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The Non-Designer's Guide to Hiring a Great Freelance Web Designer

The Non-Designer's Guide to Hiring a Great Freelance Web Designer
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Searching for a top-notch web designer to build your next website, but clueless about the difference between CSS and CSI? You may be uneducated as well about other criteria for good web design.

Related: A 7-Point Hit List to Hiring an Exceptional Web Designer

That's the point of the following guidelines. By covering some common design and front-end development considerations, these five topics may help you you grasp the important things to keep in mind as you begin your search for the right freelance designer.

Communication

This one doesn't need much explaining. Having a good line of communication is important in every area of your business, especially when it comes to nailing down a UX design that meets your business goals effectively. Some people, however, let this fall by the wayside when choosing a web designer, which can lead to trouble later on.

So, if you are finding a freelance web designer on your own, pick up the phone and call before making any decisions.

Sure, it sounds old school, and tools like email and gChat are great, but you want to make sure this is a person you can have a conversation with, will listen to your concerns along the way and will follow up with questions of his or her own regarding the project’s specifics.

If the designer spends the whole conversation speaking over your head, using confusing tech jargon, this scenario probably won’t change and will cause problems for you down the line. A great designer will be deeply interested in you, the client, and your business and its needs, and will explore early on how those concerns can be worked into the eventual solution.

If you are using a freelancing site to find your designer, choose one that screens for communication skills in addition to technical design ability. Because these sites source from developers all over the world, sometimes something as important as language comprehension can get in the way of your project.

Related: 5 Tips for Hiring a Great Web Developer

Your best bet here is to use a service like the recently announced Toptal Designers, which screens all applicants for language and personality from the beginning (before getting to more intense design tests later on). This way, you know the designer you get matched with will have the communication skills you need.

Languages

Speaking of languages, let’s talk about coding languages. A lot of the time, it can seem like web designers are speaking an entirely different language than you -- and this is actually true for many designers who also have a little front-end coding experience.

Designers often broadcast their web design abilities by advertising their experience with popular front-end coding languages. Different languages are used for different products, and knowing the basics here will help you find the right freelancer for your project. For designers, the key languages to know are HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Web design

The best place to start looking for what you want in your website is -- surprise -- the internet. As you are browsing, take note of other sites you like, so that you can show them to your designer. Don’t simply find a site you like and instruct your designer to build you a replica; instead, share a list of the specific features of the site that you’re drawn to.

Also, make sure to explore the websites of other businesses in your industry. What works and doesn't on these sites? Finally, remember that while you do want a website that is aesthetically pleasing, having a nice design is not the sole purpose of your site.

You want to be able to sell your product or service. In other words, you don't want visitors to view your site, see how nice it is and leave; you want your site to help users realize that they need whatever it is you are selling.

Function

Always consider user experience when you're working with your designer to build your site. Is it easy to navigate between all the pages on the site? Is the site's setup intuitive? Is it easy to find your contact information? Can users browse without having to scroll too much? Side note: You never want them to have to scroll horizontally. And, digging deeper, is the site built on a functionally reliable CMS, such as WordPress? These are key things to find out before you go searching for a designer.

When you do select one, the functionality of past sites he or she has worked on is just as important as its look. Always ask for a portfolio and look through it online if you can. See if this person's past work is still being used by past clients, and if not, try to contact the owner and ask why he or she switched. Can the designer communicate the story of the design?

What problems did it solve? How was the solution unique? You do not want a designer who habitually creates sites that are hard to use or employs technology that is behind the times.

Pricing

Unfortunately, there is no standard price for how much contracting out your website will cost you. Plenty of software price estimation approaches exist, but a wide range of things affect price, including the skill set of the designer, his or her location, the amount of time your project will take and the specific features you require. You may also have to pay to bring in any additional freelancers or subcontractors needed to bring in to complete the project.

Plenty of articles will tell you to avoid paying too much or too little (you already know that!), but how do you determine what that means?

As you determine the budget for your site, remember to see it as an investment. A great website is a crucial marketing tool that will be available to answer users’ questions 24/7 without your having to pay overtime. Therefore, try not to view the money you spend as mere cost.

That said, it will be rare that you need to invest six figures into your site.

Determine how much you have to set aside for the development of your site, and be realistic about your goals. Get in touch with a variety of different designers to explain your project and get an average quote. If you find that designers are too expensive for your price range, turn to freelancing sites. You can find lots of articles online that list the best freelancing sites, so explore these options and find the best one that fits your budget.

Conclusion

Finding a great freelance web designer can feel like a big undertaking, especially if you are unfamiliar with the expectations and terminology of the tech or design industries, but this should not be cause for worry. People with all levels of technological experience hire freelance web designers all the time, and there are lots of tools out there to help you navigate the process.

The most important thing is to do your research, and that starts with understanding what a thorough research process should entail.