Hiring a professional is the best way to get a polished, professional website that reflects your company’s brand, ethics, ethos and culture. It also ensures that you don’t have to get down and dirty with the code yourself. It saves time, freeing you up to do what you do best (running your business), and those benefits can often outweigh the financial cost of hiring a pro. Of course, not all designers are up to par, and you’ll need to know what to look for in a designer.

Beware Bottom-Dollar Designers

A quick look online will show you that there’s really no “set” pricing plan for website design. There are ultra-high prices as well as ultra-low rates out there. While there’s no need for you to pay exorbitant fees for your design, you should also avoid those bottom-dollar designers. Why is this?

Well, there’s probably a reason their rates are so low, and it has nothing to do with the volume of work they produce. You get what you pay for, and bottom-dollar designers usually provide bottom-dollar websites. Save yourself the heartache and headache, and come to grips with the fact that you will need to pay a skilled designer a realistic price for his or her services.

The Proof Is in the Pudding

One excellent place to start your comparison is with the designer’s portfolio. This should highlight a range of different websites the designer has created for various clients. A good portfolio should be comprised of many different types of websites. You should see ecommerce sites, flyer-style sites and many others. Not only is a portfolio a good way to gauge the skills and talents of a design firm, but it’s also an excellent place to get ideas for your own website and to see how your existing ideas might be implemented by the designer.

Interview Designers

Based on your comparison, you should be able to narrow your list down to just a couple of frontrunners now. Contact those design firms and ask for a consultation. Let each know that you are considering other options as well – you want to keep things above board here. This will be an initial consultation, more a meeting of the minds and discussion about your needs than any type of in-depth planning session.

This should be your chance to feel out the designer, and for them to get a better idea of your needs and goals in terms of your website design. Lay out what you want to achieve, and where you want to go in the future in terms of your online presence, and listen to the designer’s feedback. He or she should be able to tell you what they can do for you, and what services they may not be able to offer. For the most part, the designer should offer full service (heavy database programming and a handful of other things might require the designer to find assistance, though).

Get References

You don’t hire employees for your business without checking references, and the same rule should apply to hiring a website designer. Ask for and expect to receive references to past clients. If the designer is hesitant about providing any references, run away. Any successful designer worth your time should be able to provide you with names, website addresses and phone numbers for satisfied clients, and should do so with pride. Make sure you actually contact those references as well. Ask each of them:

  • Was the website design completed on time?
  • Where there any unexpected problems during the process, and, if so, did the design firm handle them promptly and correctly?
  • Was the project completed within budget?