The little-known secret of how to actually choose a web designer (in 5 easy steps)


Since this article went viral I’ve expanded it into a PDF report, which you’re more than welcome to download. Click here to get it.

Folio Focus has an article up titled ‘How to Choose a Web Designer’. It talks a lot about using design galleries to find someone experienced, who fits your budget and has the right style and skillset.

But these questions are trivial compared to the important stuff. They’re questions to ask the designer himself after you’ve identified him as a likely candidate.

Here, in five simple steps, is how to actually choose a web designer:–

  1. Draw a line vertically down a piece of paper and write “Good” and “Bad” at the top of the columns.
  2. Go to the designer’s website.
  3. Read the website. Put a tick in the Good column every time you see a term like “business objectives”, “return on investment (ROI)”, “your revenue goals”, “lead generation”, “increase sales” etc. Award six million bonus points if the designer overtly talks about how you need to work with a copywriter to make your site a worthwhile investment. Award 12 million points if he argues the case or draws some kind of useful analogy, like how trying to get customers using an attractive site with lousy copy is like trying to get a date by dressing well but babbling like a retard.
  4. Put a cross in the Bad column every time you see a term like “branding”, “beautiful”, “passion”, “making a difference”, “modern”, “clean”, or any other puff word that doesn’t convey a clear benefit to you.
  5. Tally up your ticks and crosses. Hire anyone with more of the former than the latter. Good luck!

The checklist explained

Designers who don’t understand that websites are business assets which must achieve specific business objectives, which in turn are tied to revenue goalsare not actually designers at all. They are artists. Giving them your money is not an investment in creating a business asset—it’s a divestment of capital that is never going to come back (let alone with friends).

Beware of “designers” who use industry buzz-words and faddish terms that they obviously believe convey benefits, but which you can’t relate to any discernible value. For example, a designer talking about the importance of “branding” just indicates one (or both) of two things:

Similarly, if a designer talks about creating “clean” or “usable” websites, leave immediately and look elsewhere. Imagine if a caterer advertised like that. “We provide clean, edible food.” Outstanding—that’s just what I’m looking for!

The same goes even for terms like “beautiful” or “modern”, where the implied value can at least be vaguely discerned—there’s just nothing interesting about these terms. They are no-brainers. It doesn’t bear mentioning that a web designer will produce something that isn’t ugly or out-dated, does it?

You can be sure anyone who advertises his services in this way understands nothing of importance about marketing or business.

He does not understand setting his own business apart. He does not understand how to present a unique value proposition—that most basic element of selling. And he certainly does not understand what matters to your business. He is just an amateur for whom the low barrier of entry online has presented a unique opportunity.

Sadly, most designers don’t realize they’re amateurs. A lot of them have been in business for years, surviving off witless business owners who believe, as they do, that aesthetics are the key to profits. But there is a saying I once heard from Drayton Bird: some people have 20 years of experience…and some people have one year of experience, repeated 20 times.

Since your website is a marketing platform and a business tool, why on earth would you hire an amateur who has no understanding of marketing or business to create it?

If you liked this article, why not grab the expanded version in PDF format to print or share?

D Bnonn Tennant
‘The Information Highwayman’

D Bnonn Tennant, ‘The Information Highwayman’, signs his name to this

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