If you’re not designing a website yourself or if you don’t have the luxury of an in-house web team. You’ll want to bring in a professional website designer to help you build your site.
You might need a designer, a developer, or even both at Trophy Developers without the marketing fluff, the truth is, there’s an endless amount of options out there and it can be challenging to find the right fit.
The number one complaint I hear from small businesses/start-ups is their inability to find the best web designers and developers that get the work done. I’d like to provide you with some honest ideas on how you can refine the list of potential resources to something manageable.
Let’s start by talking about graphic designers. Not all graphic designers are web designers, and not all web designers have the skills necessary to build something that meets your requirements.
As you looking for a designer, you would start by reviewing their website. How does it look? Is it appealing to you? You are the target audience, so if you find a designer that feels too edgy, they’re likely not going to produce the right result.
You want a website that achieves its goal. If they’ve got an eye for good marketing, it’s a step in the right direction. Next, look at their portfolio. If they don’t have a portfolio, that’s a big NO!
Make note of the sites they worked on, read through their comments, and then visit each of those sites and explore them. I like to double-check the footer of each website to see if there’s an attribution link. More often than not, I’ll see a link attributing a different design firm, and that raises a big NO as well.
I would also check out the Recency of their portfolio. If you visit a website and its portfolio, and it’s completely redesigned, it could raise some questions. Now some designers aren’t in a hurry to keep their portfolios up-to-date, so they could’ve conducted the redesign.
It’s good to see relevant designs, however. The more up-to-date the portfolio, the more likely that the designer is to be staying current with the latest trends and techniques.
Now once you have a shortlist, I’d review any online reviews you can find, and then reach out to the designer and ask if you can talk to a few of their current or former clients.
Talk with your designer, and ask them if they’re familiar with responsive design, what software they use to design their sites, and ask if you can see some of the processes behind their current designs.
It’s really helpful to see a designer’s thought process. If they’re creating wireframes and mock-ups, you’ll have some assurance that you’ll be part of an iterative process.
If they seem hesitant, they could be buying prefabricated templates, and not putting much thought into it.
Now not to say templates are bad. They can be very useful for low-cost projects, and as a way to build an initial foundation.
Share our portfolios with your friends and colleagues to get a second opinion. Now looking for a developer can be an even bigger challenge. The way your site is built will impact everything from your usability to your SEO. Skimp on development, and you’re going to find yourself with costly problems in the long run.
Finally, ask them to review your project, and provide you with a quote and a timeline. A short turnaround and a low-cost bid might seem alluring, but I’d be wary.
Get a couple of proposals and compare them. Good designers aren’t inexpensive. The truth of the matter is; good talent usually knows what they’re worth. But your website is so important, so it’s worth a sizable investment. You can take a look at Behance.com, Dribble.com, and Elance.com for designers.
It’s usually easy to get a sense of what you like in a designer, but if you’re not familiar with programming, it can feel impossible to really vet them out. Start the same way as you did with the designer.
Take a look at the projects they’ve worked on. Interact with the websites. Check the sites on mobile and in various browsers use browserstack.com to quickly check. You’re looking to see if the experience is fluid and smooth. Review the websites to see if they comply with web standards. And you can conduct a search for that at validator.w3.org. You’re looking for a low number of errors. A few are fine, but a handful might indicate some problems. Some developers might have a handful of errors because their clients are using old frameworks, or they’re not interested in paying for fixes.
In that case, check the website of the developer. It should be a solid representation of their talent. Next, I like to run the sites through Google Page Speed Insights.
You’re looking for scores at least in the high 70’s. If you see something low, make a note, and use that as a conversation point with the developer. Ask them if they know why one of the sites in their portfolio is poorly optimized and get a sense of how they might approach the problem.
It’s also a great idea to ask the developer if they’re contributing to any public repositories. You can ask to see their Bit bucket account and review their activity. Someone who is leveraging the latest technology and using repositories might be a step ahead of the others. And just as you did with your designer, check reviews. You can look at sites like oDesk and Elance for programmers. But know that a good review doesn’t necessarily equate to good code. There are many agencies overseas that can crank out great customer service and a functional product, but leave a tangled mess of code that just becomes difficult to deal with later. Again, ask your developer for a quote and a timeline and shop around. A mid-range web developer will likely cost you between $60 to $90 an hour.
With high-end development agencies charging in the range of $100 to $150 an hour. I can’t stress the importance of having good development talent working on your project. Allocate plenty of time for your website project.
The best results come with the ability to review things, conduct research, and work alongside the team building your digital real estate.