How to Choose a Web Designer

A new website or even a ‘facelift’ to an existing site is a major investment for a small to medium business, so it’s important to find a web designer you can trust and build a long-term business relationship with. You don’t need someone who steps into your business life for a few weeks then vanishes never to be seen again until your next hosting bill is due. You need someone who will be there every step of the way to support you and help market your website to achieve its maximum potential.

To find that ‘business partner’ you need to ask a few fundamental questions rather than just the standard, ‘how much will it cost’. A good website should be so much more than just an online catalogue, so to ensure your web presence meets your goals,  generates leads and sales we offer the following advice.

You will need to do some upfront thinking before seeing any web designer in order to have an idea of what your goals are. For example, a web designer will give you a very different quote for a simple 5-page website than for an online shop with a successful marketing strategy that helps sell large volumes of products.

We should be serving our clients, not selling to them. When we truely solve a clients problem the chances of a project being successful multiply ten fold.

Andy SImmons

So armed with your wish list, here are our guidelines for choosing your ideal web designer:

  1. Make a call – this gives you an indication of how available they will be from a simple ‘do they answer their phone’ or call you back quickly! In this initial chat ask if they have the skills to complete your project, you don’t need to go into detail at this stage. If you like what you hear, ask if a face to face meeting is possible either at your premises or their office. Some designers, (not Chatsworth) are not interested in a face to face unless you are spending over a certain large value. Meeting arranged, make sure you are ready with your questions.
  2. The Meeting – be prepared to give the designer as much detail as possible about your project so they can assess what development work you may need. It is also useful to find some examples of websites you like, they don’t even have to be the same trade as you and also sites you really don’t like.
  3. Marketing Goals (SEO)- Tell the designer the results you expect from the site such as lead generation or online sales. Ask if the designer is well versed in search engine optimisation and marketing. If they glaze over at this point and say, ‘we optimise sites as standard’, run away. You need to work with someone who understands your marketing goals and can give you creative results driven options. Ask about the designer’s clients and what results have they had. If you are not sure of your marketing goals, then an experienced designer should be able to ask you questions about your business to help you refine this.
  4. Portfolio – Ask to see some of their latest designs and what results the client had from said sites. It is also useful to know if they have any long term clients showing a track record of developing long term relationships with other businesses. Another tip is to ask if any of their clients have grown in value/size since working together and if so what part did the web site play in this achievement.
  5. Process – ask what their web design and development process is, how it works and what will be required of you, e.g. will you need to provide copy or will the designer write copy for you, who supplies images, if it is an online shop, do you add your products or will the designer add them for you? A good designer will be able to carry out all of these tasks for you with equal success. One point to note; the more work the designer does for you, the more expensive the website. However, a web designer will be much quicker at creating and adding content, so a little extra cost upfront may be good value for the client as your site will be live much quicker.
  6. Usability – this covers how you update the site through to will your customers find the site easy to navigate. You may hear buzzwords like UX or UI designers here, which is a user experience designer or user interface designer. Ask for a demo of their content management system to see if you find it easy to use. Ask how much training you will get within the quoted costs and what on-going support is provided.
  7. Responsive – Will it work on mobile phones and tablets? As over 80% of searches are now carried out on mobile devices, it is essential that your new site will perform perfectly on all types of device, the term you need to ask for is, ‘will my site be responsive’?
  8. Cost & Payment Terms– This is usually the first question any client asks, but until the designer has a clear idea of your business goals, they really cannot give you an accurate quote. If your budget is tight, ask for costs to be broken down into various elements such as design work, marketing or any special features you have requested such as booking calendars or calculators. You may then choose to start with the basic website and maybe add an enhanced SEO package a couple of months down the line. Also, ask about payment terms, is a deposit required and if so how much and when is the balance due.
  9. On-going costs. These will usually include web hosting and domain registration. Ask if there are any hosting costs upfront and how you pay in future, monthly, quarterly or annually. Also, ask about hosting options, a good business hosting package that supplies back-up copies of your site and enables your site to load quickly is invaluable, so ask the designer to go through their options with you. A good agency will have various options rather than a ‘one size fits all’
  10. Whilst your site may be content managed so you can add blog articles and carry out general updates yourself, there may be a large update that you would rather the designer carry out or a structural change required, so ask about how updates are charged, e.g. at an hourly rate, an agreed one-off fee or a monthly retainer.
  11. Ongoing Support – you need a designer that will be there to help you with anything from how to use the content management system to marketing a new product to email problems or sometimes just a chat on how your site is performing. Check out their office hours, is there an out of hours emergency number.
  12. Lastly and most importantly, do you actually get along with the designer and their team? Do they seem interested in your project and your business? A designer with some knowledge of your industry is more likely to be able to help you with copywriting and strategy than one who knows nothing about your trade. Hopefully, you will be working with your designer on a long term basis so you need to feel comfortable picking up the phone to ask then for some help.

Chatsworth Web Design love to meet new clients and learn about their business and commercial ambitions. We thrive on helping people build successful websites which in turn helps them to succeed. For more information and a free no-obligation chat, just give us a call on 0800 7723447.

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