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How to hire a good web designer

There’s nothing like landing on a beautifully designed website with on-brand visuals, easy-to-navigate tabs, and an intuitive interface. It feels like walking into an old friend’s home, pulling up a chair, and making yourself comfortable.

An ineffective website has the opposite effect — it can make you want to run away fast. If you’ve ever bounced off a website within seconds because of its off-putting aesthetic or clunky features, you know what we mean.

But as a small business owner, your website might not have been a priority right from the get-go. Perhaps you threw something together on a website builder like Wix or Squarespace that was “good enough” at the time but now needs a makeover to reflect your company’s current stage of evolution.

Or maybe you don’t have a website at all, and your only online presence is — *gasp* — social media.

Either way, there comes a time in every business owner’s life when they realize it might be time to hire a web designer. Before you do, you’ll need to know what the process involves and how to prepare. This article will cover what a web designer does, how to decide when it’s time to hire one, and four steps to help you prepare for your web design journey.

Who exactly is a web designer?

The role of a web designer is to create a website that’s functional, user-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing. It’s about optimizing the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI), which can improve engagement and conversion rates. These aspects improve your website’s overall quality, which is good for search engine optimization (SEO) and will get your website in front of more people’s eyes.

Web designers are not the same as web developers. A web designer creates a template outlining the look and feel of the website, including aspects such as color palettes, fonts, drop-down menus, and a comprehensive sitemap. A web developer writes the code that brings the designer’s vision to life.

Do you need to hire a web designer?

A website establishes a brand’s online identity and trustworthiness — in fact, 75% of people judge a company’s credibility based on the quality of its website. Plus, 76% of people say they check out a company website before visiting it, and 45% say that if a business has a reliable online presence, they’re more likely to visit its physical location.

A slick website design and a good quality score on Google are crucial to ranking your website. It’s also the first point of contact that many potential customers will have with your brand — and you don’t have much time to win them over, so you have to make a good impression quickly.

But can’t you just design your website by yourself? Maybe, if you have a strong in-house design team and a WordPress account. But if you have the resources, outsourcing to a professional web designer is advisable.

The job of a web designer is to take the necessary steps, time, and resources to ensure an on-brand, functional, and user-friendly website that represents the heart and soul of your business. Consider hiring a web designer if:

  • You have a significant budget to spend on your site
  • You’re willing to wait at least a few weeks for the final product
  • You don’t want to deal with any design or technical aspects yourself
  • You need your website to go live quickly

Things to do before hiring a web designer

If you think it’s time to start looking for the perfect designer to make your dream website a reality, you’ll need to prepare the project before you ask them to sign on the dotted line.

Preparation is key to the success of your website build and will ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible for both you and the designer. Here are four crucial steps that will help you prepare to hire a web designer.

1. Know the goal of your website

You need to ask yourself what purpose your website will serve so you can clearly articulate your ideas to the designer. The purpose should be connected to your overarching business goals — for instance, if you run an e-commerce website, you’ll need product description and purchase pages, content management systems — and a whole lot more.

Once you’ve established your goals, you’ll need to do some competitor research. Take a snoop around your competitors’ websites so you can steal their best ideas (just kidding…kinda).

The aim here is to figure out how businesses similar to yours are using their websites and decide whether you want yours to fulfill a similar function or do something different. From there, you can start drafting a rough outline of what you want your website to accomplish.

2. Create a design wishlist

What goes on your wishlist will depend on whether you want to build a new website from scratch or update an existing one. The two are very different processes with different scopes of work — one involves creating and executing a new vision, while the other requires improving something that already exists.

If you want a website built from the ground up, it helps to have a collection of references, preferences, and ideas for the website. This will guide the designer, shorten feedback cycles, and help you provide quality feedback.

Where possible, provide examples of the sort of fonts, colors, and illustrations you’d like to use. Create a list of the pages you want on the website, and make sure each page serves a specific function.

It’s also handy to create an inventory of the social media buttons, logos, and other design assets that will be required for your website, as these can all add up, and omitting them could lead to scope creep — and your designer asking for more money.

Of course, you don’t need to know the technicalities of each of these elements; that’s for the designer to decide. But the more information you can provide on the choices they should make while designing, the easier and more streamlined the process will be.

3. Establish a solid creative process

You’ll need project management processes that facilitate coordination between the web designer and the other members of the project team. Make sure you have these conversations and make these decisions before hiring a designer to minimize chaos, confusion, and budget overspend.

Every business has its own ways of working, so make sure you’re clear on what collaboration tools and communication channels you’ll be using. Ask yourself:

  • What platforms are you using to store your creative files?
  • What’s your preferred communication method with the designer?
  • How frequently do you want to meet?
  • How many web pages will your website need?

For instance, if you’re using Playbook to manage your website project, create a project board and add all your assets to it for easy access (don’t worry — you can manage the designer’s access permissions so everything remains under your control).

Organize your board in a way that makes sense to you — for example, by creating a folder for inspiration, another for logos, and another for each page template. Add metadata to each asset to make it easy to find using the search function.

Once you have everything in place, you can onboard the designer straight into your Playbook board so they can hit the ground running.

4. Budget carefully

Estimating the price of a website build can feel like guessing the length of a piece of string. Your design wishlist will go a long way to establishing a ballpark figure but bear in mind that the final cost will likely be higher once you factor in unforeseen assets, so make sure you have wiggle room in your budget.

What you need from your web designer will directly influence the final cost. Remember to factor the web development side into your budget — finding a designer who’s also a developer may help to keep costs down. Also, consider whether you want to work with a freelance web designer or an agency, as agencies typically charge more.

Finally, consider how complex your website will be. If you only need a simple information page, design and development will be relatively straightforward and budget-friendly. For more complex projects — such as the addition of sales pages, chatbots, and other cutting-edge features — you’ll need to factor the costs of each element into your budget.

Start your web design project with Playbook

A high-quality, user-friendly website is a must-have for any business hoping to succeed in today’s competitive online marketplace.

When you decide it’s time to bite the bullet and hire a website designer, you’ll need to make sure you have all the right tools for them to start working with.

Playbook is the ideal digital asset management platform for website building or redesign projects. Its intuitive organization and collaboration features make it easy to create, share, and manage the assets that will go into creating your perfect website. Sign up for free today and explore its capabilities for yourself.