The term “Website designer” is very vague. As a customer you could be referring to anyone from a graphics designer to a web developer. But as long as you mean the guy who is building you a website, we are on the same page. Time and again this question comes up “How do I hire the right website designer?” Well, it is quite a task actually. You could go to Upwork or Freelancer sites and find someone. Chances are that you’d end up with someone pretty costly but doesn’t know a thing about design. It’s a fish market and hiring on these portals is a science in itself. So what’s the answer?
As a WordPress developer and consultant, I build websites for customers around the globe. And I’ve been doing that for over 8 years as of today. And I’ve seen prospects asking me all kinds of questions which may or may not be relevant to the job at hand. But since I’m myself a website designer and know the nitty-gritties, what if I were compelled to hire someone for my own site?
Ah, I wouldn’t trust anyone with my own website other than myself. Why?
Because I’m the best (unless someone is able to convince me otherwise). So what does it take? Cool; I’m hunting for someone better than myself. And here’s how I do it.
1. Before someone recommends me innerwear, I’d find out what they use themselves.
…because chances are, people always pick the best for themselves. Yeah, one of those secret, being selfish and all. So while you are recommending me a solution and a technology and how it helps me, let me find out how well your own site works for you. Is it there? Is it a single page site only? Is it built on WordPress (or whatever you are recommending me)? I’d actually see the source code of their websites and scan the CSS, perhaps the un-minified version and study how well it is formatted, or if it’s just coded in a rush etc.
2. Do you outsource?
If the answer is yes then this means the actual work is being done somewhere else whose credentials and competency is difficult to establish. By all means there’s a commission involved. So basically you are paying extra for getting the work done by someone whose expertise is difficult to establish. Now some agencies do it all the time. Sometimes it is necessitated by the fact that smart companies instead of trying to get their hands into everything actually collaborate with other experts to maintain and deliver quality. But essentially there’s a judgement call for you. I do all the work in-house and I’m only able to cater to the WordPress niche. I only have two hands.
3. How much would you charge?
This is a highly inflammable topic. Many feel that two different designers could quote from 1 to 10 times for the same website. I strongly believe think this is only marginally true and the difference is primarily due to the experience and understanding of the project. Website design is a service, not a product. The price of the same laptop varies around the world owing to transportation costs and regional taxes. Website design service is different. While the plumbers in your local area may charge in the range of x dollars, with website design, the service is offered by designers around the world. The hourly prices of someone working in China are very different from someone in UK. So the same number of hours cost widely different depending on where you hire from. Also given that all other things remain same, you get what you pay for. Because when you go for a free website, you are wasting your own hourly earnings to cook up a website that you are not good at.
4. What do you mean by a good design?
Tricky question again. I think of design as architecture, visually and functionally not just the cosmetics of the front-end. My big focus always is “How well does the design convert?” After all the ultimate goal of any website is to make more sales, leads whatever you may want to call it. The other part of the story is the engine that powers the site. While ultimately every site renders HTML and CSS that our browser renders, the effort and skill goes into developing and setting up the engine that works at the backend. Is it portable, low-maintenance in the long run? Is it scalable and can be built upon when the site evolves? Questions like these help you identify the level or standard of solution and the costs involved.
5. Now since you are the best, you must have worked with many. What are the typical challenges with designing websites and how do you solve them?
That is an indirect question and allows me to peep into mind and see if you are just making up something or do you actually cite some actual challenges and show how intelligently you resolve them? I could be any kind of a customer, from being a computer illiterate to being a pushy one or just being too knowledgeable myself. And ultimately everyone is served. I’d make sure you are not the kinds who just parts ways when things go difficult. Every project has challenges.
6. Could you do it in a different way?
There’s always a second option. Do you know it? This goes on to tell me how technically sound you are and if you are experienced and creative enough to figure out workarounds when it gets tricky.
7. Testimonials: One for every two happy clients
Ok, it’s slightly impractical because it’s just not feasible to show 50 testimonials. But for every project you show in your portfolio, there’d be as many testimonials or slightly less. I’d actually scan those client’s site to see if it actually exists. It’s difficult to be thorough with the verification since people keep changing designs etc. But it would be good to know that the person issuing the testimonial is actually real and does have a website.
8. Will my website be launch ready?
I’ve seen people delivering child-themes or designs and all that. I pay because I’m looking for a solution, not a half-job at the end of which I’ll still be left to work on something or to find someone else to do it. When I say launch ready it means all SEO, performance plugins setup and configured including webmaster tools, Google analytics and everything under the sun that is required for a top-notch website to launch.
9. What about support?
Don’t leave support as an after-thought. No matter how great a website, it’s always good to have support around as and when you happen to need it. What all is covered in support? Tomorrow when you install a new plugin, will things continue to work? You don’t want to be caught struggling to get things working when you sit out to change the permalink structure or edit a menu as is often a common change in WordPress.
10. What about SEO?
That’s a question that many fail. One asked back… “Do you want webdesign service or SEO service?” They didn’t know what’s what and were caught with their pants down. This often is the case with freelancer-hiring-portals. Beneath a bold grand design is a poorly architected theme-base. The design looks cool because it’s perhaps been copied or plagiarized and since there are thousands floating around, it’s difficult to notice. But coding best-practices can’t be copied. You either have to learn it yourself or have to burn your fingers to feel the pain of poor SEO. SEO is a whole new topic that I plan to cover in a dedicated post. But the point to note is that on-page SEO (if an explicit mention is a must) is a part of the website design, not necessarily a part of a dedicated SEO package.
There are other things that you may want to sort out like the refund policies, intellectual property rights and all. But for the skill part, the above questions work for me. Start with the SEO part and chances are that rest will not be required.
What questions would you ask?