9 things to look for in a website designer


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So you're ready for a professional website, huh? I don't blame you. THE DIY exhaustion is real, friends. Pulling your hair out trying to make certain things come to life on your website can make you crazy. Plus, you need a website that shows you as the "expert" you really are (or want to become!)... 

things to look for in a web designer

The truth is, 75% of consumers admit to making judgments about a companies credibility based entirely on the companies website design. 

Say what?! So, we know that how your website looks and performs for your customers and clients is HUGE... we know a professional looking site is crucial. But how do you find the right designer in a sea of so many?  

Great question! Today I'm going to give you all the insider tips to help you pick the best designer for you and your business!

1. They should really want to get to know you and your business. 

You don't want a designer who just wants to talk design without talking business. They should genuinely be curious about the workings of your business... who your target market is, what your business is all about, and your future goals for your business. Your website can go a long way in helping you achieve your goals and your designer should help you identify things that they can implement into your website that will help you reach those goals (things you may not even know about - after all, that is why you’re hiring them!). 

My approach: I always want to find out who your ideal client is, how you are typically finding these clients, what has or has not been working for you so far, as well as what your dream business looks like - especially from a marketing standpoint. This will help me move beyond just a pretty website and into the functionality and user experience of your site as a whole.

2. You should like their style. 

Check out multiple sites that they have designed and make sure that you like the way the sites look and function. Every designer has a different style and the websites that they design for you will have a similar style to the other websites they have designed. Make sure you are in love with their style from the very beginning!

My approach: I love clean, simple, and very user friendly. You will see a lot of crisp, light, and airy aspects to my designs… Not only do I love the look of that style, I also believe it is a timeless look that will stay relevant for years to come.

3. Ask them about their background and expertise.

Make sure to find out what your designer specializes in. With so many build-it-yourself website platforms on the market today, almost anyone can call themselves a web designer... but you want to make sure your designer will be able to provide the website of your dreams. How many websites have they designed? What sets them apart from other designers? What do their past clients say about working with them and their results? But remember, the designers who have been in the industry the longest aren’t necessarily the best ones for you.

Squarespace web designer

My approach: I have a 4 year bachelors degree in commercial art and an emphasis in graphic design, I am also a Squarespace Circle Member (meaning I really know the Squarespace platform), and I know how to implement basic SEO practices specific to Squarespace and I know how to customize your site with custom code. Bottom line: I know how to take your site beyond the basic cookie cutter look and turn it into the online home of a pro.

4. Do they have a structured process in place for each client?

Having a system in place for their clients will help ensure that each project stays on schedule and goes according to plan. Ask them what their timeline is for your type of project and look for a designer that has a clear process in place. This is also a good time to find out if their expected turnaround time will work for your deadline.

My approach: I have a set process for every new project and am very serious about deadlines... I give each website project my undivided attention and typically have the new website launched and live within 2 weeks.

5. What SEO practices do they implement in each website?

A website doesn’t do much for your business if potential clients aren't seeing it and search engine optimization (SEO) is the golden ticket that will help your website get seen by your ideal clients without having to promote and market night and day... let Google do that for you! You want to find a web designer that has at least basic SEO knowledge, can easily explain how SEO works, and will do a little work to help you get started.

My approach: I know how SEO works and I will implement all the back-end tricks your website needs. You and I will have a call about what you want to be found on Google for (the keywords - don’t worry, I’ll help you determine the best keywords as well) and I’ll work the back-end magic. But remember, a huge part of SEO is continual, relevant content creation… so we will discuss what this will look like for you and how you can continue to boost your SEO as you go.

Sandra Houseman Squarespace web designer

If you want to learn more about Squarespace SEO and begin making improvements to your Squarespace website SEO today, check out my free Ultimate Squarespace SEO checklist and guide here.

6. Ask them if the package price includes everything you will need for your website or if their clients typically end up paying more than the project price listed. 

Some designers have an all-inclusive rate (they will work until you love your site and you will never pay an extra penny - you will typically pay quite a bit for these types of packages) while others charge a base rate for the website and an hourly rate for all the extras (and sometimes there are a LOT of required "extras").

