How to Choose a Web Designer

Download the “How to Choose a Web Designer” Checklist


At some point, you will need a new website, or maybe even a first website. How do you measure one web designer over another?

What are the critical questions you must ask so that you get exactly what you are paying for? Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know the key traits a good web designer possesses.

In this video, Eric Spellmann gives you 12 essential questions you must ask a prospective web designer before you hire them.

Critical Questions To Ask When Choosing A Web Designer

  1. How many years have you been in business making websites?
  2. What is your rating with the Better Business Bureau?
  3. Have you built websites for companies like mine before? May I contact them?
  4. Do you have a designer on staff or do you use templates?
  5. How many people will be working on my site?
  6. Do I legally own the design and content of a site you build for me? In other words, may I take my finished website to another company if I become dissatisfied with your service? Is that in writing?
  7. Is hosting included in your pricing?
  8. Can I update this website myself? How is that done?
  9. Will my website be optimized for smartphones and tablets (responsive)?
  10. Does your service include ongoing Search Engine Optimization? If so, what exactly do you do to help my organic ranking? Examples?
  11. Do you help me with Social Media? How?
  12. What is the typical turnaround time for a site like mine?


Note from Eric: Below, you will find a word-for-word transcript of this video. I provide this as an aid for the hearing-impaired and for those who might just want to read it rather than watch the video. This conversational style is not reflective of how I write. Be nice! 🙂

Hey I am Eric Spellmann. And today’s topic is one I get asked practically on a daily basis. How to choose a Web Designer? Now I know some of you are gonna say “Well Eric you are a web designer. So how can you be objective?”

Well I promise what I’m about to share with you are the questions I wish people would ask prospective web designers before they choose one. So, without any further ado, How to choose a Web Designer?

But before we could start it, I want to make sure you have a checklist. In other words I believe that when you’re on the phone with somebody you should have a list of questions that you need to ask to make sure that you’re getting what you’re paying for. And so, I created one. And you are more than welcome to download it.

So go to ericspellmann.com, click on How to choose a Web Designer (You’ll see it there on my home page). And then look on that page and under this video you will see a link. I mainly tell that to you people watching me on YouTube instead of watching it on my website.

If you’re watching this on my website, you’ll see the link right below this video. So, get the checklist. Print out as many as you want. And then fill it in for each person you’re calling and make sure you ask and get answers to all of those questions.

So, before you call you need to have some things in mind. I hate it when people come to me and say “I want a website but I don’t know what I want on it.“ That’s really difficult for us to help them with. And so before you call any web designer, here are some things you need to have ready. What is the goal of this website?

In other words, what do you want the website to do? Now if you’ve watched my videos, you know that I’m all about a website that does something! And basically you need to figure out whether your website is gonna be seeking leads or sales, or whether it’s just gonna be about branding. In other words about people knowing who you are.

Now to be honest, I truly believe it should be about leads or sales. And remember, you’ll remember this from older videos the difference between those 2 is if you’re going to have a website that has a shopping cart on it, that’s when your goal is sales. But all other websites, if there’s no shopping cart on it, for the most part you’re going to be looking for leads.

You’re looking for people to pick up the phone and call you or to email you to get more information. And then when the sale comes around, you are actually making it. Okay. So understand the difference here, figure out what is your goal. Because people like me are gonna ask you “What is it that you want the website to do?”

And if you want to learn more about how to do the leads side of it anyway, one of my videos “How to Generate Leads with Your Website” would be a good one to watch before you start calling these guys.

So, another thing. Who is this website being built for? In other words, is it built for you? Believe it or not, this website should not appeal to you. It should appeal to your customers. Okay.

You don’t want a website that’s going to impress the owner or the Board of Directors. In the end, the website needs to be built to appeal and to impress your customers. So it is key you put yourself in the right perspective. That means don’t use too much technical terminology that only people in your industry know.

The website shouldn’t be arrogant. It shouldn’t be all about you and pictures of you and how cool you are. It should be about how you can help customers with their problems, help answer their questions.

Do you have a logo? Yeah we’re gonna ask that question. Because a good web designer will build the website from a look and feel standpoint all around the logo. You know your logo is basically the symbolic representation of your company. And so the website should re-enforce that.

So if you have a logo, you’re gonna wanna make sure that the people who’re gonna be building your website know that. And maybe have a really good high quality digital version of that. Trust me they’re gonna ask for it. The logo also determines colors for the most part.

If you don’t have a logo and you want to build one but you don’t have a lot of money, I have a great video called “Build your own High Quality Logo on the Cheap” and you will like it. A lot of my customers have used it and they love it. So check that out on my videos page.

