On what should I pay attention when letting someone design my website?


So I have an idea for a new website. I worked it out into great detail but unfortunately I cannot design it myself (only have some basic html knowledge). At first my plan was to learn and design it on the go. But my website was way too complex for that.

So I've decided to let someone else design my website. I've registered a document (about 25 pages) containing the description on www.file-reg.com. I've asked two friends and two companies to take a look at it and come up with a price.

So my question is do you have any tips on choosing the designer? The only two I can come up with is the price and to look at their portfolios. Thanks in advanche for any advice!

Website Design

asked Aug 12 '11 at 08:19
11 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll

9 Answers


Working with developers is going to be a give and take, money should be one of the factors but only one of them.

When looking at what they produce:

Be the User.
What is it going to be like arriving at the site.

  • Is is quick?
  • Is it easy to understand and navigate?
  • Does it do what I want?
  • Do I have to think to much? If there are menus nested in menus and items are named obscurely then you will loose the general public very quickly.
  • Does it assume that I know too much? If your targeting a domain specific area its ok to use words from that domain, but don't use developer words, don't assume the user can do much more than click with a mouse on a line.
  • Does it ask the user to DO to much at once? Some sites have 20 boxes to fill in as you land on the site and requires a huge investment of time and trust before giving anything back. Good general principal is allow the user to wander through the site first, then when they are ready you can sign them up and ask a few key things ... then later you can collect more info when they are ready to part with it.
Be tbe business owner.
Is it going to drive people to achieve the desired results (purchase/contribute/whatever). Sites can look very pretty and flasy but if they don't inspire people and drive the key goals, they will struggle to succeed.

Question to see if there is depth behind their quote.

Many developers will be focused on delivering exactly what you ASKED for, which is the bare minimum requirement, understanding what you actually NEED is far more important.

  • Ask them about how they would expect to see it scaling ... no one can answer exactly until they see it in action but anyone good will be able to say you will have database load issues or speed of content delivery OR whatever it is.
  • Ask about what they see being the possible next steps beyond what you have outlined. Do they have a larger vision than the box you have given them? this long term, if the idea works, is a critical aspect you will need them to be capable of.
  • Ask about which they think would be the most effective, and why? Do they understand the user base, are they thinking about how to engage with the users? Do they have strategies for actually getting the feedback?
  • Ask about the order of attack, what is the most important thing to develop first? If they say "all at once" walk away you will likely waste your money. (or you have written the perfect minimum requirements spec which is unlikely)

There is probably a bigger list but this should give you a starting point for your discussions and your decision.

answered Aug 12 '11 at 15:21
Robin Vessey
8,394 points
  • Really usefull tips, thank you Robin. – Rick 13 years ago


The front end and back end are very different in terms of design strategy. It's pretty rare that one individual does both really well. If your site is your product, you're likely going to need someone on full time.

What's the plan if bugs are found, features want to be added, etc.? Always opening the pocket to a 3rd party?

answered Aug 12 '11 at 10:15
Justin Hammack
151 points
  • Its a common misconception that you get a "website developer" to do a site. Actually, you get a graphics designer and then a programmer. Anyone who does both is rarely good (jack of all trades type problem). – Rafiq Maniar 13 years ago


If you have the designers' portfolios, that's a great start. I presume you've browsed their portfolios and like the general feel of their work -- it should have made you all warm and fuzzy inside and feeling very excited about the prospect of getting them to apply visual magic to your idea -- otherwise you wouldn't have approached them with your site docs in the first place.

Occasionally designers will publish how much they charged for past projects. It's rare, but I've seen it on some portfolios. If they don't publish their per-project fees or normal rates, you might feel comfortable just asking them. Alternatively, you could approach the owners of the other websites made by the designers and ask them questions about what it was like to work with that particular designer, if it was good value for the experience, if they would hire them again, and so on.

That ought to cover you in terms of portfolio and price. Now, as for other things to think about...

