What To Know Before Hiring A Web Designer


Hiring a web designer can be a hard decision. Prices range all over the place, many people don’t know what really makes a great website, and it’s hard to know what expectations to have for both the final product and what it will actually do to drive revenue.

I wanted to write this article to help you understand what goes into hiring a web designer and how to make the best choice for your business. I have seen countless clients waste tons of money on poor-performing overpriced website design services. And whether you choose to go with us or not, I want to help you to prepare and understand how to evaluate your options.

As I mentioned in the article, “How Much Does NJ Web Design Cost” I discuss the difference between a novice “web designer” and an actual professional one. Web design is an industry that has no barrier to entry. So a lot of people, freelancers, and even some agencies get into it to make money without providing real value to their clients. A good rule of thumb is if it’s a really cheap website, meaning under $5,000 minimum, it is not going to give you the results that really generate revenue. Which is the whole point. It’s not an expense, it’s an investment. A website should showcase your features and benefits and a great website builds trust and inspires confidence in your visitors.


Here are some important things to know before you start shopping around for a web designer.

What web design platform do they use?

There is no shortage of web design platforms these days. And they vary greatly as far as performance and function go. There are the complete low rung garbage platforms like Wix and Godaddy website builder, then the marginally better Squarespace and Weebly, and then the high tier platforms with the most flexibility that can be optimized for great performance like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. And for E-Commerce focused websites Shopify is also a decent option. And then at the very top, there are websites that are completely custom, designed from scratch that is the most expensive and typically overkill for most business website needs.

Ask what platform the web designer is going to build on. This will give you a great handle on where they’re at. If you talk to a web designer and they sing the praises of Wix, run. Most will work with WordPress as it is the most popular platform and offers the most functionality. We design most sites on WordPress, occasionally Shopify, and our own CMS.


What’s included in the cost of the website design and development?

This is a biggie. From my years of experience and competitive analysis a lot of freelancers and web design agencies come in at a low cost, but then upcharge for every little thing. So what may at first sound like a great deal ends up being a lot more because you are charged for things that should be standard like contact forms and social media integration.

It’s important to go over EXACTLY what is included, what is an upcharge, and how much the upcharge is. I’ve seen companies that charge crazy high amounts for setting up a contact form, which can take very little time but some will charge upwards of $500 for it. Why? It doesn’t take then $500 worth of time to set up, but they come in low in hopes of getting you on board and then make up the difference by overcharging on things they know you’ll need.

If a web design company isn’t transparent as to what is included and what add-ons cost then that is a huge red flag and you probably don’t want to work with them.


Do they provide recommendations or just design what you tell them to?

You want a web designer that has expertise. Choosing one that simply creates what you tell them to without offering recommendations is not going to yield the best results. Are you a marketing expert? An SEO? A conversion rate optimization specialist or a professional copywriter? Then why would you want to hire someone that doesn’t take the time to come up with ideas to make your website perform and convert?


Who’s going to be building your website?

Is it done in-house or outsourced? If in-house is it passed off to an intern or is an experienced pro building it? This one happens the most with web design agencies. Did you know that most web design agencies outsource smaller projects to overseas designers for pennies on the dollar? There are even courses all over showing how web design agencies can sell a website design for $5,000-$10,000 plus and then outsource it for a few hundred bucks. I feel this is very misleading and dishonest.

The other thing that happens is when your a small business web design project, typically under $10,000 depending on the agency, your project gets passed off to an intern without much oversight. So you might be thinking you’re going to have an experienced professional web designer working on your website but instead, you get an inexperienced novice. That’s what happens when you’re a small fish in a big pond and they’ll never tell you this.

Companies such as Radiant Elephant only take on a certain number of clients at a time as I, the owner, work on every website we develop personally to ensure you’re getting the highest quality website and best value for your investment.


Things to do when vetting a web design company.

Their web design portfolio

Really look at a potential web design company portfolio. Does the work look good, does it inspire trust, does it load fast, is it easy to navigate and make sense if you were a visitor interested in the product or service?


Talk to past web design clients

The best way to get a gauge on what a web design company is like to work with is to talk to a client or two. Reputable web design companies will have a few clients that have agreed to speak with potential clients. Ask them how the process went, how well the company navigated it, were they responsive to emails and phone calls, did they deliver the product on time?


Are you hiring a graphic designer or an actual web designer?

Nothing against graphic designers, but hiring a graphic designer to build out your business website is usually not the best idea. Graphic designers aren’t marketers, they’re not SEOs, and they’re not developers. Sure they might design something pretty, but pretty doesn’t necessarily lead to conversions.


Mobile Website Design

It blows my mind how many newer websites I see freelancers or even some agencies build websites that aren’t mobile responsive. And some have the nerve to make that one of their upcharges. Having a mobile responsive website these days isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. More than half of web traffic comes from mobile devices. If your website isn’t built with mobile devices in mind then you are going to lose out on a lot of business and make your brand look bad.

The best option is to hire a web design company that designs mobile-first. For instance, I always build out a simple yet powerful mobile design and then add bells and whistles as the screen sizes get larger to create a more immersive digital experience on desktop.

And there is a difference between mobile responsive and a mobile website. Responsive means it adapts to different viewport sizes. It is one website that shifts based on breakpoints. Whereas a mobile website is a separate website that gets triggered when someone visits on a phone. This is a sloppy way to do it and shows a company or freelancer lacks a modern approach that follows best practices.



Things to get ready for hiring a web designer

As an experienced professional web designer, I have seen what the biggest challenges are in building a site for a client. And the organization is one of the biggest things. I literally have a client that paid my retainer 7 years ago yet never got me any of the things I needed to begin work. This also tends to be the biggest hold-up when it comes to meeting deadlines. Below is a list of the things you should have ready when you hire a web designer.


Website content

If you’re not hiring them to write your content you want to have this ready, or close to ready. Content creation is the biggest reason projects get delayed. And while a high-quality web design and marketing company will likely tweak your content for marketing and SEO, having the base is very important. Figure out the pages you want, you may be adding some more, but at least here you can get a start. Think about home, about, an FAQ, and your service or product pages and try to write 1,000-1,300 words for each, except product pages, for those shoot for around 800 words. Get the content all spell-checked and ready to send.


Images for the website

If you have custom images you want to be used on your website make sure to organize them and have them ready to upload to something like dropbox. When using images make sure to send the highest resolution you have. If you’re sending an image that’s 400 pixels wide and you want it to be the header image it’s going to look like garbage and it is going to delay the project as you either need to find the right file or hire someone to retake it.


Your Competitors websites

One of the best things you can do is to make a list of competitors’ sites, notate what you like and dislike about the sites. This can help your website designer understand the style you are trying to achieve.



If you don’t have a good logo or branding, find a company that offers that as an additional service. You don’t want to cheap out with your logo. A good logo should cost you $1,000 minimum. If you do have a professionally designed logo then make sure you have a high resolution transparent .png version all queued up to send.

Gabriel Bertolo

Gabriel Bertolo is a 3rd generation entrepreneur that founded Radiant Elephant 10 years ago after working for various ad and marketing agencies. He is also an award-winning Jazz/Funk drummer and composer as well as a visual artist. He has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Shopify, and MECLABS for his insights into marketing and SEO.