5 Things to Know Before Hiring a Designer

A website takes longer to build than you think, and it’s almost always your fault.

I've been doing this for more than a decade, and I've learned a lot of lessons during that time. I thought I'd lay them out for you, so you can start your next project on the right path. None of these things are a must, and every project has its unexpected moments. But it's a good place to start if you're thinking about a new website.

Let's Get Going.

1. You don’t really know what you want.

I like to call this the "I know what I hate when I see it" problem.

In your mind, you want clean and simple. But, when I deliver clean and simple, you think it’s not jazzy enough or something. Fine. Whatever. But this is where having a really good idea of what you want, upfront, with examples, is the best way to start. Because changing your mind halfway through the project is going to add hours—and dollars—to the final product. And no one wants that.

My suggestion is to start Googling. Or Pinterest…ing (I just coined that phrase). Do something. Go out on the web and start looking at other sites. Don’t just save the good ones either. Having examples of what you don’t like is really helpful too.

Don’t tell me that you like this site, or that site, tell me what you like about them. And tell me what you don’t! The best way for a visual person to know what you want, is to show them. This is why we have that awesome questionnaire for you to fill out before we ever start the project. This helps me get a feel for your tastes before we even start down this tumultuous path.

2. This site is not for you.

That might be a hard thing to hear, but it’s true. Paying to have a website made is like buying shoes for your kid. Yeah, it’s your money, but you don’t have to walk in them every day.

At the end of the project, this website is for your customers. Believe it or not, there’s an entire industry around how a person uses a website, and there are millions of tests being run every day. What should your button say? Should the colors compliment or contrast? How many steps is too many for a form? How much are they willing to read? (Hint: Not much. You aren't even reading this.) My job is to research this stuff to make your site better.

My advice is to trust the designer. You hired them for their expertise, so let them tell you no to your stupid requests. You might not agree with all the choices, but we know what’s compliant, what translates well across all devices, and what will get you results.

When I build a site, I’m not thinking about what you’re going to like; I’m thinking about what will be most effective for your customers.

3. You have work to do.

You hired me for a reason. You looked at my website, my designs appealed to you, and you wanted my help. But, what you don’t see is that all of those sites required a lot of work from the client.

Writing copy is the biggest time-suck for all of these projects. I don’t know everything about you and your company, so you have to write all of that stuff for me. I can proofread and edit it, but you have to take the time to think about what you want to say, and type it up before I can start.

However, a lot of designers can’t even edit. Our best work is done sitting at a desk late at night, in our pajamas, with headphones on, and no awareness of the outside world.

By nature, designers and developers are not exceptional communicators. If you aren’t either, consider hiring a copywriter to help you with your content. Actually, just hire a copywriter. You’re not as good at communicating as you think you are. But even then, you’re going to have to put some effort into what you want to say about your company.

4. But not too much work.

This is a big one. There’s a fine line between being involved in the design, and trying to be a designer. This kind of goes along with point number two, but I want to reiterate it here. Just because you like that site you stumbled across doesn’t mean that it’s up to par with web standards. Plus, what you like might be considered bad design.

Lastly, sites look different on different devices, whether it’s your laptop, phone or tablet. And, depending on the color correction of your monitor, or the gamut of colors it can display, the colors aren’t going to look the same on every computer in the world.

If you don’t know what any of that means, you shouldn’t be playing designer on this project. I’m working with your company, not for your company. So, do us both a favor.

5. Websites don't magically happen.

Yes, you can use the GoDaddy site builder if you want, but it’s pretty shitty.

If you want to use a site builder, maybe you should read why that’s a terrible idea. Site builders either give you an off-the-shelf design that hundreds of other websites have, or they give you shit results because you’re not a designer.

And, if you don’t really care about the quality of your website, then I don’t want to work with you anyway. So, there’s that.

So That's That.

Too Long?

A website might look like some pictures and text, but there are dozens of things happening behind the scenes. These days, the most basic website probably uses HTML, CSS, PHP and JavaScript at the bare minimum, and all you can see when you go to the site is the HTML. And that’s a basic website!

Seventy-five percent is behind-the-scenes work, and it takes time to make, even if you’ll never see it. I’ve lost count of all the people who have asked me to create something very complex, and then follow it up with "That should be pretty easy for you, right?"

No. No, it’s not. It might look easy, but it takes time, talent, and a lot of hidden work. The sooner you understand that, the better off we’ll all be.