Website Designers: An Ultimate Guide to Choosing The Best One

You need to learn how to select a web designer.

Here’s the problem.

“It all depends”is both a correct and unhelpful answer.

The website design market has never had more options. However, all these choices make choosing harder than ever.

It is important to know what you want before you try to sort through all of the options.

As with any large purchase, such as a house or car, you should not be looking for the “best”. Instead, identify your needs and goals and write them down. The best choice for you will often be the one that is most convenient.

Also, you should choose a web designer based on your needs and not just the best fit.

This concept is in mind. Here’s how you can go through the elimination process to find the best website designer for your project.

1. Define Your Technology Needs

What functions does your website need?

Do you want to create a brochure site? This is where you can put your contact information.

Are you trying to create something with specific functionality?

This is a crucial step because it determines the type of developer or agency that you will need.

Pure-play web designers rarely work with HTML/CSS, or other web languages such as Javascript, PHP, and others. The majority of pure-play web designers work in Photoshop. They focus on branding, color palettes and imagery.

A pure-play web designer may collaborate with a front end web developer to create a design. The user is the front-end of a website. The front-end developer should be familiar with HTML/CSS and Javascript, and comfortable working with “back-end” technologies.

Back-end technology includes scripts, databases, and APIs. It also involves making sure that all computers talk to each other correctly.

You’ll most likely hire someone who is an expert on one of the three and knowledgeable in the other. An agency will have the ability to handle all three if you hire them.

Many agencies, developers, and designers will also work with platforms that have the core functionality already built in. These platforms will make the process faster and less expensive. However, clients (or you) need to be familiar with the tools they use.

The most important thing to consider is the amount of functionality your website needs. This will help you decide on the type of web designer you need and how to meet with them.

Consider These Factors

  • What functionality are you looking for now?
  • What do you want for your website to grow?
  • Are you a webmaster and need to manage the content of your website?
  • Are your visitors required to interact with the site?

Here’s What to Avoid

  • Avoid vague concepts and ideas.
  • Avoid technology lock-ins by being careful.

Example Scenarios

Imagine a brand new fashion brand. Do you prefer to develop content or sell clothes? Are you able to manage inventory? Are you looking to create a community? How can you integrate your social media presence?

A web designer could create a self-hosted WordPress site to manage the content, and then add-in ecommerce using a plugin . However, it may be more difficult to manage inventory and social integration. You could also create an online store using Shopify, which will allow you to concentrate on ecommerce and social. However, this might slow down your content plans.

Consider a new non-profit website. Are you able to manage and maintain it? Are you looking for portal logins or donation capabilities? Are you able to connect with specific profiles?

A web designer could create a self-hosted WordPress site that can easily incorporate donations . However, it would be more expensive upfront and harder to maintain long term without someone who can teach on the platform. A hosted website designer such as Wix or could be used. Although it might not have the same capabilities upfront, it would be easier to maintain over time in-house.

The designer you choose should not only be flexible, but also know what they are doing. Trusting someone you trust is better than not trusting them. But also make sure they fully understand your needs.

2. You can define your design needs

What do you want your website to look like?

It’s difficult to grasp the difficulty of translating a vague idea from someone else’s head into a tangible creation if you have never had to design something.

There are some bad designers, but you will get a better product if you are more specific about your needs.

To show the direction you want, draw something.

Note what you enjoy about websites you love. Here are some examples of round-ups I have written.

  • Wix Website Examples
  • WordPress Website Examples
  • Personal Website Examples
  • Online Portfolio Examples
  • Weebly website examples
  • GoDaddy Website Examples
  • Shopify Website Examples

Your frustrations can be expressed with existing designs.

Also, it is possible to create some design assets and have a web designer convert those assets into a website design.

Clients have hired a photographer to create a website layout around their professional images. I have built websites around 99 designs logo clients have made.

I also used Fiverr for a color scheme, logo or other graphic design elements that I could then use.

Clients even use automated design generators such as Tailor brands to create a look that can be plugged & played into a template or theme.

Once you have your details down, you can use them to find the right web designer.

