web business

How do I find a web designer?

  • Go local, that’s just my preference. Local designers know the market, may know the competition, have local resources and — most important — can actually meet with you to go over details. Doing absolutely everything over the phone or via email is okay, but it’s not always ideal.
  • Get a reference. Do you have a neighbor or friend or colleague who has a website you like? Ask them who they worked with and were they happy with it
  • Check out the websites of competitors (of similar size) Very often there’s a credit link to the design firm at the bottom of the page
  • Check your local chamber of commerce or better business bureau
  • There really is nothing wrong with doing a google search for a local web design firm. Your first problem will be an overwhelming number of choices.
    • Look for a portfolio. Do you like the work? Do they work in a style that meshes with yours?
    • Does their portfolio have examples of the kind of work you need? Like shopping carts or animation or blogs?
    • Many companies (but not all) now put pricing plans on line. This can be very helpful in finding out if you can afford their work, and if they work on projects like yours. Just because the pricing is not posted, doesn’t mean you can’t afford it. Contact them with a brief description of your project and ask for a typical price range for projects like this. Whoever you work with, be sure to talk to them in detail about your work and get it in writing.
  • Things to beware of:
    • A portfolio with hundreds and hundreds of websites. Real companies only put their best work online. Hundreds of websites = webfarm. Don’t expect too much.
    • A portfolio that is full of errors: spelling, grammar, pages that don’t load, images that are over there when they should be over here. Your site will not be any better
    • A firm that gives you a price without asking about your project
  • Things that you may be surprised about, but shouldn’t be.
    • Most of the best design firms will not do work ‘on spec’. That is, they will not not provide free sample pages and then hope you choose them to design your site. Students or companies who are just starting out may do this in order to build their portfolios … but the business relationship will not be there.
    • Most professional design firms require installment payments once a mutual agreement has been reached to start a project. That is, xx% up front, xx% midway, and xx% on completion. Scope of work and payment can be a challenging area to navigate, and it is always advisable to clearly explain the what is provided and what is expected.

No matter what kind of project you’ve got, there is a web designer for you. From the one page “Get to Know Me” site, to the next, there’s a firm out there who can do the work. And if you take a couple of wrong turns while you’re looking for them, so what? Education is never a waste. When you speak with potential designers, ask them what kind of work they do best, and beware of folks that only seem to be paying lip service. You’ll have a more productive relationship with a designer who will be honest about what your expectations should be, gently but firmly push you out of your comfort zone, and who will be forthcoming about areas in which they are not an expert. You should always look for a vendor who asks lots of questions about your business and — even if they are not an expert in your field — understands your overall mission and goals. Trust me, the designer wants you to be happy with their work. They want to add your site to their portfolio, and they want you to tell all your friends! They have lots of incentive to do great work for you.  You’re the expert on your business, and they’re the experts on web design. As long as everyone keeps that in mind, your project will be  golden.