Like general contractors and other professions that do not require professional certification, the world of website design has its share of bad actors and well-intentioned but inexperienced “professionals”. But how do you tell a real-deal website designer from a pretender, and what is the impact on your business? Here are 10 things to look for before you hire a website designer…
1. Has Numerous Positive Reviews on Google and/or Yelp
An experienced website designer will have at least 10 reviews on Google or Yelp. Beware of unusually short reviews or those that read like marketing speak as they could be from the designer or the designer’s friends/family. Proper reviews will usually go into a bit of detail about the project. If there are negative reviews, read the designer’s response for insight into how they tackle service issues.
2. Showcases a Wide Variety of Projects in Their Portfolio
A website designer’s portfolio is really the proof in the pudding. Ideally, it should contain a variety of websites from different industries. Be wary of a portfolio that contains websites which look very similar or are all from similar industries. It’s a sign they use templates to design websites. Template-based websites are essentially cookie-cutter websites. If your business is not a cookie cutter run of the mill business, your website shouldn’t be either.
3. Ranks Well Locally on Google
While ranking well nationally in a very-competitive market like website design is difficult, a website designer that ranks in the top 3 in their area for local searches (eg. website designer providence or website builder rhode island) knows what they are doing when it comes to SEO. Chances are if they rank well for their own business, they will help your business rank well on Google too.
4. Takes the Time to Understand Your Business
Every business, even those in the same industry, are different. Some may focus on price (eg. Walmart) while others focus on service (eg. Nordstrom). A website designer that takes the time to discuss your business’ advantages, goals, and shortcomings has you best interests in mind. More importantly, they will build a website specific to your business and its goals which will lead to a higher conversion rate every time. Do-it-yourself website builder sites and designers that use templates have to follow a pre-set layout and cannot produce websites that cater to the goals of your specific business.
5. Is Candid With You During the Entire Project
Agreeing with everything you say may be the path to least resistance, but going along with a bad idea eventually will paint both your business and the designer in a poor light. A great web designer will tell you when an idea you have will not work or violates best practices. A great designer will push back when you suggest a layout or element that will have a negative effect on conversions.
6. Makes it Easy to Work With Them
When it comes time to build your website, the web designer will require content from you – product or service info, images of your location, contact info, and more. If they use a project management system such as Basecamp, providing this content is fairly easy. If they are relying on email to gather your content, the chances of disorganization increase considerably, and it raises the possibility of things being missed or unaccounted for. If a designer is not using a project management system, it’s also a sign that they do not have a lot of work and/or may be inexperienced.
7. Requires Your Content Meet Certain Standards
Great web designers take pride in their work, as it’s a reflection of not only your business but their skills and expertise. Requiring that your images be high-resolution, and content be full and complete allows more leeway in the design process, improves SEO, and leads to an overall better result. If your web designer is accepting everything you throw at them, even if the images are the size of a postage stamp, it’s time to take a step back. A true professional will ensure that the content you provide meets minimum criteria and will avoid using stuff that does not.
8. Makes it Easy to Edit Yourself
While many business owners may not want to edit their own website, it’s nice to have that option. It will save you money from having to hire a professional to perform simple edits, and it can be done in seconds. There is just no good reason to have to pay your designer to change a line of text. A great web design company will provide you with a visual editor that makes simple changes – editing text or switching an image – quick and easy.
9. Goes Beyond Just the Web Design
Your website involves more than just the part that people see. An experienced web design company will set you up with reputable hosting service, ensure your email is taken care of. They will setup Google Analytics and Google Search Console. They will provide a list of your logins and what you need to know once the job is done. They will offer ongoing maintenance for a fair price. They will offer marketing ideas to promote your new website. Bottom line, they will leave you with everything you need to succeed.
10. Won’t Hold You Hostage
Many designers either through inexperience or intentionally will assume ownership of your domain name or refuse to disclose login information for your website’s admin. This can lead to you being held hostage (i.e. payment in exchange for the login for your domain name, etc.) down the road. A web designer that cares will be sure to provide you all of your logins upfront, so your domain name and website can never be held hostage. It sounds unlikely, but we’ve heard from several clients who have had this very thing happen to them. You should always have access to the services you paid for without having to pay additional.