Most business owners, while experts in their own field, have only limited knowledge about how websites are built or how search engines work. That can make it difficult for them to make an informed decision about who to hire. That’s why we’ve created this list of things to look for when hiring a web designer/developer. We want our clients to be as informed as possible about what there is to gain by hiring the right partner.
Is the candidate interested in learning about your business?
Your business isn’t cookie-cutter, so your website shouldn’t be either. A good website designer/developer will want to learn about your business, your strengths and your struggles, as well as the purpose and goals for the new site.
In many cases, the things that make you successful in the real world are what will make you successful online. Potential customers will want to know what makes you different, why they should spend their hard-earned money with you, and what’s in it for them. The right partner will help you tease out the things that make your business different. This will help you stand out from the competition.
To create a website that is a true reflection of your business will require working closely with your web designer. If they aren’t trying to learn as much as they can about your goals and expectations, then they probably aren’t the best choice for you.
Will they provide references?
Get the critical information you need to make a smart decision. Any web designer/developer you interview should provide a list of clients who are willing to talk to you about their experience. Get references, but don’t stop there.
Make a list of questions to ask your candidates’ references. Below are sample questions we’ve developed. Take this as a guide, but make up your own questions, too. Take notes, and then review all answers to help you make a decision.
- Are you happy with the look of the website?
- Was your designer/developer receptive to your ideas and did you work collaboratively?
- Has the website made a difference to your business? If so, how?
- Does your site rank high for keywords that are important to you?
- How long did the project take compared to the schedule?
- Were there delays? If so, why?
- Were your expectations met? Why or why not?
- Did they return phone calls and emails promptly?
- What problems did you encounter? How were they handled?
- What would you say is their biggest weakness?
- What is your relationship with them now? Do they continue to maintain the site for you? Can you call them with questions?
Do they have a portfolio of work that you respect?
A company’s portfolio is one more piece of information you can use to evaluate whether or not they are a good fit for you. Avoid rushing through this review. Don’t just scroll through the list to see who they’ve worked for. Hiring a web designer/developer is an important task and the information you can garner from their portfolio can be invaluable.
Click through to each website they’ve designed. How does it look? Is it easy to navigate? Does it answer the questions you would have if you were looking for the services offered? Next, think about what search terms you would use if you were trying to hire someone offering these services. Now, go to Google and see if you can find that company’s website by using keywords that make sense. Keep notes.
Is their proposal specific to you or is it cookie cutter?
If you are looking for a website that is as unique as your own business, then you’ll want someone who is both enthusiastic about what you do and interested in being of help. Every website is different, or at least it should be. Therefore, it’s reasonable to expect that the proposal will be written specifically with your project in mind.
We like to compare designing and building a website to homebuilding. If you’re using a design/build firm, you won’t get the full design before you’ve hire them. However, they will take the time before the project starts to understand your needs and they will present a scope of work that is specific to you. The same should be true when hiring a web designer/developer.
Can you work with them?
A website is not a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor. The best web designer/developers are business partners with their clients. It is important that you respect each other and are able to not only get along but work well together. The digital world is constantly changing and you want someone that you can trust and turn to with questions.
Visit their website
The old adage “The cobbler’s children have no shoes” is all too often true. However, if your web designer/developer doesn’t have a website, or if their website contains out of date information, or worse yet is technologically out of date, we recommend walking away. If they don’t understand or appreciate the value of a well-written, well-designed and well-built website for their own business, how can you expect them to deliver what you need for yours?
Hiring the right web designer can be one of the most important business decisions you can make
Your website is an investment in the future of your business. Ensure that it’s powerful enough to make a difference to your business and to continue working with for years to come. That’s why it makes sense to take your time when hiring a web designer/developer.
With the plethora of tools available today, it isn’t difficult to create a web presence. In fact, you can buy all-in-one packages where the site is already built and all you need to do is drop in the text. What is difficult is building a website that makes a difference to your business. The person or the people you hire to do the work can be that difference.