Finding someone to design your website or application can be a daunting task.  And with so many options out there, it’s hard to pick who’s going to be a good fit for your business.  Some people tend to jump at the designer offering the lowest quote, while others go after the ones with the largest portfolio.  Unfortunately the choice is never that simple and many factors go into picking the right one.  I’ll try to break this down into a 5 key points to help you pick the right one. First off, it’s probably a good idea to know the difference between a designer and a developer.  While they can be one in the same, very few people are able to harness both effectively.  In most cases, a team is the only way to get the full value of both, but occasionally you’ll find an all-in-one package.

  • Designer – These are the guys that are responsible for creating the look and feel of a website.  Sometimes the term ‘Web Designer’ is used to mean a person that takes your site from design to production.
  • Developer – Developers are the nerds behind the scenes.  They take care of the coding after the designer hands off the layout.

1.  Do they care about your business?

I don’t just mean do they care about your getting your website running.  I mean do they really care about the goal of your business?  Most businesses or projects that we see can be broken down into one or more of the following:

  • Sell products
  • Promote services
  • Collect emails
  • Inform people about your company

Occasionally there are exceptions.  Sometimes someone already has finished their market research and needs an application built or maybe simply a slider fixed.  But most of the time a site falls into one of these categories and web design companies forget that making a pretty website isn’t really what you’re after. A good web design company will listen to your needs and offer suggestions on how to improve the design in order to reach your goals.  A great web design company will anticipate potential issues before they happen and offer options to better your business.

2.  Budget

The biggest mistake I see people make when hiring for the first-time is going with the cheapest offer on the table.  This is a bad idea on a lot of levels.  Generally speaking, you get what you pay for.  What’s really terrible is that these clients probably won’t even realize what they’ve received a bad product until months down the road.  We’ve had quite a few people in this boat who had applications built way under budget.  When they finally come to us, usually the code is so horrendous that we have to build from the ground up and the money spent on the previous developer goes down the drain. At the same time, a company should respect your budget.  If a budget is too low for what you’re asking, the designer should tell you in advance that it’s not going to work.  If they don’t it’s not going to end well for someone.  Either the designer will end up feeling underpaid and overworked or the client will feel like they received an inferior product.  But more often than not, both.

3.  Communication and Accessibility

Being able to communicate with the person developing your site is crucial.  And I mean that in every respect. communicateA language barrier may seem like an obstacle you can overcome, but count yourself lucky if you do.  It’s not very likely that you a developer or designer is going to be writing your copywrite, so any “lack of professionalism” isn’t the issue.  The real problem is two people discussing two entirely different issues and thinking they’re on the same page.  Once upon a time I dabbled in outsourcing work.  I figured because of my background in coding that communication would run smoothly.  But I was very, very wrong.  Not only did this programmer misunderstand after 5 emails, the code was also shabby at best. The other side to communication, if you’re already speaking the same language, is actually connecting.  Is the company available to talk about your project?  Are they available by email, Skype, and maybe phone?  Aside from the weekends, you should expect a response within 24 hours at the most.  On the flip side, don’t expect to call your developer every 5 minutes and get an answer.  They need time to actually work and code, which means not sitting on the phone all day.

4.  Design

It’s still worth mentioning that the design itself is an important part of the process.  While I don’t think it’s the number one priority, you’re not going to be happy with a poor design no matter how well the site is coded.  I’ve read arguments that design is actually the last thing you should be concerned about when hiring someone to create your site, but I think this is pretty extreme.  Even if your marketing is perfect, you’ve done your keyword analysis, and your site is popping with new content every day, you’re still going to lose potential customers if your site looks like it was done in the 90’s. Looking through the company’s portfolio should give you an idea of what their design is like.  If you like the style then you’re probably a good fit.  But even if it’s not exactly what you’re looking for, most designers are willing to cater designs to individual needs.  Just make sure it’s not sloppy, poor design to begin with.

5.  Task Management

I know that this sounds like a boring point, but it’s crucial to getting the end product you want and getting work done in a reasonable time-frame. We’ve had projects come in that have been in progress for 6 months and we’ve managed to revamp from scratch within 2 weeks.  What was the holdup?  Sometimes developers go MIA, but more often than not it goes back to poor communication and not having a system in place to collaborate with peers and the client. We’re currently using Trello for our workflow and task management.  It’s not without it’s flaws, but it allows for a flexible setup to organize the project from research, to design, to production, and finally to hand-off.  This is an easy way for us to see which line items are slowing us down and move things along.  Clients also love this system since they can easily check in daily and see what progress has been made.  They can even comment, reject/approve items, and request new features.

TL;DR

Finding someone to design your site or develop your application is tricky.  It’s not black and white, but you should look for someone who cares about your business and can thoughtfully bring value to it. If you’re interested in talking to us about a project, give us a shout and see if we can help.