How to Hire a Web Designer








How to Hire A Web Designer – A Marketer’s Perspective

by Sandy Tapper

"Know Thy Web Designer!"

Evaluate the Designer's Portfolio | Assess the Designer's Skills | Make Your Decision

So you’re ready to get your own website or revamp your existing one. You’ve already decided that using an outside resource (and not your neighbor’s 16-year-old kid) would save you time, although not a lot of money.

Web designers and developers can be found through search engines, newsgroups, web surfing, referrals, etc. However, sifting through the myriad of choices to find the right person to do the job doesn’t have to be daunting if you ask the right questions.

For a business, a website is more than just words, pictures and graphics appearing on a monitor. Think of your site as a means to persuasively promote a product, service or even an idea.

From a marketing perspective, then, what should you look for in selecting a web designer?

Step 1 - Take a look at the designer’s portfolio

  • Do you honestly like what you see? Don’t assume that you can change a designer’s particular style or approach; it won’t work!
  • Do the sites within the portfolio have a similar look and feel? If so, do you mind that your site may look like a cookie-cutter version? Or, is a unique look tailored for your business a high priority, especially to differentiate yourself from your competitors?
  • Does the designer specialize in a particular industry or market? Some may specialize in real estate, cars or shopping carts, to name a few. With such a specialist, you may benefit from the designer’s expertise in that area, which can help lower your production costs. On the other hand, you may find your site looking too similar to the designer’s other sites within that category.
  • Can you easily and quickly ascertain the site’s goals and objectives? On the Internet, content is king. Don’t get caught up in the flash and dazzle of fancy fonts, animated graphics, loud colors, or big photos; they don’t atone for poor content. And take caution with those designers who view their work as "pieces of art" when, in reality, the goal is to market your particular product or service.
  • How well do the sites sell?

    It’s critical that your site not only looks good, but also works to achieve your business goals. Does the site present the product/service features and benefits persuasively? Do the calls-to-action motivate you to do what is asked (make a purchase, complete a form, download a demo, etc.)?

  • Does the website easily lead you through the site via strong navigation? Site visitors want to find desired content fast. Nothing is more irksome than forcing your site visitors to drilldown through several links or pages to find exactly what they’re looking for. While you may think it’s a great marketing ploy, it’s really a big turn-off. Although an onsite search can help, it still can’t make up for the billboard impact that well-thought-out navigation, in both button and in-text links, can provide.

Step 2 – Ask the designer questions, including:

  • "Do you, yourself, write HTML and custom programming, as needed? Or do you rely solely on an HTML Editor such as FrontPage, Cold Fusion, DreamWeaver, GoLive, et al?"

If the designer only uses an HTML editor, he or she may be self-limited in taking advantage of all web authoring tools available to make the site the best that it can be.

  • "Who develops the copy portion of the site?" Many designers are not copywriters, so be sure they use a strong copywriter to write your content in a compelling and persuasive tone. In some cases, the designer may ask you to provide the copy. Either way, make sure that copy, graphics and navigation are seamlessly integrated so it all makes sense to your site visitor.
  • "What is your marketing background?" Just as designers may not be copywriters, many are not marketers, either. Traditional design experience, such as in print ads, brochures and other media, does not necessarily translate well to strong web design; the disciplines and approach are entirely different. If you’re strong in marketing, you may do quite well with a pure graphics designer — as long as you’re willing to spend time collaborating with the designer to ensure a strong strategic approach. If marketing is not your forte, be sure to select someone who is marketing-oriented or, consider hiring a marketing consultant to serve as your liaison.
  • "How familiar are you with the search engine process?" Most search engine algorithms rely on a combination of page titles, meta tags and on-page content to achieve high rankings. If you plan to generate traffic via search engines, it helps if the designer (or marketing consultant) understands the interrelationship of search engines and site infrastructure before the site is built.

Step 3 - Ask yourself these questions:

  • "Am I comfortable with this designer?" When you get right down to it, hiring a designer depends not only on skill but also rapport and mutual trust. After all, it’s your site and you’re the customer! Take the time to find someone who has the skills and competence you’re seeking and who will truly listen to you.
  • "Based on what I’ve seen and heard, does this designer truly warrant the proposed cost?" It is quite prudent to obtain proposals from several designers to evaluate the potential cost of your website. Get quotes on the entire job, from concept to revisions to final version, rather than going by just an hourly rate.

And don’t be surprised if there’s a wide disparity in pricing, because there are no hard-and-fast rules on how to charge for a website. After you get over the sticker shock, be aware that web sites are very labor-intensive: the bulk of the cost goes towards paying someone for their time and expertise. But buyer beware: the adage "you get what you pay for" is very much alive and well in the online world!

Once you’ve gone through this process, and added your own ideas along the way, you’ll be in a good position to select the designer that’s best suited for you and your business.


Sandy Tapper is a marketing evangelist and Internet consultant who focuses on creating marketing-driven Web sites. Visit her site at or contact her at

2000 Sandy Tapper.  All rights reserved.

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