Without seeing your website docs I can't comment specifically about the sort of things you'll be requiring, but from your comment above to Randy I presume you've thought it through and have it all sorted out. I think you should talk to your designers and ask specifically how they will approach the project.

Helpful hint: Instead of highlighting the parts of the project that you think will be difficult to execute, see if they can figure that out for themselves based on your project brief and in talking with you. If they do point out the most challenging parts, ask them how they will approach the issues. Do not believe them if they say things like "Oh it'll be easy, don't worry." No. You want to hear concrete ideas -- not necessarily ideas about what the solutions will be, but rather how they typically go about finding solutions (eg through developing personas, A/B testing, testing across all browsers and platforms, thinking about mobile devices, etc.).

Make your decision based on not only their past work and their quoted price, but also how you feel about them as people: are they the sort of people you can talk to about anything related to your website, without any hangups? Do they understand your objectives / business model? Do they ask just as many questions as you do? All these answers should be "yes" to have a good experience with a designer!

answered Aug 12 '11 at 14:23
11 points
  • Thank you Mark :)! Gonna use the questions you proposed. – Rick 13 years ago
  • How did that turn out for you? – Mark 13 years ago


If you're starting a business that is a website I strongly think you should be intimately involved with making that website because if you can only come up with two questions then I'm concerned that you will come up with the other 23 you need to ask too late and all those gotchas will skyrocket your cost and make it impractical.

It's not at all like they're going to build you a car, and you will accept delivery and say bye.

answered Aug 12 '11 at 08:31
249 points
  • Of course I will be closely monitoring the making of the website. I've worked out the website in detail, inlcuding databases, connections etc. My problem is that I do not know what to look at when deciding who can build my website the best. They all have pretty good portfolios but nothing similiar like my idea. – Rick 13 years ago
  • If you can't build a car and you want a custom car built then you better only hire someone whose built cars you want to own. – Randy 13 years ago
  • Hehe okay. Thanks Randy, appreciate it a lot! – Rick 13 years ago


You don't need to become an expert in designing and developing websites yourself, but you do need to build your understanding of how to break down a site into front- and back-end programming and the various aspects of design. Your plan is complex, and that almost certainly means you need to build or hire a team, not just search for an individual do-it-all hero.

Be aware, though, that a significant proportion of projects fail to deliver anything, and a very high proportion don't live up to the client's expectations. You may have envisioned the perfect solution, but that's no guarantee you'll see it built to your satisfaction.

But what if your 25 page description probably doesn't define the perfect solution? (Or worse, what if it's the perfect solution for a problem you're only imagining has a broad audience?) So if it were me, I'd look at that as the vision document, and try and write a one page description of the minimum viable product. And that's the thing I'd invest (a little) in getting built. It may do some of the work of the big site, it may be just a landing page. That's where I'd ask your friends to help: it's hard being ruthless enough with your own idea!

Then invest five minutes reading this blog post by Dharmesh which will give you a taster of what life looks like next, and where you will be focusing.

Good luck! It's exciting setting sail on a new sea. Just start with the smallest, simplest boat, and watch out for sharks!

answered Aug 12 '11 at 16:01
Jeremy Parsons
5,197 points
  • Good idea. It shouldn't be a problem to develop the core function of my site first and beta test this. If it works out I can always add the other ideas that I envisioned :). Thanks Jeremey! – Rick 13 years ago


Key things to keep in mind:

  1. Portfolio vetting, as you suggest. This is critical bc your Website will look a lot like the previous sites a designer has done. Designers tend to have their own style so carefully look at this. And think about what sort of site designs you like in terms of the user experience and visual design and branding. Agencies on the other hand might have a wider range of styles.
  2. Look at design as a relationship-driven service. Mark's answer is very good because it suggests that design is a service that is heavily dependent on building a strong relationship between the designer and the client. So yeah, you really want to have an open dialogue throughout the design process. You want to feel comfortable with and trust the designer and he/she should feel comfortable and trust you. The best clients for a designer are the ones that give them concrete feedback along the way, but that do not actually tell them how to resolve the problems they are seeing.
  3. Look at design as a process, not as a result. Design, creativity, etc. is an iterative process and not a defined result. You are going to want to both try to define the process closely in terms of deadlines and deliverables especially bc -- as another poster noted -- costs could skyrocket if the information architecture, user experience and usability design is not right. On the other hand, you don't want to quash the inevitable creativity through serendipity that happens as you go along through process. New ideas and insights will come that will allow you to improve the prototype. There is an inherent tension here between the linear project scheduling and the actual creative process. The more you work and talk with the designer along the way, the better this tension will be resolved and the better the end result.

The image below pretty image sums up how design happens (not sure who created this image but it's pretty brilliant) ...

answered Aug 12 '11 at 19:54
Miguel Buckenmeyer
482 points


You can make it pretty easy if you want.

  • Portfolio: Aesthetics / effectiveness in conveying the message in their previous sites
  • Portfolio: Have they created something of the complexity you require. You need to have them show you an example site of the complexity you require. If not, do not consider them.
  • References. Call some people they have done work for. Are they happy with the result, with the communication during the process. Also ask references if what they quoted was what they paid or if there were lots of change orders or scope changes.
  • Education: It might not be important to you, but it's important to me that they had some formal training.
  • Cost: Can you afford their proposal / quote.
answered Aug 14 '11 at 08:02
Ryan Doom
5,472 points


I can't help thinking that this design concept has a limited application.

The process you are talking about is spending a lot of money to get something that looks unique and purpose built for you, however consider also that your design has to:
- Be converted into an actual website
- Must fit the constraints of some content management system
- Will need to work in all browsers
- Will need to be mobile friends
- Will need to be a 'skin' that you can throw away at some point in the future and apply a new one without disrupting your site, content, or visitors.

All of these things lead me to tell most people I talk to about building websites to consider a pre-existing template.

My concern in what I read about your original question is that you might be expecting the designer to help concrete your website idea. That's really dangerous.

So... my advice would be to skip the "choose a designer" part of the process and instead look at what content management system you might want to use and pick a template built for that content management system. THEN modify the template to suit your requirements.

I haven't built a website in 5 years that didn't use a template of some sort. You may have to pay money for a good template - but it's a drop in the ocean compared to the process you're about to invest in.

There's still a place for design like you're considering, but unless your site is generating huge revenues already - I would probably stick to the basic, simple, rapid approach of picking a good template. You can still pay a designer to modify the template to get the uniqueness you're looking for.

answered Aug 15 '11 at 09:32
1 point
  • I can imagine reading my original question may suggest that I don't know what I'm doing. I've worked out the website into the smallest details. I've written about 40 pages, complete with drawings etc. A template could work though, at least for the design. The actual website is too complex, although I found a lot of usefull plugins. Thanks for your reply! – Rick 13 years ago


I concur with starting out with a core function. Some footnotes to the good advice you have already received:

1) Templates are the way to go. There are services which offer a wide range of templates for a modest price. You choose one, and have a pro make minor changes with CSS (moving a margin), and major ones in the template itself. Assuming you choose a "good fit" template to begin with and do not make many changes, this approach is efficient. Look at www.homestead.com, www.webnode.com and www.wix.com

Consider using one of these services as a back-up website. You want a complete, independent back-up on a different server, in a different city, better, different continent. Sooner or later, disaster will strike!

2) Do some benchmarking with off-shore offers. Try www.elance.com for starters.

3) A seperate important issue is SEO for your website. There is not much point in having an awesome design if no one finds it on Google. Here is a link to a good article on how to select a pro for SEO. The article will also give you ideas for questions to ask your website designer. http://www.stompernet.com/blog/interview-outsourced-seo/# Regards,

answered Aug 16 '11 at 03:58
James Hamilton
141 points

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

Website Design