How do you choose your web designer?
Having worked and lived in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast for almost 7 years after emigrating from Scotland, I have seen lots of web designers and agencies come and go. There are dozens of agencies and many hundreds of designers working from home offices or shared work spaces too. Some have been a flash in the pan but some have gone the distance, creating a solid livelihood for themselves. I myself have certainly carved out a good solid client base, and have found that word of mouth has provided me with some great new business too.
Here on the Sunshine Coast, there’s a fairly active design scene that drives the industry ever forward. The University at Sippy Downs and the TAFE near Mooloolaba feed a regular supply of new recruits into the industry and there is generally a bit of a buzz of creativity around the area – in essence, making it one of the best places to go for web designers.This healthy eco system gives business owners lots of choice when it comes to choosing an agency or a designer to work with. Being a standalone designer myself, I am obviously going to say us lone rangers are better to work with and deliver a more client focused experience than working with an agency. There are, of course, pros and cons for each, but that’s something we can look at another time.
What I would like to look at is what qualities you should look for in a web designer if you’ve already chosen to go with a standalone designer, and what questions you need to ask to decide if they are a good fit for you and your business. Using the below points as a checklist will help you to get the right designer for you – after all, every business is unique and wants something different from their designer – the trick is finding someone you like working with, and you know will give you the full package.
There are lots self taught and new graduates out there – (there’s nothing wrong with that, everyone has to start somewhere). In my opinion, however, I think the place to start is working for an agency, as this gives a designer a wider view of what is required to build a commercial website. It is well worth checking how long your prospective designer has been in business, and you should make sure you see samples of their work and some testimonials (LinkedIn is usually a good place to start).
The most common complaint I get from new clients is “We were using this guy in Sydney. He was great at first but then completely dropped off the map. If he does reply to us it takes him over a week”. Some designers start off small and as they get bigger they lose the ability to focus on each client and dedicate their time to them. Agencies can go the same way, but they generally tend to increase how much they charge as they cover the costs of a new office, account managers and all the associated fluff that goes with company expansion.
Have a quick discussion about how much of the work will be outsourced and how capable the designer is. It’s perfectly acceptable to expect specialities such as SEO and Google Adwords Management to be outsourced, but your designer should have the necessary skills in web development and design. Another common story is “Our web guy says that the developers in India aren’t responding to his emails and he can’t finish the website”. Just check what is being done in-house and what is going out to another freelancer. You’d be surprised at how many “fully qualified” web developers outsource much of the website to others.
This is especially important if you are using a freelancer. Make sure that any domain names you are using are registered in your name and always register the name yourself, even if you want to host the website with your Freelancer. If they disappear for any reason, you will be able to recover the site if you own it yourself. It’s also worth asking any prospective Freelancer if working in the design industry is their long-term plan. Many freelancers use it as a bridge between positions at agencies. You don’t want to be left hung out to dry with a broken website if they go off the boil. Believe me, I have seen this happen many times. In addition to this, check out the copyright situation. Make sure that you own everything!
Web design is sometimes still seen as a dark art and there are many designers who are happy to charge top dollar for something they aren’t dedicated to ensuring success for. Ask around, check out portfolios and always get three proposals to make sure you’re choosing the right person for your website. It is, after all, something that your business really needs. (I would, of course, be happy to be one of those three – so feel free to get in touch!)