What about content? Wheres that gonna come from? What about pictures? Wheres all the text and wheres all the pictures gonna come from, on your website? You can’t assume that the web designer will have all of that.

So if there is a product that you’re selling you need to make sure that you have really good quality pictures for that product. And if there’s gonna be an About Us page, you know about the company, then you need to have written that.

Because your web designer is going to ask you for that. In most cases, web designers don’t write that. It is something they ask you for.

If you want to know what kind of pictures and how to do pictures, one of my favorite videos that I did on this subject “The Secret to Choosing Photos for Websites” and also my “Top 5 Free Stock Image Sites.” Go watch those videos, they’ll be real good and help you get ready for when you’re ready to build your site.

Okay. When do I need it launched? This is a key question. A lot of times people think that a website is something you just buy off a shelf and it can be up tomorrow. Not the case! A good website will take a little bit, it will take a little while. And so you need to know in your own mind “When do I need it by?”

The reason I ask is “Is your business seasonal?” In other words when your busy time hits, your website had better already be up. Which means you need to back it off a little on how far back you actually start creating it. You know I usually tell people a good website can take anywhere from 30 to 60 to 90 days.

And a lot of that is actually based on me asking and waiting for the content from my clients. So, keep that in mind “When do you need it launched?” Also, make a list of websites that you like and don’t like in your industry. Because the people who build the look and feel, you know the actual designers, they’re trying to figure out what you like and what your customers like?

And so go ahead and do a little research on your own and it will truly help designers tremendously if you’ve already kind of made a list of websites that you like their look or you don’t like. It’s one thing to tell a designer what you like, it’s another thing to show them.

Because they are very visual people. So go ahead and make your list of websites, and make a list of why you like them or why you don’t like them, from a design’s standpoint.

So here we are to the checklist. And once again you can download that worksheet and print out as many as you need, and keep it with you. But now I’m gonna explain what’s behind each question on that worksheet.

So question No 1, How many years have you been in business making websites? Now, this may seem to have an obvious answer and to be honest, it mostly is. You want to know if they have been doing this for a while. You want to know if they are fly by night, if they just started yesterday.

But this helps you understand more importantly, whether they’re successful or not. Because a company that’s been around for 5 years or 10 years or 15 years obviously is doing something right. They didn’t go out of business for lack of business. So it’s one of the best ways to find out whether they are good at what they do is simply asking “How many years have you been in business?”

But be specific. Say making websites. If they’ve been in business a hundred years, but they just started this new division making websites, you need to know how long they have been doing websites. Okay. So if someone says they have been building websites for a hundred years, hang up!

Question No 2, What is your rating with the Better Business Bureau? Now folks this is an important one. The Better Business Bureau, as most of you know is a place for businesses to kind of register and then if a customer is ever dissatisfied with a product or service, and they don’t feel that the business is getting back with them.

They contact the Better Business Bureau and lodge a concern. The Better Business Bureau then sends that concern to the business and the business can respond to it or not! If the business chooses not to respond to it, the Better Business Bureau marks them down.

And the more complaints that are not responded to by a business, the lower the grade gets. So basically this is a great way of knowing that whenever you have a concern, if that business will answer!

So what is your rating with the Better Business Bureau? It’s kind of like on a grading scale. And the highest you can get is A+. So if you ever find a company that has an A+ rating, that’s really, really good. Anything else, and then you wanna ask why not A+? What happened to not achieve that? (09:15)
Question No 3, Have you built websites for companies like mine before? May I contact? You need to know if they’ve already gone through the research and they already understand what your customers are wanting in a website. Have they ever built a website for lawyers? Have they ever built a website for Realtors? Have they ever built a website where it sells something, a retailer?

You know do they have any experience in what you do? Because they’ve got to understand your business in order to reach your customers. And if you’re gonna be their first lawyer, their first Realtor, then there’s gonna be a learning curve on their part.

So, ask them if they’ve built websites like the one you’re asking them to build for you. If they say yes, then hold their feet to the fire on this and say “Who? And can I contact them to see how their experience was?” That will be the real test.

Question No 4, Do you have a designer on staff or do you use templates? You may say “Eric I don’t care if they use a template or not!” And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with templates. But if they do have a designer, you’re more likely going to get a more custom design, one more tied to the look and feel of your logo instead of just a template where they’re just gonna throw your logo on there.

Okay. So when there is a designer involved, someone who’s actually adding creativity and coming up with a custom, creative, one-of-a kind look for your website, keep in mind that’s gonna cost more. Anyone can go out and grab a template and have a very simplistic website up in minutes. Doesn’t take much at all.

