If you’re thinking about a new website for your business, there are a few things to consider when choosing the right designer.

Being in the industry for over 15 years, I’ve seen a wide range of skill levels and knowledge. Someone may be a fantastic salesperson but be limited in their knowledge of web development so it’s important to do a little research before you fork out potentially thousands of dollars to whoever is going to build the online face of your business.

After all, you wouldn’t allow someone without a construction ticket to build your house, right?

First off, do your research! Learn a bit about what’s involved in website development. It’s better to go into your consultations with an understanding. Secondly, think about your website needs. How many pages and what types of functionality are required? Does your website need a booking system, online store, or ordering system? Thirdly, know your budget!

There is a lot to consider when shopping around for the perfect digital partner. Ultimately, you want to hire a designer that has the right expertise and your best interest at heart.

I’ve compiled a list of things to look for and consider when choosing who you’re going to work with.

1. Does the designer have a great portfolio?

You want your website to look great! You have a vision in mind and want it to be translated into an online reality. The first thing to do is check the designer’s portfolio.

A good web designer will have a portfolio that they are proud to show off. Do they have a specific style? Do they do custom work?

Furthermore, what does their own website look like? Does it grab your attention? Is it mobile-friendly? Is it clean, creative, and easy to navigate? Is it easy to find the information you’re looking for? How much effort did they put into it? A web designer’s website is a good indicator of the time and effort that they will likely put into your website.

2. Can you communicate together effectively?

Make direct contact with web designers when you’re shopping around. Set up a phone or Zoom call so you can ask questions and get answers.

Speaking with them directly will also give you an idea of whether or not your personalities and communication styles match.

Ideally, this person is going to be your trusted digital partner for years to come as your business expands. By setting up a call or virtual meeting you can get a pretty good idea off the hopper if it’s going to work or not.

3. Does their location really matter?

A lot of times location doesn’t matter as communication can be done via email, Zoom, or phone. However, there are times when a local designer can be an asset.

If you’re a specialized business like a winery located in the Okanagan, a web designer located in the same area may understand your industry better, plus their prices will likely match the local market. And, if they can integrate your website with wine software like Commerce 7, having the designer close by to offer personalized customer support might be nice.

Furthermore, doing business locally means your money is supporting the community. That local designer is likely to spend money there too.

4. Do you hire an expert or save money and do it yourself?

There are many options for creating a website. You can do it yourself using a platform like Wix or Squarespace, but is that really a good use of your time? Building a website yourself can be time-consuming and, as the saying goes, time is money! Plus, templates often have a cookie-cutter appearance and are not easily customizable.

If you want to stand out among your competitors and save the time and hassle of creating a website yourself, then hire an expert who can customize your website to your branding specs and vision.

If your budget is tight, some designers offer alternative options so you can still get online with a premium website. For example, a one-page scroll design can be expanded to a multi-page website later on. Or if you need a larger site right away, some designers may offer a payment plan. There may even be grants available that you can apply for.

A big benefit to having a website designed professionally right from the start is that your brand identity makes a positive impression on your target audience right out of the gate.

5. Do you hire an agency or a freelancer?

Both options have their benefits. While agencies offer a full range of top-notch services in one place, they often have a lot of overhead. As a result, their rates are more expensive.

If you’re on a budget, then hiring an experienced freelancer with low overhead can save you a lot of money. Some freelancers will partner with industry professionals and manage the entire project so you get the benefits of an agency with a lower price tag.

Does the designer partner with industry professionals?

What kinds of services does the web designer provide? Do they have industry partnerships?

Nobody can do everything themselves. If a designer says they can do it all, they are spreading themselves too thin and probably won’t have time to put quality effort into your project. It’s better to hire a designer that has a team of experts behind them.

Ask them about hosting, e-commerce, SEO, and graphic design. Who do they work with?

If a designer has positive partnerships with industry professionals and can manage the entire project, then it makes your life easier and you will receive better results.

6. How much experience does the designer have?

Interview the web designer. How many years of web design experience do they have? What platform do they use? Do they use Wix, Squarespace, WordPress, or another?

How did they learn to make websites? Did they go to university or learn themselves? 

Do they use templates or do they customize their websites with code? Can they customize websites with code like CSS and HTML?

Asking a few questions will help you determine their level of experience and abilities and what type of website you can expect.

7. What’s in the designer’s digital tool kit?

I love this one! In order to build a great website you need to have a handy toolbox full of resources.

What’s inside the designer’s toolbox? Maybe they have access to a font, icon, graphic, or stock image library. Or maybe they use special design software like Adobe CC and make graphics themselves. Perhaps they have experts they draw upon to make graphics.

Find out what’s in their toolbox!

8. Is the designer familiar with mobile-optimized design?

Does your designer know how to make your website fully responsive so that it displays well on a wide range of devices from a desktop or laptop computer to iPad Pros, tablets, and especially phones?

They will also need to do some testing to ensure the website will display well on different browsers.

9. Can the designer provide hosting and website maintenance?

What kind of hosting and website maintenance plan does your web designer offer? Or do you have to figure that out yourself? While it’s tempting to go with cheap hosting, it’s not always the best if you don’t have the time to maintain the website yourself.

I’m not talking about content updates. I mean ensuring that plugin, theme, and core files are up-to-date; that back-ups are done regularly; and that your site is secure.

A word of caution, if file updates are not done regularly, it leaves a backdoor open for hackers to plant malware in your website. I’ve seen it happen and it isn’t fun. Links get replaced with ones that lead visitors to malicious websites and that could seriously damage your reputation. Visitors won’t trust your website any longer and therefore won’t come back. 

Going with a good hosting and web maintenance plan saves you a lot of time, and headaches, and protects your reputation.

Get in Touch!

If you’re a business ready to take your online presence to the next level, put me on your list of designers to interview! I’m happy to get on a phone or Zoom call with you at any time to answer your questions.

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