Choosing a Web Designer

The next part of our Starting an Online Business series will cover Choosing a Web Designer. Web designer is a very broad term so you need to make sure the person you choose to create your website has all the skills and knowledge that will make your website successful.

Before you contact anyone for a quotation, make sure you have done your research. How much does a website cost? is a very difficult question for the web designer to answer without some idea of what exactly you would like done.

Price should not be the only determining factor. We are all on budgets but taking the lowest costing route just might not work out as the best decision.

Prepare Your Website Plan

After researching your target audience you should have a list of features that your audience expects. Make a priority list of these features. Your budget may not be large enough to include everything at first but with a complete list of features you will give the web designer an idea of what the total plan is. This can affect how the website is built initially, so get out the pen and paper or word processor and make that list!

Having a website plan will also help in the process of choosing a web designer. If there’s too many things on your list that the web designer cannot do, then they are not the right one for your particular project.

Looking for a Web Designer

Before you start looking for a web designer, determine if you are comfortable working long distance or if you would prefer to be able to meet in person on occasion. Either way works, it’s just a matter of what you are more comfortable with.

Search the internet to find a few website design firms to consider, there are lots to choose from!

Web Designer Portfolio

As you are searching the internet for a web designer, there are a few things to keep in mind as you look at their website and their portfolio.

  • User friendly designs

    Are the websites they have designed user friendly? Is it easy to move around the website and find everything that you would need to find?

  • High use of graphics

    Does the web designer favour high graphic web design? Include just the right amount of graphics? Does not use graphics enough?

  • Do all their samples look the same?

    This could be a hint that they use templates and switch out colours and graphics to suit the customer.

    If the web designer specializes in ecommerce websites, do their sample sites look like every other ecommerce site? Another hint that they use ecommerce templates and change the colours and images for each client.

  • Did you require Flash, Quicktime or another browser add on to view the sample sites?

    Some websites are built with technology that requires special browser add ons to view the site.

  • Were the sample websites quick to load?

    A well designed website will load quickly, even if it has a number of graphics.

  • Was there a horizontal scroll bar as you viewed the sample websites?

    If a horizontal scroll bar appeared, then the web designer has not taken into consideration the various resolutions and monitor sizes users have.

  • Can you change the font size?

    In your browser you can change the font size used to view a website. If the font does not adjust then the web designer used a fixed font size. This could be a problem if your website visitor can not read the font size chosen.

  • How do the sample websites look in different browsers?

    Test the sample websites in different browsers. They possibly won’t look exactly the same because of browser differences but the site should not break either.

    Is there a note “Best viewed in ….”? This would be an indication that the site was designed for a specific browser. This could alienate potential customers if they are using another browser and the website breaks.

Once you have narrowed down your choices of web designers to consider there are a few more things you need to be able to answer.

The Web Designer Will Ask

Before contacting any of your short list web designers, be prepared to answer:

  • What does your company do?

    Be prepared to describe what exactly your company does. Giving the web designer a complete picture of the type of business you run, how sales are generated and the future plans for the business will prompt new ideas you have not thought of and give the designer an indication what future features the web design needs to be able to incorporate at a later date.

  • Do you have existing an existing logo, branding or marketing materials?

    If your business is existing, the web designer will need to see your existing marketing materials to be able to incorporate the existing theme and/or branding you have already established.

    For a brand new business, working closely with your web designer and the people creating your marketing materials is important to continue the company branding into the website.

  • What are the goals of the website?

    As part of your preparation for moving the business to an online prescence, a list of goals for the website is required as a tool to measure the success of the website.

  • What type of information do you wish to provide on the website?

    Each type of information you wish to provide to your website visitors will require a different type of setup. Providing PDF versions of instructions for your products will require some extra work verses having the instructions as regular web pages, for example.

  • Who are your competitors? What are they providing their website visitors?

    Have you taken a look at what your competitors are doing with their websites? Are there things that are missing from those websites that you could provide to make your website different and more useful to potential customers?

    Being different from the typical website for your industry can make your website more memorialable than the competition.

  • Will the site require online purchase capabilities?
  • Have you already set up PayPal or a Merchant account if website visitors can make online purchases?
  • What website features are required?

    Have your list ready, complete with priorities selected.

  • Do you have a list of three or four websites you like and what about the website you like?

    Having a selection of websites you like and why will help the web designer get a feel for what type of look and feel you would like.

  • How many pages and sections of the website will be required?

    Some web designers price projects by the page, some by the amount of time they expect the project will take to produce so having a clear list of the pages and sections in hand will result in a firmer, sharper price.

  • What is your budget?

    Don’t be afraid to disclose a budget figure. You can give a figure lower than you really have to spend so you have room to absorb some extras but having a budget in mind saves everyone time.

