Tips for Hiring Web Designers

Creative professionals

Whether you're a small, medium or large business, hiring a web designer should follow the same considerations. Reviewing all your needs and budget will help you make a successful hire.

Understand Designer vs. Developer

Before you get started, know the difference between web designers and web developers. Often people use the terms interchangeably and have both skill sets.

Web Designer

A web designer is someone who focuses primarily on a website's aesthetics and is fluent in design fundamentals, color theory, topography and UX/UI Design. They often are proficient with graphic design software. Some know very little programming whereas others may have advanced knowledge of languages like Javascript and PHP.

Web Developer

Developers focus on programming and work on the back-end of a website, although many also do front-end. Some also have a design background. In general, you need a developer for a site with a complex back-end. If you need features that require coding for the front-end, you will also need a developer.

Determine Budget

The first thing to determine is budget. You need to know what features you can afford and which you can cut in order to afford the designer of your choice.

  1. Make a list of everything you want. This should include features such as design elements, interactivity and ecommerce capability.
  2. Categorize your list into items that are "must haves" and items that are "nice to have."
  3. You will need this list when you discuss pricing with the designers you like, as their pricing may determine whether they are within your budget for the "must haves" and if the "nice to haves" can be done as well.

Consider Desired Skillset

Once you know what features are critical to your site, use this to create your "job description" for your designer. For example, if you realize you need an ecommerce website with the ability for you to make simple edits, then a specialist in WordPress and WooCommerce may be part of your job description. If functionality is not an issue but you want a visually stunning site, you need a professional with a strong design background, Adobe Creative Suite skills and CSS mastery.

Mobile Design

No matter what site you decide on, make absolutely sure that the ability to create mobile-friendly designs is at the top of your criteria list for any designer. Websites that do not perform well on smaller devices will increasingly fall short in web searches and will turn off your potential audience.

Search Engine Optimization

Knowing how website design effects SEO is critical. Your designer does not need to be an SEO master, but he or she must know how their work can help or harm your site's ability to be found on search engines.

Agency vs. Freelancer

Freelancers are generally one-person operations who do all the website work themselves, or they may subcontract out parts of it that require a specialty skill. Agencies, on the other hand, are fully staffed with a wide array of professionals with skill sets in all aspects of building your online presence. Ultimately which you choose is a subjective choice based on your site needs and the decision-making hierarchy of your company.

  • The benefit of a freelancer is that you will have a one-on-one relationship with the person doing your site. The downside is that he or she may not have the capabilities that a larger firm can handle in terms of a site's technological needs and turnaround time.
  • The benefit of an agency is that they can often handle complex, larger sites because of their infrastructure. However, you may find they lack the personal touch of a freelancer and they will most likely have more rigid contracts and staffing arrangements to work around. They are also likely to be more expensive.

Where to Find Web Designers

There are a few ways to find designers that fit your needs. Always check out the designer's portfolio, testimonials and ask for client referrals before making a decision.

  • Look at websites you like and contact the owners to find out who the designer was.
  • Ask friends and colleagues if they have personal referrals.
  • Check with local business networking groups, which often have designers as members, as well as other members who can recommend their designers.
  • Visit portfolio sites such as Behance and Dribble to find designers of sites that fit your aesthetic.
  • Post your job for bids on freelancer sites like LinkedIn ProFinder and

Hiring Your Designer

Once you've discussed budget, referrals, scope of work and your design ideas, it's also important to discuss how you both will communicate during the design process. If you agree on how to create an efficient and stress-free process, don't move forward without signing a contract that protects everyone involved.

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Tips for Hiring Web Designers