All too often I encounter clients who are unhappy with a website that they had designed because they were working with a web designer who a) didn’t communicate with them, or b) didn’t know what they were doing. This sort of thing happens way too much and continues to happen. So here are some quick questions you might want to ask the next designer you’re looking to hire. These questions are by no means comprehensive and you should still be considering questions like scope, experience, former clientele, and so on.
Can I see your portfolio?
It amazes me that some clients will trust a designer’s word when they can’t present their portfolio. A web designer should, ideally, have their own portfolio website. And that website should not be a template that they got somewhere else. A good web designer should either be competent enough with code to design and code their own website, or have connections to good developers who will turn their designs into actual, functional webpages.
What’s your design process?
Good designers have processes that they follow from start to finish. They have a clear understanding of the steps and the planning involved in getting your project up and running smoothly. At the very minimum, they should be doing research about your company’s competitors, goals, target audience, products and overall market. They need to be designing for the goal of benefiting your company. A good website is not just a pretty looking website, it should be an effective a marketing tool. If you ask a web designer to describe their process and they balk or just don’t have an answer, be very wary. There is a lot of planning and research that goes into a website.
Do you design and code?
There’s a difference between a straight up web designer and a web designer who also knows how to code. It may also be beneficial to understand the difference between a web designer and a web developer. Very few people are good at both design and development, while there are many who are awesome at both, people will tend to lean toward one or the other. The key answer to this question is finding out if your web designer can do more than make beautiful mockups. If they design a wonderful looking PSD, you need to find out if they can make it into an actual website, if they can find someone who can make it a reality, or if you need to source a developer on your own.
How will we be communicating and how often?
Communication between the designer and the client is a huge part of the success of a project. Many clients still prefer to meet face-to-face with their designer, but meeting online, communicating through email, the phone or over Skype has facilitated some flexibility. However you choose to communicate with a web designer, you need to ensure that once you sign the contract, your designer doesn’t disappear into a void and you keep in contact with them. If you ask a question about your project, your designer should be able to get back to you with an answer in a timely manner. If you can’t seem to locate him or if your designer never gets back to your messages, be wary.
Do you have a contract?
The lack of a contract from a web designer usually indicates two things: 1) They’re inexperienced, and 2) They are leaving both you and themselves open for problems down the road. Professionals operate on contracts. If you’re looking to hire a professional web designer, be ready to either present your own contract or review theirs. Contracts exist to product clients and designers alike, and operating without one is risky for both parties.
Do you use templates and can you build from scratch?
It surprises me how often designers use templates from websites like Themeforest, which can be good or bad depending upon what kind of changes and tweaks are taking place. Make sure you’re clear with your designer whether you want a template modification or a custom built website and that they are just as capable of creating something from the ground up as they are modifying an existing theme.
When all is said and done, hiring a web designer shouldn’t be too stressful so long as you know what to look out for and what to expect. There’s more that goes into making a good web designer than how many projects they’ve done or how fast they work. There are many designers who’ve been working in the industry for years who still don’t know what they’re doing. And there are many new designers who are awesome and are just looking for their first break.
Many clients find themselves working with web designers who don’t know what they’re doing or don’t have the company’s best interest in mind because the budget doesn’t measure up or the deadline is too short or the designer simply lacks the expertise. Be realistic about your goals, ask some good questions, look over the designer’s qualifications, and you should be able to find a good web designer who knows what they’re doing and will do their best for your company.