So ask them if they’re the kind of people who use templates or if they have a designer? And if they have a designer, ask to see some examples of their work.

Question No 5, How many people will be working on my site? Now, I’ll be honest. This is kind of a sneaky question. Because really what you’re trying to find out is how many people work there. And how many people will be involved. I mean if it’s a 1 man shop, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just keep in mind if that 1 person gets busy, they become a single point of failure.

And you gonna have to wait on that. The more people they have, the more likely that an increase in work doesn’t necessarily affect their work flow and won’t affect your deadlines. Also, when you have more people, you have more opinions.

And you can separate expertise out. And so the designer, who’s really creative, is 1 person. The developer, who’s really good at code, is another person. The network guy, I mean I could go on and on and on with all the different specialties.

The person in charge of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), person in charge of writing content maybe, they’re all separate people. Which means you’re going to get the value of a lot of different expertise. So, that’s why I always suggest asking this question “How many people will be working on my site?”

Question No 6, Do I legally own the design and content of a site you built for me? Is that in writing? The secret reason you ask. This is, if you ever become dissatisfied with that company, can you take this finished website and take it to another company? Does it belong to you?

Now the reason I bring this up, and trust me I have a video on this named “5 Online Legal Mistakes You’ve Probably Already Made” is because at least in the state of Texas where I’m based, when someone builds your website, even if you pay for it, the person who built you the website still owns the intellectual property rights to the website and their design. Which means they can hold it hostage. Which means you don’t own it!

And you can’t take it with you, even though you paid for it. So, if owning the website is critical to you and all the content and the pictures and the design, the graphic pieces all of that is important to you, then make sure that in writing they state that you own all of that.

And to be more clear, I would go ahead and add to this question “If I decide to leave your company, may I take the website and repost it with another company?” Okay, you need to ask that directly.

Question No 7, Is hosting included in your pricing? Always find out what all the pricing is upfront. You know with some companies they have an upfront price or a 1 price to build a website. But then there might be an ongoing charge like every month for hosting and other services. You need to know that upfront.

So when they start throwing prices at you, make sure you ask because all websites have to be hosted somewhere. “Is hosting included in your pricing?”

Question No 8, Can I update this website myself? How is that done? In other words, are you gonna have to pay for any updates or any changes? If you want to add a new article or change of picture or change of word, are you gonna have to pay the web developer to do that? Or, is there a way for you to do it?

So that is a key question if you want to update your website yourself you’ve got to ask how. And you’ve got to ask how and that’s what I mean. You better say “Is it complicated?” In other words, do you need to go buy a special software to do this? Or, have they given you the ability to login and just like in a word processor, make changes yourself.

And if they have, what parts of the website can you make changes to and what parts do they have to do? Because sometimes it’s a combination, where certain things you can do and certain things you can’t. So find out EXACTLY how this website is updated. And, in most cases you should be able to update it yourself.

Question No 9, Will my website be optimized for smartphones and tablets? In other words, are they using responsive design? That’s what we call it. In other words, does the website automatically adjust in size and how it’s put together when someone is viewing it on a smartphone, or someone’s viewing it on a tablet or when someone’s looking at it on a computer.

In a perfect world, a good website is one where you don’t have to zoom in and do all this crunching and spreading to be able to read it. There are some reasons someone might not use a responsive design, but in most cases responsive design is important.

And so you wanna ask “Is that an extra feature you have to pay for? Or, is that something they do as a part of all of their designs?

Question No 10, Does your service include ongoing Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? In other words, helping you rank better in Google. Reason I put the word “ongoing” in there is because a lot of developers will go in and during the development of the site, and they’ll throw in some meta-tags and some behind the scene stuff and call it done. Okay.

And as you’ve seen in all my other videos, that’s not enough. So don’t ask someone if they do SEO. Because most developers will say “Yes. We make your website friendly to search engines.” A good Search Engine Optimization strategy is one where they’re having to make changes every single month.

And you should be seeing results based on that in your rankings. So, does your service include ongoing Search Engine Optimization? Now if you want, you might even ask them what that entails. But they may throw a whole bunch of gibberish kind of terminology that means nothing to you.

So that’s why I kind of left it off. But you’ve seen my videos on how to rank well on Google. You know exactly what it takes to rank well on Google.

And if they do say “Yeah we’re really good at SEO. We do it all the time.” Ask em for examples. Ask em “Okay. Give me one of your customers who ranks well.” And then go check it yourself; to make sure what they’re saying is true!

