5 questions to ask when hiring a web designer.

A lot of people, when searching for a web designer, don’t know where to begin. They’re not sure what they’re looking for or what to ask in order to determine if there’s a fit between themselves and the designer.

As with hiring any professional, it’s always helpful to get referrals from friends or colleagues who are satisfied with their recently designed web site. That way, at least you’re confident that you’ll be dealing with someone reputable, who does a good job. But, what should you ask the designer when you first talk to him or her? Following is a list of five questions to ask:

1. What is the cost?

This is generally foremost on most people’s minds. Sometimes it’s best to get this one out of the way right from the outset. You might have a certain budget in mind and once you find out the price realise that there’s no point talking any further.

You need to look at your web site as an investment. If it’s done properly, it usually pays for itself quickly.

Cost will usually depend on the number of pages needed on the web site, the intricacy of the design, whether each page (or section) will have its own unique look, the need for special features such as a newsletter subscription box, a contact form, Flash animation, audio/video clips, search engine optimization, and online sales.

You may get a predetermined price based on the above factors or an hourly rate, with an estimate of the overall cost.

Be sure to find out if you’ll be paying extra for graphics incorporated into the design.

2. What is the production process?

Asking this should give you a general sense of what your involvement will be. Will you be getting assistance in writing solid marketing copy for the web or doing it on your own?

What about the design? Will you be able to give input if you want to? Will you be allowed to hand over the reigns entirely to the designer, if that’s what you prefer? Determine what sort of involvement you’ll want to have on getting to a design that you love. You may have a distinct image in your mind or some examples of web sites you’ve seen that you really like that you wish to convey to the designer. Or, you may have no idea what you want, just that you don’t want fuchsia text on a lemon yellow background and, that you trust the designer to work his magic.

3. What are the timelines?

Usually, the designer will need some input from you before she can begin work. An idea of what pages you’ll need, what the content (text and images) of those pages will be, a logo (if you have one), and style preferences will be required in order to start putting together a design for your site. The designer should be able to tell you how long it will take to come up with a design mock-up from that point. This may include time for revisions, based on what you think of the initial concept.

4. What about a domain name and web hosting?

Your site will need a domain name (e.g., and somewhere to “live” in order for the world to be able to see it. Does the designer offer these services or can she help you set these up? If so, what are the costs? There is often a small set-up fee and then annual (or monthly) fees for these services. Find out what these are up-front to factor into your advertising budget.

5. How can updates to the site be made, after the site is up and running?

Often people aren’t thinking about keeping their web site fresh in the future, just getting it up and “out there.” But, in order to keep people coming back to the site and to have the latest information on your site (not to mention to do well in search engines), you’ll want to make sure the content is updated at least every few months.

If you’re proficient at web editing software (such as Dreamweaver), this should be a snap for you. Otherwise, you can either see if there is some form of a content management system for you to use (or have one custom built for your needs) or, it might be a more efficient use of your time to simply have the designer do the updates for you on an as needed basis. Find out which method suits you the best and what the associated costs will be.

 By the time you’ve finished grilling the poor web designer with these questions, you’ll probably have a good sense of what it would be like to work with them. Does this feel like a relationship that you’ll be comfortable with? It’s important to really feel that your needs will be met and that you even enjoy the process, not to mention that you’ll be happy with the outcome.

Give all of these questions some serious thought when interviewing potential web designers and you’ll be sure to make the decision that’s right for you and your business.