8 Do’s & Don’ts when Hiring a Web Designer or Web Design Company

by Calvin Cox on June 11, 2008

Recently I’ve been on a creative rampage; coming up with all sorts of really cool businesshiring a web designer advice ideas; some of which required a web presence. Since I’m not web design savvy I wasn’t sure of the rules to fully vet a web designer or web design company. Needless to say I had to learn the hard way, as usual. I’ve outlined a few things to keep in mind as you start your search. My hopes is to be able to save you some frustration and to stare you away from the obstacles I feel into… head first!

Here’s a brief background: So I went online and found a small business community website called startupnation.com where they directed me to fill out a form in order to receive a list of design company contacts. A day later 5 contacts showed up in my inbox. So naturally, I called right away to get a quote (mistake #1):

I was equipped with two things: The first was 3 website references – one for functionality, one for color and aesthetics and one for navigational purposes and two, a budget of about $5000. After a quick conversation with each company (mistake #2) I narrowed then down to 3; Company A was $3700, Company B was $4500 and Company C was $11500. Now as a shopper you have a decision to make; How is it that a single website design project can lead to a $7000 spread?

My immediate assumption is that you get what you pay for, RIGHT? … WRONG! I asked my brother; a software engineer and founder of Consulteer; a software company in San Jose; and he told me that price does not dictate quality; and that there are many factors that influence the quote, some of which are; design company Vs. a freelance designer, building from scratch Vs. building from Pre-designed modules, Company location: Local Vs. National Vs. International and fair company Vs. Scam company.

A $3700 job could be just as good or better than a $11500 job. The key to your choice is research… and lots of it. What I didn’t tell you was that my conversation with my brother came after the fact. After I chose the wrong company; after I signed an incomplete, ‘give up all your rights’ proposal; after I threaten to get my lawyer; after I lost part of my deposit… I think you get the picture. Anyway, after the drama, I finally got most of my money back but lost valuable time and probably a few years off my life. So here I am, $700 poorer, most of my marbles back and a priceless experience: All that just to share with you my top 8 Do’s and Dont’s:

  • 1) BEFORE THE CALL: Create a detailed design brief for your project. Know exactly what you want for your website, i.e. color, layout, functionality, pages, content, etc – It’s tedious work but take the time to do it. Trust me the more you know the better.
  • 2) WRITE OR DIE: Write down all the details you want on your site from the homepage layout to the details of the submit button.
  • 3) VETTING TIME: Have each company send a list of sites they’ve completed so you can take a look at their work. One factor in your choice should be whether or not the company has done a website similar to the one you want. 2 reasons: One-the chances are great that they can do your site, and two- they may be able to use previous modules that they’ve already created on your site which might ultimately reduce your cost.
  • 4) GO OUT ON A LIMB: Now this might sound a little crazy but once you’ve receive the list of websites; ask the designer/design company if you can call a few of these people to get a reference. If you can, try to stay away from their “prep” references. 😉 This will either make or break the deal… trust me.
  • 5) THE COAST IS CLEAR: Give the web design company your written notes for them to derive their proposal – doing the work in the beginning will save you lots of time and money when the project begins. Once the project starts, negotiating the price for a function that you thought was included and wasn’t can be difficult when dealing with the wrong design company.
  • 6) SITEMAP IS KING: This is like a flowchart for websites, it’s a complete layout of your site; some companies are reluctant to do it; it’s very time consuming but essential for you to have a visual of how your site will function once completed.
  • 7) MILESTONES TO EAT: A good design company will give you timelines and milestones for the project – you have to know when your site will be completed, even a rough estimate will enable you to follow the project and gauge the progress of your site. Web design projects have a tendency to grow legs, taking much longer than anticipated.
  • 8) WAG YOUR TONGUE: When coming to a final price; always ask the designer for a discount; ALWAYS… you may be able to save 10% by simply wagging your tongue.

So there it is… Let me know if I missing anything; comments, feedback welcome!

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