Choosing the right web designer can be a tricky task. Web designers and developers come in all shapes and sizes – from large specialist companies, to in-agency teams and bedroom techies. Equally as diverse are the websites they create and the prices they charge. When weighing up the different options for web designers, here are are the questions to ask:
Use these answers to help you outline your personal needs, requirements and goals related to your online presence. Your website is one of the biggest marketing investments you’ll make, yet making the wrong decision about who will bring your online vision to life is all too easy. Have the points made in this blog in mind before you make that critical decision.
Do you like them?
It’s important that you get along with your web designer/developer; after all, you will be working very closely with them and they will be translating your brand into your website. It’s essential that you can communicate well and even have some fun while you do it! If you feel confused, patronised or bamboozled by your prospective web designer, then just walk away.
Do you like their work?
Designers and developers all have ‘signatures’ and will build things a certain way – we’re all different. Take a look at what they’ve done before and see if their style suits you and your business as it’s important to acknowledge that different businesses have different needs. Perhaps look over your competitors’ sites to find some examples of what you like and also what you don’t.
The Awwwards celebrate the very best in web and digital design. If you’re looking for some inspiration to present to your web designer, have a browse; you can filter by industry to see the very best examples from your peers.
What do people say about them?
As anyone in business knows, word of mouth is one of the most effective and genuine forms of marketing, so have a chat with people your prospective web designer has worked with – were they easy to contact? Did they speak in technical gobbledegook?
Alternatively, check out their online reviews to see what their clients have to say and how happy they are with their service. Reviews are an example of social proof as you’ll be able to click through to the reviewer’s website and check out their praised - or criticised - work for yourself.
A screenshot of a testimonial from Noisy Little Monkey's website *toots own horn*
Can you find their work?
Lots of web developers talk about ‘SEO-ing websites’, but check that they are following current good practice. Do some searches on Google to see if their websites rank for generic phrases, not just the client's name. There could be lots of reasons why they don’t, the important thing is knowing your web designer understands why this is and can advise (or knows someone who can) on options on how to drive traffic to the site.
How much does it really cost?
We’ve met clients who find that although their site was cheap to set up, the cost to make changes means that the lifetime cost is significantly more than they expected. Equally people have paid extra for a content management system, and then never changed the site. Define your budget, write a brief so you are clear on what you need and check you aren’t locked into any unexpected costs.
With a properly scoped web project your web designer should be able to give you a fixed quote for the design and build. Be extremely wary of 'time and materials' design quotes. It's often better to pay for a day of time up front for the designer to scope the project properly - that way, the web design team has time to think about the implications of each step of the build and there should be no hidden costs. If your designer isn't keen to do this then you should definitely walk away.
Do they use the right tools?
Your website’s functionality is a fundamental part of its success and outlining exactly what technological features it needs will decide what type of web designer or developer you will ultimately choose. If you want an ultra-fast website that evolves and grows as your business does, you may want to consider an intelligent, all-encompassing platform like HubSpot.
When you work with a designer, developer or agency who specialises in a particular platform, the process of building the website is sped up, which should lower your overall costs. The best part is a HubSpot specialist doesn’t just do all the work for you: they'll teach you the ins and outs of the platform, giving you enough confidence to manage and optimise the site as you see fit, while always being on-hand to offer support and advice later down the line. Find out more about how we can work together to achieve your website goals with HubSpot here.
Do they understand usability?
We all want our website to look fantastic, but flashy sites are all style and no substance - and a great web designer knows this. Moving graphics and video snippets can slow your site down considerably which will have a hugely negative effect on your bounce rate, and if SEO is not part of the framework of your website, it will be detrimental to your search engine rankings.
Good web designers put the user at the centre of your website and believe in the power of testing, re-testing, and testing again to make all the necessary amends. By sharing the user-centered focus, you can work together to align your digital and business goals.
Poorly-designed, busy websites are confusing, hard to navigate and look at, and will make your bounce rate soar. See more awfully bad websites here.
Do they speak the same language?
Once the site is live, you're bound to want a few changes as it beds in and you see how people are using it. Be sure to utilise measures like bounce rates, conversions, number of unique visitors, time on site and search engine rankings to inform your improvements.
Changes will rightly cost you a little extra as and when they're needed. But, now more than ever, it is essential that you have chosen a web designer you can communicate with effectively. If you find your web designer difficult to talk to then making changes to the site is going to be a drain on your energy as well as your purse as their interpretations of your instructions could be wide off the mark. Repeated rebuilding of the same tweak can start to make a hole in your budget.
Do they treat you as a priority?
If your emails are left unanswered and they’re forever failing to follow up your calls, it may be time to call time on this particular relationship. It doesn’t matter how much you want to use the designer based on their previous work if their communication isn’t up to scratch.
Are they detail orientated?
Almost everyone falls out of love with their web design team at some point by the end of the project. Even if you’ve spent a lot of time and money upfront sorting out every last detail, the final stretch of any project is hard because there are so many small details that need to be sorted out. If you like and trust your web designer this last stretch is so much easier, even better if your web designer is in control of the detail and is pushing you to make decisions rather than the other way round. Details might include Google Analytics tracking code, 301 redirects and xml sitemaps. It’s not glamorous design stuff, but vital for the performance of your site long-term.
If you need help de-coding your web designer or developer, get in touch with us below and we'll help.