  • Do you have a deadline for when the website is to be launched?

    Disclosing up front that you have a product launch, article coming out or any other special deadlines is the best. Both parties are clear on when the completion date is then. If you have a short completion date and a complicated site, then don’t expect to get a sharp price and quality work.

  • What level of assistance will you require to maintain the website?

    If you plan to maintain the website yourself then it may need to be constructed differently than if you were going to hire the web designer to maintain the website as well. Your level of expertise on website coding would also influence how a self maintained website will be constructed.

As you can tell, choosing a web designer isn’t as easy as it seems. The more research, preparation and clear you are before calling for quotations on your website design, the better pricing you will receive and the clearer you will be on what you are receiving for the price quoted.

Be sure to have the quotation in writing and the legalities of ownership of the website design and graphics need to be stated.

Do You Own Your Site?

Do you own your site? This depends on how the contract between yourself and the web designer is written. Some web design contracts have a clause that the designer retains ownership of the design and you are given certain rights to use it. If you want to own the design outright complete with all the files that were used to create the website, then be specific in your quote request that this is what you want. Be prepared to pay a price for this.

“Paying a web developer to create your site doesn’t necessarily give you the rights to it. Generally, that work is still the intellectual property of the designer and derivative works might sometimes be the subject of legal issues in the future….”

Do You Own the Rights to Your Site?

You should look at the Do You Own Your Web Site? post also at

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27 Responses to Choosing a Web Designer

  1. Jollymoon Says:

    Very nice article. Choosing a web page designer should be easy!

  2. Food Samples Says:

    Very nice information. Thanks for this.

  3. Hire a Geek Says:

    Hey thanks 🙂 i can just convert some of these guidelines into questionnaires when i interview potential web designers.
    Thanks again.

  4. rezv resveratrol miracle Says:

    This is really a helpful article.I agree that it would definitely up to the the one looking for a web designer whether to choose a long distance one or the one he can actually talk to.Great post!more power!

  5. intellectual properties protection attorney Says:

    Regarding the statement “Paying a web developer to create your site doesn’t necessarily give you the rights to it. Generally, that work is still the intellectual property of the designer”

    This is very true which is why it’s imperative to fully understand the contract before entering a relationship between yourself and a designer.

  6. theweeguy Says:

    I absolutely disagree with you, the client owns the website as well as owning the domain and the intellectual properties of the design.

    Far too many designers take advantage of uneducated clients. But these clients are much more web savvy than they used to be.

    I would recommend that any client ensures the web designer provides a content management system for the client; just so the client isn’t left in the lurk and can update their own site when the designer is unreachable.

    Remember, A web designer is a skilful, yet hired hand.

  7. Web Page Mistakes Says:

    A savvy client will read the contract/terms of sale they are presented by the web design firm.

    Unfortunately, people just don’t read these documents properly before signing up.

    It is a serious problem that consumers are going for all in one packages where they have no control over their website. The firm registers the domain name in their name, they don’t provide login information for the domain registration, they provide the web hosting and can shut down the site on a whim and, include in their contract/term of sale that the design firm retains all copyright to the design and technology. These firms are getting away with it because consumers are not reading everything before signing up.

    This is why we have the Starting an Online Business series of articles, so consumers can be aware of what should happen when they commission a website design.

  8. Web Designer Says:

    Its important as well to get some information from past clients if possible. Any web design company can give you fake testimonials – but you might find some websites they did and contact them.

  9. Jim Says:

    An informative article and nicely done. It created a bit of controversy as far as who owns the website. I have to agree with theweeguy, so many designers take advantage of their clients, persistant in keeping them coming back to them for any little thing so they can charge them. There needs to be some honesty here and everyone would be better for it.

  10. Dave Says:

    Very useful article. I fully agree with the guidelines put in by you in order to judge a professional web designer’s portfolio. A portfolio is amongst the best indicators of the skill set and the expertise level of any professional web designer.

    Web 2.0 technologies have gained a lot of popularity in the last few years and professional web designers with Web 2.0 proficiency can deliver websites which provide an unmatched user experience. After all, for a customer, a website is all about the quality of user experience he/ she gets and nobody understands it better than a professional web designer.

    Hiring a professional web designer with a showcased portfolio spanning web programming (PHP, CSS, xHTML), logo and graphic design is the first step to starting a successful online business. If you have a reasonable budget, you should be able to hire a good professional web designer who’ll help you build a great website for your business.

  11. New Method Says:

    Some great pointers there, you have failed to mention that there is more to a great website than just design though!

  12. trademark attorney Says:

    “For a brand new business, working closely with your web designer and the people creating your marketing materials is important to continue the company branding into the website.”

