Tips for choosing a web designer
Updated: Jun 20
Are you currently looking for someone to build you a new website?
Or perhaps you already have a website that needs a refresh or just isn't performing in Google search as you'd like?
We all know that people buy from people, and you may well be connected to a few web designers on social media or through networking.
But when it comes to your business, you have to choose wisely. I cannot simply entrust someone to build you a website just because you've followed them for a little bit on social media, or like the banter.
When looking to build your first ever website, it can be rather overwhelming. Good websites aren't cheap I'm afraid. Sure, you can have a mate who's handy at building a website, but how much do they really know about building a website?
In this post, I will provide some guidance on how to go about choosing a website designer to work with.
Jump to section
Step 1: Choosing a website host.
There are several website host options and which will be best for your business can only really be decided when a web designer has had a chat with you to understand your medium and long term goals.
If you are only ever going to be a solo freelancer or small business with less than 200 products or services for sale, then Wix, Squarespace or WordPress are totally appropriate options. If you have bigger plans and have the funding, then a bespoke solution, tailored to your exact needs will be the best option.
Wondering whether Wix and Squarespace sites are bad for SEO? Check out the post below, where I dive into this common misconception. Especially so in 2021.
If you are unsure which website host would be best suited for your business, please do book a free 15-minute discovery call (booking will be through my photography website) with me where I can get a feel for your business plans and then make a recommendation based on that. My advice is always independent and focused on your best interests.
Vetting website designers
Once you've decided which website host is best for your business plans and goals, then it's time to find a web designer to work with.
Here are my suggestions for shortlisting designers.
Creating a shortlist
Local SEO checks
If you want to work with someone local, do a search on Google with location services turned on (Ie, Google knows more or less where you are). See which designers come back (non paid/adverts!), Take note of the top 5 organic (not paid for) results.
If you are considering working with someone you are connected to or been referred to, then you can perform a similar investigation by searching for 'web designer London' for example. Replace London with their city/town name. Check where they rank on Google.
What you are doing above is seeing how these website designers fair in ranking well in their own area.
Ranking well in your local area is the first step in search engine optimisation (the process of getting your website to rank well in search engine results).
One caveat here. If the web designer themselves is a relatively new business, ie, under 1 year, it is likely that they are still too 'new' to have established 'trust' with the search engines. Without getting into too much techy detail here, SEO is an ongoing process. As you start getting traffic and backlinks etc to your website, your domain score starts to increase. The higher your domain score, the more favourably search engines will treat your website as it's assumed if the website is generating a lot of traffic that people may be interested in the contents.
So if a web designer is relatively new, they may not yet rank on page 1 of Google locally for their top keywords, for example 'web designer'.
Perform tests on their website!
The proof is in the pudding as they say (with their mouths full apparently) so whilst a website may look gorgeous and be EXACTLY what you want your website to look like, does it actually score well from a usability and performance standpoint? Or SEO for that matter?
Website trends today are very much minimalistic. Not too many flashy things, and embedded social media feeds etc. Today's website has to be sleek and get to the point within 3 seconds of someone clicking on the link to your website. That's it, 3 seconds. After this, bounce rates (people leaving your website without performing an action) increases exponentially.
Sometimes having a great looking site, if designed incorrectly, can actually mean no one ever waits long enough to see it!
So if a web designer is worth their salt, they will have websites themselves that perform really well in tests right? You'd be surprised!
Test Number 1
One tool you can use to test their website is GTmetrix.
To use the site, simply enter their website address and then change the country to one that is closest to their location. You will only get a few country options on the free version so just use the closest.
After the site has been indexed, you will see a report like this
Obviously, the grade, performance and structure of the site are most important here.
But what is even more important for SEO (and I'm assuming since you want a website, you want it to be found right?) is the speed at which the website loads as shown below.
The very important speed number here is the 'Time to interactive'. This is how long your website takes for the visitor to be able to start scrolling and interacting with your site.
As mentioned before, time is of the essence. Anything over 2 seconds for Time to Interactive is considered slow. I know right? What has the world come to that if we cannot use a website within 2 seconds, we leave? The instant gratification generation is a real thing folks, and you have to keep up with demand and expectation I'm afraid if you want to be in the game.
If their websites Time to Interactive is over 2s then it's my suggestion that you cross them off your shortlist. If they cannot build a fast loading site for themselves, how you can be assured that they can for you?
Fully loaded site time should not exceed 10s.
Test number 2
Now to check their SEO.
To do this you will need to use Google Chrome.
Now simply open the web designers website in Chrome and then select "View' then 'Developer' then 'Developer Tools' from the menu.
The following pop-up will appear
Select the 'Lighthouse' menu item and then hit 'Generate report'. Remember, you should be on the website you want to perform a test on.
Once the report has completed you will see the following at the top of the screen.
Expect to see Performance variations between Google's Lighthouse report and the GTmetrix one. Google's servers are generally US-based and use a 4G connection to test sites.
What is important here is Accessibility and SEO.
Accessibility is basically how easy your website is to use for visually or physically impaired visitors. It checks amongst other things, the colours of your website. Font and background contrast and loads more.
So again, if the web designer whose site you are testing ranks low in Accessibility or SEO, or again if their Performance is poor, then I'd recommend scratching them off your shortlist.
The Guy's Final Word
Your business is like a child. Would you leave a child with someone you haven't done some research on?
It frustrates me how many freelancers do not do basic checks when they purchase services of all types. If you're going to engage with a photographer, you will look at their portfolio. If you want a copywriter, you will look at examples of their works. Why, when it comes to web design do people forget to check the important things, like performance and SEO? Without these two things, as previously stated, your website is simply not going to perform how you are hoping it will.
The Shebang Guarantee
I am so confident of my ability to build a high performing website that I have introduced the Shebang guarantee. When you purchase my Shebang website deal you will, providing you agree to follow my guidance and do the tasks required (agreed before project initiation) I will work with you for as long as it takes US to get your website onto page 1 of Google for your local area.
You can learn more about the Shebang Guarantee in this blog post.
I hope you have found this blog informational and that it will provide you with the knowledge to avoid heartache and the frustration that comes with realising you chose the wrong person.
I'd love to hear your thoughts below
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