This is the first post of a series on finding, hiring, and working with web designers. This post is aimed at business owners that may be looking for a web designer to hire for a project or various members of management looking for a designer or small firm to outsource to. This series is also helpful for those who are deciding if they should hire someone else or do it themselves.
Some of you that are reading this blog already have a web designer (which may be me!). But many others will stumble here in search of a web designer. And you lost souls are probably feeling overwhelmed and not so sure where to start. Who better to tell you what to look for in a web designer than another experienced web designer?
So the first question is: how do you find one? More importantly, how do you find a designer of good quality?
As with all industries, there are good ones and bad ones out there. Some are highly experienced and others are just starting out. Some do this part-time in addition to working a full-time job while others devote all of their time to running a web design business. And some are reasonably priced, some are expensive but worth every penny, and some just overcharge and fleece the ignorant and/or desperate.
Naturally, most people will look to trusted friends, family, and colleagues for a referral. Some may even turn to someone they know that makes websites. Frighteningly, some will even ask their kid to make a website.
“Such and such knows how to make a website” isn’t enough if you want a professional face for your business. A website is just like a magazine ad, or your storefront, or any other face your business shows. You don’t leave that in the hands of amateurs.
You may decide to save yourself some money and run out and learn web design. One class does not a web designer make. Knowing HTML doesn’t make you a professional designer any more than me knowing how to cook makes me a professional chef. Hey, I can change a tire, but I’m not a mechanic. I know basic first aid, but I’m not a medial professional. Get the difference? It’s going to take a lot more than a few classes to get good enough to make this worthwhile for you.
I often see people try and make their own website, and then a year or so later, give up and hire a professional now that they’ve learned enough to know just how many mistakes they’ve made and just how hard this can be. Reaching a professional level of understanding takes more time than most people have available. Sure, there are classes out there claiming you can make a website in a few easy lessons. And yes, you can! But they won’t be professional level sites by any stretch of the imagination.
Its great that someone you know has just learned some web design. Basic HTML and Photoshop is not especially hard; anyone can do it. A lot of people that use MySpace or blog need to know the basics; I think that’s a good thing. Even kids may understand how to do it. Some might even grasp a few advanced concepts, but all of these newbies:
- are prone to taking shortcuts and using technologies that could hurt your site and business
- don’t understand how to design for a target demographic
- don’t understand how to make a site look professional
- don’t understand the legalities of web design
- don’t know how to make your site accessible
- don’t understand how to make your site look good on any browser and operating system.
All of this can happen because the newbies just don’t know better; they’re so new, they often don’t know what questions to ask.
Where do you look for a designer? Referrals from those you know are excellent ways to find some. Better yet: referrals from people who have a web designer they are happy with.
If you don’t know anyone with a recommendation, naturally, search engines are a good start too. You may also want to look into freelancer websites such as Elance, Odesk, Guru, GetAFreelancer, and so on.
Bear in mind that on many of these sites, you are dealing with designers from around the world. It’s up to you to decide if you want local or non-local. Sometimes, those from other countries will work cheaper. However, there can be challenges in communication due to language, cultural, and time zone barriers. It’s up to you to decide what is best for you. Designers on these sites will have ratings from people that have worked with them before. You will also see samples of prior work.
With so many choices, how do you determine just who to hire? I’ll address that in my next post on the subject, next week.