Consider These Factors

  • A web designer who is skilled in designing websites will be able tell you what features and looks are possible.
  • Consider the process you would like to use. Are you open to having choices at each stage? What is your preferred way to get and give feedback? What are the most critical parts of design? What are your priorities when it comes to budget?

Here’s What to Avoid

  • Avoid designers who cannot tell you how they will approach a design issue. Avoid designers who don’t have a process.
  • It is better for both of you to have a written design process. The feedback stages can drag on for days and frustrate everyone.
  • Avoid making vague or ill-informed wishes.

Example Scenarios

Imagine a website for a restaurant. A well-established restaurant will probably already have a lot of design assets at its physical location. A web designer should have plenty of options for logos, colors and ambience. The task of hiring a web designer is less about creating the design perfect but more about layout, navigation and conversion of design assets.

Imagine a brand new yoga studio. Startups might require a website design that is easily accessible online and on social media. The owner can choose to create a logo and brand feel for the company (via a specialist or logo contractor, or Ai brand software), or let the website designer design the look.

3. Your business needs should be defined

Which role does your website play in your business?

While some of these factors will be related to your design and technology requirements, it is especially important to take into account before you set your budget & scope.

Consider how customers are attracted to your business and how you market it.

Is your website able to generate leads/sales? Do your salespeople offer it as a brochure? Or does your website need to generate new leads from online customers?

It will need to be integrated with business processes like inventory, bookkeeping, or order-taking. Are you looking to automate your sales and marketing processes?

Do you have any software providers in mind that you would like to integrate with your site now or in the near future?

Consider These Factors

  • Consider both the immediate and long-term needs of your company.
  • Consider your domain names and how you plan to set up your email and other online services.
  • Consider the incremental value of your website. How many leads could it generate? What does a new lead cost?

Here’s What to Avoid

  • Avoid complexity. Integrations and versatility will make your website stand out.
  • Your website is not a cost. It’s an investment.
  • Avoid designers who are not able to integrate features or build them out.
  • Avoid hiring designers who are unable to make a business case for modifying your business processes.
  • Avoid designers who are unable to explain their design approach in the medium-term.
  • Avoid quick, “duct-tape” solutions.

Example Scenarios

A local property management firm might benefit from a brochure website that directs customers to the phone or in-person consultations. It might be fine to have a brochure website, which is a website that provides basic information. What if the firm wishes to add client tools, secure portals and content marketing? These features require a website that is flexible and can grow over time. A self-hosted website could be worth having a designer working on retainer.

Consider a new business that sells jewelry exclusively on Etsy. They might also want a blog to communicate with their customers. A hosted platform such as might make it easy to create a custom theme. It might be better to choose a different path at the beginning of integrating Etsy, or laying the foundation for an online store that is not Etsy.

4. Define your budget and scope

What amount of money and time are you willing to spend now?

You should never think that “as cheaply as possible” is the answer. Consider other options.

Your website should be an investment and not a cost. You won’t get the results you desire if you approach it in the same way as you would bulk-buy office pens.

Yes, I get your desire to maximize your return on investment. It’s better to maximize your return than minimize it.

Consider These Factors

  • Consider your cash flow situation. Consider how much a single lead would be worth to you.
  • List all costs associated with a website that is not functioning or poor.
  • You should prioritize the features, functionality, design choices, and other factors.
  • Consider the payoff period when amortizing your budget. If you have $10,000 to spend on the site and expect it to last for 50 months, $200/mo is reasonable. Is that your estimated value?

Here’s What to Avoid

  • Don’t think of your budget as a separate entity. Always tie it to value or scope.
  • Don’t think you can have it all. Keep your options open.
  • Don’t think about a project that is finished and over. Consider ongoing costs for you, your staff and your designer.

5. Define your sources & other options

Which type of designer would you like? How do you find them?

Unfortunately, most website designers who are good aren’t easy to find.

Your competitors won’t know this, which is the good news. You’ll be able to choose from a wider range of options if you do your research.