    I completely agree. It is important to note, however, that before creating your brand new logo or if you are in fact, launching a new product, a patent search is a good defense to make sure nobody is using that logo or branding technique already.

  13. Vanessa - Best SEO Company Says:

    Love this article, and I think it is important to have both the client and the web development company involve in the process. Keeping them educated on exactly what is going on and how we are creating those results is very important. Find a company that keeps you in the loop on everything.

  14. GreenTent Says:

    Nice post, the information given are the most important part in choosing a web design. It would also be great if the client will not depend everything on the web designer, he/she should also cooperate or get involve with the project for a better result. 2 heads is better than one.

  15. Web Development Services Says:

    While the quality of the portfolio is important, the similarity of samples should not be a primary concern– a prospective customer is not always privy to whom has been commissioning the projects, especially when many different domains are operated by the same client, under different project or company names. A prospective client should base their decision on the types of questions web developers ask and, whoever demonstrates they are most qualified to meet their needs– and has the foresight to build a site that can grow with the clients’ company.

  16. Katie Smith Says:

    “If there’s too many things on your list that the web designer cannot do, then they are not the right one for your particular project.”

    That’s true! You will only be wasting your money if the web designer that you are talking to can’t do what you wanted to have on your site. It will be best that you have all things prepared before looking for a designer so that you know who will suit with your needs.

  17. Jack Stephen Says:

    Katie has picked up a really good point from the article and I agree with it. The most important thing is to layout at-least 80% plan for the website development and both the parties should come on a mutual ground. This is a good article as it has provided a detailed instructions to get a web site from web developers.

    Jack Stephen

  18. Bob Hayes Says:

    Thanks for a nice, informative article.

    Quoted from article:

    “Paying a web developer to create your site doesn’t necessarily give you the rights to it. Generally, that work is still the intellectual property of the designer and derivative works might sometimes be the subject of legal issues in the future….”

    When I first started out with web publishing I researched web designers and the costs involved. Almost every guru at the time said that if you really want to succeed bigtime on the internet, you need to learn to design websites yourself.

    With so many awesome web publishing programs available, it would be foolish to not consider learning how to create a website yourself.

    My tool of choice is XSitePro although I have also used Microsoft Frontpage, Sharepoint Designer and Dreamweaver.

    If you are going to create several sites over time, you owe it to yourself to look into this option.

    And it would be absolutely horrible to pay $1000 or more to have a site designed only to find out that you don’t even have the rights to it.

  19. Web Page Mistakes Says:

    Learning to create your own website can be gratifying but you need to weigh the cost of your time learning to do it well with the cost of not doing something else to build your business. e.g. Producing product, promoting the business. If you want to learn and enjoy doing it then eventually, you will get quicker at it. When it is a chore to work on the site it is time to consider hiring someone.

    To be clear about ownership: This point was brought up so you, the website/blog owner, are an informed consumer and ask the question about ownership. Be prepared to pay more if you want the original files for things like artwork. The designer could be counting on keeping those so you have to come back to them for alterations.

  20. Allison Clark Says:

    “If you plan to maintain the website yourself then it may need to be constructed differently than if you were going to hire the web designer to maintain the website as well. Your level of expertise on website coding would also influence how a self maintained website will be constructed.”

    Yes, this point is true. Most of the issues occur during maintenance after site has already been constructed. Make sure you know the designer well enough to get in contact with them even after the project is completed to iron out any small problems.

  21. Coat Rack Says:

    When I did my first site I used a what you see is what you get editor and I must admit I did look pretty tacky. But the one piece of advice that I think anyone who has a website should know at least some rudimentary HTML so they can make minor adjustments and changes if only to test for better conversion rates

  22. Steve from Web Design Hampshire Says:

    I agree that if a web designer does not meet your needs then they are not the right ones for you. Many designers have strengths in different areas. Looking at websites they have worked on before is a good place to start to see they quality and whether they will be suited to your business.

  23. Web Design Southampton Says:

    agree with @Steve – looking at a designers portfolio is a great way of finding whether a particular designer is well suited to your needs.

    One thing I would recommend is giving a few of a designers clients a call to see what they thought of them too

  24. liam Says:

    Very interesting points raised in this article . I agree espeicailly with how important it is the designer has previous sites that are user friendley as obviously if a customer views your website they will quickly leave if there is tonnes of content and the site is in no real structure.

  25. Santa Clarita Web Design Says:

    Thanks for the great article and the interesting points put into this. Choosing a web designer is more than going on Craigslist and finding the odd person. It involves good searching and knowing what to avoid and what not to avoid. I’m very glad you made this article, thank you again.

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