Not all designers are created equal. I asked a professional designer himself to share a few questions to ask a blog designer or agency to ensure you hire someone right for you.
- May I see some samples of your work?
You should never hire anyone whose work you haven’t seen or whose work you don’t love. Some designers will have an online portfolio, and others may send you a list of links. Either way is fine as long as there is enough work shown for you to develop a good sense of the designer’s style and decide whether you like it. (Assume that the job the designer does for you will look very much like his or her previous work.)
A designer’s portfolio will also give you a sense of how long he or she has been in business. You don’t want to be someone’s first or second job — look for someone who’s been designing websites for several years.
- Will you provide me with references? Or, may I call some of your clients for a reference?
Be sure to speak with a few of the designer’s past (or current) clients to see what working with the designer is like. Pay close attention to what these references say. You can assume that the way the designer treated other clients how you’ll be treated. You don't know that the designer you hire does everything he or she promises to do and follows the timeline you both agreed to.
Ask references about thedesigner’s attitude toward clients: Is it respectful and inclusive, or disparaging and defensive?
- What content management system(s) do you use?
A content management system (CMS) helps an administrator (ideally, you) update and manage your site without having to write any code.This means you can easily add images, pages, or posts to your site using a simple WYSIWYG dashboard are Wordpress, Drupal, and Joomla! are three of the most commonly used CMSes. Do not hire a designer that wants you to use their custom-made CMS because you’ll get locked working exclusively with that designer.
If you use a more mainstream CMS, you’ll never have trouble finding someone who can work with already have — even if you stop working with the designer who built your site.
- Who will own the images, content, and code when the job is done?
Ideally, you should seek to hire a designer who will design your site and deliver it to you as a complete package when the job is done. Stay away from designers and firms who want to lock you into an ongoing hosting account with them. You should own your domain name as well as your hosting account. You should also have access to the hosting account, the server, and the CMS administration. If you don’t understand what any of these things mean, do a quick bit of research to develop a basic knowledge.
Don’t hire any designer who tells you that they own your code — you’re buying a website design, not renting it.
- How do you price your services?
Web design prices can vary wildly, depending on the size of your site, the amount of time involved in designing and building it, the level of experience of the designer or design firm, and other factors. Some designers may offer a flat rate, while others may price on more of an à la carte basis. Some bill by the project, and others charge by the hour. Make sure you know all the details of your designer’s pricing structure so there are no surprises when it’s time to pay the bill.
- Can you develop a version of my site for mobile devices? Or, alternatively, will you be using a responsive design?
Mobile versions of sites are becoming more and more popular now because so many people access the web through their phones and tablets. Ask your designer whether a mobile site is part of the basic design package or costs extra. Alternatively, ask whether your designer is using responsive design - that your site automatically adjusts in size from a large monitor down to a standard phone screen.
- What kind of tech support do you offer, and for how long?
Your designer should be willing to fix any coding or layout issues discovered within the first month or so without charge. (This does not include changes or additions to the original scope.) Find out what they offer in terms of maintenance and web development for the long term, after that initial grace period has ended. You want to know how to price these additional services, and alsowhat turnaround time will be for individual maintenance requests. Ideally, you don’t want to haveto wait longer than two days for fixes.