Choosing a web designer to work with you is one of the most important decisions you will make before you start your web project. Here’s a checklist of what you need to know to help you choose the right web designer for you.
Your choice will be based on a number of factors. Each web business will have different strengths which will be more important to you than others. Discovering your priorities will help you to get nearer to finding the right web designer. It will help you to feel more prepared to make contact with a prospective web partner and have a list of questions ready that you want to ask them.
The Checklist – What You Need to Know to Choose the Right Web Designer
This checklist has not been put together just by me. I asked a group of business owners what their priorities were when it comes to websites and what they would be looking for.
Pulling together the feedback I received, I devised the following checklist and will explore each one in turn.
By the end of this article, I hope you will feel better prepared to do your research effectively and find the right person for you.
Here’s the list: –
1. The Know, Like and Trust factor
2. Recommendation and Social Proof
3. Shared Values and Purpose
4. Project Type, Industry Knowledge and Expertise
5. Your Budget – How Much Does a Website Cost?
6. Communication and Processes
Let’s explore each one in more detail.
1. The Know, Like and Trust Factor
A website is a big investment. We need to know, like and trust the person or company you are dealing with. But what does that really mean?
What comes first is the ‘know’. You become aware of someone who could potentially be someone who can help you. You might know them from an online group, a networking event, someone you follow in social media or someone who has been introduced to you by an existing business colleague.
When it comes to like, remember one thing. Not everyone will like you, nor you them. This is actually a good thing. We can’t like everyone so from a list of potential web partners, there will be some that you like more than others. The ones you don’t like, you can cross off the list.
Trust comes after the like and know and is critical to the buying process. People will buy from people they trust. When you’re looking for the right web designer, here are some things to look out for: –
• Are they consistent in their messaging and the experience you have each time you have contact whether through the website, through email or in person?
• Does their website and messaging match with who they are?
• Are they clear about who they help and what their purpose is?
• How responsive and communicative are they?
• Do they treat you respectfully?
• Does their content reflect their expertise?
• Are they open and honest about what they do and how?
Trust is key. There are many who can talk the talk but can they really walk the walk? Your research and due diligence will help you to make an informed judgement to find the ‘walker’ rather than the ‘talker’. It takes time to build up trust, whether you know someone through your network or whether you are in touch with them for the first time. Take your time to find the right person. A website is not a life or death experience so don’t feel panicked into making a rash decision.
A Note on Being Friends
If you know someone a little too well, it can blur the lines of being professional, from both sides. If a project goes horribly wrong or you feel let down it can affect a friendship. I think that mixing business with pleasure can be very difficult to manage personally so sometimes it is better to keep friendships as just that.
2. Recommendation and Social Proof
Recommendations can take some of the worry out of deciding who to work with. Having said that, don’t rely totally on the recommendation. You need to make sure you do your own due diligence on the person who has been recommended to you with the know, like, trust process.
We all have different experiences with the same people so remember that the experience that your recommender had with the web designer may not be the same for you. You have a great opportunity to be able to find out more about the person who has been recommended to you and explore if they would be a good fit for you to work with.
The beauty of recommendation is that you can get a real insight about how the web designer works and some of the things they do to support the clients they work with. You have the opportunity to ask your recommender lots of questions which you can use for your own question asking later.
Go and check out the testimonials on their website too and social media profiles. See what other people say who have worked with them. A good testimonial will give you an insight into the type of problems the web designer has solved for the clients and how it has made a difference to their business.
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3. Shared Values
You have to feel comfortable with the person you work with. My own personal take on this is that you want to work with someone who shares similar values.
What are values?
Simply put, a value is what a person finds to be important and wants to be doing with their life.
Whether you work with a freelance web designer or a larger agency, each will have their own values which are core to their business. Aligning with those core values is really important. The purpose of why businesses do what they do is becoming ever more important. In Mark Schaefer’s latest book, Marketing Rebellion, he writes about the importance of being honest about the purpose of what we do and how important it is that our clients can relate to it and that it is meaningful to them.
Find someone who shares the same values as you.
Values like honesty, integrity, commitment, generosity, sincerity, thoughtfulness and understanding.
I believe that we should always treat others as we would wish to be treated. You will begin to discover the web designer’s values by getting to know, like and trust them. From their website copy, their social media profiles, their email newsletters and by their direct communication with you.
