How to Hire a Website Designer

How to hire a website designer in Seattle

Website designers in Seattle have a widely varying price structure. With some web designers you will be able to get a ten page website built for $300 or so, while others may charge you closer to $2,000. Why the great discrepancy? How do you know when to hire a website designer?

The main thing you need to know when looking to hire a good website designer is not how much they charge, but rather what will you get for your money. A good quality design that embraces the latest web coding practices will serve you well when your business grows and you are looking to expand your website capabilities. A knowledgeable website developer should have a wide array of skills and be willing to answer all your questions without growing impatient.

So, how do you hire a website designer in Seattle?

Since there are so many variables involved in website design and development, you should start your analysis of the applicant based on key questions and the answers to those questions during an interview.

How you find website designers in Seattle can be one many ways. The most common of which is the referral method. Someone refers a firm or individual to you. Other methods include seeking out a firm or individual or viewing an ad online, searching online or the traditional method: the yellow pages. Since most larger website development firms that work in the Seattle area are based in Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland or Redmond, these firms tend to have a higher overhead and will therefore be pricier. My research has also discovered that these firms hire individuals who have very traditional ways of building websites.

By traditional, I mean that they usually tend to build code that is not in keeping with the times. A large majority of them are still using tables to layout web pages (This topic is covered later) and a good deal of those firms charge very high fees and usually are more disconnected with the client on his/her project.

Naturally I will not be mentioning names of companies, but one thing that our research has shown is that smaller firms or individuals are more able to personally involve themselves and commit themselves to a project because there are not as many barriers.

I worked for a large firm in Seattle and the system that was setup was inefficient and left more angry customers and late projects than need be. The reason was obvious. The client would call in and speak with a secretary, be transferred to a sales person who will often take down the wrong information, relay that faulty information to the web development manager (who often does not understand much himself) then that manager relays the message to the actual coder, who by this time has received an incorrect message and much unnecessary time has elapsed.

My advice would be to seek out a web developer who has a wide range of expertise that suite your needs and insist on working directly with the person who will be building your website. If you cannot get that agreement upfront then you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Smaller firms/individuals have a greater desire to please their clients I’ve found as they are more accessible and available. They’re not juggling around 50 jobs at once because they need less to maintain their operation and can thus give you more focus and time. Make sure that when you hire an individual that that person is not just a ‘web designer’ but also ‘web developer’- i.e: one who is able to program more complex applications. This will be more cost effective than having a designer only person, outsource all the coding.

Some places to find website designers:

Online (obviously) search in your area first. Craigslist, YellowPages(usually larger firms advertise in the book since its more costly), Friends and co-business owners (Seattle Execs – good source of referrals), eBay believe it or not has a classified ads section. (search locally first), web directories online, or simply place an ad for one on craigslist (you may even get large firms asking for your business.)

Some of the points mentioned below will apply to firms who seek to employ web designers but could also be adapted to individuals seeking to know how to hire the right person for the job.

Step 1. Determine whether this person is a good communicator.

Step 2. Determine his level of knowledge in latest design practices.

Step 3. View latest samples of his work.

Step 4. Test his level of commitment and honesty.

All the above tests are to determine the suitability of the hire. Step 1, will help you determine if he will be a good person to bring the concept to completion, as this requires good communication skills. Also this will show you whether or not he gets frustrated quickly under pressure. Since web development is an ever changing mix of technologies, anyone who exhibits patience during an interview will invariably have the patience it takes to learn new methodologies and solve problems, which is what web development is all about.

Step 2 will phase out all who cannot perform the task using up to date methods and coding practices. This again will display a level of commitment, since it takes a sizeable amount of time and effort to master any given area in web development.

Step 3 will give you, the interviewer an idea of what he is capable of creating and bringing to fruition. I stress, latest samples, because more often than not, the web designer grows his skill-set over time. Judging him by work he did 5 years ago would be unfair.

