Are you wanting to build a personal or business website, but don't quite have the skills necessary to do it on your own? Then it might be time to start looking for a web designer.
That's a big market, with a lot of aspects to consider. This article is going to cover some of the most vitally important things to consider when looking to find the right web designer for you, as well as breaking down what web design really is, and what you can expect from the designer you end up hiring.
So what exactly is web design?
An article on Treefrog.com comments that just as "design is a process of collecting ideas, and aesthetically arranging and implementing them, guided by certain principles for a specific purpose," web design is also a process of creation, "with the intention of presenting the content on electronic web pages." These can then be viewed by the intended audience - your customers and clients, for example - allowing them to find out more about your business and services, or about your projects, portfolios, and plans for the future. Your website gives you the perfect platform to communicate with your clientele, and often will include ways for them to communicate with you as well, in the form of message boards, guest books, or an email that can be used for feedback.
Ultimately, the "specific purpose" of your website will be to promote your business or project and allow you the space to communicate with your audience.
Pretty simple, right? So how is a designer going to help with that?
According to Sokanu.com "A web designer's main job is to design web pages."
Okay, great! Now that we've got that burning question out of the way-
Alright, clearly there has to be a lot more to it than that.
Take a look at a website that you visit often. Can you analyze all the different decisions that have gone into putting that website together? You could stop and make a list, but the odds are that you would probably miss a few, even so. Good and human centered web design has to stay on message, and has be directed at the intended audience. So the goals of the business, organization, or project behind the website have to be constantly kept in mind, even while making decisions on an aesthetic level.
Paying attention to sites that you like the look of can be an important part of influencing your own web design. You can link to these sites when communicating with your designer, giving them an idea of what you want. Of course, you don't want a mock-up or a carbon copy of an already existing site, but perhaps you've found a website that has the right tone, or that you just really like the aesthetics of.
It is also really helpful to check out other sites that are in the same line of business as you are - competitors or otherwise. These can be either good examples or bad. Consider what works, what draws you in as a potential client - and what doesn't. Knowing what doesn't work will tell you what should be avoided in your own design.
There are a lot of moving parts to pay attention to in web design, just as there are in any other aspect of design. This includes everything from the general layout of the site to the selected color schemes, graphics and fonts. An important piece of this, as well, is the content that will be included in your site.
A good designer will be able to take the goals that you have set, probably by way of a creative brief, and turn them into reality. They will keep all of these moving parts in mind.
So what do you have to keep in mind before you start looking for a designer to make your website dreams come true?
Do you have a creative brief set up for your prospective website?
This is what will help your web designer to deliver a site that fits in with your needs, wants, and goals. If you don't already have a creative brief written, now would be the time!
A few questions to remember when putting together your brief would be the following:
What is the basic objective of the site? This will depend a great deal on why you're putting this site together. If it's for a business, maybe for something like a photographer, you'll want to be able to communicate exactly who you are, what you offer, and display your skills. You want to be enticing for a potential customer.
Who is your target audience? If you're putting together a site for a children's clothing store, you know that the majority of your customers are going to be parents. How do you reach out to them specifically? What unique ways can you find to speak directly to them and make your site, and therefore your business, appealing?
Are there any previous design elements in place that need to be considered? Do you already have an awesome logo for your business, or a certain aesthetic flair to your brick-and-mortar store that you want to be carried over into your web design? Alignment with elements already in place is an important thing to consider for the sake of continuity.
You may, of course, want to use the same basic idea for a logo but with an update or a new twist. This is a choice that most companies go with at some point in their public life. It can mean a change of font, style, color palette, or even a complete facelift.
Your ideal designer should take all of these things into consideration. If they're savvy and good at their job - which is what you want, of course - then they will also be aware of current trends in web design, as well as things that should be avoided.
