Choosing a Custom Website Designer

You have a brilliant idea for a website or perhaps you are in much need of a facelift to your current site. Now what? Before immediately hopping on the internet to search for web designers, first prepare a checklist of your needs and the goals of your website.

The goal of your website is the heart of what a web designer will need to know when creating your site. To clearly figure out those goals, ask yourself a couple of questions. What is the purpose of your website? What do you hope to achieve with your website? What audience are you targeting? Do you want to rank on search engines? You also need to think about timeline. How soon does your website need to be up and running?

One you have established your goal of your website, begin to think about branding and competition. Doing a little research upfront will help you with long-term goals and development planning. Search your competition and find out who they are, if they offer similar products or services, and would you want your website to have similar features or a completely fresh look. If you have an existing logo or branding materials, make sure the web designer is aware so that they can incorporate these materials into the new design.

Next, establish a budget. Prices for web designers vary greatly and you get what you pay for. It’s best to figure out the maximum price you are willing to spend on the project and after comparing prices from your top choices, determine which one fits within your budget.

It’s a great idea to have three or four websites that you like the look of. This will give the designer a feel for how you want your site to feel and will give them good building blocks to build you a phenomenal site. Remember, the goal is to have a site that is easy to navigate, user friendly, and driven by relevant content.

Once you have a firm plan for your website, it’s time to start the search for a web designer. A lot of your decision will be based on whether you want to work locally with someone or if you are willing to work remotely with them over the phone. Whichever you decide and are comfortable with, here are a few things to think and ask when finding the  right web designer for you.

  • Details and Specifications
    Does your potential web designer ask a lot of questions regarding your website?  They should want to know the ins and outs of your business in order to design a  site that correctly reflects your business.
  • Past Work and Portfolio
    Look at sites they have designed to see if you like their style.
  • Graphic Design
    Ask if they designed the full package including graphic design or just the  programming. If only the programming, do they have a graphic artist they work  with or can they recommend one. If you happen to have a graphic artist in mind,  would the web designer be flexible and willing to work with them?
  • Search Engine Optimization
    Find out what they know about internet marketing and search engine  optimization. Will they be applying the best practices of search engine optimization to your website?
  • Initial Project Proposal & Cost
    Ask the designer for their fees and an estimated cost for the site you want. The  more specific you are with the features you want, the better an estimate you will  get. Web designers will run anywhere from $50-$125 an hour. After speaking with  a designer about your project, most will draw up a proposal to include everything  that you talked about, development phases, features required, timeline, and cost.
  • Billing Schedule
    Inquire about billing. Will you be invoiced monthly or as certain developmental phases are completed, or at the end of the project? You will also want to find out  if a deposit is required.
  • Ongoing Maintence & Updates
    Discuss who will be maintaining the site once completed. If your web designer  will maintain the site, how much will they charge for that? If you want to maintain your site via a CMS, make sure it is designed in a user friendly way so that you can go in  and make updates and changes as necessary.
  • Domain Name
    Make sure you own the domain name, even if the website designer registered it  for you.
  • Website Copywriting
    Discuss the content of your site. You may find a designer who will write all content for you, but don’t count on it. Chances are you will be responsible for writing all content yourself, or your designer may suggest hiring a professional copywriter if you are not comfortable writing the text. Make sure to find out about  the extra cost, as copywriter costs vary.
  • Deadlines
    Discuss deadlines. If you have a specific deadline for the completion of your website, ask if the designer can meet it. If you don’t have a deadline, it’s a good  idea to brainstorm with your designer to create a timeline in which you both are  comfortable with in completing different phases of the design.

Your website is an extension of you and your business, so by doing your homework and interviewing several web designers, you will find the best fit for you in terms of layout, graphics, budget, and timeframe.