endeavor without having some basic understanding of how the project will unfold, general time expectations and what of your time (as a stakeholder) will be required. Quality web design and development are not transactional by nature – i.e., you tell us what you want, we go build it and give it to you. Successful design and development happen in a strategic framework that involves many factors:
  • Discovery of your business processes and customers.
  • Iterative communication planning.
  • Management of expectations and assumptions regarding changes.
  • The role that everyone has to play.
  • Measurable milestones.
It’s worth repeating that it is critical to know how much of your time will be required. You should know upfront that your provider will need to spend a fair amount of time with you, and possibly other stakeholders, in order to deliver a product that not only serves your business but is reflective of your vision.

Related to time management is the project timeline. Do you need this project done quickly? Is there a specific date that is pressing because of a new location or product rollout? Make sure that the provider you are planning to work with is realistic about their ability to deliver, and be sure they aren’t telling you what you need to hear in order to get the work.

As we discuss later in this post, a website is never really complete — or shouldn’t be anyway. Every project should, at a minimum, have a discovery phase, a design phase, development or construction, testing, go-live plan, and a roadmap for what happens after the site is up and running.

The key here is to be realistic about timelines and make sure that your provider is doing the same. Ask specific questions about the length of time that a project like yours typically requires, and allow 15-20% overhead when putting a pin in the calendar.

While style is subjective, you should have an in-depth conversation with the designer about your own sense of style. We often say that pets can look like their owners. Well, your website should look like your business, or it should reflect the inherent nature of your business to your consumer audience.

If your business exudes warmth, comfort and casual style, you probably wouldn’t want an industrial motif in your web design. Or, if your business involves serious matters, it’s not likely you would want funny or playful content in your design. You get the idea.

This is a tricky one. In the case of our business, we are newly founded and our experience comes from nearly 30 years of delivering solutions for other companies and providers. And, we like to say that past experience does not guarantee future results. Obviously, we didn’t make that up, but the idea is to get to know your provider. Make sure their values align with your values and that they are open to your ideas. Maybe more important, make sure they bring to you ideas that you didn’t consider but may see as meaningful to your business. You do not want a provider that just says yes to everything. If they are seasoned, you will be able to determine that through the way they listen, respond, and offer value.

In talking about experience, I’m reminded of the anecdote of the two pilots. Both are fully-trained on the plane you are flying on. One is younger, good-looking, two years out of flight school has a great personality, and says “good morning” with a big smile. The other is an older pilot who doesn’t have much personality. He started as an airplane mechanic but has been flying for 30 years and has flown 22 different plane models. Which one do you want as your pilot? The young guy is probably a little sharper, his education is fresh, and he seems fun. But, the older pilot is seasoned. He has been through some things. The point is, we all want a pilot who knows how to fly the plane. What we should desire even more is a pilot who has enough experience to know what to do when something goes wrong, because it always does.

So, when considering a partner for your project needs, consider one who has been through some things, not the one who has a great smile and tells you what you want to hear.

Do you have specific goals for your website? Any design partner worth their salt will surely flesh those out in a discovery phase, so the point here is to give that some thought before going into this process. We like to ask a lot of why questions. You’d be amazed at how specific you can get if I ask you why you want to accomplish something rather than ending at what you want to accomplish. We believe our depth of experience in digital strategy and conducting strategy workshops with some of the world’s top companies gives us an edge in this regard.

Who will you be working with specifically? Are you able to contact someone if you have a question or concern? Make sure that you meet the person or people, that you will be working with directly. If any part of the project is being handled by a vendor partner or fully-outsourced, make sure you know what that is and who is doing the work. Equally important, make sure YOU have the right people in place and that you have identified all of the stakeholders inside of your organization. As an owner or executive, you may think it’s you, but there are likely others. Again, this would usually be fully-vetted in a thorough discovery process, but preparation on your side will save you time and good planning will pay off. 

Will the provider be able to do more than build your website? This is very important. Your web project should be led by someone with more than web design and development experience. They should understand business, marketing, and how consumers interact and behave online. Your provider should have market insight in your locale and should be willing to do the deep dive to fully-understand your customers and the how and why those customers make decisions. Without this, all you have is a pretty billboard, which you can buy cheap these days.

A good provider will also be able to fully-consider and implement any technical needs – coding, custom integration, external data – that are not part of a typical cookie-cutter web design that is so often sold to small businesses.

Your provider should also communicate a plan for how your site will be found online and prepare you earnestly that this takes time. Any agency that tells you they can have your (new) website ranking high on search engines in a very short amount of time is just not being honest. Just make sure that your expectations regarding your organic search strategy are set properly.

Just like what happens at the beginning of a project is very important, make sure your provider will be there for the long haul. What happens after your site goes live is critical. A website is never finished. It’s worth saying that again for those in the back of the room, A WEBSITE IS NEVER FINISHED. You can see a lot of “finished” websites out there by poking around local businesses, but they are like digital tumbleweeds blowing along deserted highways. No one will ever find them, and if they do, they will immediately turn and walk away.

The bottom line here is to make sure that your partner lays out a strategic plan with specific steps on what happens after your site is up and running.

Finding the right provider/partner is not easy. Much like dating, you should try a few on. Remember that past results do not guarantee anything. Experience is important, but keep the mindset of what are you going to do for me, because what a provider did for someone else does not help you in the least. 

Last, make sure that you are not being sold. A true partner will want a successful outcome for you, first. Your success should equal their success. Make sure that your project is not simply a transaction, and that a project endeavor like this is much more than getting from here to there. Fully understand what “there” is before taking additional steps.

If you would like to talk more about how to hire a designer, please contact Delegal Digital at 912-236-6003 or hello@delegaldigital.com

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