10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Web Designer

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The process of designing your new website could be a dream come true or an ongoing nightmare. Who you choose to help you along the way and design/build your website for you will make all the difference, both in how much you enjoy the design process and the end product.

Here are 10 smart questions you should ask a potential web designer. As a website designer, I welcome being asked these and any other questions, as well!

1. Do you have a portfolio and does it fit my style & vibe?

Every website designer has a different style, just as every person has a different style, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It’s one of the things that makes this world wonderful and unique.

However, this means that you need to assess whether or not the website designer works with your style. If they don’t, when it comes to design time, it will be like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. Having different styles are one of those things that are hard to work with that can lead to immense frustration on both sides. Ask yourself, if your site came out having a similar style and vibe as the website designer’s portfolio, would you be happy?

It’s worth noting that most designers don’t show their entire body of work on their portfolio page, just a selection of their favorite designs. The style you see on their portfolio page is usually the style they prefer to work on for websites. So most likely whatever the designer is showing in their portfolio, that’s their true style.

2. What is your design process?

Each website designer will have his or her own answer to this (or, possibly, NO answer to this). If they have documented their process, then it’s a pretty sure bet that they have experience and won’t run into budget or time issues once the project starts. Working with a designer who has a plan will make your life much easier, as they guide you through things step by step, especially if website building is new territory for you.

3. When is your next available design date?

First, and most obvious, you need their schedule to work with your desired launch date. You want to make sure you have the time needed to complete the site before the due date. Second, most website designers are in high demand and generally have a wait time of at least a week or two or more before they’ll be able to work with you.

PRO TIP: Plan in advance! Start looking for a website designer at least a month before you want your project to start.

4. Do you outsource any of your work?

Outsourcing is not a bad thing, but you will have to make a judgment call about this one. Often web designers are also asked for illustrations, graphic design, custom made fonts, logo designs, branding, copywriting, social media management, and custom web development. It’s extremely rare, in fact almost impossible, that one designer is skilled in all of these areas. If you are wanting more than just the site design, it’s likely that the designer will bring on help. A good designer will know what their strengths and weakness are and will outsource the stuff that’s not their forte to trusted business partners. This is normal and to be expected. However, there are some design studios who will outsource the majority of a project to cheap labor who may not have the qualified experience to build a design. If that happens, most likely the website design will not be high-quality or function well.

Make sure to ask if things are outsourced and to who. Also check out the site of the other business to ensure it looks legit.

PRO TIP: Keep in mind, if you are asking for a multitude of custom designed products, depending on the product, the more the designer may need to outsource. No single person can or be expected to do absolutely everything. If time is of the essence for your web design project, this can slow your project down significantly.

5. Will I be able to review and approve the work as the project progresses? How many revisions/round of edits are included?

This is a two-in-one question! What happens if the first draft version of your new website comes back and you’re not in love with it?

You should establish checkpoints throughout the project so that you don’t waste time and resources on a project you reject. The normal number of revision rounds is two, sometimes three. After that, if you want more changes, you’ll usually pay hourly for the additional edits you would like, until they’re complete. Make sure to ask what your designer’s hourly rate is, too. Hourly rates for designers range from $50 to $175.

6. Will I receive the original design files once we’re done the project?

Often times, your web designer will use Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop to make custom graphics for your site that aren’t possible to be made in your website building platform. You will definitely want these files, both the completed ones and the original files. Even if you don’t know how to use Illustrator or Photoshop, still get the file in case something happens with your designer. You’ll want to have the file so you can give it to someone else to edit if need be. If you get a ‘no’ on this question, I highly recommend moving on to another designer.

7. What do you need from me before launch?

Asking this before the project starts can prevent delays later on as you scramble to procure images, content, or passwords. From the beginning, the designer should be able to list almost everything they will need to complete the project.

8. How involved do I need to be in the design process?

If you want to be involved in the design process, you’ll need to communicate that up front. Almost all web designers will have a discovery meeting with you where they learn about your business and ideas you have for the design. Apart from that, you can leave it in their hands or have checks along the way.

9. Are your web designs mobile friendly?

Google’s new Mobile Index means having a mobile-friendly design non-negotiable. Mobile design is more than a smaller version of your desktop site. It needs to be responsive to all screen sizes.

10. Which content management system do you use? Do you help with maintenance of the site after the site build is complete, or do you offer lessons on how to update my site myself?

The content management system (CMS) is what’s used to post new content to your website. It allows you to update your site’s content with articles and new landing pages. Some CMS’s are proprietary which means you may have to pay a maintenance fee for someone to update the website when needed. Other CMS’s may allow you to update only certain information, but the full site design can’t be changed. Lastly, you have CMS’s where you can change absolutely everything, and you don’t have to pay a maintenance fee for someone to do it for you. Here’s a great article by Brian Larson describing the differences between an open source CMS vs. a proprietary CMS. Regardless of the type of CMS, the designer should offer to teach you how to update your website.

Final Note: Did you notice I didn’t cover the question of “price” in any of the above recommended questions? Pricing is somewhat complex when it comes to web design which will be covered more in-depth in a subsequent blog post. In general, you get what you pay for. That’s as true on the web as anywhere. I would advise not to be scared off by seemingly high rates. While there are surely overpriced developers out there, and underpriced ones as well, it’s also generally true that a $120/hour designer probably has deeper skills and is likely much more efficient than an $50/hour (or less) one. I’ve personally seen many cases in which the company’s bottom line cost (not to mention ROI) would have been much improved had they selected a higher-priced designer.

Before you go, I have a question for you! Are you ready to build a website with a pro to grow your business quickly? Perfect. I’d love to help with that! You can find all the details on how we can work together building or tweaking your site right over here.

Kat Collins is a Squarespace Website Designer focused on helping you share your brand’s story via your website to take your business to the next level. On the blog, you’ll find a variety of topics that help you succeed in online business, such as website design, branding, social media strategies, blogging, email marketing, Squarespace design tips, and more.