You want a new website. It’s an exciting time, and whether it’s your very first site or you’re ready for an updated, redesigned site, I strongly encourage you to take some time in choosing your web designer. Here’s why…
One comment I often hear from clients who want a re-design goes something like this, “I have a website and it was done by someone a few years ago, but I’ve never really liked it. The website I got wasn’t the website I wanted.”
This makes me SO sad because a) I’ve been there with my very first ever website project. And b) this frustrating situation can totally be avoided.
My very first website disaster is what actually got me into the website design field in the first place. I was teaching Creative Writing at the high school at time and also writing my own fiction. I wanted to start a website for teen writers where they could post their stories, share, get feedback, and learn to write. The problem was, I had no idea how to do this. I had my own blog on WordPress.com but a membership site where people could post and comment was WAY beyond my expertise.
So, I hired a gal to do it. Here were her communication guidelines: no phone calls…ever. She’d only email which she took days and sometimes weeks to respond to.
I got a site that was neither the site I wanted nor the one I had envisioned. I was SO frustrated. I’d invested in this woman, and it had been a total waste of my money and my time. And that’s when I dove in, took a big ol’ class on coding and design and built it myself…and here I am.
In looking back, she gave me a gift because I learned to do it myself and was able to launch Entwine and get out of the classroom, but the waste of money and time could have been avoided had I known how to find a web designer that would get me exactly what I wanted.
And that’s what this post is all about. Take the following the steps to be sure you secure a partner that will create your dream website.
Before we dive into the steps to choose your web designer, let’s review a few definitions:
Branding – the overall feel and visual look of your business. It’s your business’s personality.
Visual Identity – the visual elements that are part of your brand including colors, fonts, logo etc. It works with your brand but it’s not your brand. Its a part of it.
Web Designer – they may or may not create your visual identity and brand. Your web designer designs the layout of each of your pages. These should be done strategically to meet your goals for your business.
Web Developer – This person actually builds the site. They know code. Your web designer may also develop your website (I do both) but some designers pass off the actual site build to a developer on their team.
Also, if there are some specific functionalities or customizations that need to be coded/created for you, a developer will do that. I do NOT do that. I know enough code to make your site look how you want it to look, but I can’t code specific functionality into it though I do work with developers who can do that. Just be prepared for a higher price tag.
Copywriter – the person who writes all of the words, or copy, for your website. Many people write their own copy and others hire copywriters to do it all for them.
Step #1 – Decide if you even need a web designer?
First, look at your budget.
A full custom web design and branding package will cost anywhere from $3000 to upwards of $10,000. And, it should.
I’ve had potential clients balk at those prices, but here’s the deal. To do this well and to do it right will take 40, 60, 80+ hours depending on your project. It would take YOU hundreds if not thousands of hours to do the same thing.
It’s like paying the appliance repair guy $250 to come to your house for ten minutes to install the $5 part into your broken washing machine or dishwasher. You’re not paying him only for his time. You’re paying him because he knows which part he needs AND where to put it. You’re paying for his expertise! A web designer is no different.
If this is totally out of your budget, then there are lots of courses and programs online to walk you through doing it yourself. I suggest finding one of those. If you are a total techno-phobe, then start saving so you can put a new website into your budget.
Second, if you know exactly what you want and you know exactly how you want it to look, again, do it yourself. Or, create mockups and hire a web developer to create it for you.
If you have zero interest in building it yourself, tech totally overwhelms you, you’re not totally sure what you need or want, you’re willing to collaborate with a web designer and trust them, and you’ve got the budget to hire someone and pay them a fair wage for their work…keep reading.
Step #2 – Get SUPER Clear on what you want your new website to do for your business
Okay, you’ve decided you’re ready to go pro and uplevel your business with a gorgeous new website. The next step, before you even reach out to any designers is to really sit down and make a list of exactly what you want on your website and the platform you prefer.
For example, do you need:
- A blog
- Ecommerce – an online store to sell physical or virtual products
- Extensive search functionality
- Online scheduling
- Email integrations
- Social media integrations – links? Instagram feeds?
- Sales funnels – by this I mean landing/sales pages for your services, thank you pages, optin boxes etc.
- Intake forms
- Ability to accept payments for services
Step #3 – Decide if you have a preference for the platform on which your website will be built.
There are quite a few website platforms that you can choose from such as WordPress, Wix, Weebly, ShowIt, or Squarespace. I work on WordPress and that’s it.
If you have a preference for one platform over another, note that and choose designers that work on that platform.
