Your business's website is a core pillar of your marketing strategy and often represents a serious investment of time and money. So it's important that you know exactly how to approach getting your website designed and built, especially if you are going to hire a web designer to do it for you.
I want to quickly take you through some top tips for hiring a web designer that will help make the process smooth and successful. Take note that I'm using the term "web designer" quite broadly here. Ideally you want a provider that can deliver an end to end solution which involves planning, designing, developing and maintaining your website.
Choose the right type of service for you
There are many different types of services you can choose from to create your new website and they each come with their own pros and cons. It's important to understand the difference in service you are going to get from DIY services, web design agencies and everything in between.
Services like Squarespace or Wix allow you to build a decent looking website for yourself in exchange for a small monthly fee. This low cost makes it a very attractive way for new businesses/startups to get their website up and running. However, you will need to have a pretty good idea of how to lay out your content, have a keen eye for design (keep it simple!) and the time to get it done!
A friend who tinkers with websites
You probably have a friend, neighbour or relative (or their teenage child!) that tinkers with websites and could help you out. I was that teenager once, and helped out quite a few small businesses. This route would hopefully save you some time to work on other parts of the business. Although, it's risky as your friend is probably helping you in their spare time, so progress may be slow and it's likely they don't have a lot of expertise.
The pros and cons of freelancers can vary a lot due to their circumstances and experience. I recommend finding an expert with plenty of experience who has switched to freelancing full-time. They are likely to be on the pricey end of the range but should still be cheaper than an agency.
When your site requirements are small, as well as your budget, I would recommend staying away from large agencies. However as you grow and want to find a low-risk solution to developing and managing your website, agencies can bring the expertise you are looking for.
At Prophet & Falcon, we describe ourselves as a boutique web and digital design studio based in London. So we like to think we sit somewhere in between the freelancers and agencies categories.
Have a plan
Before you even make that first enquiry you need to do some thinking yourself. In order for your web designer to meet your expectations they will need to get some information from you, if you haven't thought about what you want to get from this process you are going to hit a bump straight away!
What do you want to achieve?
What motivated you to get a new website? What problem do you want it to solve? How is it going to bring more value to your business? These are all questions that you should try to answer for your designer. They can then extract the key performance indicators that will determine the success of the project. Once they have these, they know what the project needs to achieve and therefore how they should focus their efforts.
What is your budget?
Knowing your budget is key to understanding what you are going to be able to create. Be realistic with yourself about how much you are willing to spend and don't be scared to share this when you approach web design companies. You might be reluctant to share this magic number, thinking that everyone's prices will just conveniently match your budget. And they might. Although, once a web design pro knows what you are able to spend they will be able to tell you whether you are looking in the right places and what you can expect to get for your money. Then you can compare that offering between companies easily! There is a solution for every budget, so make sure you are getting the appropriate one!
Have you got the time to commit?
Building a new website takes a lot of time, even if you are hiring somebody else to do the bulk of the work. Expect to have 3-5 meetings between 1-2 hours. Remember to set aside time to complete tasks to support your web designer, such as compiling information about your business and writing copy for the website. Do not underestimate how much time copywriting takes! Double your time estimates, or if you are not confident ask your designer if they offer a copywriting service or can connect you with a copywriter.
Make sure they're legit
If you choose to hire a web designer or other web professional, there are a few telltale signs of whether a person or company should be trusted with designing your new website.
Do they have a results focused portfolio?
When looking for a web designer, looking at examples of their work is obviously critical. But web design isn't just about making it pretty. Do they have a grasp on designing to deliver results and reach goals for their clients? This might be online revenue, increased traffic, social shares or some other metric that they refer to in their portfolio. Keep a keen eye for these when looking for a web designer, and if you don't find them this could be a red flag.
Do they have a solid process?
If a web designer can outline a comprehensive and meticulous process they take their clients through, it likely means they are experienced and take pride in the work that they produce. The main ingredient for good design is a solid design process. Without this, projects lack focus and can easily turn sour. Ask them how you can expect the project to run if you hire them. You can read about our process for each of our design services.
Do they ask enough questions?
A good web designer will be asking you a lot of questions. They will try to build up as much knowledge of your business as possible so they can deliver the best solution. A good web designer will ask tough or awkward questions, like "how much revenue does your current website generate?" or "how many customers do you need a month to meet your targets?". If the designer is only focused on telling you what they can do for you and not trying to get to know your business, you aren't going to get the best solution for you. More likely, you are going to get a generic solution.
Do they create websites or partnerships?
Hopefully partnerships! I always tell our clients that a website is a constant work in progress that needs to be monitored and adapted as you learn and as your business grows. You will want to build a strong relationship with your web designer so that you can continue to build the success of your digital marketing. Ask them how they work with their clients on an ongoing basis. Hopefully they can explain the ongoing work they do and how this has a positive impact on their clients' businesses.
Do they have a preferred Content Management System?
Do they have a preferred CMS or e-commerce platform to power your website? Something that they have specialised in and can explain the benefits of? If they are unable to answer this question then you could be talking to a jack of all trades, and master of none. I'd recommend finding someone that can set out a clear argument for their chosen platform, this shows that they have in-depth knowledge of the technologies they are working with.
How do they approach your Google Rankings?
Do they tell you that you can rank 1st for "london accountants" (if you're an accounting firm) after they have redesigned your website? SEO (search engine optimisation) is an ongoing task that requires a strategy and new website content to be published regularly in order to slowly improve your ranking. So if they try and sell you a one and done approach, don't be fooled. However, if they explain how this takes time and effort by creating and actioning a long-term strategy together then you have found a web pro that is honest, knowledgeable and committed to partnering with their clients.
I strive to embed all of the above in to our services at Prophet & Falcon to make sure that our customers are delighted by the work we do for them and I hope they help you to launch a successful website.