Your website is one of your most powerful marketing tools. Whether you are just launching your business or already have a website (but suspect it has gone stale), there are two words you need to know — web design.
No matter how compelling your content, your website will give you very little benefit if it is not well designed, so hiring a skilled web designer is crucial. Finding the right fit with a freelance web designer can be tricky, so here are four steps to help you find the right one for your project.
1) Know what to look for in a potential web designer
One of the most important things you need in a web designer is a great design aesthetic — but you need more than that. You need someone you can communicate with who is professional, creative and understands basic design concepts.
- Make sure you ask to see the candidate’s portfolio. Hiring a web designer without any samples of past work can be risky, especially if your project is large and complicated. If you doubt your own eye for design, you may want to enlist a more design-minded friend or colleague to review each candidate’s portfolio and give feedback about their style, skills and experience level. If you are a designer yourself, make sure their aesthetic matches yours so you can work together seamlessly.
- Pay attention to their use and understanding of basic communication design concepts. Do they know which fonts are easiest to read online? What about line spacing and font size? You may feel comfortable assessing this on your own, but if not, enlist a more seasoned web designer to lead the technical part of the hiring process.
- Good communication skills and availability are crucial. Web design projects usually have many different requirements — most of which cannot be communicated effectively just through email. Regular Skype calls can help you effectively convey your ideas and make sure the project is on track, so make sure you and a prospective designer communicate well, that she understands your project, and that she is available to connect on a regular basis.
- Are they professional and creative? The hiring process should give you a good sense of a candidate’s professionalism. For example, does he meet your application deadlines and provide the information you ask for? Creativity is also essential in a web design project, so make sure the candidate is able to come up with a wide variety of solutions for a single problem.
2) Ask the right questions during the interview process
Now that you have looked through the candidates’ portfolios and have a good sense of what they can do, the interview is your chance to learn how they do it. Your interview questions should give you a sense of the web designer’s experience in the field and their approach to a project. Typical questions may include:
- “What makes a design successful?”
- “Can you show me similar projects you have worked on?”
It is also important to find out if he has additional skills that would be useful. You may want to ask things like:
- “Do you know how to create a mobile-friendly website?”
- “Can you help me choose strong images to use with my main content?”
3) Start with a small assignment
A small paid test job can be invaluable in helping you decide between final-round candidates. Assigning a task that is similar to your actual project is a great way to get a more accurate sense of a candidate’s knowledge, professionalism and creativity — some of the key qualifications you are looking for that may be hard to judge through a portfolio or interview.
What makes a big impact for a smooth design process? Communication! Luckily, following step one, you have carefully chosen a web designer that you can communicate with. Make sure you check in on a regular basis to see if your website is going in the right direction. That way, if he seems lost or if the design is not in line with your expectations, you can give feedback early in the process instead of waiting to get a final deliverable that you may not like. How can you make these check-ins easier? In addition to services like Skype, tools like Dropbox can be great for collaborating — especially to share work in progress.
We want to hear from you! Have you ever hired a web designer before? Do you have any particularly unsuccessful or successful experiences to share? What other questions or tips do you think should be on this list?