Hey there, I'm Jonathan, a freelance digital consultant, specialising in UX/UI Design.

I help companies design and develop beautifully simple user interfaces. I work with a huge variety of clients including companies like, Smith & Nephew, KLM, Durex and the National Aids trust.

Tips on finding a great web designer

Posted By Jonathan Clift on 21 July 2014

Today, the market is saturated with the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to Website Designers and Developers, so how do you find the good ones? As a Website Designer myself I thought I'd use my knowledge of the market to provide some tips to help people find the right Web Designer for their project.

Google Searching

The majority of people will start their search on Google, which is a certainly a good starting point. However, searching "Web Designer" in Google will yield 100's of results, putting the onus on your to find the right fit. There are a couple of things to consider at this first phase. Firstly you need to think about your keywords. Whilst Google will narrow down the results for "Web Designer" based on your location, you're better to provide a more specific area of search, such as "Web Designer Hampshire". Secondly, maybe you can narrow down your results by your industry, for example if you are an Estate Agent it would make sense to use a designer/developer that specialises in that industry, so you could try "Estate agent web designer, hampshire". This isn't necessarily going to get the exacty result you need but do try and focus on narrowing down your search terms to get your initial pool of results. Also be aware if "paid results" which will appear at the top of your google search and on the righthand side, as shown in the screenshot below. These companies have paid to show up in your results which can sometimes mean they are trying to force your hand in order to pick them over the organic results. google-search-results Finally think about the skills you'll need for your project. There are often big differences between a "web designers" and a "web developer" with designers generally having a focus on the design elements but maybe not so much on the building. Today, these terms have become interchangeable but it's important to be aware of these subtle differences.

Do your research

Once you have your shortlist from your google search, it's time to do some more research. First thing to do is obviously look at the individuals or companies website itself. Do they have a solid portfolio with relevant website examples? Are they producing the type of websites/designs that would be suitable for your clients? Try to focus on what is right for your customers not what your personal preference is. Take a look around other parts of their website. Do they have up to date content? Are they blogging consistently? An up to date blog is a good sign the individual or agency you're looking at is passionate about their business. If they are a freelancer, come away from their own website and search their name individually, what comes up? Are they active in other communities? What re they saying on twitter? Are there any reviews/testimonials about them? If you find they have active Dribbble and Behance profiles, this is another good sign they are very active in the community. Try to find out what other people are saying about them? If you're really keen you could also call up some of their previous/current clients, just ask them how things went, were they happy with the service.


Freelancer vs Agency

Whilst you're doing your search you will come across both Freelancers (people working on their own) and agencies (companies with more than one person). There are benefits to using Freelancers and there are benefits to using agencies, ultimately you will have to make that choice but here are some reasons one my might better than the other for you:

Benefits of freelancers

  • Generally they will be a lot cheaper. They will have less overheads, often don't need to be VAT registered and will be more negotiable on price
  • Freelancers can often provide more focus on your project than a larger agency can. They might be more personable and far easy to build up a relationship with
  • As you'll be working directly with one person, communication will be a lot easier and dealing with the same person will help ensure the direction is clear

Benefits of agencies

  • Agencies will have backup. If a freelancer is incredibly busy or unwell, they may struggle to deal with all your requests as quickly as an agency
  • An agency might be able to serve as a one stop shop for all your digital needs, where as a freelancer might only offer specific list of services
  • Agencies may have better infrastructure and process and can provide on-going support that might be more difficult for a freelacner

There isn't really an easy answer when it comes to choosing a freelancer or an agency. Sometimes budget will dictate this decision but it usually comes down to your preference. Some companies like to work with individuals for a personable service, whilst others like to work with agencies as they feel more comfortable with the on-going support and depth of services one company can offer their business.

Cheapest isn't always best

One final point is to mention costs. Be wary of web designers offering lots of things for a tiny price. You really can't build a good website for £99, and I very much doubt you will get a good service for this price. Naming the average cost of a website is difficult as it really does depend on what you need. It's important to get value for money but it's also important to invest enough to ensure your chosen designer really has an incentive to do a great job for you.  You really do get what you pay for in the web design industry, as they say, buy cheap, buy twice!

Making your choice

Hopefully by this point you will have a handful of freelancers and/or agencies that have got your attention. Once you're happy with your research on them it's time to make contact and speak to them directly. Personally I'd recommend you pick up the phone and speak to them directly. This initial conversation will tell you a lot more about them than an email will. Ask them how they work with their clients, what there process is and what projects they are currently working on. Are they validating your requirements as well? A good designer will need to find out quite a bit about your project before they can provide a proposal. You'll then need to get a proposal from them, hopefully they've asked you to fill in a questionnaire or asked you all the questions they need to put together a proposal, otherwise they are just plucking a cost out of thin are. A good designer will be someone who gets back to you promptly, maximum of a week depending on how complex your project is. Be wary of just receiving an email back with a one sentence overview and a price, this wouldn't be a good sign to me. Ultimately making the right decision will come down to doing your research and vetting your shortlist. Don't just go by what you see on a shortlists own website, put in the time to find out a little more about them. Speak to your shortlisted candidates over the phone. Making sure it's someone you can work with is equally as important as their skill set. Obviously everyone has a budget but don't make decisions purely on price, it might feel like good value but if you let price dictate your decisions, you'll probably find you won't get the service you needed.