7 Questions for Hiring a Great Web Designer

Hiring a Freelance Web Designer

When it’s time to develop a new website for your business, it’s natural to want to get started immediately. But before you jump in and hire the first web designer you find, stop! This is your chance to work almost any freelance web designer you like — so take the time now to find a skilled web designer, one who you communicate with well, and who will make sure your website is a powerful tool for marketing your services.

The great thing about working with a freelance web designer (versus a large marketing or design agency) is that you don’t have to settle for whichever designer is assigned to your project. You get to interview each candidate and select the exact best fit for you and your business, now and for the long-term.

Narrow the Field Before You Interview

It’s crucial to find a web designer with whom you can communicate clearly and easily.

If the communication isn’t comfortable, then your website development is unlikely to go smoothly either. While there may be times when sharing ideas or changes is challenging — it happens, we’re only human — you should always feel comfortable discussing any concerns or questions you have about your project, especially regarding budget and change requests. As you interview potential freelance web designers, pay attention to how easy they are to talk to and whether they are open and direct when answering questions.

You’ll also want to make sure that you and your prospective web designer are on the same page about your preferred method of contact — whether that’s by phone, email, or face-to-face. Before or after your interview, make an unscheduled call or send an email with additional questions to see if they respond within a reasonable time. If they take more than a day to get back to you during the proposal stage, that may be a red flag.

Once you’ve prepared a short list of web developers, the interview stage is your chance to find the perfect match for your budget, timeline, and personality. Save time and make sure you’re asking the right questions by using these interview questions!

Ask the Right Questions When Choosing Your Perfect Freelance Web Designer

1. Will you be doing the design work yourself? If not you, who?

Whether working with a freelancer web designer or a small design company, you need to be clear about who will actually be designing your site. If it’s not the person you are speaking with, learn how your ideas and feedback will be communicated to the design team. Even if you are working with a freelancer, don’t automatically assume they will be doing all the work themselves. It’s worth asking if they will be contracting out your project to a more junior designer, outsourcing it overseas, or even handing it off to a virtual assistant.

You don’t want all your feedback and requests to go thru middlemen as this offers too many chances for miscommunication. Know who will be doing the work and make sure you’ll have direct contact with that person.

2. How — and how often — will we be in contact?

Learn your web designer’s preferred method of communication. If you are someone who always picks up the phone to discuss ideas or concerns, then you should choose someone who works hours similar to yours and is readily available by phone. In this case, both their work hours and time zone will be factors.

Some designers (and business owners) prefer communicating primarily by email as they may travel, work odd hours, or have family obligations that make regular phone calls difficult. Email is also a great option for maintaining a “paper trail” to document decisions and agreements.

Finally, if you prefer to meet face-to-face, you’ll naturally want to be sure you’re working with someone local. Always meeting in person may not be feasible for a freelance web designer so be up front about how many in-person meetings are expected throughout the process, and at what stages these meetings will occur.

Different communication styles can certainly work together. The key is to make sure that you and your web designer are clear on how each of you will communicate and the expected response time for calls and emails.

3. What type of education and training do you have?

With online courses being so easy to access these days, almost anyone can say they are a website designer. However, having at least some formal education from a post-secondary institution provides a solid, well-rounded foundation on which to base the ongoing learning required in the rapidly changing field of web design. It also gives students the opportunity for one-on-one review and feedback on their work from a professional in the field, as opposed to the hands-off approach of studying books and blogs.

Knowing a web designer’s educational background also provides some insight into how invested they are in improving their own skills. With technology and web standards always changing, you’ll want to know that your designer is furthering their knowledge through continuing education courses, online learning, industry manuals, and web-related blogs.

4. Can I see samples of your work?

Reviewing a web designer’s portfolio is the main way to get a sense of their overall design style. If you don’t like their style, or know that it wouldn’t be a good fit for your brand, then they’re probably not the right designer for you.

When reviewing examples of a designer’s past work, look for variation across their design projects. If they are fairly “cookie cutter,” consider whether they will be able to adapt their style to fit your brand and audience profile.

Try to get an idea of whether they pay attention to detail in their designs. For instance:

  • Are they consistent with their use of fonts, colours, and styles throughout the entire site?
  • Have they considered the “little” things like appropriate font selection, line height, and text spacing?
  • Is there a common theme carried throughout all pages and sections of the site?
  • Do you find their sites easy to use and navigate?

If you said yes to all or most of these questions, then the decision will come down to your personal preference and taste. It’s natural that the work of some designers will simply appeal to you more than others.

Also note that if your designer is bringing in a photographer or copywriter to develop content for your site, you may want to see samples of their individual work as well, again looking to make sure that you like their overall style and approach.

5. What software will you use to build my website? Will you train me how to make updates on my own?

If you’re relying on content marketing to grow your business and your search engine ranking, it’s crucial that your website is built with an easy-to-use content management system so that you can have control over your site content. Happily, the days of having to go through your web designer for any changes to your website text and images are over.

