5 Steps to Take Before Hiring a Website Designer & 2 Red Flags

I’ve been covering some of the basics involved in creating your visual brand and the foundations for your online marketing. I started with a post that outlined who does what when it comes to building your best website. Then in my last post, I covered what to look for when it’s time to hire a graphic designer so you can find the perfect fit. Today, I’m turning the blogging reigns over to website designer Robyn White to give you some tips on how to find the right website designer for you …

Make the Website Design Process EASIER

The website design process can be a dream or a nightmare depending on the website designer you choose to hire. A website design project can be fun to work on if you pick the right person. So, I’d like to share five steps to take before hiring a website designer along with two red flags. I hope these tips will help you select the right website designer for your project.

1. Look at Their Portfolio

One of the most important things to look at is a potential website designer’s portfolio. The reason this is so important is that you’ll want to determine if their style is similar to what you’re looking for. Does it look like they’ll be able to design something in the look you’re trying to achieve? If you’re looking for a simple site with a lot of white space but the designer’s portfolio showcases lots of bold and bright colors with little white space, then chances are that designer isn’t going to be the best fit.

Everyone has a different style and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, you don’t want to try to fit a square peg in a round hole; that will only make for a difficult design process. Find the designer who has a style you like.

Pro tip: It’s important to note that most designers won’t show all of their work on their portfolio page.  What they will show is what they consider to be their best work or their favorite work. So, it’s fair to say that what they are showing in their portfolio is their true style.

2. Find Out if They Have Experience with Your Industry

While most website designers can design any type of website, you’ll want to ask if they’ve worked with other business owners in your industry. While this isn’t a deal breaker, finding a website designer who specializes in your industry can make the entire process more seamless. 

Let’s say you’re an interior designer. If you find a website designer who has worked with interior designers before, they will have a better idea of what your website should include, how to lay out a portfolio page for you, and many other industry specific items.

Pro tip: Many website designers niche down to specific industries because that’s who they most enjoy working with. So, finding a designer who is interested in your industry will make it a win-win for both of you.

3. Read Testimonials and Ask for References

Make sure you read all the testimonials on the website designer’s website. These are so important as you’ll gain an understanding of how the designer works with their clients from these testimonials. You’ll be able to learn their strengths by seeing what adjectives are used over and over by different clients.

For example, if you repeatedly read how organized and responsive a designer is, those are great qualities and it probably means they stay on top of project details and are good about responding to you.

While testimonials and reviews are generally pretty reliable, the best way to learn about a potential website designer is to ask for references and actually speak with a past client or two. Now, of course the designer is going to put you in touch with someone they know will say nice things, but you can tell a lot more from speaking with someone than reading something they wrote.

Pro tip: Website designers are only going to include the best testimonials on their website. So, a good idea is to also look for online reviews on Facebook or Google My Business where anyone can post what they want.

4. Determine What Is and Is Not Included

There’s no right or wrong answer here. Each website designer will include different items in their pricing and each client will be looking for different features for their site. The important thing is for you to understand what is and isn’t included from the beginning so there are no surprises.

There are many items that you’ll want to consider when looking for a website designer. Some items you may not need while others are extremely important. Here is a list of some specifics you’ll want to discuss with a website designer before hiring them:

  • Do you provide website hosting?
  • Do you offer monthly care plans and what is the cost?
  • Are your websites custom coded, template based, or something in between?
  • How many pages are included?
  • Do you offer SEO services?
  • Who supplies images and content?
  • How many revisions are included?
  • Will the site be designed to be mobile responsive?
  • What type of image optimization do you offer?
  • Do you offer training?
  • Is email marketing integration included?
  • Is integration with my booking system included?
  • Are lead magnets, pop ups, and forms included?
  • What type of testing do you do prior to launch?

Pro tip: The average number of revision rounds is two, sometimes three. After that, if you still want or need additional changes, you’ll generally pay hourly until the edits are complete. So, be sure to ask what the hourly rate is.

5. Find Out What the Process is Like to Work with Them

The answer your potential designer gives when you ask about their process is actually extremely important for several reasons. 

First, you’ll be working together for several weeks — or months — so knowing the process and what to expect will let you know if it’ll be a good fit and if you’ll enjoy the experience. 

Second, you’ll know right away if you’ve found an experienced designer or a newbie. A designer who’s been doing this for a while will be able to speak to their process with no hesitation because they’ve gone through it numerous times.

Third, while the process itself might not be that interesting, having a designer who has a plan will make your life easier as they’ll be able to guide you step by step. 

And, last, a designer with a tested and perfected process will be able to keep the ball rolling, thereby enabling them to complete the project on time —and on budget!

Pro tip: You’ll want to find out from the beginning what’s required of you during the process. A good designer should be able to let you know exactly what they’ll need from you and when. Knowing this ahead of time will keep things moving and allow the project to finish on time.

While there are many other items to consider when hiring a website designer, the above is a great start. 

Now for those Red Flags …


1. They Don’t Ask You to Sign a Contract

If a website designer is a professional, they will have a contract for you to sign. Contracts protect both you and your designer so you absolutely want to have one in place before starting any project.

A contract should make clear what the cost is, when payments are due, what the deliverables are, and so much more.

Pro tip: If you already worked with a website designer and are now coming back to ask them to make a few tweaks for a small amount of money, some designers won’t have you sign a contract. However, it’s recommended that they still put something in writing in an email to you that spells out the basics – cost, timeline, and what work will be done.

2. They Have No Testimonials or Reviews

It’s not a good sign if you can’t find any proof of happy clients. Even if they are just starting out, they should be able to have a previous colleague or boss who could write a testimonial for them that speaks to their strengths.

Pro tip: Reach out to friends and colleagues and ask for referrals. Referrals are the best proof of a job well done.

Robyn White is the founder, owner, and primary designer of RDW Design Studio, LLC a Boston-area based website design business. She primarily works with service-based small-business owners who inspire her with their ability to see infinite possibilities and to help others do the same. Her goal is to help these businesses thrive online by designing beautiful, simple, and strategically designed websites that authentically represents them and attract their ideal clients.

Robyn isn’t new to the world of entrepreneurship; she ran a successful dog walking business in Brookline, MA for 11 years. Prior to that, she worked in development at both the Boston Museum of Science and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Before moving to the Boston area, she lived in NYC for 10 years where she was the Vice President of an international art gallery.

Robyn holds a BA in History from Skidmore College and an MA in Art History from University College, University of London. She lives outside of Boston, MA with her 12-year old pug and Chief Dog Officer, Lulu.



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