Entrepreneurs and small businesses who are about to hire a freelance web designer for the first time, are usually in for an unpleasant surprise. Because these prospective clients rarely understand what it takes to properly build and maintain a website, they typically default to price as their primary method for selecting a designer, which is understandable, but rarely a good idea.
Let’s take a look at some of the things you’ll need to consider when hiring a freelance web designer or web design firm…
Pricing & Qualifying Design Talent
First of all, as you may have already discovered— pricing for new websites is all over the place. Depending on where you look, you will get estimates from $0 to $10,000+ for a small business website.
Unfortunately, web designers are not licensed or certified. Therefore, anyone— from a kid in a 3rd world country who doesn’t even own a computer, to an experienced professional like myself, can claim to be a web designer. So, your job of hiring and qualifying a web designer is far more difficult than we’d like it be.
Once you’ve found a competent designer (or several), you need to be able to tell him (them) what you have in mind. Details, and often there are many, really matter to someone like myself who has worked on both small- and large-scale websites.
For example, if you walk into a construction company and ask what it will cost to build a building, they’ll need to know what kind of building you’re talking about (commercial? residential? high-rise? 1-story? wooden? metal? etc.). In the absence of blueprints, the best they’ll be able to do is give you a very rough estimate.
So, if you want to compare apples to apples, all of the designers/firms you’re requesting estimates from will need to review the same set of “blueprints”. Otherwise, some designers may not know enough to ask important questions, or worse, they’ll bet that you’ll be willing to accept whatever they throw at you (including significant cost increases and shoddy work you didn’t anticipate).
At the very least, consider sending the web designer(s) your top 3 favorite websites and tell them what you like/dislike about those websites, and why. You’ll also want to create (or, for larger websites, hire a designer to create) a “Site Map” to determine roughly how many pages there will be, and what features and content will be on each page (or page variation). Better yet— put together a rough draft of the text that you plan to include in your website.
Choosing Custom or Prefab
Now that you and the designer(s) have a better idea of what you have in mind, and everyone within your organization agrees with your vision, it’s time to decide if you should buy a website “off-the-shelf”, or build one from scratch (or even somewhere in between).
A pre-designed website (or “kit”) can be purchased for $0 to roughly $100. You’ll have to search through thousands of designs— and in the end, it may look like a hardware store forced into an abandoned McDonald’s restaurant. But the price is right… until you try to build it out and move in.
When you consider all the headaches (possibly including loss of revenue due to unhappy customers and no sales), it may be far more cost- and time-efficient to go “custom”.
Should You Do It Yourself?
Like a prefab building, your pre-designed website kit will include instructions. However, you may not have the expertise or equipment you’ll need to properly construct it. And if you hire a third party to put it together for you, he may blame the prefab manufacturer (and vice versa) if something doesn’t fit properly. In other words, the guy that created the predesigned website kit may not be willing (or able) to assist you or the guy that’s putting it together. Or worse, you discover that you bought the wrong “prefab kit”.