Hiring a web designer? Ask these three questions first

 
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I woke up with a start and grabbed my phone.

7:30am.

Crap.

On a normal weekday, I’d be thrilled to wake up at 7:30 without an alarm clock. But this wasn’t a normal weekday.

This was the day I was scheduled to fly to New Orleans for the Being Boss Conference, an event for creative entrepreneurs organised by Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon of the Being Boss Podcast. At 7:30am, I’d missed my flight by 90 minutes.

Let me tell you, nothing feels less boss than missing your flight to the Being Boss Conference.

Here’s the thing: this wasn’t an alarm clock mistake. This was a purchasing mistake. One that I made months ago.

When I bought my ticket, I was shopping purely based on price. Despite the fact that I’m not naturally a morning person (and have literally slept through earthquakes in the past), the low fare on the 6am flight lured me in.

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The lesson was clear: cheap often means a do-over and paying twice. It was true for my flight and it’s true for your website.

One of the most common things I help my clients fix is a budget website gone bad. That $500 site might look ok on the front-end, but on the back-end it’s held together by spit and scotch tape and it’s a nightmare to update.

That said, expensive doesn’t mean “good.” As with plane tickets, it’s a matter of fit.

A website can cost $2,000 - $100,000 and sometimes even more. With such a wide range, how do you find a designer who’s a good fit?

Pricing depends on a lot of factors, including technical scope, strategy, timeline, and level of customization.

The best way to find someone who’s a good fit is to ask questions. Beyond looking at your designer’s portfolio and testimonials, there are 3 key questions you should be asking to help determine fit.

3 questions to ask before hiring a web designer

1. What tools will you use to build my website and why? What are the pros and cons of these tools?

The answer might get a little in the tech weeds, but pay attention to your designer’s reasoning. They should be able to give you a plain-English overview of the tools they like to use, as well as a good explanation of the pros and cons of each.

They should also have clear expertise in a suite of tools. An answer that’s too general ("I use WordPress") or a designer who promises the moon (“I do branding, custom theme development, copywriting, SEO and Facebook ads!”) can be a red flag.

2. What happens if I need to make changes or add extra features?

Your designer should be able to explain this to you in a straightforward way. For example “if you need to add an extra feature, I’m happy to help. If changes come up that are out of scope, I’ll be sure to let you know so that we can discuss the impact on your project’s timeline and cost. I bill additional work at an hourly rate of $_______.”

3. How do you solve problems that are unfamiliar to you?

This is a bit of a wildcard question, but it’s a good one. Technology changes so quickly that even the most experienced designer or developer doesn't know everything. Listen to your designer’s reasoning and problem-solving process.

For example: “when I don’t know how to do something, I start by Googling the problem. I also reach out to my network of developers and designers for help. I’m usually able to solve the problem myself but if I can’t, I may need to bring in a sub-contractor from a trusted third-party service. I’ll be sure to discuss with you how this impacts our budget and timeline.”

As for my trip to New Orleans?

I problem-solved, bought a new plane ticket, and made it to the conference on time. Being Boss indeed.


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