Tips for Hiring (the right) Web Designer

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It’s hard to hire for something that you don’t understand.

Hiring a painter is easy. You know the basics – paint on wall, not on floor.

Hiring a web designer, on the other hand, can be scary. You don’t REALLY understand what they do, so you don’t really know what to look for or what to ask when you are hiring.

How do you make sure you’re hiring someone good? How do you know they are going to deliver?

Just like with any other hire, you have to do your due diligence. Don’t hire someone just because you have a “good feeling” about them. You need to dig a little deeper. Here are some things that you should look for, and watch out for when hiring a web designer.


Someone who comes highly recommended. Bonus points if you actually know the person doing the recommending. Check LinkedIn and Google to see if they have any reviews. If it’s an agency, request some client contacts that you can call – and make the calls. Find out what the process was like, if the designer delivered on their promises, and how they feel about the final result. You can get a lot of good insight this way.


Anything that sounds too good to be true. Crazy low prices. Superfast turnaround times. People willing to bend to your every whim. Designers who throw in lots of extras for free. Anyone like this is either a designer just starting out, or someone who is going to over-promise and under-deliver. They may even take your money and disappear.

Quick note: if you would like to work with a designer who is just starting out, my recommendation would be to reach out to local colleges and talk to a program director in the design department. They will be able to recommend reliable students for your job. Just remember, students will be cheaper than a pro, but they still deserve to be paid. Don’t ask a student or recent graduate to work for free, and be respectful of their work and time as you would a pro.


Someone who understands your business. If you can find a designer who works within your area of business, chances are you’re going to save yourself a lot of time and hassle. If you have an e-commerce store, finding a designer who already has completed a lot of e-commerce sites will guarantee that you’re not going to run into any issues when it’s time to set up the shopping cart. If you have a veterinary clinic, finding a designer who works frequently with doctor’s offices or veterinarians will be advantageous because they will be able to recommend the right tools or plugins for scheduling patients or sending invoices. There is nothing wrong with hiring a general designer, but finding one who really understands your business is going to make your entire project easier.


Yes men. It feels good to hear someone agreeing with everything you say, but you’re not paying for someone to tell you you’re brilliant. You’re paying for expertise. A good designer will tell you how to make your ideas even better – how to improve on what you want. And they won’t be scared to tell you that you’re wrong if it’s going to make the site better. You want a designer who will lift you up, not bow to your every whim.


A solid portfolio. Don’t get too caught up in the design (colors, images, fonts) of the websites – designers are creative, and can do almost anything from a design standpoint. Most of the time, they are stuck creating within the client’s branding, so you can’t judge them on that. Here is what you should be looking for:

  • Do they show their work? Is there some proof on their site of the process – do they show sketches or wireframes, or talk about the challenges they faced and conquered? Anyone can say they did anything online. If they don’t show their work, ask them about the job – try to get a sense of if they actually created the site you are looking at in their portfolio.

  • Client recommendations or results. Do they show you the end result? Did the client love it? Did it increase sales?

  • Are their websites solid, or are they buggy? Click on the links to launch the actual sites and spend some time on them. Does everything work smoothly? Is everything clean and consistent when you move from page to page?

  • Are their websites responsive? Do the sites all look good and work well on a tablet or phone? When you resize your browser window, does the website maintain its structure in a pleasing way?

  • Are the sites easy to navigate? You want a designer who will create a user-friendly site for you. Is everything organized and easy to find?


Anyone who works without a contract. An experienced designer will ALWAYS have a contract. Read it carefully before you sign, and negotiate changes if you need to. It’s okay to ask that an exit clause be added – so that you can leave the project at a certain point without being obligated to continue if you don’t like the person you’re working with. Expect to pay for the portion of the project that is completed, but not for the full project.


An opportunity to do a trial project. Hire the person to do a smaller project for you – an email blast or a landing page – to give you a feel for working with them. I like to do audits for my new clients – it gives me an opportunity to get to know them, their current website, and their business, and it gives them an opportunity to see how I think and work before deciding to move forward with a more expensive web project. Win win.

Hiring a web designer can be a little scary, but these tips should help you avoid disaster and find the right person.

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