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How to select the ideal web designer for your business

So you have compiled your needs and wants as to what your website needs to do for your business. You also have jotted down what skills you have or have access to. You also have put together your budget for building and later for maintaining and managing your site. You made a time line where you see your business and yourself in 6, 12, 24, and maybe even 60 months. After deliberating the goals of your business and your projections for the future as well as weighing your options, you came to the conclusion that you need to work with a web development team instead of a website builder.

Choosing a web designer or web developer is a critical strategic decision for your business. Since your website is cardinal to the success of your business whether it’s to inform, educate, encourage bookings, sell products and services, or raise brand awareness.

Before we dive into the things that you need to consider, we first need to take a look a what types of web developers there are. As you may have noticed, we’re using web designer and web developer like synonyms, interchangeably.

Types of web designers

Pure designers

A pure designer is in general a creative (graphic designer or artist) who knows expertly how to use specialist design software such as Adobe Photoshop, Sketch, or Figma.

As their core service, they provide graphics for your site and printed materials – read page layout, colours, illustrations, logo designs, brochure designs, etc.

The rare ones in of this type have competencies in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and know how to turn their own design into frontend code. But most of them will work with more technical types.

HTML and CSS – photo by Pankaj Patel

Web programmer

A web developer (also called web programmer, coder) typically takes the design of the designer and translate them into code. They also translate your business processes and workflows into code.

Often there is a fronted engineer to make the website look like the design and a backend engineer who is responsible for the processes. Rarer among the web programmers are the full-stacker (full-stack engineers) who combine both. They often specialise in languages like NodeJS, PHP, Python, and Ruby.

You need both front-end and back-end engineers to help you develop a customise website, with your specific workflows. Think of Google or Amazon. Both are websites but run on multibillion-dollar infrastructure with data centres dotted around the globe.

Digital marketing consultant

A digital marketing consulting or an SEO expert does not know all the geeky stuff in design and programming in depth but they know about marketing, advertising, and lead nurturing. They can help you create a website that will garner attention but may not look the best in terms of design and branding or function as you’d like with your workflows.

You still want to work with a digital marketing or SEO expert, since you want your website to fit into your overall marketing strategy and grow your business.

If you’re very lucky, you find a person who combines design competency with full-stack skills and SEO.

Platform specialists

As there are many platforms and applications available, you’ll also find developers specialised in Shopify, Magento, Drupal, WordPress, and others. They understand these platforms completely so that they have coded themes or plugins. Depending on the platform, they specialise in the language that was used to build the platform with, taking Magento for example, it would be PHP. They also know front-end scripting (using JavaScript) to create any dynamic elements that are needed. This means they can tweak and customise the platform to match your specs.

Now that you know the different types of web designers, let’s dig deeper.

Criteria for finding the right web design partner

A lot of the work relationship will also depend on how you want to work with the web designer. Do you want to work with someone locally, or are you willing to do so remotely via video conference? Of course, in 2020, a lot of work is done remotely via Zoom and the like. But, if you’re willing to work remotely, you still need to factor in the time difference if your designer is in another time zone.

They listen

In your business, you’re an expert. This means you know what you’re selling and who your target market is. So, you also know how you want to present your business and products. Pay attention to how much they ask about your business, what you want to achieve, your audience. If a web developer doesn’t listen or doesn’t understand your business, how can design a site that reflects you, your brand, and your business? The web designer needs to be able to improve, complement, and put your ideas into action.

They suggest own ideas

You may know your business and your industry in and out. But your website needs to be designed by someone who knows about design, development, and SEO. So, do they identify and offer apt solutions to your specific needs and concerns? Do they offer alternative courses of action? You don’t want to work with “yes-men” who just nod and follow your instructions but don’t bring your website to the next level.

They communicate clearly

Sometimes, web designers use their lingo or just don’t communicate in a clear language. Do you understand each other and achieve a mutual understanding? Did they tell you everything, also their list of fees and charges?

They know and implement the latest design trends

You surely don’t want to be caught with a website that could have been trendy a decade ago, or even worse, is not responsive. Your audience is more likely to trust your site if it looks modern and gets updated constantly. Of course, you still need to like their design style.

They get the big picture

You know your industry, understand what’s coming next and plan for it. Expect the same from your web designer. They need to understand the internet and build your site with the big picture in mind.

Determine your compatibility

Ask yourself what do you want from this relationship. Given, developing a website takes a set amount of time. But when you hire a web designer, you’re actually hiring a technology partner which could turn into a long-term (think years) relationship.

It’s similar to a marriage, moving a website to another provider is similar to a divorce and is time-consuming and costly. As such, it wiser to spend time and money, in the beginning, to suss out if you trust them, like to work with them, and can they do their job?

Specify the required level of support

It’s normal in web development that from time to time, you’ll want or need some changes. Put in other words, a website is not or should not be static. Any web developer worth anything will implement a content management system (CMS) so that you can add and update content.

There are also things like adding a new team member, password reset, or codebase maintenance. Adding new features is probably going to be a new commission for your technology partner. Many web developers offer some kind of ongoing support. Ask them what the turnaround time is, what level of support, who is going to be doing it, and at what costs.

Think beyond web design

Deliberate if you need just the website designed or do you also need help with copywriting the content, making the visuals (be it images or videos), marketing your website, and website hosting? If you only need your site to be designed, a freelancer can be enough to complete this specific task. Should you want or need more, even someone who can support all your digital demands, you may need to look for a larger, more sophisticated web design firm to meet all your requirements.

Factor in all the costs

You have unlimited choice to work with freelancers to full-service agencies. With this large variety, the web development pricing also runs from free to fixed to hours. Some even charge a different price depending on the type of customer for the same task.

Apart from the costs tied to designing and implementing your site, you have to factor in ongoing charges like for example for hosting and support.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this guide, we’d be hugely grateful if you could create a link to it on your website or blog.

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