WordPress is currently the most commonly used content management system (CMS) on the web. It gives web designers the freedom to create beautiful websites while making it easy for site owners to manage their own content. Click this link to learn more about why we use WordPress exclusively.

Your freelance web designer should offer one or more short training sessions to show you the basics of how to update your content. Ideally, they will complement this with training videos or an online guide so you have access to support and instruction as needed down the road. This will give you the confidence and freedom to manage the content that goes on your site while your designer can remain on-call to handle the occasional layout changes that come up as both your site and business evolve.

6. Will you help me figure out what content I need on my website?

A lot of web designers are great at the technical aspects of website development, but are lacking on the marketing side. Your website is online and promoting your business 24/7. It should be strategically developed with your target audience and business goals firmly in mind.

A great web designer will always consider what you want visitors to do after they’ve arrived at your site. They’ll prompt you to consider conversions, lead generation, and success metrics. They can offer suggestions about what content and features will best achieve your vision and goals.

In addition, a designer familiar with web marketing will take into account all the supporting pages that are not specifically included in the site outline, such as thank you pages, opt-in confirmation pages, free giveaway download pages, and a privacy policy.

Many freelance web designers require content to be provided by the client, including both text copy and photographs or other images. If you’re not comfortable writing the content yourself or taking professional photographs (or just do not have the time), ask if the web designer works with a preferred copywriter and/or photographer. Find out if this work can be included in the project quote.

Make sure to discuss your content requirements and timing up front. All too often the design and set up of the site is complete but the website cannot be launched (sometimes for months) because the text and images are not ready.

7. How do we work together? How much collaboration is involved?

Make sure you understand how much collaboration your web designer expects, as well as when you will be expected to provide feedback. This will help you plan for and schedule the time required to review each stage of work and minimize delays.

I recommend making time to be actively involved in the design process. Why? It’s your website and you have to be satisfied that it clearly reflects your company’s brand and message. My best projects have been realized when the client has set aside time to closely review designs and drafts at each stage of development so that we were able to have a truly collaborative relationship with no surprises late in the game.

Obviously, budget, timing, and references will all be key elements of your decision process, but developing a positive, responsive relationship with your web designer is just as important. If you have a great rapport with your designer, are able to communicate well with them, and like their previous work, your odds are good for hiring a freelance web designer that will deliver a positive experience and outstanding results.

I’m curious to learn what’s important to you in a freelance web designer. Please share your “must ask” questions in the comments below. If you’re considering hiring Arch Web Marketing, I’m happy to set up an interview at your convenience — give me a call!

Comments

  1. I liked your promotion but I think you missed a major opportunity.

    What I saw, when I found you, that made you stand out among all of the web people I looked at, is your knowledge of Middleton’s process. That is what sets you apart from everyone else. Your understanding of the process, (and your collaboration with a copywriter/marketer that also professes it) sets you apart in ways no one else can compete on. Even the evaluation form and the specific (Middleton) questions sets you apart. I don’t mean to criticize but I was surprised this newsletter seemed to describe process rather than benefits. Just say’n.

    • Jennifer Feurer says:

      Hi Dennis,
      Thanks for your feedback — it’s really valuable to hear an outside perspective so thanks for taking the time to reply. I’m glad that my adoption of the Robert Middleton approach was a strong factor in your selection process. It’s not a benefit that I focused on in this particular article because the majority of my readers aren’t familiar with Middleton’s work so that connection is less likely to be a deciding factor for them when interviewing web designers.

      For anyone interested in learning more about Robert Middleton’s approach to marketing for independent professionals, check out his website at http://actionplan.com. I highly recommend his Website Toolkit to help plan out your website content.

  2. I think asking for the freelancer’s portfolio should be part of the question. Apart from getting a list of the freelancer’s clients, asking the freelancer to briefly discuss the type of website of a particular client and then checking it afterwards would greatly benefit the prospective client.

    These are truly important questions to ask to a freelance web designer when you’re on the look out for a trustworthy one. A freelancer who delivers professional-looking website in a timely manner is quite a hunt so you as a business owner should be very careful in dealing with people you haven’t met in person.

  3. Evan Howard says:

    “Narrow the Field Before You Interview”
    -yes absolutely. But how? I think a good idea is to use a coding test. HTML and CSS are the fundamentals of web design. A good test could filter out unsuitable applicants. I like to use this one from TestDome: http://www.testdome.com/Programming-Tests/Html-Css/13

    But there are a number of testing platforms online, so take you pick. This should be the first step of the screening process, so that only people worth interviewing remain.

    • Jennifer Feurer says:

      Evan, I agree that testing can be useful although whether or not designers are willing to complete a test “on spec” probably depends on the size of your project. For an ongoing relationship, it can be a great tool. Some designers rely on “builder” type WordPress themes and don’t really understand the underlying code and this can be a good way to find that out.

      Designers/developers might also have already undergone testing on their own (through Brainbench or other tools) and can show you the certificate of completion.

  4. Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed!
    Very useful info specially the last part 🙂 I care for such information a lot.
    I was looking for this particular info for a long time.
    Thank you and best of luck.

  5. Great post, Thank you and best of luck.

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