Finding the best web designer for your business

Your website is a critical part of your business or nonprofit’s marketing plan. It’s often the first place a potential customer, donor or volunteer will go to learn more about you. When you need to build a website, or you realize it’s time your current site got an upgrade, finding the right designer for your needs can be difficult. There are many excellent designers available who work with a variety of platforms and services. How do you choose and who do you trust?

What to Look For When Choosing a Web Designer

It’s helpful to start with your end goal in mind to help you narrow down the most important criteria for choosing a website designer. 

  • Are you looking to grow an ecommerce site, or amplify your brand awareness?
  • Who is your target market and target audience, and what kind of site would appeal to them? 
  • What metrics will you use to measure the success of your website – number of page views, number of sales and sales revenue or an increase in volunteer signups? 

While this may seem like a lot to figure out before speaking to a designer, this type of data is invaluable for the professional you eventually decide to hire. It’s also very useful to have during the interview process to help both you and the designer decide if you’re a good fit.

Website Design Experience

Experience is important though you don’t necessarily want someone who’s been around for 30 years if they’re still doing the same thing they’ve been doing for decades. Look for someone who has specific experience in the platform of your choice (i.e. WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify) and who ideally has worked with similar businesses or nonprofits and understands the unique challenges you have. Reviewing their About page on their website can give you insight into the type of work they’ve done (and if they don’t have an About page, that’s definitely a concern!)

Review Their Portfolio

Reviewing a website designer’s portfolio can give you an idea of the types of sites they’ve done and most likely you’ll see a trend with the type of aesthetic they work with. If you’re someone who favors pastels and frilly fonts, you probably don’t want to work with the designer who uses a darker color palette and clean lines, though all else being equal if you like everything else about them, it’s worth it to discuss with them your design needs to see if they’re open to it. You should also be concerned if they don’t have any type of portfolio on their site, though if you like everything else you’ve read about them, you can contact them to ask for links to sites they’ve done.

What’s Their Expertise?

If you have very specific needs, it’s important to find someone with a background and experience that matches to get the best results. For example, if accessibility is a serious concern for you (and it should be!) then you don’t want to choose a designer who has no experience with making a site accessible. Likewise if you are set on a Shopify site, don’t lean toward the designer whose expertise is WordPress and WooCommerce and has never touched Shopify.

Read Their Reviews

Reading customer reviews can give you a good idea of how well the designer has done for their clients, though keep in mind that most reviews on a website will be positive ones. Be sure to check out third-party review sites such as on their Google Business Profile, Facebook page, Trust Pilot, Yelp, etc. to get a full picture of the type of reviews they get. If the designer has barely any reviews or none at all, this can be a red flag, though you can also email them for client testimonials if you are interested in hiring them. Another caveat to consider is, do they respond to their reviews? A website designer who responds to their reviews, positive and not-so-positive, in a professional, friendly and helpful manner demonstrates good communication and follow through skills.

Are They Available?

One thing you should consider is that good website designers are generally booked out, sometimes for weeks and months into the future. If you’re just thinking about having a website done, starting the process to interview and find a website designer early helps you to find a person you like and get onto their booking calendar. Waiting til the last minute and then expecting the person of your choice to be ready to go immediately is likely to end up with you having to postpone your desired site launch due to lack of availability.

Is the Price Right for You?

Pricing for website designers can vary widely depending on the types of services they offer, their experience, and their booking availability. In general you can expect an agency to be more expensive than a small solo or two-person business because they have more overhead to pay for. Just because one designer charges $10,000 and another $5,000 for the same site doesn’t necessarily mean the $10,000 designer is better. It’s important for you to determine what your budget is for the project before you start looking, and how much wiggle room you have if you find someone you really want who is out of that price range, if at all. Along with pricing, a good question to ask is what payment types they take (i.e. check, credit card, Venmo) and if they offer payment plans.

What’s Their Process?

Most website designers will give a brief overview of their process on their website. A clearly defined process that includes a discovery meeting to review your goals indicates that you are working with a professional who can provide a positive customer experience. If there’s no information on their site, you can contact them to ask about how they run a website project. If they don’t have any type of defined process, this can be a concern.

Do You Have Compatible Work Styles?

Every website designer is different and will run their business in the way that works best for them. It’s important for you to decide if that works for you as well. For example, many designers limit their methods of communication to ones that are most efficient for them, such as only working via a ticketing system or email. Others are open to you contacting them via phone, text, Facebook Messenger – basically anything goes! There is no right or wrong approach but you do want to make sure how they work is compatible with your needs. If you’re someone who loves talking on the phone and prefers that method of contact, you’re likely going to struggle working with someone who has a no calls policy.

Who Owns the Website?

Another crucial bit of information to find out before you hire a website designer is what their “hand off” process is once a site is done. Some website designers will provide you with full access to your site which you can edit and maintain on your own. Others may only give you editing access, but not admin access, and maintain control of the site at all times. There are even website designers and agencies that will not allow you to have any access to your website once it’s done. You need to choose the option that is most comfortable for you and your business. Too often clients don’t find out this crucial information until the site is paid for and completed, which is why you should find this out before you move to signing a contract and paying your initial deposit.

How To Find the Best Designer For You

Choosing a website designer doesn’t have to be difficult if you know what questions to ask from the start and what data to gather on your end to inform the process. Most website designers will be happy to meet with you for an initial Q&A consultation before moving to prepare a proposal. You should definitely take advantage of this option – along with asking all the questions, meeting the person virtually over Zoom or in person helps you to develop a rapport and decide if this is a person you feel you can relate to and trust to get your website job done. Ultimately you want to hire a person who checks all your boxes and makes you feel confident in their ability to help you reach your goals with your website.

professional headshot of Mychelle Garrigan against a black background.Mychelle Garrigan is the Chief Digital Mage of Firelink Digital Marketing, located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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