4. Project Type, Industry Knowledge and Expertise
The choice of web designer will be dependent on project type. I work with small business so their needs will be very different to a large national company. If you were looking for an eCommerce site or a Membership Site then these can be complex projects that require the right kind of experience and can involve teams of developers to build out custom complex projects. So, depending on your project type, you need to find out that the web designer has the right skill set to get the project off the ground and maintain it.
Industry Experience and Expertise
Work with a web designer with your relevant industry experience. Knowing how an industry works will give you much more than a website. They will be able to guide you how best to approach the specifics of your website and have the knowledge of what works for the type of audience you are trying to reach and what doesn’t.
Experience of the right industry or client type opens up other ways in how they can help you to grow your business such as SEO strategy, content marketing, advertising, Google Ads and PPC work, landing page development as examples.
Content Management System Choice (CMS)
Websites can be built on a choice of CMS such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. Other designers may specialise in customising website building platforms such as Squarespace, Weebly or Wix. If you have a specific preference for which CMS you want to work with then make sure you choose the right designer for the CMS you want your website built with. I only work with WordPress so if you’re looking to work with a different CMS platform, then I’m not the right designer for you.
5. Your Budget
It goes without saying that your choice will be limited to the amount of money that you have to spend. As part of your research you must find out how much a website costs so you manage your own expectations of what you want versus what you can afford.
How Much Does a Website Cost? You can spend from as little as £99 for a web project, up to £50k+ so be realistic about your expectations. It’s not always easy to find out how much web designers charge but some will publish their prices on their website or you may have to make an enquiry.
As part of your research, work out what you want your website to do. Assess your aims and goals before you even get started on your project. The clearer you are with your purpose and target audience means you’ll be able to have a more meaningful initial discussion about your web project.
6. Communication and Processes
A good web designer will be a good communicator. They will not speak to you in the language of ‘technical jargon’ but as a real human being in language that you understand. A web designer or developer whose website is full of technical jargon is possibly not going to be helpful to you. Not only will you not understand the jargon (if it’s not your area of expertise you shouldn’t have to) that can be quite intimidating. How would that make you feel? Find someone who explains it all in language that you understand.
How good a communicator are they?
• How do they manage your expectations?
• Do they explain their processes on their website about how they work and what’s involved in a project?
• Can you ask them questions through their website?
• Are they friendly and approachable?
• Do they come back to you when they say they will?
• Do they speak in a language you understand, free of jargon?
Communication is really important. It can be the difference between a great project and a disastrous one. There are many moving parts of a web project so the person you are working with needs to be organised. Managing client’s expectations is key. Letting clients know what is happening at each step is crucial to the project’s success and the ongoing relationship.
A website should have goals that are geared to the business. Each company will have their own goals and not all businesses have the same things to measure. Many websites won’t have physical products to sell and so may not be aware of other things that can be measured and monitored to track how the website is performing.
A website never stays the same, it is always developing and growing. Having results to measure means that things can be improved or changed to see if aspects of the website can be enhanced to become more effective and convert into real business.
Here are some measurables that can be tracked on a website: –
• Blog article visits
• Time spent on website pages and articles
• New and returning visitors to the website
• Product sales
• Lead magnet downloads eg eBooks, PDFs
• Sign-ups to a newsletter
• Contact form enquiries
• Phone call enquiries
• Clicks on a call-to-action button
What is tracked and monitored will vary from website to website. Over time, as a website develops and grows, more tracking can be added. As a minimum, you should be looking at the traffic coming to the website on a regular basis using Google Analytics. This data will help you to make continued improvements to the website and find out what is working and what aspects need improvement.
Summary of What You Need to Know to Choose the Right Web Designer
In summary, how to choose the right web designer comes down to research and doing your due diligence. If you apply this checklist to your research you will be well on your way to finding the right web designer for you.
Do not ever feel pressured by anyone to think that you have to work with them, even if you have gone quite far with your line of enquiry. Your decision has to be the right one for you and if you have any red flags during this process then my advice is to always go with your gut feeling. A web project can be both exhausting and stressful, you want someone you can get along with as well as trust, to make the whole process as painless as possible.
Take your time to make the right decision but also don’t hesitate too much and never get your project off the ground. It’s important that whoever you work with is the right fit for both parties. If a good web designer thinks that they won’t be a good fit for you then they will tell you so. Don’t be offended if they do, it’s definitely in your best interests that they can do the job well and have the right experience to deliver.