Ultimately, just like with any business partnership, what you're looking for is a designer who understands your message, your audience, and whose aesthetics are compatible with yours. It helps if they're quick, reliable, and good at their job, as well, which is why you may want to make sure to research your prospective web designer before actually hiring them.
Sukonu.com, in its article on what a web designer actually does, states that because of the increasing reliance on the internet for everything from news to shopping to entertainment to communication - and the list goes on - there has been an answering increase in the area of web design.
Good news for you, right? There should be plenty of web designers out there for you to choose from. So where do you start looking?
Well, you have a choice: the traditional route, freelance, or crowdsourcing.
Doing a simple Google search is going to turn up a lot of results for both of these options. Let's take the traditional route first.
It's possible that there may be a local website design company in your area that you may want to check out first. This article on EadeTech suggests that there are a lot of perks to hiring locally. Factors such as the more readily available ability to communicate, support, and trust are listed as reasons to consider this route. "Having the local company working with you means you can have a face to face meeting even before you sign up with any services." This may be a good way to determine whether you like the feel of your prospective designer, whether your aesthetics line up, and whether or not you feel you'll be able to work with the designer on a personal level.
That being said, that option isn't available to everyone. The odds are you're going to end up hiring online. Sites like WebsiteDesignRankings.com exist to help you with your choice, giving you a list of some of the top design companies out there. This list is "so you can search through the cream of the crop and find the agency that works best for your company."
You may, of course, have a preference for hiring freelancers. (I know I'm biased, being one myself.) In that case, sites like Upwork or Toptal are a good starting point. With a freelancer, you're more likely to get one-on-one interaction, a lower price, and possibly even a faster turn-around for your work. The caution with this would be to make sure that you check out their web design portfolio beforehand to get an idea of what the designer does. You should also take a look at the freelancer's job satisfaction rating, and keep in mind how quickly they respond to messages.
Crowdsourcing, according to an article on Inc.com, is "the practice of obtaining ideas, services, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people." This typically would refer to a group of people in an online marketplace, instead of more traditional routes. One of the benefits of crowdsourcing a project is the ability to open it up to a wide variety of talent. There may be some who have limited experience with designing a website, of course, but there may also be tomorrow's next big designer, just waiting for her first couple of jobs to get her started. Many sites, such as LogoDesignGuru, run very successful campaigns and competitions for web design projects.
Crowdsourcing can be an effective way to both minimize the size of your monetary investment into your site, and cause the range of options for your design to widen exponentially. It also gives you a ready platform for involving your existing customers or potential clients: run a competition for your design, and use your social media marketing to invite others to vote on the results. That gives you an idea of what your audience may be drawn to, and also may give them a stronger attachment to your company or product as well.
That said, there are obviously both cautions and benefits to this way of hiring a designer, just as there are cautions and benefits with the other avenues.
There is no set standard of pricing when it comes to website design, so keep that in mind as you move forward with your project. Have a budget in place, communicate well with your designer before you hire, and stick to the budget you've set.
Regardless of what route you choose to take in finding your web designer, a great idea is always to visit their own personal website, in order to get a feel for their work. And if you happen to discover that they've hired an outside company to handle their own website design, or if their "Coming Soon" sign has been up for years - well, there's a big warning flag right there.
By now you should have a pretty clear idea of what a web designer can, and should, do for you, and why you may want to hire one. Basically what it boils down to is that you need someone who can deliver a website that is easy to use, on message, speaks to its intended audience, and is pretty to look at. By "pretty" I mean appropriately aesthetically pleasing according to the audience - if you want to start a website to sell used tractor parts, "pretty" may not be something that features on your creative brief. Your website should definitely look, and be, appropriate for the intended demographic.
Entrepreneur.com says, "A great designer will be deeply interested in you, the client, and your business and its needs, and will explore early on how those concerns can be worked into the eventual solution." In other words, don't sell yourself short as a client. Keep your standards and goals in mind before hiring, either freelance or traditional, and make sure you find the right designer for you.