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Hiring a Web Designer: How to pick the right one

Hiring a Web Designer: How to pick the right one

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Whether you are part of a small or medium company, there will most likely come a time when you will have to hire a web designer to produce a website for you and your organization. A web designer can generally be described as a professional with a strong background in graphic design and some programming skills. A web designer can advise you with the look and functions of your future website and they can create it for you. Not all web designers have in-depth knowledge of coding though; it is understandable since their specialization is design. If you are looking to hire someone to code a website, create an app, a database or web form, you will want to find a web programmer or developer instead.

Although web designers are a common sight on the internet these days, not all of them are hiring material. Many have self-proclaimed themselves as such and possess no experience, nor knowledge of the field. Fortunately, there are ways to discern good from bad designers.

If you want to design and build a successful website, look for these qualities in a web designer:

A professional portfolio
A good web designer will have a website to promote his work and to showcase functional websites. Their website will be well designed and follow the current design trends. Be wary if you are approached by a designer with an outdated website and empty portfolio; they probably have little idea how to create a website that will promote your business’ image and reflect its prosperity. Think of it this way; would you trust your hairdresser if s/he had a horrible hairdo? I surely wouldn’t. And neither should you.

Experience
Before hiring a web designer, you should verify that they have experience. Don’t be scared to ask them for which companies or individuals they have worked before. You can even take it further and contact their previous client to know if they are satisfied. A good web designer won’t be scared to give you references; their clients will happily give you testimonials about their excellent service. A bad designer might try to convince you that it is not needed and will not be able to give you information about their previous jobs or projects.

Usually, you will have a good idea just by looking at their website and portfolio. Also remember that quality surpasses quantity; while some designers may have tons of websites to show, if they are ugly and poor quality, the one they will produce for you will be just as bad. You are looking for someone whose portfolio will reflect attention to detail and, overall, quality.

Web skills
Although we strongly believe hiring a web designer AND web programmer is always the best solution since both have their own area of expertise and complement each other in their work, some might want to hire only a web designer, for personal or financial reasons. If that is the case, it is extremely important to verify that the designer has decent web programming skills. But how will you know?

Well, the first and easiest way to verify if their website is well coded is to use the W3C Markup Validator; this tool is used by programmers to identify issues in the structure of a website before publishing the final result. If a website has many mistakes, the person who programmed it doesn’t have a good grasp of coding. Although you will not necessarily see it from your end, clients using different web browsers may see your future company website completely distorted. Not too good for business, right?

When you hire a web designer, you don’t want a website that is beautiful on the outside and rotten on the inside. Just like a car, you want it to shine AND work when you put the key in, wherever you decide to drive to. That’s why it is very important to make sure they master HTML and CSS at the very least.

Also, if you can, make sure the web designer you will hire doesn’t use tables. It is a design malpractice and a designer using them necessarily hasn’t renewed their programming skills since the beginning of the 2000s.

Motivation
Lastly, when hiring a web designer, you will want someone who is motivated. Someone who loves their job will perform much better and it’s no different for us, designers. You will want someone who isn’t scared of trying new things for you and who will be interested in your company and what it has to offer. After all, they are the person who will create from scratch a website that is supposed to share with your clients and prospects the value of your business. If the designer doesn’t feel it, neither will your clients.

And what about diplomas?
Many people wonder about diplomas. Should a web designer have a degree from university? What about college/cégep? What is good enough?

My opinion on this matter is that diplomas mean very little. Although I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design from Concordia University, most of what I learned about web design was while working on actual projects. Experience on the field surpasses completely whatever degree a designer might have. After meeting so many design students that couldn’t create a half-decent website, I know better than to trust a piece of paper. What matters is the experience, the portfolio, the skills and the motivation.

If you have any question regarding this article, please leave a comment or contact us.

About the author

Tina Mailhot-Roberge is a graphic designer, web designer and illustrator located in Montreal, Canada. She holds a BFA in Design from Concordia University and practices her craft professionally since 2007 .

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