Hiring a Web Designer

Know What Questions to Ask

Maybe this year started out with some big goals- new products, new marketing ideas, and maybe even a new website. Before you run out and hire the first person you meet -or your cousin who’s a sophomore in college and SO good with computers (hint- no!)— slow down and do your homework. A website project is an investment of time and money and you want to be sure you are moving forward with someone you are comfortable with,

I have put together a list of questions that I receive often and some that I wish clients would ask me! Keep in mind that not all web designers or developers work in the same way and include the same services. Ask for a detailed proposal to be sure you are comparing apples-to-apples.

References and Portfolio

My heavens if you do nothing else, PLEASE review their portfolio or ask for relevant examples of their work. If their designs do not align with your vision for your project, politely go anther direction. Ask for references if you are unfamiliar with their professional work. Ask the references about the project timeline, scope, comfort, and convenience of working with them?

Questions to Ask:

    • Can you show me examples of relevant work? Either in a related industry or similar style to what I want?
    • Can you provide me with professional references?
    • Ask the references for information about timeline, up-charges, and happiness with the final design.

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services can be included or an add-on based on the designer and company you are working with. There can also be tiers of service. I offer two levels of SEO- one I include in the contract, the other is a higher level of service and I offer it as an upgrade. Your goals for the website will ultimately determine the amount of budget you allocate for SEO.

Questions to Ask:

    • Do you include SEO?
    • How much is adding SEO services and what exactly does that include?
    • Will you tag my photos for SEO?
    • What is your keywords research process?
    • Will you submit my site to Google Search Console?

Timeline

Unless you love projects that go on forever, get a clear timeline in writing and stick to it yourself. Don’t forget the time that edits will take after the initial design is ready for you to review. A really important point about the timeline is the content and images you provide to your designer. Put a clear date down for completing that important step so you don’t hold back the project. Also, be sure you are not planning to launch during your busy season either personally or professionally. You want to be sure you are reviewing and editing without distraction.

A Note About Flexibility. Sometimes things happen: management shakeup, someone takes a leave of absence, large orders come in unexpectedly, machines break. Ask your designer what the policy is for adjusting your timeline and if there is a fee if the project goes past a certain date. You as a business owner/decision-maker are very much a part of the process for edits and approvals.

Questions to Ask:

    • How long will this take including edits?
    • When can you start? Does that work with your intended timeline?
    • What percentage of your projects finish on time?
    • What kind of response time can I expect after calls and emails?
    • Is there a fee if this project goes past the completion date?

Edits

No one wants to find out they have to pay extra for edits. Ask questions about this process. Don’t neglect the money questions out of embarrassment or fear of looking cheap. It’s your business and your brand being represented- you have the right to know everything about this process.

Questions to Ask:

    • Is edit time is included?
    • How much and is it measured by rounds of edits or hours?
    • What happens if we exceed this time?
    • Who can edit the site after launch? Can you show me or will I have to pay your hourly rate?

SubContracting

I love this topic because I am a stickler for the quality of my brand and my name. I personally do not subcontract web design/development work. There are many design firms that only sub-contract out to freelance designers. And you may find people and companies that fall somewhere in the middle.

I love to actually talk to my clients – novel concept in 2020, huh? – and ask all the questions to qualify a project as best I can. The more time I spend getting to know them and their business, the better equipped I am to design to their vision. There are also fewer edits when I spend more time qualifying. Everyone wins.

Questions to Ask:

    • Who will be working on my site?
    • Do they work for you or are they independent?
    • May I speak directly to them about design ideas?

Pricing

Website pricing can make you choke if you aren’t prepared. Shying away from this process to have your cousin create it for less money could cost you more in the long run. I have seen website pricing start around $1000 and go all the way past $10-20K based on needs, functionality, complexity, and amount of content. A 100-page site with e-commerce will cost way more than a five-page personal branding site. Clients with little content or just starting out can opt for a single-page site that will sit at the low end of that price range.

There are too many variables to give you a clear cost idea. Most designers should have a pricing/investment page on their website that shows ‘starting at’ prices. Some refuse to publish prices until you are having a conversation about the project. Both are okay! Just be sure you ask for a detailed proposal that lists everything that is included.

Finally- be sure to sign a contract. If they do not send you a contract prior to starting, no one is protected.

Questions to Ask:

    • What is the total cost and what does that include?
    • What could change the total price?
    • What add-ons are available?
    • What is the payment schedule? If they ask for 100% upfront- this is a red flag! Most will ask for a 50% deposit.

Other Services- Graphic Design, Photography, Video

Do you need a logo, graphics, or ads designed? Have you always wanted custom photos or videos for the website or social media? Start this conversation up front so you understand the skill set of the person you are working with. This could be a service they provide themselves, subcontract out, or provide you a list of trusted referrals. For me, it depends on the complexity of the request and my current workload. I also have a handful of graphic designers, videographers, and photographers that I refer work to regularly. Good relationships within the industry are a good sign of someone who is established.

Questions to Ask:

    • What other services do you provide?
    • Will billing/invoices be through you or another person/company?
    • Can you show me examples of that person’s work?

Branding

Your website should stay consistent to your brand- fonts, colors, images, language. If the site doesn’t look and feel like your business cards, in-store experience, services, social media, and other marketing- it will confuse customers.

And remember: if you confuse, you lose.

Questions to Ask:

    • How will the site incorporate my branding elements?
    • Will the website experience be an extension of the experience someone would have working with me or my physical storefront?

Hosting and On-Going Maintenance

No one likes feeling abandoned and your website experience should not make you feel that way. Most designers/developers have a service to maintain your website for you including security updates, analytics, edits, and backups. Some even offer hosting packages to wrap all of these services together in a nice pretty digital bow. I like giving my clients peace of mind knowing I will have my eye on their site long term for a small monthly fee.

Questions to Ask:

    • Who can maintain my website?
    • How much do you charge for this?
    • Does it include backups?
    • If I need edits down the road – what is the rate?
    • How can I check my website traffic?

Will I Own My Website?

The short answer is to check your contract! You should own your domain name, content, and images. If you are hosting with someone directly, be sure you have FTP access in case you need to make a change quickly. You wouldn’t give a stranger access to your inventory storage, so be sure your website file storage is somewhere you feel comfortable.

Questions to Ask:

    • Will I own my domain?
    • Will I own my website files?
    • How do I get access?

Final Thoughts

All of this is great- don’t skip any of these questions. But most importantly, go with your gut.

You should know after talking to someone if you have a good feeling about working with them. That said- a good feeling does not outweigh questionable business practices such as lack of a contract, insurance, or asking to be paid 100% upfront in cash.