There are thousands of web designers and an infinite number of projects a designer could design. How can you find the perfect designer for your project? Let’s be honest, we all want the same results. A well designed, professional look and feel, in double quick time and at a reasonable cost.
But how do you find that elusive web professional? Recommendations from friends or colleagues is the way most people prefer to find any worker. The spectre of poor results, a bad worker or paying too much money means we will go for the safe option every time. However, what if you can’t get any recommendations?
The following 7 step process will help you turn a perfect stranger into the amazing find you tell everyone about.
Scope the work – the secret to getting the results you want from any worker you employ are the 3 P’s; planning, preparation and precision. Before taking any action think carefully about exactly what you want to achieve. You need to be crystal clear on this. It’s no good saying ‘I’m not sure. I’ll know when I see it’. Although there is a way to overcome this, as you’ll see when I talk about choosing your marketplace. You will need to know,
- Do you want both design and coding done? They are separate skills. You can employ a designer and a programmer, or you can get both done by the same person or organisation
- Do you want search engine optimised design? They are also separate skills and you could employ an SEO professional. I recommend SEO optimised design
- Is it a website or a blog? If it’s a website, you will need a CMS (Content Management System), unless you want to pay the designer every time you want to change anything on your website. With a CMS, you are in control
- If the design is for a blog, which platform do you want to use? I recommend wordpress
- Do you know what content you will add to your site? The content is more important than the design, so the content should come first. Know what will be on the site before you design it
- Will you need hosting or do you already have your own web host? Many designers and design firms can provide you with hosting
- Do you have a domain name or do you want the designer to find one? I recommend you choose the name yourself. A search on godaddy will tell you if your name idea is available. If you get the designer to register the domain name, make sure it’s registered in your name, not his.
Choose your marketplace – there are many different ways of employing a designer, but I’ll keep the discussion to three ways, and then focus on what I think is the best method. You could use a design firm, a freelance designer or a design contest. The design firm is usually more expensive, but then they can take care of everything. I don’t recommend this unless you really have no clue about websites or have a big budget.
Employing a freelancer to complete your project is the cheapest option and you can get outstanding results. There are pitfalls for the unwary, but then this 7 step process will take care of them. There are thousands of web design professionals ready to work for you and this is the method I recommend and will use as an example.
There are several marketplaces to find freelancers. elance was the the first with over 500, 000 contractors for hire. peopleperhour is perfect for small businesses. They have more than 150,000 freelancers for projects of any size. And odesk has nearly a million contractors and a unique way of working. To learn more watch this week’s featured video or see my article on the odesk advantage. I will use odesk to show you how the process works as I have experience of using this site.
Design contests are a relatively new way of getting freelancers, or web design firms, to compete for your business.99designs runs contests and it’s easy. You compile your design brief, review and provide feedback, then pick a winner. After you describe your requirements, dozens of designers submit web page design concepts and you only pay for the web page design you like the best. You also choose the price, which starts at $495. And if you really are not sure what you want, a design contest will give you plenty of ideas.
Prepare a brief – this a short but concise description of what you want. It doesn’t matter if you use a freelancer, design contest or design firm, you want to write a brief. It needs to be committed to paper, not in your head. Several paragraphs should be sufficient. Don’t make it war and peace. You should include,
- A broad but concise description of the website niche, number of pages and audience
- The scope of the work – design, coding, CMS, domain name registration, etc
- The ideal visitor profile and what he or she will expect to find or do
- Content types, such as video, audio, articles, images, documents
- Style or ‘look and feel’ you would like – provide example websites you like
- How long you think it should take and your budget
The last item is a little tricky. You may not have a budget or know how long it should take. My advice is to study other people’s briefs and projects and see what they have done. You could hedge your bets by quoting a price range or give a rough estimate. Difficult or not, you must set clear guidelines on cost and time.
Submit your brief – the process will vary depending upon the marketplace. If you submit a brief to odesk, within hours you will get many contractors bid on your project. This is where thorough research is needed on your part. Don’t rush this bit. You want to study each contractor and their complete profile.
Odesk is excellent and provides a ton of crucial information. You get a photo, a name, an overview of their skills and experience, recent work history and client feedback, tests taken & results obtained, recent job applications, resume and details of their portfolio for you to study. And you get the rate they are offering. You should know that odesk will add 10% to this rate. So, if they offer $10 an hour, you will pay odesk $11. You also know where they live, how many contracts they’ve completed, how many hours they have worked and a client feedback rating system where 5 stars is the best. This is enough to give you a complete picture.
Study every contractor who bids on your project and then choose a shortlist. Now it’s time to make contact with them. I like to call this the evaluation stage.
Evaluate – staying with odesk, they have a messaging system, which is email-based. This is an opportunity for you to satisfy yourself that a contractor has the skills and can do the work in a timely fashion. Ask questions. Dig a little deeper. This is the trick to finding a good fit for you and your project. For example,
- What is your greatest skill?
- Which part of web design work do you love the most?
- Can you create good quality work to a deadline?
- Have you done any design projects in this niche before?
Now you think of some questions. Make sure the replies give you a feeling of confidence. You want to be confident you’ve chosen the right person for the job. Once you’ve asked your questions, I recommend either organising an interview or setting a test task. The interview could be done with skype. Geography should not be a barrier. Or you could set a simple test task and offer to pay so you can see the results before deciding.
Set expectations – once you’ve chosen your web designer, now you need to set clear expectations. This is the precision part of the 3 Ps. It will benefit both parties. The contractor will know exactly what he must provide and you will know you’ve been clear about the results you expect. How do you achieve it? With a working document or blueprint. Yes, more writing. You could record an audio or a video instead. What should it include?
Start with the brief you’ve already written and expand it. The brief was a summary document and the blueprint is a detailed description of what you want to achieve. I would also recommend providing the designer with,
- A simple line drawing or description of how you want the home page to look (a video would work)
- The structure of the intended navigation and each of the pages of the site
- A copy of the logo in photoshop or fireworks format, if you already have one, or a detailed description of your ideal logo if you want the designer to create one for the website
- Either the actual content you want on the home page or some boilerplate content
- A checklist of what you expect; 15 pages, SEO optimised, domain name, CMS, logo, etc
This may seem like a lot of work, but believe me, the clearer and more precise you make your work instructions, the better the results will be. Only the creative elements should be left to the skill of the designer to decide.
Provide feedback – if there are several elements to the design, or even if it’s just a home page design, there will be communication between you and the designer before the job is delivered. Always give positive feedback at every opportunity. Designers are people, and like us, they want to know they are doing a good job. Let them know. Don’t wait until it’s delivered and then grumble that it’s not what you wanted. Stay involved.
With design contests, you should be watching as designers create your project and actively give feedback. You will get much better results that are closer to what you envisaged. If you have engaged a web professional on odesk, you are able to look at the work they are doing. It’s unique to odesk and a part of their management system. Take an interest in what they’ve done every day and provide feedback to them. Keep them on-track.
Before you know it, you’ll have exactly the results you want, instead of being disappointed. And it’s no mystery, because you’ve taken control every step of the way, and made sure what you want is crystal clear.
This is how you find the best web designer for your project.
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