We’ve all been there.

We hand over our hard-earned cash (a fair chunk of it, mistakenly believing the expensive option will turn out best…) to a web designer and the pain begins.

As soon as the money leaves your account, they disappear off the face of the earth.

You eventually hear from them again when they ask for more money for some unintelligible techno-tweak – you agree because you’re scared you’ll never see your money again OR get your website…

The initial “6 week turnaround” goes up in smoke and you’re still completely in the dark about progress 6 months on.

You’re eventually given a website that bears no relation whatsoever to what you asked for and charged an astronomical sum every time you want to make the tiniest of changes.

Google has no idea you exist.

The headaches go on….tales-of-woe-from-creatives-0

One of my biggest drivers for starting Expert Agency was having been royally ripped off so many times, and given such ulcer-inducingly bad service, I decided I was better off doing it all myself!

I’m not encouraging you to go the DIY route. That ends in headaches too, and it’s not the best use of your time.

But I do encourage you to take ownership of a rigorous due diligence process before giving anyone the honour of building your online presence.

Here are my top tips for hiring the right web designer:

Don’t Hire A Designer

You’re thinking I’ve lost the plot. Bear with me.

The actual building of a website is the least important and most straightforward component of your project. What is far more important, complex and almost never taken care of by traditional web designers is the strategy behind the site.

A great web company will be able to advise you on the best web strategy to achieve your business goals and trust me when I say this does NOT include a lot of flash animation…

Don’t hire a designer – hire someone who has a superior understanding of marketing principles.

Don’t Pay In Full Up Front

I once paid for a 3 week bathroom renovation up front. I eventually had a finished bathroom more than 4 months later.

A good web designer will request payment in installments, based on key project milestones (more on these shortly). This is a smart way to do business as it protects you from not getting what you want and having no room to manoeuver, and it protects the designer from not getting paid for their time and effort.

Know What You Want

As mentioned, a great web expert will help you in planning an effective website, but the clearer you can get on what you want from the outset, the easier it will be for your web team to meet your expectations.

Check The Portfolio

Make sure you’ve seen a selection of the designer’s work: this should demonstrate a range of techniques and approaches, not a series of identikit websites.

They say plumbers have leaky taps – you’d be amazed how many web designers have atrocious websites themselves! Be ruthlessly judgmental.  Expect only the very best.

Talk to them

This is key. Get off email and onto the phone, or into a coffee shop. You need to know that your web designer is a good communicator, because being kept in the dark like a mushroom throughout the project is going to drive you absolutely bonkers.

It’s also easy to get wires crossed on email. Having a conversation will make sure you’re both on the same page.

On Not Being A Mushroom

Insist on a formal project management process from start to finish.

Before you sign on the dotted line and pay your deposit, you both need to sign off on what’s in scope/out of scope, both your expectations, key milestones and a communications schedule.

Handover + Ownership

NEVER let the web designer register your domain name. I have heard too many horror stories from business owners who have been unable to use their domain once they move service providers, or having to fork out thousands just to get it back.

There are some laws in place now to protect you, but it’s best to own everything from the outset.

Ensure this is built into your project management documentation: that you own not only the domain name but the entire site and all its content.

Support + Maintenance

You shouldn’t be held to ransom after the site is live whenever you want to make changes. For this reason I wouldn’t recommend you ever get a site built on anything other than WordPress. Worst case scenario is the designer builds the site using their own ‘content management system’ and whammo – you’re a hostage.

WordPress is “open source” and very user-friendly, meaning anyone can update it. You may still want to outsource this and that’s totally fine. But never use a ‘bespoke’ content management system.

The Last Word

Your web designer can be your best friend, or your worst enemy! When you find the right person, make the effort to build a strong, long-term relationship.

Fantastic service-providers are few and far between. Take the time to research and to carry out your due diligence, and you’ll soon find you have a new member of your extended business team who provides an invaluable contribution to your business success.