As a business owner, you really want to make sure your website reflects who you are and all that you have to offer. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure you hire the right web designer / developer to create a website for you.

You most probably have more experience browsing websites, than designing them or understanding what goes on behind them. So do you go about hiring the right person to help you create your dream website?

Let’s break it up into steps.

The Platform or Framework

First figure what kind of framework you want your site on. There are many website builders and platforms available today – that serve different business needs. Here’s an earlier article I wrote that summarizes the best options available in the market today, and lists out explicitly which website builders are best suited for each type of business need. Or just take my word for it and go with WordPress. I’ve seen it evolve over the years, and I still think it’s the best.

Agency or Freelancer

Next, figure whether you want to go with a full fledged agency, or hire freelancers. Freelancers can usually do a neat custom job for you, at a fraction of the cost of an agency – and are usually more responsive (unless you got unlucky!). You’ll also need to figure whether you want to hire a web designer to do just the design – and then look for someone else to code it? Or hire one person to design AND develop it. Many designers these days work with WordPress (such as me!) and can deliver a fully functional WordPress site for you – including design, graphics, web copy, and code.

Questions to Ask

Once you’ve identified whether you want to go with an agency, or individuals, sound them out on the following

1. Does their DNA match yours? Do their work ethic, design aesthetics, principles etc align with yours? If you want a minimalist elegant website, and the person specializes in quirky, in-your-face designs you may not be a good match.

2. Who do they design for? Many designers/developers will just go by the directive you give them, without adequate research. Or they’ll just design to please you. Instead, a good designer will design for your ideal client avatar – keeping in mind their needs, their desires, and their design aesthetics.

3. How easy is it to communicate with them? Do they understand what you’re saying? And the other way around. Do they take the time and effort to meet you at your level & explain the web tech in terms you can understand?

4. Can you trust them? This is perhaps a bit of a feely thing. Do their words, their work inspire confidence? What do other people say about them? Look up their testimonials or ask for references.

5. How good are they at their craft? You’re not a coder or a WordPress expert – so I don’t expect you to put them through a test. But check out their prior work. Ask them general questions. How visible are they on the Internet? Do they have any published work that positions them as an authority?

6. What about behind the scenes stuff? Will they take care of things like setting up your domain & hosting; or integrating payment gateways and mailing services; setting up basic SEO; security; backups? You don’t want to have to go looking for someone else to do those?

7. What about web copy, graphics etc? If you’re not planning to do those yourself – hire someone who can do it all for you. Searching for a 3rd person to take care of the web copy and a 4th to do the graphics for you is more headache than it’s worth. Unless you have a lot of free time on your hands and are comfortable coordinating with 5 different people.

8. Do they deliver on time? If they’re wishy washy about the time lines – it may not be the best match. Ask if they can commit on a time line and what kind of guarantees they give.

9. Who keeps control of your website once it’s up? As a business owner, you would want the flexibility to make changes, as and when you want them. Perhaps do the smaller stuff yourself, or say a year or two later, hire someone else. That means you should have full access to the code, the backend etc. Does the developer promise to hand them over to you?

10. Will they provide Support & Maintenance? A website isn’t a one-time thing. It requires regular monitoring and optimization (for traffic and conversions), updates (platform, plug-ins and other bits of software that’s used) as well as regular backups.  Will the developer show you how to do these yourself? Or do it for you?

At the end of the day, it’s not really a simple questionnaire you can fill out. And it’s not about finding the guy/gla with the best coding skills. It’s more about finding the right designer/developer who can partner with you to grow your business. Look for someone who treats you not just as a pay check, but is committed to your business success.