Knowing a Web Designer is Worth It: 7 Keys
When designing and building websites for clients, I want them to have the best experience possible. Not every designer thinks this way though, hence the need for a checklist!
It’s important to know what to look for and ensure you’re putting your trust in the right designer. This checklist will not only help to show you what to look for in a great and trustworthy designer, but to also help you know when there are red flags. I want to make it easier for you to find a designer who’s worth it.
1. Requires a Contract
Always read over and sign a contract. If the designer doesn’t present one, this is a big red flag. Contracts protect both the designer and client, so it puts you both at risk.
The contract should be clear and easy to understand. If the writing is too technical, don’t be afraid to ask for clarity. Whether you’re signing a physical paper or providing an e-signature, both are equally legally binding.
As part of the contract or a separate document that you would initial, ensure there is a clear and detailed scope of work. In this scope you will see the process taken, and part of that should be the functionality of the website. Whether it be a sitemap, wireframes, or something else, the design stage shouldn’t come first.
I had a lawyer look over my contract to ensure it was solid, and it gave me the confidence that both myself and my clients are well protected by it. I want clients to know I will follow through with everything I say I’ll deliver, and I want to know for myself that clients will follow through with their parts too.
2. Clear Communication
You want a designer who is willing to meet or talk to you in some way. Meeting in person isn’t always an option, but talking over the phone or by Skype are other ways to get in touch in a more personal way than email. Be wary of anyone who refuses to talk to you.
It’s helpful to have a designer who provides regular updates on their progress. It gives you peace of mind that things are on track and makes it clear that they are following through with their process.
From the get-go, it’s a good sign if emails are replied to within a reasonable time. You want to work with someone who has time for you and answers all your questions.
Speaking of questions, you want a designer who asks YOU the right questions. Are they asking you about your goals, figuring out what you do and don’t want, who you’re targeting, and just getting to know your brand? Asking questions like these will allow the designer to have a much better understanding of what you’re looking for and therefore provide you with not only a design you’re happy with, but also a website that fits your needs.
One part of transparency you want to look at is the designer’s business information. Do they provide an email address, phone number, physical address, or anything additional? Only having an email address listed is okay, but the more the better.
Some things to look for in how the designer is creating your site:
- Are they using a CMS like WordPress, Drupal, or Squarespace?
- Are they building the website based on their own personally created designs or are they tweaking a template?
- Do they know how to use code if needed?
- Are they using a template that doesn’t even need tweaking, and are just replacing photos and written content?
Knowing what they’re using will give you a better idea of the level of customization you will get. It’s shady if they don’t say upfront what they’re using, and may cost you a hefty chunk of money for only having a template tweaked when you were promised a custom website.
4. Fair Payment & Realistic Prices
Don’t pay for everything upfront. An initial deposit anywhere from 20% to 50% makes sense before starting the project (and after signing the contract). Besides the final payment, there may or may not be others in-between, such as after certain milestones are completed. This is all agreed upon in the contract.
If a quote you’re given for a web design sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The designer may be legitimate and make you a website, but it would most likely be designed and built with the bare minimum of overall quality, looks, and functionality. You’ll end up spending more money in the end by having to hire someone else to fix what the ‘too good to be true’ designer did. At the other end of the spectrum, you could pay an excessive amount for a site that’s not worth it. It’s helpful to find out what the average prices are for what you’re looking for and take into account what each designer is offering/including.
You want to avoid a designer who makes promises of finishing a website for you overnight or within a few days. The whole process takes quite a bit of time, and is highly unlikely to be completed that quickly. If it’s a smaller site it could be done in a week, especially if they’re charging you a premium for it to be their main or only focus, but no one can do so in one night.
5. Gets the Client Involved
Involving the client in the design process puts both of you at ease. The client gets a better understanding of what their site will look like and can provide input, while the designer gets a better understanding of what the client wants.
At different stages the designer will likely ask for your feedback and approval. You don’t want to work with someone who will just send you a contract to sign and however many weeks later, hand a website over to you. There is a reason for following a process, and it’s to ensure everyone is happy and on track. By not involving the client, the designer is losing out on the opportunity to provide a better experience and complete their work faster. The designer doesn’t want to have to start all over once the client sees the final product and is unhappy with it, so it’s best to involve the client from the beginning so there are no unwanted surprises in the end.
For my process, I get feedback and approval on the sitemap, wireframes, style tiles, design mockups, and final build. If I didn’t receive any of this feedback, myself and my clients wouldn’t know if we’re on the same page or not. For design feedback (with the style tiles and design mockups), I ask specific questions to discover exactly what my client does and doesn’t like. The more details they provide, the more it helps and speeds up the process. My clients have said that not only is the design process smooth, but so is the onboarding.
6. Good Reputation
It’s important that the designer not only has a good reputation as seen on their own website, but that their reputation upholds throughout the rest of the web. Check on Google if the company name and/or name of the designer comes up with any results. You’ll probably see info on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, but finding more info than this is super helpful. Even if it’s completely unrelated to design, something positive or negative from a reputable source can hold a lot of weight and help you determine if the designer is worth it.
Try contacting individuals or companies whose websites are part of the designer’s portfolio and ask them how their experience was. It’s also a good idea to check out testimonials from other websites that won’t be biased and only include good experiences.
If you were to Google my name, multiple things would pop up like my social media (including a detailed LinkedIn profile), my personal website (including my resume), links to the book I wrote, articles, and more. If you look up my company name, you’ll see that I’m a member of my local Chamber of Commerce, I’m on social media, and I have a Google My Business listing.
7. Website Reflects Talent & Knowledge
A designer’s website should reflect their talent and knowledge through the design and content. Here are some things to look for:
- Do you like how it looks?
- Is it user-friendly?
- Is it responsive (i.e. does it look good and function well on desktops, tablets, and phones)?
- Do they explain all that they offer and are open about what they don’t?
- Do they share their experience, background, and portfolio?
- Do they explain their process, and if not, will they share it with you over email?
You also want the designer’s site to be current and free of errors. Ask yourself:
- Are they keeping up with the latest trends and keeping their website updated?
- Is the site free of obvious spelling and grammar mistakes?
If the designer’s website and portfolio pieces aren’t matching your expectations, you likely wouldn’t be satisfied with the work they could do for you. Keep searching and you’ll find a designer who’s worth it!
The 7 keys to knowing a web designer is worth it are:
- Requires a Contract
- Clear Communication
- Fair Payment & Realistic Prices
- Gets the Client Involved
- Good Reputation
- Website Reflects Talent & Knowledge
In addition to this list, I’m going to add that you need to trust your gut. If, for example, a designer doesn’t have reviews, maybe it’s because they’re just starting out but still have the skills, passion, and experience to do the job. If a designer doesn’t reply to your emails within a reasonable time once or twice, this shouldn’t be an immediate no. People have bad days, vacations, etc. Sometimes you just need to ask.
Now, I didn’t spend all my time just making this blog post. I’ve put all this info, PLUS A BONUS on identifying red flags, in a beautiful, convenient, and free PDF.