Looking for a Web Designer? Here’s Where to Start Your Search

What to look for and where to begin your search for the right web designer

Man with magnifying glass
Searching for a web designer can be a challenging task.

There are a number of questions you will want to answer for yourself before you go shopping for a new website, but you will eventually get to the point where you are ready to find a web designer to work with. Whether you are redesigning your existing website or if you are a new company and are in need of your first website, the question you will ponder at this point is, “where do I start my search?”  

Ask for Referrals

One of the best ways to start your search for a web designer is to talk to people or companies whom you respect and ask them for referrals for web designers that they may have worked with in the past.

By getting a referral, you can get some real insight into what it was like to work with a web design team.  You can find out a bit about their process and communication methods, as well as whether or not they meet the project’s goals, timeline, and budget.

Regarding that budget, some companies may be hesitant to tell you what they spent on their website, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. There is incredible diversity in the pricing for website design, and while you generally get what you pay for and should be very wary of cut-rate providers, it is always good to get a sense as to where a particular web designer's pricing falls.

Web designers love it when they hear that you were referred to them from one of their existing clients.

Not only does this mean that they have a happy customer, but they also get a sense that you know who they are and what they are about. As opposed to clients who blindly contact this designer after finding them on Google (more on that shortly), a referral customer is likely to have more insight into the designer's work.

This means that there is less of a chance of misguided expectations or misunderstandings that waste everyone’s time.

Look at Websites You Like

Take a look at some of the websites that you like. If you look near that bottom of that site, you are often likely to find some information and perhaps a link to the company who designed that site. You can use this information to contact that company to discuss your own website needs.

If a site does not include this “designed by” link, you can also contact that company and actually ask them who they worked with. This is very similar to a referral and you can even ask that company for some information on their experience before you contact that web designer.

One word of caution when you contact web designers based on previous work they have done – be realistic in the kinds of sites you look at during this process. If your needs (and budget) are for a small, simple website, look at sites that would be somewhat similar in terms of scope. This ensures that the designer whom you contact does the level of work which you are looking for.

If you do land on a massively complex site and want to contact the company that worked on that project, at least look at their company website and their work portfolio first.

Look to see if all of their projects are big, complex deployments or if they do have some smaller engagements (at least as far as you can tell from their posted work examples).  If all they are showing are large-scales sites, and you need a small, simple web presence, your two companies are unlikely to be a fit.

Attend a Meetup

One great way to find a web designer is to go out and network with them in person. You can do this by attending a professional meetup.

The website, meetup.com, is a great way to connect with groups of people who all have shared interests, including website designers and developers. With a little digging, you can likely find a web designer meetup somewhere near you. Register for that meetup so that you can sit down and talk with some web design professionals.

Some meetups may frown upon your attendance for the purpose of meeting web designers, so if you do want to attend one of these events, it is a good idea to connect with the organizer first to let them know what you want to do and to ensure that it would be appropriate.

If they do not feel that it is a good idea, you can at least ask them to pass your contact information onto the rest of the meetup group as someone interested in hiring a web professional. You are all but guaranteed to receive some emails or calls that will allow you to start the conversation about your web needs and ask the questions you need to ask in order to determine if that web provider is the right person for the job.

Do a Google Search

When all else fails, you can always just start your search in Google. Look for web designers or firms in your local area and review their websites. On those sites, you will often be able to see examples of their work, learn a bit about the company and their history, and maybe even read some of their knowledge sharing in their blog or online articles.

Go ahead and review as many websites are you feel is appropriate and narrow down your choices to the companies that you feel most comfortable with or attracted to. Once you have a shortlist of companies, you can begin contacting them to see if they are accepting new projects and, if so, when you could schedule some time to sit down and meet with them to learn more about their company and discuss your potential new website project.

Once again, look for companies whose portfolios reflect the kind of work, at least in terms of scale, that your site is likely to be in order to find a company whose offerings will coincide with your technical and budgetary needs.

Using an RFP

One final way to find a web designer that we should look at is the process of using an RFP, or Request For Proposal, document. While I readily admit that RFPs are the worst way to go about finding a web designer, for some organizations, they are a fact of life and they have no choice in using that process in order to solicit bid for their website work.

If you are required to use an RFP, like many government and non-profit organizations are, be sure to understand the possible pitfalls of this process and do what you can to avoid those problems while still meeting any obligations which you have to use an RFP.

A Note on Advertising

As you look for a web designer and begin reviewing their websites, you may begin to see advertisements for those web companies pop up very frequently in your subsequent web browsing. You may find yourself impressed by the number of ads you are seeing for a particular company and assume that they must be top-notch if they are advertising in so many places. This is not necessarily true. All these ads really mean is that the company has a digital marketing budget/initiative. 

Digital ads that seem to "follow" you online are using a method known as "retargeting". In a nutshell, because you went to that web designer's website once, ads for that company will now be served to you on various sites that you visit. Google has a service called Adroll that allows for these kinds of ads and there are a number of other providers that also offer this service. That web company you are considering did not broker ads with these large sites, they are simply using a service that anyone can use - your company included!

This web company may, indeed, be a great fit for your organization, just do not be misled by these ads into thinking that they are something other than what they are, and do not allow those ads to get in the way of the other ways mentioned in this article that you should use to begin your web designer search.