Most business owners have neither the time nor the technical skills to design a website. Because of that, most of them must hire a web designer to help them build an effective online presence. Anyone who’s been through that knows that it can be difficult to find the right designer.
Maybe you’ve been through it yourself, and maybe, like many other business owners, you’ve experienced your share of headaches. Shoddy work, unprofessional designers, missed deadlines…the list goes on. Or maybe you’re getting ready to hire a web designer and are terrified by the horror stories you’ve heard from friends and associates.
The good news is that by following a few simple steps, you can avoid the problems that so many people run into, and enjoy a smooth, painless web design process with the designer of your dreams.
Step 1: Know your goals
If you don’t know what you want to get out of your website design project, how do you expect any web designer to meet your expectations? Start of by figuring out exactly what you want your new website accomplish for your company. Are you looking for a more professional looking brand? A more user-friendly shopping cart? Better conversion rates? The more time you spend mapping out your goals, the better you’ll be able to communicate them to your designer and the better they’ll be able to create a website that helps you accomplish them.
Step 2: Have a realistic budget
The fact that your nephew may be willing to design your website for $200 doesn’t mean that any professional should be expected to do the same. A true professional usually has years of schooling under their belt, along with real-world experience that enables them to deliver results that an amateur simple can’t deliver. You might find yourself wondering what a realistic budget would be. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, but a good starting point is a few thousand dollars for a completely custom website design. I can tell you that at the time of writing this, our website design services start off at $3,500, and go up from there depending on what’s needed in our client’s website. I’ve also seen websites priced as high as $70,000 when working with Fortune 500 companies, so it’s a pretty wide price range.
Remember, you’re not just paying for someone to physically design, code and test your website — you’re also paying for their knowledge of what will and won’t work in achieving your online goals. And that knowledge is priceless.
Step 3: Have a realistic deadline
Designing a website takes time.
There is the initial consultation, where your designer will take time to learn about your company, goals, challenges, competitors, etc., followed by a significant amount of time invested in planning how to make the most of your situation and help you achieve your online goals. This research and planning, which you’ll probably never even see, can often take a full day or more – and that’s before a single pixel is placed on the screen.
Next is the initial design, which is usually presented to you as a .jpg image to illustrate how your new website will look. This is where you begin to request any changes, and after the appearance has been finalized, your designer will begin coding your website. Depending on the complexity, the coding could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks or sometimes longer.
Once the coding is complete, your designer still has to test it in multiple web browsers to make sure it displays and functions properly in most environments.
That being said, a basic website can usually be completed in about 30 days, but the more complex it is, or the more pages it has, the longer it will take.
You have to account for time to do the actual work, in addition to communication back and forth, fitting into the work schedule, technical delays, etc.
Step 4: Choose a designer that can align with your core principles
If you need a website for your brand new oil company, it’s probably best to steer clear of the web designer who swears that oil is pure evil, not because there’s anything wrong with that designer, but simply because you aren’t going to see eye-to-eye on most things so you won’t be able to work well together. When your designer shares your belief structure, you’ll just work better together and the web design process will be much smoother and easier on both parties.
Step 5: Review their porfolio
A web designer’s portfolio says more about their work that anything they could ever tell you. Spend time carefully reviewing the websites they’ve designed for past clients and see if their style of work fits your company.
Step 6: Talk to their previous clients
Any decent web designer should be willing to provide you with a list of previous clients who you can ask about the work they received from the designer. Don’t be alarmed if they haven’t worked with the designer in quite some time though, because many companies simply update their website and then don’t make any further changes for years.
But don’t just ask if they were happy with the final results. instead, dig deeper and find out what they thought about the process, whether deadlines were met, was communication effective and timely, or if there were there any surprise charges or costs. You want to get a picture of the entire process from start to finish.