Consider These Factors

  • Website designers who are good at designing websites do a lot of work. A large agency that spends a lot on advertising and acquisition is likely to be a big one with lots of work.
  • Good website designers love to work with great clients. I used to work for web design clients. I would rather take on a great client for half the price than a bad one. A bad client is not worth the money.
  • Back and forth conversations are not billable. This is not good for the designer or you. You should be more precise.

Here’s What to Avoid

  • You can search for the same things that everyone else is searching for.
  • Expecting more of a person or platform that is reasonable considering the effort you have put in.

Where to Look

You could also do a Google Search. You will be disappointed, I promise. These are some other places you should look.

For local designer / developer

Local web designers often fail to market their services. Many clients prefer to speak with a local web designer.

The approach you choose will depend on the metro area. Here’s what I would do.

  1. You can find meetups that you want to follow. You can always find web designers looking to improve their skills at a local class, workshop or meetup.
  2. You can do a very specific Google search using search operators. Similar to this.
  3. For referrals, ask your local businesses.
  4. This works well in smaller metros.

For a WordPress designer / developer

WordPress can be used to manage a wide variety of content. Although it is not the best choice for all sites, it is a great content management system. It will probably do the job.

The problem is that anyone can be a WordPress developer, even though they don’t really know the core of the software.

It is important to do #1 and 2 – you will need to determine if the designer/developer you hire uses WordPress to create websites.

Here’s what I would look for –

  1. Meetups for WordPress in your area
  2. Talk to WordCamp attendees – large gatherings of WordPress users.
  3. Talk to the community support forums
  4. Google will give you the ability to search for a very specific keyword with intext: “Work with me.”
  5. Fiverr has a huge collection of WordPress-qualified gigs.

A side note: WordPress designers will likely use certain themes/theme frames. This means you can negotiate more scope and do more DIY.

Designer / Developer for [other platform]

There are many other software options available, including hosted options like Squarespace and Shopify, Wix, Bigcommerce, Wix, Wix, Wix, Shopify, Shopify, Wix, Wix, Bigcommerce, Wix, Wix, Wix, Wix, Wix, Bigcommerce, Shopify, Shopify, Wix, Wix, Wix, Bigcommerce.

Understanding the technology and the features you are purchasing is key. For example, a custom design will cost more than functionality if you choose to go with a hosted option that bundles many functions.

To find potential designers, you can rely heavily on the Experts Exchange and services’ support forums. Fiverr often has a large selection of people offering platform-specific gigs.

For a general designer / developer

Web design has the advantage of allowing you to collaborate with global talent. Although remote work can present challenges, there are many benefits if you do it right.

For this search, I recommend that you rely more on internal platforms than random searches. Here are a few examples.

99designs can be used for design-only contests. My clients have purchased designs from me. Here is my general review .

Dribbble – This is where designers do cutting-edge work.

A profile on Github, StackExchange, or HackerNews is a must for most developers. You should look for people who can provide good answers.

Fiverr can be a great platform for those who are open to trying out a few designers before you commit to one. They have been used for multiple side projects.

Upwork can also be a good option if you’re willing to test projects with multiple designers before making your final decision.

Tailor brands is an AI-powered self service platform that can create a logo or complete branding setup in less than $100.

Additionally, you’ll find that ThemeForest vendors will also do custom work on top of other marketplaces such as CreativeMarket.

This is why you should put in a little more effort to find good designers than just general internet surfing.

Alternatives to a Custom Web Designer

If you think “ok, I just need a straightforward website, not a search”, – then it’s worth looking into some Other Options.

Scroll down to see other ways you can get a site without hiring a web designer.

6. Ask for proposals

You now have a few website designers to choose from. The next step is to submit a proposal.

Your options will be better if your proposal is better.

Consider how you would like your web designer to approach you.

Do you prefer to receive a vague email asking about the cost of a website? Would you rather have a detailed description of the project and a budget range?

Consider These Factors

  • A budget estimate is the best way to communicate with a web designer. Although your budget doesn’t determine the final cost of your project, it can influence who you talk to. It’s an analogy for how website designers determine whether you’re shopping for a new or used Toyota Corolla.
  • Your project should be easy to accept. Make the next step and primary question simple and direct (ie “are you interested?”, “if so, what additional information do you require?”).