You will want to make sure that the entire project will actually fit your budget before you hire them. I've seen many designers tack a lot of hidden fees onto the project by means of additional hourly work, so you'll want to know exactly what to expect. A good way to determine what this is to ask to see their portfolio, find a few websites you love that you would be happy having something similar, and then ask them what these clients ended up paying (any extra fees) for their site. It's also a good idea to give them specifics about your website project up front so they can give you the most accurate estimate possible.  

My approach: I know how frustrating it is to feel like you’re getting gypped with unexpected expenses… but as a struggling perfectionist myself, I also know that every great project must eventually come to an end. I have lowered my base price quite a bit to account for extra customization and revisions that may be needed… and I’ve also include a set amount of revision hours in each package. Once these revision hours are met, you are able to purchase additional revisions at an hourly rate (and yes, you get a significant discount on my hourly rate while we complete your current project!). I find that about half of my clients need additional hours while half need extra hours. This also allows clients who want a simpler site (or are on a budget) to not pay as much as those who are wanting a lot of additional code work and customization.

Female entrepreneur web designer

7. Look for a web designer with the heart of a teacher. 

Chances are you want to be able to edit and maintain your own website moving froward... at least a little, right? Make sure to find a designer who anticipates teaching you how to maintain your website. It's also a good idea to ask them how they will prepare you for editing and maintaining your own site. Do they include a training session in your package? Do they provide tutorials? Or will they expect you to pay them hourly for any edits needed in the future? A true teacher will want to train you in maintaining your own site and will want to make the editing process as easy as possible for you.

My approach: I design all my websites in Squarespace because it is such an easy platform to maintain and edit yourself... yet it still has robust customization and SEO capabilities making it a web design powerhouse. I also provide training tutorials for each client so you are able to easily update and manage all the basics. I want you to be able to maintain your own website and I want to make that process as easy on you as possible.

8. Make sure they will give YOU the copyright to the site and hand over all created graphics.

You will need to make adjustments on your site in the future - maybe even with another designer - and that will be WAY easier if you have all the original artwork (this will probably include AI, PSD, or EPS files). Make sure that your web designer will give you all of the original artwork files along with anything else they have created for your website. That way you won't be billed hourly for someone to recreate artwork that the first designer already created. 

My approach: At the end of each project, you will receive full copyright of your website to update and manage yourself - of course, I am only an email away for any support needed. I will also send you a Dropbox link with all of your website and brand files for you to download or save to your own Dropbox account. You will receive all original artwork (typically illustrator and photoshop documents) as well as all web optimized files in case you ever lose or delete anything from your site on accident.

Sandra Houseman - Squarespace web designer

9. Make sure they are easy to communicate with. 

This is a HUGE one in the web design world. If you've worked with a designer before then you know that communication can be a huge headache. When it comes to trying to get ahold of your potential web designer, you want to make sure that they are prompt to reply and that they really listen to what you are saying. You shouldn't feel like you are constantly arguing with them. Yuck! You want someone who works to understand you and stays in communication with you throughout the entire project... and that starts with the proposal period.

My approach: I only take one website design client at a time so I can ensure you get the undivided one-on-one attention you deserve... this also allows for a very quick turnaround time + my ability to truly focus on your project without juggling other work, so it's a win-win for everyone!

So, what’s the one thing to avoid? This may sound a little crazy but hear me out…

Avoid a website designer who never, ever gives their opinion. 

This is a tricky one a designer and as a client. But the truth is that you want a website that not only looks beautiful, but you want one that actually converts sales too, right? Skip the designers who just agree with every design request and never gives their opinion and expertise in return.

You want a designer who knows how to make your website not only beautiful... but one who knows the standard practices that will help your website convert better as well. These are probably things you don't know about, so it is their job to inform you of them, even if it contradicts some of your design requests.

Ultimately it is your decision as the client to decide what website elements stay and what goes and this should always be done with kindness and respect... but you should make all design decisions after at least hearing their expert opinion.

My approach: I always give my clients insight into the behind-the-scenes functionality of their squarespace website. I see this as part of my job... above and beyond creating a beautiful site. And then at the end of the day, if you decide that you want to do something different than what I have recommended, that is not a problem with me at all! Your satisfaction is my ultimate goal. 

Well there you have it, friends.

Hopefully those of you who are currently searching for a website designer have gained some helpful insight into what you should be looking for and for those of you who are not quite there yet, make sure to pin this post for future use! 

Always cheering you on, 

Sandra Houseman Squarespace Designer

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