Step 4 encompasses what we’ve covered already, and that is tested throughout the whole interview process. The level of patience that he exhibits is a good indicator to his commitment level. To test his honesty, give him a test to code a design that has been created in photoshop for example. Ask him to use the best practices and cleanest code he can. What you are looking for are: no tables for layout, proper use of id’s and classes when naming elements. Good incorporation of design and content separation. A good indicator here, would be the heavy use of stylesheets to lay out elements on the page with very little or no in-line styles. Basically, clean code.

Prior to hiring a website designer/developer for a professional website project, be sure that you ask the right questions. Below are some examples of the kinds of questions that the applicant must answer correctly.

Here are some questions you should be asking and hopefully answers you should be getting:

1. Will I be able to see a mockup of my site design?

ANSWER: Sure. After we discuss a little more about your business and what you plan to achieve with your website, we can start formulating some design ideas and come up with a mockup site design that you are happy with.

2. Will your quote for my site be fixed after we agree upon my website needs and is there a contract?

ANSWER: Yes. Whatever we agree to will be placed in the contract and the price will be agreed upon before-hand. If you need additional services or pages we will get approval from you first and draw up additional agreements in writing prior to commencing additional work. We will go over each part of the contract until you are comfortable with the agreement. There are no surprises.

3. How long will it take you to respond to my emails and will you be available by phone?

ANSWER: Usually within the same day and we are always available by phone to discuss your project and concerns you may have. We may set up face to face meetings to go over your concerns and there will be time set aside in advance (at no charge) so we can go over all your concerns and cover any questions you may have.

4. Do you use tables for laying out your website designs?

ANSWER: No. Using tables for layout are outdated and slow your website down. It may also cause your site to perform worse in the search engines. Layout methods we use are standards compliant and we use modern CSS methods to layout and structure your website layout.

5. Can we decide ahead on a deadline?

ANSWER: Yes, but meeting the deadline will be dependent on us getting all the needed information, content and images from you or your office and having a good flow of communication. We will try our best to meet a reasonable deadline, but will let you know if your deadline is not reasonable and the reasons as to why.

6. Will you build the site so that it is Google friendly?

ANSWER: Yes. We keep up to date with the safest and latest SEO trends in the field of web design and SEO/SEM. Your site will be coded following Google’s guidelines and the best recommendations of a good many other popular search engines, so as to give your site the best chance of being ranked fairly.

7. Is coaching for SEO (search engine optimization) available?

ANSWER: Absolutely! We gear all our website design and coding around optimizing your website pages so that they obtain the best possible chance of being ranked well in the main search engines. We will give you helpful tips and advice on how you can do the same. We can offer you one on one coaching to help show you where to get the tools and how to research and optimize your site by yourself if you so choose, or we can do that for you.

8. Will you take care of where the site needs to be hosted and explain my options clearly?

ANSWER: Yes, we have high quality web hosting partners and will get you a package that offers 24/7 assistance and also show you how and why certain options are best and why others may be unnecessary for you at this stage.

The above Q&A should give you a good idea as to what you should be asking and hearing from a good website developer. Obviously, other questions relating to samples of other work, or just analyzing how they answer these questions are also good indicators that this website designer or developer may or may not be the right one for you.

Anytime you deal with someone and you ask a lot of questions, note their demeanor, and how they respond to all your questions. Are they impatient? Do they sigh a lot or give you an impression that they are frustrated by your questions? Do they speak in a condescending tone? Do they volunteer additional information? Are they friendly and pleasant to talk to?

These diagnostic questions may seem like common sense, but I have heard so many people say how annoyed they were with their website designer because they didn’t explain things so they could understand, or they got annoyed easily, and the list goes on.

A good website designer will be one who is trustworthy and honest and stands by what he says. If he promises that your site will rank in the top ten, then he has already failed the test of honesty, as this claim cannot be guaranteed by anyone.

Happy hiring!

By Roger Samboer

Author: Roger Samboer