Why Hiring a Web Designer Is a Long Term Relationship

Many business owners don’t realize that when they are hiring a website designer, they are entering into a business relationship that will last the lifetime of their website. When you make that commitment, it’s important to select a website designer that you will want to partner with for the next 3-4 years.

Why is that so? After a website is completed, you may decide to add a page, or just a photograph. Unless you are comfortable with the complexities of updating your website, you will need to ask your website designer to do that work. Or, you just might not have the time to keep your website up-to-date.  Also, as the saying goes, things “just happen” in the technology world. Similarly to your laptop’s operating system getting regular software updates, so do website development tools. A change made to your website’s underlying software platform, say a universal update to WordPress, or to your website’s theme, may make parts of your website unable to function, unless they are also updated. If that happens, you’ll need to turn to your website designer to make your website functional again.

Mount Tam and Sweet Peas

What about just hiring a new web designer to add a photograph or fix a problem whenever you need it? Every web designer has a particular style, quality standards and way of building a website. A second web designer will need ramp-up time to review and understand your website. If you find that your web designer is unavailable or unresponsive and you decide to look elsewhere, you may need to spend additional money on your new developer’s learning curve!

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Website Designer

Beyond asking about their previous experience, cost of services, and examples of work, here are some questions you may want to zero in on:

1 – Is this is a person or group that I will want to work with for the next 3-4 years. Do I feel rapport? Do our work styles and standards match?

2 – Do you offer responsive design so that my website will look equally great on laptops, tablets and smart phones?

The website design that Google currently recommends is “responsive.” What that means is that you have only one website that changes form, based on the type of device that is used. If your web developer suggests that you have a separate website for smart phones or tablets, be sure you understand the implications of needing to keep your business information current in several places.

3 – What software tool do you use to develop a website? How many websites have you built using that tool?

Listen for commonly used tools, such as WordPress, and how experienced the person is with that product. If they haven’t build dozens of websites, you may want to look further.

4 – Who will develop my website? You, or a member of your team? Where is that person located?

Many web designers hire subcontractors in other countries to save money. Depending on your values about hiring outside the U.S. and your budget, you may or may not like the answer. Also, if your web designer didn’t personally build your website, they won’t be intimately familiar with the underlying work. You’ll want to make sure that ample time is built into your contract for testing the final product.

5 – How much involvement will I have in designing and testing my website? How many hours should I budget?

Some web designers may charge less because they don’t add time in their project plans to test that your website works on different platforms and proofread the final product. Instead, they’ll ask you to do that review, which you may not have time to do.

6 – After the website is completed, what turnaround time can I expect for fixing a software issue or making an update?

Make sure that their time frame matches your sense of urgency.

7 – What is your fee for making changes after the website is live, such as adding a new page, an image, a video, etc?

I’ve heard many clients complain that making even the simplest change to their website costs hundreds of dollars. Once again, be sure you like the answer.

8 – If my website’s underlying software (i.e. WordPress) or theme needs to be kept up-to-date, how does that happen? Is the process automated?

If there’s no plan for keeping your software and theme updated, you may be left with an out-of-date product that one day just doesn’t work.

9 – Where will my website be hosted? Who maintains the hosting contract? If I have a problem do you contact them, or do I? What about payments?

You may feel comfortable contacting the hosting company yourself, if you are reasonably technical. Otherwise, make sure your web designer is agreeable to doing it on your behalf. For a fee, of course! You’ll also want to know how your hosting and URL payments will be kept current. All too often, I have seen a website suddenly not work because a client missed a hosting or URL payment.

10 – If your web designer says that they provide search engine optimization (SEO), be sure to ask them what that means.

Often, a web designer is looking only at the technical aspects of SEO – how quickly your website loads and whether it was built with a responsive design. That is very different from whether your website will come up in search engines for words that your clients normally use to find someone who does what you do. For that, you’ll also need an SEO writer.

Get these questions answered before you hire your website designer, and you’ll probably be a lot happier about your website and the individual or company you will be working with over its lifetime.

Carolyn Kohler is an SEO writer who specializes in helping businesses get found online. Her company is Website Wordsmith, and she is located in the San Francisco Bay Area.