Step #4 – Define Your Business Goals
Next, think about your business goals. What do you want your website to DO for your visitors and your business. Here are some possiblities:
- Get clients to contact you/schedule discovery/clarity/intake calls
- Educate visitors on your topic
- Provide resources
- Establish you as an expert in your field
- Increase product sales
- Build your email list
- Fill your programs
Make a list of everything you can think of and keep it handy. You’ll need it for the next step.
Step #5 – Find Several Designers to Interview and Connect with
You probably don’t want to hire the first and lone designer that you speak with. Try to find at least 2-4 to talk to. Most designers will have an intake form or discovery call process to vet potential clients.
This call is for them AND you. You’re interviewing them and they’re also interviewing you to see if you’ll be a good fit for them.
Creating a brand and website is a very collaborative process (or it should be in my not-so-humble-opinion), so make sure you connect and can work with them prior to hiring them.
To find designers,
- Ask your business friends, whose websites you like, for referrals
- Post in FB groups that are in your business niche for referrals
- Find sites that you like and look in the footer to see who designed it
- Go to designer’s websites and check out their portfolio. Visit the sites they’ve designed to see if you like their aesthetic
- Find designers who work in your niche and are familiar with your market or industry. For example, I would never do a website for a restaurant or dentist office, but if you’re a coach, speaker or writer, let’s chat! That’s my zone.
- Make sure they work on your desired platform
Narrow your list down and schedule a Discovery call with them.
As you schedule the call, pay close attention to their scheduling process. This is your first intro into how they work with clients. If it’s clunky and confusing, move on. If it’s seamless and you like it, awesome!
Step #6 – Interview Several Potential Designers
During the discovery call, the designers you speak with will be asking you lots of questions about your project. They’ll need this information if they decide to go ahead and give you a proposal for your project.
However, you’ll also be wanting to interview them.
Here are some key DESIGN questions you’ll want to ask:
- Do you design and develop your websites or do you work with a developer?
- Are your designs totally custom or do you use templates? (If they use templates, the price should be a little lower).
- Do you do branding including logos?
- Do you find and provide all the photos that are in addition to the ones of me? Or, do I need to provide ALL photos?
Ask the following PROCESS questions:
- How often will we communicate?
- Do you use a project management system?
- How do you like to communicate? Phone? Email? Project management system?
- Can you describe your design process?
- At what points will I see and approve what you’re working on?
- How many revisions do I get if I’m not happy with the designs I’m seeing?
- What’s your availability for communication during the process?
- How long will it take to get my site?
- What responsibilities will I have during the process?
- Generally, your responsibilities will include:
- Writing your site copy or working with a copywriter
- Providing photographs/headshots of yourself or your business
- Approving design mockups in a timely manner
- Providing passwords to your hosting accounts
- Filling out any questionnaires etc.
- Once my site is built, will I know how to update or add content or will I have to hire you to make every change?
Ask the following BUSINESS questions during your interview:
- What does this cost? Or can you give me a price range?
- Do you use a contract?
- Do you have payment plans?
- What happens if I hate it and want to cancel halfway through?
Ask the following STRENGTHS questions:
- What are you really good at?
- What do your clients like about working with you?
Be sure to do a little brainstorm and add any other questions you can think of to prep for your interviews.
Step #7 – Decide on your perfect designer and sign your contract!
Once you’ve had some interviews, you should be getting some proposals from the designers you think you might want to work with. Go through them in detail and make your choice.
Think about all of the elements in this post ie. budget, design process, platforms etc. as you decide.
And, this is also the time to go with your gut. If you totally connected with someone, keep that in mind. As I’ve said earlier, this is a super collaborative process and a big investment, so make sure you take your time and choose wisely.
This is a big project and a big investment for your business. Your website is your storefront for your business. For many people, it’s where they learn more about you after they’ve met you, had someone refer you, or read a blog post or heard you’re on a podcast.
It’s foundational for your business growth, so take the time you need to find a designer that will get you a website that is not only strategic and will help you reach your goals but that is also an authentic and gorgeous reflection of YOU.
If you’re embarrassed to share your online home, it will not serve as a foundational piece in your marketing efforts, and it won’t grow your business. So take your time, choose your designer wisely, and most of all, have FUN and enjoy the process.
Launching a new website is so much fun, so remember that as you’re interviewing potential designers for your project.
If, after reading this post, you’d like to schedule a discovery call with me, you can do that here.
Best of luck!