How to Find A Good Web Designer

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Questions answered on this page:

  • Do you actually need a DESIGNER, or maybe just a web design template and a programmer?

  • There are few fantastic designers, but lots of very competent developers

  • Templates vs custom designs

  • Costs for a website design

  • Where do you look for a good web template design?

  • Where do you look for a good web designer?

  • How do you know if your web designer is any good?

  • How to work with a web designer to get a good design for YOUR needs

  • Working with cranky or temperamental designers

  • Staying on schedule, and what to do if your designer gets off schedule

  • When to make payments to your designer

  • Who owns the design you just bought?

  • How to make sure you have full ownership of your custom design

Do you actually need a DESIGNER, or maybe just a web design template and a programmer?

Web DESIGNERS are people with solid design skills, and web DEVELOPERS are people who focus more on the programming of the website and have the know-how to get the site up and functional. Often there is a lot of cross over, in that designers also know how to program, and programmers often dabble in design. But really, there are specialties and you will rarely locate a single person who has really solid skills in both areas.

So, you can get by with just a programmer who can take your template and help you post it and get your site up… but most times you will want to make a few tweaks and changes to the template and it’s good to have a real designer help you with that part because there are design decisions often involved.

There are few fantastic designers, but lots of very competent developers

I have been involved in website design for 15 years and have built hundreds of sites for clients. For your design to be the best, you want a really skillful designer. For your site to be great, you don’t always need the very best programmer; a programmer with good solid skills can normally do a great job on a typical website. You don’t really need a phenomenal programmer as much as you need a phenomenal designer.

I’ve learned over time that it can be pretty hard to find a really great designer, but not nearly as hard to locate a good (but not phenomenal) programmer.

Templates vs custom designs

Making the choice between using a pre-designed template, and commissioning a custom design is a huge choice.

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This is why using a web design template can be such a good choice. The really good designers will charge you quite a bit for their time, and even then, you will not know what your final site design will look like until after you’ve spent a considerable amount of money (often over $1000).

With a pre-designed web template you know exactly what the design looks like, plus, you have a really great designer who has made probably hundreds of great looking designs, and is really good at doing just that.

Costs for a website design

See our page “Cost Of Building A Website”

Where do you look for a good web designer?

There are a lot of ways to locate a web designer. Whether they are very skilled or not is another matter – first, you’ll need to find one you think may be good, then you will need to evaluate the designer and their past work.

Go to CraigsList.com, try your phone book, try online sites such as 99designs.com, guru.com, elance.com and similar sites. All these places will supply you with a number of designers and ways to contact them and see their work.

How do you know if your web designer is any good?

This can be more difficult than finding a designer, especially if you are not a design-oriented person yourself. If you do have a good sense for visual design and know what you like and don’t like, then just take a look at all the past work the designer has done.

If you see works you like, ask questions such as “how long might it take you to create something like that for me?” and “did anyone help you with that piece, or did you personally do it by yourself?” If you’re talking to a design agency, they may have a portfolio of great work, which was done by the company, as a collective… so you want to be sure the deigned YOU are working with is capable personally, of doing the level of design you need.

If you are not a visually oriented person, you should find a friend who is, and get them to help you assess the designers work.

Calling a handful of references is also a very good idea because sometimes you learn that the designer wasn’t good at delivery or follow through.

How to work with a web designer to get a good design for YOUR needs

The more you can clearly describe to the designer what you are looking for, the fast and cheaper your project will be. It’s a great idea if you can look around for other sites that are similar to what you want – either design-wise and/or functionality-wise.

This way your designer gets as clear an idea as possible of what you want. It saves you both time, money and frustration. Really do your homework on this point to provide your designer with as clear an idea as possible about what you want.

If you need more visual ideas, try searching our enormous collection of pre-designed web templates here – there are thousands of fantastic designs, and if you see one you love, you can save yourself the cost of a custom design.

Working with cranky or temperamental designers

Designers, like all creatives, can sometimes have slightly offbeat personalities. Due to the nature of creative work, it can be hard to hear from your client that the design they created for you is “not what I wanted” or “doesn’t look good to me”, etc. etc.

If you can keep in mind that the designer wants to please you, and wannest to do it as quickly as possible, that will help. They have feelings too – possibly a bit more amplified or sensitive than say an accountant or handyman might have.

Try to be a little gentle when you need to re-direct them, saying things like “Wow. Well this is an interesting design. I can see you put a lot of effort into it, and I think it would be perfect for a slightly different type of client… but for me, I would really love to see more photos/color/empty space, etc.”

Staying on schedule, and what to do if your designer gets off schedule

Always ask your designer for a timeline or schedule for when things will be done. Not just a final due date, but several milestones. Consider making a payment at each successful milestone. This is a good way to make sure they stay on time, and honest.

When to make payments to your designer

Make payments to your designer/developer at significant milestones. Perhaps break the payment in thirds or quarters.

The first payment should be perhaps a third of the overall payment. The second payment, the second third, should be made once the website is up and running on some level. The last payment should be made only after everything is 100% completed to your satisfaction, or to the letter of the agreement you have with the developer.

Who owns the design you just bought?

By law, the creator of the design always owns the copyright to it. If you hire a designer to create a design for you, it’s a good idea to have them sign a short contract saying that the design was paid for by you, and was a work for hire, and that the artist assigns 100% of the rights to the work to you alone.

In the event that you use a template, you will not own the copyrights to the design, but you will have purchased the right to use the design fully for all purposes of your original website project. You will probably not have the right to build as many sites as you want with the design (check the license) and you will most certainly not have the right to copy and resell the design.

How to make sure you have full ownership of your custom design

As noted above, to make sure you own the full copyright to a custom design that you’ve commissioned, have the artist/designer sign a short contract saying that the design was paid for by you, and was a work for hire, and that the artist assigns 100% of the rights to the work to you alone.

Note that if there are photos in the design purchased or obtained elsewhere, you will not own the copyrights to those items, only to the design itself. The photographers would still own the copyrights to their own photos, so if you wanted to resell your custom design with the photos, you would need to make sure you had clearances from the photographers or their representatives.

Definitely consult your own legal council on any legal matters – the information we provide is not a legal opinion.