Question No 11, Do you help me with Social Media? Social Media is a key part of online success and online marketing. So if all they’re gonna do is a website and they’re not gonna help you with anything on Social Media, you need to know that upfront.

But if part of their service is to help you, you need to know exactly what that help entails. Now, I’ll be honest and I’ve said this before. I am not a fan of companies that post on your behalf! Okay. Every post on Social Media should be from you. And the reason is because the purpose of Social Media, as I’ve explained before, is interaction.

It’s not promotion, its interaction! People are interacting with you the owner, or you an employee at a company, about your company. And if you hire a Social Media company to do all your posts for you, they can’t do that interaction.

And so Social Media will be, well a failure. So you need someone who will hold your hand, who will look at the post you’re making and say “No you need to do this, you need to do that…” Suggest better posts, be able to show you the stats behind it, give you strategies to increase the number of people seeing your posts, I can go on and on and on.

You need help at Social Media, if you’re going to be successful at it. And then like I said, ask them how they do that. Exactly what it entails.

Question No 12, What is the typical turnaround time for a site like mine? In other words, how long is this gonna take. Now, I’ll be honest that’s a difficult question to answer. Even for me and we do this! And a lot of it is because a lot of times a customer upfront doesn’t really know the scope of their site.

They don’t know how big it’s gonna be. They don’t know all the pages they need because a lot of times we’ll tell them “You need this, this, this and this.” Okay. But I will be honest with you. The vast majority of time if a website takes longer than predicted is because we’re waiting on something.

In other words we’ve asked for this picture, this content, we’ve asked for an approval. And a lot of times we’re waiting on the customer. And that happens. And so, you need to find out however how long they take. And that’s why that other question “How many people are gonna be working on my site?” is a good one too.

Because typically your website project will move faster in a company where there’s more than 1 person. You know people get sick, they get overloaded with work. That happens all the time.

So in companies with more than 1 developer, more than 1 designer, more than 1 employee, many times you will see less likely of their being delays. Not all the time, but in many cases! So ask em what the typical turnaround is for a site like yours.

Okay, so you’ve asked the web developer all these questions. And you’ve used the worksheet, you’ve gone through all those questions, you’ve kind of written in their answers. And then when you hang up the phone or leave that meeting you need to ask yourself this. “Did they ask about my customers?”

“Did they ask who my customers are or did they simply ask what I wanted in a website?” Any developer whose questions are only about “What do you like in a website?”, “What do you want in a website?”, “What do you want this website to say?” and they ever mention your customers, you need to leave in a heartbeat! Because once again the purpose of the website is to be appealing to your customers.

And NOONE, NOONE will be able to build you a website unless they understand what turns your customers on and what turns em off. So, some of the initial sales questions they should have should be all about your customers and who they are and what they like and what they don’t like.

When they were talking to you, did they speak normal or in geek speech? This is key. Did they talk in plain English? And explain everything you ask about?

Did they make you feel stupid? Were they throwing out terms you didn’t understand? Or did they try to make sure you did understand everything? This is key because during the process they’re gonna need to talk to you. And if y’all don’t communicate well and you just kind of have to trust them and if they make you look stupid, you need to choose someone else.

A good web development firm talks in normal, plain language. And takes a complicated topic and puts it in ways that you understand and can make good decisions based on.

Did they pressure you? Yeah I know that’s in any sales type of meeting. Did they pressure you? Did they push you to sign today, sign today? Did you feel uncomfortable? There’s a difference between wanting someone to commit and pushing someone to commit.

So just keep that in mind. If they push really, really, really, really hard, I mean if they claim that you can only sign today or never sign at all. You know if they use some salesman tactics that we’ve seen in other industries and just really trying to get you to sign, then you may just be dealing with a salesperson and not someone who actually is involved in the project.

Someone who’s just looking for their commission and not someone who’s truly interested in your project. So just be careful about that. Just use your intuition on that one.

Don’t forget. Get the checklist. If you’re on my website watching this video, just click the link below the video. But if you’re on YouTube and you happen to stumble across this video, remember you can go to EricSpellmann.com, click on How to Choose a Web Designer and the link is under this embedded video.

Well as always, if you have any questions you can always go to my website, you can give me a call, you can shoot me an email and just ask me, I’m more than happy to help.

Remember I have tonnes of videos. Just click on the little Videos link at the very top, and they’ll give you a lot of good information. And trust me if you watch a few of em, they will actually help you when you’re trying to choose a good web designer. I am Eric Spellmann, I’ll see you in cyberspace.