How to Choose a Web Designer

I frequently hear from prospective clients that they have received several quotes for their project, and the prices have spanned a huge range, from a few hundred dollars, to many thousands of dollars. There is not a universal fee structure for web development, and what any given person charges can depend on a lof of factors, including:

  • Experience
  • Skills
  • Demand
  • Nerve

For example, a very experienced developer who is in high demand is typically going to charge a lot more than a novice who is scrambling to get work. But that last factor – nerve – can also come into play. You will find developers out there asking far more than their experience warrants, just because they have the nerve to ask. So how do you know what is a fair price? How do you choose?

1. Look at their portfolio

Any web developer should have a web site with a portfolio of projects you can browse. If they don’t – walk away. If they do, do the sites look professional? Do they show a nice range of designs, or do they all look pretty much the same? Does the work look up to the standards that you would expect for your own site? You can get a pretty good feel for the level of work a designer can do for you by looking at the level of work they have given to others. Don’t expect them to all of a sudden do better than what they have already done.

2. Know who does the work

FYI, this is me.

Some marketing agencies, for example, will list web design and development as one of their services, even though they don’t actually have a web developer on staff. They then outsource the work, sometimes to another country, and you may never know that this is happening or who is building your web site. You can end up paying a premium price for subpar work, because you are not only paying for the developer, but you are paying for a middle man. You need to make sure you know who actually designed and built the sites in their portfolio, who would be designing and building yours, and their level of experience.

2. Overhead 

When you hire a firm with a staff and offices, you are paying for overhead. They have to make the payroll and make their rent, and all of that will get rolled into what you are paying for your site. Or if you hire a contractor, they may take you to business lunches, do conference calls, and attend lots of meetings to get the project – presumably for free. Trust me, they have to get paid for that time one way or the other or they can’t stay in business. You will pay for it in the end. If you need that kind of treatment, a full sales schmooze, they you should have it – but be aware that the extra money you will pay for it does not mean you will get a better end result.

3. Price / Time / Quality

There is a saying in the design world – out of good, fast and cheap, you can only pick 2.

Good + Fast = Expensive

Good + Cheap = You will be the designer’s bottom priority

Fast + Cheap = Poor quality work

Of course, all three of these terms are relative. What is good, fast, or cheap for you can be wildly different from someone else’s perspective. But just be aware that if someone is offering to have your site done in a week at a lowball price – chances are that the factor you will be missing is “good.”

4. Know what you are getting

When a developer gives you a quote, they will typically give you a full list of what exactly they are providing for that fee. Don’t assume that because Developer A said they are going to do things like keyword research, creating new art for your social media sites, and other add ons you did not ask for, that Developers B and C are quoting for them as well. You can only compare fees if the services being quoted for are the same – make sure each developer has the same complete scope of the work you want done, and are each quoting for the same end result. If one adds on items that you did not ask for, make sure you actually want/need those things – no point paying for features you don’t need. If you decide you do want those extra features, add them to the scope for all of the developers from whom you are requesting quotes.

Also some developers will add in things like a maintenance plan, which you may or may not even need. It can be less expensive to just pay for any maintenance as you need it rather than paying up front for time you may never use.

5. Deadlines

When is your drop-dead date to have your site go live? If you have a big event the site absolutely must be ready for, be very up front about that, and ask what has to happen for that deadline to be met. If you don’t have a deadline, you still need to know from the developer what the timeline is for the project, what payments need to be made when, and what can delay that timeline. What happens if you have met all of your responsibilities (see #6 below) on time, but they don’t have your site done in time?

6. Your Responsibilities

Make sure you know what your responsibilities will be for the project. Are you writing your own content or expecting the developer to do that for you? Will you be providing any photos or are you expecting the developer to search for stock photos or bring in a photographer for professional shoots? Content is usually expected to be provided by the client, not the developer, and a delay in providing that content can put your project on hold, so be sure you know what each developer will need from you and when, vs what they are including in their fee.

7. Referrals

A good advice from the Web Design Spring Hill expert: If you have a friend or colleague who had a great experience with a web designer, this can be a great place to start. Their great experience does not necessarily mean they are the right fit for you, but it is helpful to know that the developer was easy to work with, met their deadlines, and was responsive. You can also contact past clients of a web designer whose portfolio you like to get their feedback.

When you start the process of looking for a web designer, it can be overwhelming weighing all of the different factors, and honestly, price should probably be one of the last on the list. If all you are looking for is the cheapest website possible, you will get what you pay for. Know what your budget is, what value the web site will bring to your business, what problems you need the web site to solve, and then find developers who can meet those needs.

About Websy Daisy

I have been doing freelance web design as Websy Daisy for over 9 years, and built my first web site back in 1997! I specialize in creating highly-customized web design that specifically meets the needs and demographic of my clients—no cookie cutter web sites.

Over the years I have developed a process and workflow that ensures I am able to provide high-quality work in a timely fashion for a fair price. I keep your costs low by keeping things simple – I don’t maintain offices or a staff, and I don’t do a heavy sales pitch or meetings. I create web sites. I never cut corners in the design or build itself.

You can see my work here:

And how my clients feel about it here:

And kick off the process to get your own web site here: