How do you hire a professional to build your website?
Okay—you need to hire someone to build your website for you…but where do you even start? Scouting out a good, reliable website developer or designer can seem overwhelming—especially if you’re not sure how to separate the true pros from the pretenders.
But that’s where we—the friendly folks at CIRA—can hopefully lend a hand!
Here, we’ll explore the best way to go about hiring a professional that can build you a website to your exact requirements and budget.
Is it a website designer…or a developer?
First—let’s get some jargon out of the way. Often, we see the terms “website developer” and “website designer” used almost interchangeably. But there are key differences to keep in mind!
A designer is responsible for your website’s overall layout and visual elements (think images, icons, buttons, colour schemes, etc.). They’re the ones who will implement your branding and content in the most visually appealing and user-friendly way possible.
A developer mainly deals with all the back end working “guts” of your website. They’re basically who takes the designer’s fine work and uses it to build out a fully functioning website. Developers are also responsible for incorporating your website’s functionalities, configuring servers and databases and providing you with ongoing maintenance and technical support.
But here’s the thing: many of today’s web professionals are well versed in both design AND development/coding, which can make your hiring process that much more straightforward.
Where to start searching for qualified web professionals
Now, the question is where do you begin your search for that special someone to design and develop your website?
If you’re dipping a toe in for the first time, you may want to check out some of the freelance “marketplace” sites like Upwork, Fiverr and Envato Studio. They feature a broad selection of certified professionals to choose from, and provide an overview of their skillsets, work samples, customer reviews and hourly rates. This makes it easy to click around and see whose style and skillset closely matches your needs (and budget).
For instance, one designer may tickle your fancy due to his twin backgrounds in web design and HTML5 coding, but you could decide to go with another designer who has all those skills plus expertise in website accessibility.
Another possible avenue is 99designs.ca. They’re a design service that specializes in creating custom websites and logos for small businesses. 99designs works by assessing your needs through a simple questionnaire and then pairing you with a designer from their roster.
You also may want to go by good old-fashioned word of mouth. Talk to friends or colleagues that have had websites developed. What was their experience like? How much did it cost? Would they hire that person or company again?
What to ask when hiring a professional
Okay, now that we’ve sorted out who will be working on your website, now it’s time to drill into the details. This list of questions will help you on the path towards making a good hire, getting the website you want and saving money in the process.
1. What is the entire cost for the project, and what does that price include?
Get a full breakdown on everything—including your chosen web designer/developer’s hourly rate—so you can track costs and ensure things are within your budget.
2. Who do I contact for any project-related questions?
Depending on who you hire, you may want to establish whether the developer themself is your central point of contact, or if they’re working with a project manager. If they work with a team, what are their roles.
3. How many rounds of edits or revisions are included?
If you’re paying good money for a professionally built website, you need to be happy with the result. Remember: edits and changes are a normal part of the web building process…within reason. Nail down how many rounds of revisions are included in the overall cost with your designer. Typically, you’ll see two—maybe even three—rounds of revisions before getting charged an additional fee.
4. What is the timeline for building my website?
If you absolutely need your website to go live at a certain point in time, make that clear from the outset and set project milestones to track progress. Most professional developers will factor in a bit of additional buffer time for any unforeseen delays, client approvals, etc.
5. What do you need from me before we get started?
Meet with your web designer at the beginning of your project and build a checklist of what you’ll need to provide them to get things started. This can be anything from written content and hi-res images, to logos, videos and more. With a little bit of preparation, you eliminate a lot of needless emailing and scrambling as the project gets underway!
6. Can you show me some of your past work?
Any web designer worth their salt will likely have some sort of portfolio or past work samples they can show you. This not only can help you determine their skill, but also whether their design style is what you’re going for.
When looking at a web designer’s past work, here are a few things to consider:
- Are their designs modern-looking and attractive? What about mobile-friendly?
- Can they adapt their design style to suit your specific needs—i.e., a portfolio or e-commerce site—or do they basically just design the same type of website repeatedly?
- Do their website layouts and use of visuals tell a compelling story?
7. What content management system (CMS) platform will you use?
This is an especially important question if you’re the one who is going to be making updates and performing website maintenance going forward. Getting a basic understanding of the CMS and how it works from your web developer will save you plenty of time and heartache in the future.
Creating a simple (but effective) website brief
Done right, a solidly built website is an extremely valuable tool that can help you better understand what you’re trying to accomplish and then accurately communicate those wants and needs with your designer. Here’s a basic “template,” if you will, for your first website brief.
First step: write an introduction to yourself, or your business/brand
To give your web designer the best shot at capturing your true “essence,” in website form, provide as much supporting information as you can. Remember: context is king.
Start with a short history or bio, explain your business’ market segment, provide examples of your brand’s voice and tone and showcase your products.
Step 2: establish your target audience
By knowing your target audience, a good web designer will then be able to tailor the look, feel and user experience of your site accordingly! You’d be amazed at the key differences in how, say, a 20-year-old interacts with your site versus someone over 60.
Pro tip: if you’re one of those enterprising folks that has created customer personas, or has demographic data on hand, share those with your designer, too. Again, more information is usually a good thing!
Step 3: list your desired outcomes from the site
Most people don’t just build websites for giggles. So, list out what exactly you hope to achieve from your shiny, slickly designed new website. For example, are you wanting to make it easier for visitors to find and purchase your products? Will the website serve as your main marketing tool? Do you want to capture more customer emails or target a specific audience with your content?
Step 4: establish what you want on your site.
Now we get further into the nitty-gritty. This is your opportunity to spell out what exactly your website will contain, along with any other key features or functionality you might want or need. Think in terms of:
- Pages to include—e.g., a home page, product pages, an “about us” section, a blog, a space for customer testimonials, etc.
- Site functionality—are you planning to launch an e-commerce site? If so, your website may need the capacity to handle transactions, display products, etc.
- Multimedia—think in terms of video clips, audio and photos (or photo galleries) that you may want to include.
- Contact forms
- Live chat
- Social media feed
- Site security—this can include anything from buying a simple Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, to installing anti-malware software
Step 5: set a budget and deadline
You (ideally) don’t want your web build dragging on and on. Though there isn’t an exact “time” that it takes to build websites, setting milestones and deadlines can help keep things focused and on-track.
From a budget perspective, it’s important to keep costs in check. Hiring someone to create your website is usually the more expensive option (as opposed to building it yourself). For a small, “brochure-style” website that showcases your products or services, you can expect to pay between $400 – $1,000. For a small e-commerce store, that cost jumps up to $1,000 – $5,000 on average.
Just remember—you also may not need a “Lexus” website when a reasonably priced Subaru will do.
Step 6: give some thought to long-term maintenance
Now that your website’s up, running and looking great…how do you maintain it over the long haul? Determine whether you’ll pay someone a monthly fee to make updates, tweak code, etc., or whether you’ll be your own webmaster. Generally speaking—you can expect to pay around $100 per year on the low end, or between $400 – $500 annually for an average, mid-sized website.
Final thought: the more questions you ask and the more you can figure out upfront, the smoother (and less expensive/time consuming) your website build will be. Now, go forth with this newfound knowledge and hire someone that’ll build you an excellent site!
Where to next? Read our 10-step checklist for building a professional website or see proof of how simple website design can be highly effective.