The right web designer shouldn’t be hard to find, but you’d be amazed at how often people get stuck with a web designer who has no business calling themselves a web designer.

It may not seem like a big deal, “Oh well, I’ll just hire someone else.” But the unfortunate consequence is akin to hiring a contractor who has never built a house. You waste a lot of money, get stuck with something that doesn’t work right, and have to pay even more money to fix it.

And this is not as uncommon as you might think.

A friend of mine came to me once in need of a pretty big website fix. She had hired a web designer who flat out failed to deliver on the work they were contracted for.

The designer lied about their capabilities, promised something they couldn’t do, and then when it didn’t work out, they charged my friend anyway, and left her in a lurch.

These stories are not uncommon. Most of my web design work over the years has come from clients who hired a designer who made a mess of things.

The problem is there are so many web designers out there, their skill sets vary wildly, and a lot of designers use industry jargon knowing it confuses customers.

Unless you speak geek, it can be hard to know if the designer you’re looking at actually has the skills you need to pull off the job and do so well.

Pay attention to these four things to make sure you hire the right web designer, and don’t need to pay again later for someone to come in and fix your website.

1. Watch out for pricing that’s too good to be true.

While I’ve certainly under charged for a website for someone who is a friend, or someone who is a long term client, when it comes to web design you typically get what you pay for, up to a certain point.

A professional WordPress website can be priced anywhere from $500-$10,000 depending on the level of complexity and custom work required.

It’s not unreasonable to charge $500 for a simple WordPress website that has no customization.

But if you see someone offering a custom WordPress design for under $1,000, there’s something amiss. They could be new to web design and are looking to boost their portfolio. Maybe they don’t have enough confidence to charge more than $1,000, or maybe they’re working on a volume basis.

When a designer works on volume, they tend to pay less attention to the details; things slip through the cracks, and — unless it’s outlined in your proposal that you get some revisions — you may end up having to pay in order to get the problems fixed.

2. A pro will have paperwork

A professional who has been in the business for a while will have paperwork for you for each project. Paperwork to:

  • Reflect their obligations to you, and your obligations to them
  • Map out the full scope of the project
  • Get clarity for copywriting and content planning

It is 2017, so often this paperwork will be digital, but if you’re hiring a pro, there will be paperwork for you. Be wary of any designer that only has a 1 page proposal, and never gives you another piece of paper.

For your protection — and theirs — make sure you have written information about the payment, cancellation, and refund policies.

3. Project stages and due dates.

Web design projects that will be done with the most efficiency are done in stages.

While designers vary what they call each stages, you can typically expect stages along the lines of:

  • Planning
  • Drafting
  • Building
  • Polishing

During the planning phase, you’ll have a lot of questions to answer.

  1. What design elements do you like?
  2. What colours do you use for your brand?
  3. What fonts do you use across your brand?
  4. What is the purpose of your website?
  5. What is your revenue model? (Not all designers will ask this, but when one does, give them a gold star. The most effective websites line up with your business goals)

During the drafting phase, your designer will start sending you ideas. You’ll get colour swatches, fonts to pick from, a brand board, and a wireframe mockup.

At this point, you will usually have the opportunity to make some revisions. How many revisions you get at this phase should be outlined in your contract.

Once you’re happy — or run out of revisions — you’ll sign off on this phase in order to move to the next, which is building.

During the building phase the designer will start to put it all together. You’ll also usually have rounds of revisions and sign off points here as well until your site is complete.

The purpose of the revisions and sign off points is to protect both you and the designer. This saves the designer from having to make 14 revisions to one shade of blue at the end of the project (true story), and will save you from wasting a week going back and forth because you’re not quite pleased.

During revision rounds you will be presented with choices, and you get to make the choices in a clear, precise way, that allows you both to move forward with the project in a mutually satisfactory way.

All revision rounds and project stages should have completion dates attached.

4. Ask the right questions.

If you’re looking for someone to design a SquareSpace site, then someone who exclusively works in WordPress may not be a good fit. If you want custom work, you need to ask about their design and code experience.

Knowledge is your friend. Do your research and get very clear about what you need before you start talking to anybody. Arm yourself with the knowledge needed to make sure you are asking the right questions so you can make sure you hire someone who is actually qualified.

The right web designer will be willing and able to answer your questions about their experience, their qualifications, and the way in which they work.

You don’t need a web designer who went to college for web design or computer science, but you do need a web designer who can demonstrate they know what they’re doing.


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