Unless you have extensive experience in designing websites, it’s probably a good bet you’re in the market for a professional web designer. But choosing one goes far beyond the actual design of the website. It’s important to do your research and homework. Here’s what should you look for in a website designer.
It is a common mistake when looking at a designer’s portfolio to overlook the “what” in favor of the “how many.” Just because someone has a robust portfolio doesn’t mean they are the right fit for you. It is important to look at their design style. Does it fit the look and feel you’re going for? Are they following the latest web design trends? If you’re looking for a modern website, it doesn’t make much sense to hire someone who has nothing but traditional designs in their portfolio.
Have they designed websites specific to your industry in the past? The more specialized a designer is, the more likely you are to get a website that targets your industry, its products, services, and audience because they understand it.
Website Design Process
A qualified website designer will share with you a project outline of the phases needed to take a website from start to finish. It is important to understand the role everyone will play during the design process and the responsibilities of each to ensure a successful completion of your website.
You want a designer who seeks to understand your business. They should be asking about your business goals, your desired future state, and your current challenges. In our opinion, anyone that goes straight to designing the deliverable will not be successful at meeting your business objective.
Failing to work with someone who has a design process in place can result in time-consuming miscommunication and headache.
As a business owner, you probably already know the importance of customer service. Just like you strive to provide the best service to your customers, so should a website designer. Remember, this time you are the customer. Quality design requires an in-depth understanding of what your business is and what you need from your website. A good designer should ask questions, listen to your answers, and seek to provide you with a website solution that serves your specific needs. Communication is also vital—it is important that you find someone that listens to you and communicates effectively.
In web design, customer service is often disregarded, and as a business owner, it is easy to become focused on money in and money out and get caught up in the cost of a website. What is often overlooked until it is too late, is the importance of the customer experience provided by the designer.
- What is the onboarding process like?
- Is there a project timeline with updates?
- How are meetings handled? What about feedback and revisions?
- How is collaboration valued and facilitated?
- What about training and project handoff?
It is like comparing 1 star vs 5 star hotels, customer service can make the experience smooth and enjoyable or miserable and combative.
Not all website designers offer the same services. You may not need the full Monty, or you may need services way beyond the design of your website. Or maybe, you don’t even know what you need! It is important to do your research and ask questions. Here are some of the services to consider:
Strategy and Discovery – It is important to work with someone who will take the time to understand your business goals and objectives, who your target audience is and work with you to create a road map to reach that audience. Your website is one of your greatest brand ambassadors and likely the main line of communication with your customers.
Discovery is a critical element to a project, and there are many different levels involved. We recommend you bring this topic up with whomever you are considering to be your design partner because this will be an indicator of their experience level.
Here at Cart + Craft, we hold virtual whiteboard sessions, which allows the experience to be more like a facilitated workshop centered around collaboration.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – It doesn’t matter how good your website looks if it can’t be found online. After all, isn’t that the point? If your website is not optimized for search engines, you run the risk of being buried deep down in the land of Google search algorithms. There is a lot to SEO, and it’s a subject for another time, but it is important to know that SEO features heavily in the design of your website. It is such a complex subject that an entire industry has grown to focus on nothing but SEO. It is important to hire someone who understands the principles of SEO in order to ensure your website is optimized for search engines.
On-Going Maintenance – Let’s face it, websites are not free from technical bugs. There are times when things go wrong and unless you know what you’re doing, it can be difficult to identify and fix the problem. Having someone who can troubleshoot issues to make sure your site is always functional and accessible is a huge asset to your business.
On-going maintenance goes far beyond technical support however. Your website is a living, breathing, asset and it will need to be consistently adapted and updated to meet the ever changing needs of your customers. A website should be tested and optimized frequently to ensure it continues to meet your business objectives.
You don’t know what you don’t know. The best way to optimize your website is to pair it with website analytics, which will give you information on what your users are doing.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “you get what you pay for.” This is very true in creative services and the web design industry. While price should certainly be a factor in your decision, it shouldn’t be the only factor. It is important that you balance cost with the services and expertise you get in return.
You can get a website completed for $500, $2,000 or $20,000. However, rarely is the cheapest option the smartest one. It can often be a gamble—the designer may not have enough business experience, talent, design processes or client relations experience.
All of this can result in frustration, lost time and opportunity. Ineffective design in the end can cost you even more.
A $500 website may sound attractive, but you should think of your website as a long term investment, not an expense. It should be valued in terms of its ROI that will pay itself many times over. We believe that big results come from big efforts. So if you're expecting that a $500 investment will generate $100,000 in new revenue, that expectation is simply unrealistic because a successful website will need to have a proper sales funnel and several other elements and processes in place. And with those processes comes a larger budget.
Remember, while a website designer may be highly qualified, they may just not be a good fit for you. Unless you do your research and ask questions, you won’t be able to make an informed decision.
Hiring a designer that you like and trust is one of the most important business decisions you will make. If you’re in need of a website, we’d love to sit down and talk to you about what your needs are and answer any questions you may have.
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