Here’s What to Avoid

  • Sending too many feeler emails without any intention of hiring is a bad idea.
  • Avoid sending too many requests or too much information in an email.

7. Follow up with questions & requests for references & portfolio

The designer will communicate the progress of the project upfront. Communication does not improve over the course of a project. It only gets worse. To start, look for a high benchmark.

Consider These Factors

  • To get potential web designers to rule themselves out , you need to use your requirements, questions and details.
  • Consider your priorities. Sending too many questions can be just as harmful as sending too few.

Here’s What to Avoid

  • Do not dictate the whole process. Keep in mind that designer’s questions can be as informative as your own.
  • Don’t make the designer do too many back-and-forth conversations. You can call the designer if you feel that a call is necessary during the design process.

8. Request Contract & Project Plan (and declining)

Every engagement should have tangible expectations that are written.

This is the point where you can choose a web designer.

Next, request a contract from the designer you wish to work with.

Everybody involved in a project benefits from a written contract. The contract should include details about “deliverables”, costs and responsibilities as well as an adjudicating authority.

Project plans help everyone understand their responsibilities and timeframes. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It should clearly communicate who is responsible for what and when.

For designers you didn’t choose, please send a polite denial. It doesn’t matter if you just want to say “Thanks for sharing this information.” We are now working with another company. We will remember your company for future projects & referrals.” It’ll save everyone unnecessary follow-ups.

9. Follow up and communicate clearly

A good website designer cannot help a bad client.

Consider These Factors

  • You will own the website, so make sure you have all of the information necessary to make informed decisions.
  • You should ensure that you have all technical documentation.
  • It is important to remember that design work relies on accurate, fast feedback.
  • Budget for time and money, as well as for technical issues (ie. photography).

Here’s What to Avoid

  • Interrupting the project plan or micromanaging
  • Giving the wrong feedback at the wrong time.
  • Do not engage in verbal conversations without following-up written documentation. It is important to leave notes by phone.

Conclusion and Next Steps

It doesn’t have to be difficult or frustrating to choose a web designer.

It is important that you understand your needs and communicate them clearly.

Follow these steps to find a great website designer.

Alternative Conclusions & Next Steps

If you found this post useful…

You may be thinking, “I just want a website!” It’s 2020. I need a basic, inexpensive, standard website. Not a complex purchase with contracts.

I understand. Friends of mine have been there. There are many options, but you won’t find a high-quality custom website designer.

These are some of the options.

10 – DIY w/ Automated Branding & Design

Many design options, including the ones below, require that you coordinate your branding. Even if you can purchase assets such as a logo or photos for social media, there are still many to choose from. You have a lot of options.

One company specializes in completely automated branding: Tailor Brands. They have been a great help in my side projects. They use AI and machine learning to create many design assets & guidelines.

You can also use them as a bundled website builder, or to complement the other options. You can check out Tailor Brands at. Check out my review.

Some website builders include a logo designer as part of their software. Wix has a template driven logo designer as does Shopify.

#1 – Make your own website with a web builder

Companies that focus on businesses with limited technical or design expertise are available. All you need is a monthly subscription to get hosting and pre-made templates. Although you might not have all the functionality you need, you can still get a fast, secure, and attractive website.

Take my website building quiz to find the perfect website. See my recommendations here.

For quick suggestions, I have an online shop builder quiz.

#2 – DIY using self-hosted WordPress

WordPress is the most widely used, supported and versatile content management system on the Internet. You can install it on a hosting account, which is a part of a server that is rented from a hosting company. Although the software is not easy to use, it has a learning curve. However, you will have complete control over your server and all of your options. You can also call on experts to solve specific problems. Or, install all themes / templates.

Here is my WordPress Website Setting Up Guide.

#3 – Buy Website Design From a Hosting Company

This is a combination of #1 and #2. If you want complete control over your website with unlimited options for future development, but don’t want to learn how to set it up yourself, you might consider purchasing web design services from a host company. These services are often cheaper than a freelance website designer because you also use their hosting services.

These projects are why I recommend InMotion hosting. They offer great support, and they are the web host for this site. View their design services

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