6 Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make When Hiring A Web Designer

If you’re looking to hire a website designer for your next website design project, you’re in the right place. But, first of all, who is this written for?

hire a web designer

This article is for anyone who is a marketing manager. That could be anything from, the CMO of the company to a marketing intern who has been tasked with finding a new website for a small or medium-sized business.

This is also for anyone who is a business owner, so if you own the business and you’re thinking about redesigning your website, this article is definitely for you.

Also, anyone who is a website administrator, so that could be anyone who is in charge of editing or updating the website on a regular basis, this post is for you as well.

This is an article that most other website developers probably don’t want you to read. The reason is that most other website designers basically like to think of themselves as all-powerful wizards with magical powers. And they use complex technical jargon and terminology to intimidate and mystify their clients into thinking that what they do is more complex than it is.

This post will help to de-mystify the process of hiring a local website builder and walk you through what you should be looking for when thinking about hiring a web site designer. So, without further ado here are the six dumbest mistakes.

Website Design Mistake #1

Paying Too Little

Instead of thinking “I have this money, I need a website, I’m going to get a Square Space website, I’m going to save money by getting a Square Space website, therefore I win.

“Opportunity-cost would think, “All right, so I have this money. I can do one of many different things, including getting a Square Space website, a do-it-myself, hire a website builder near me, hiring someone overseas, what have you. And then out of all those decisions, which one will bring me in the most net profit overall?”

So, what is opportunity-cost?

Instead of thinking “I have this money, I need a website, I’m going to get a Square Space website, I’m going to save money by getting a Square Space website, therefore I win.

“Opportunity-cost would think, “All right, so I have this money. I can do one of many different things, including getting a Square Space website, a do-it-myself, hire a website builder near me, hiring someone overseas, what have you. And then out of all those decisions, which one will bring me in the most net profit overall?”

hiring a web designer

And, that’s really the way you should be thinking about it in terms of opportunity cost. It’s not so much, even your return on investment on a single idea, it’s what’s the best overall net profit on all the different options available? And sometimes when you go the cheap route, you’re really losing a lot in terms of potential net profit.

Another thing people don’t consider when going the cheaper route is what’s the value of your time? Because, when it comes to investing you’re either saving time or you’re saving money. Money buys you time and you have to ask yourself:

What's the value of my time?

The analogy I like to give is Ikea. The reason they’re able to charge so little for their furniture is they effectively pass on much of the work that other furniture manufacturers would do, to their customer.

So, for example, you have to go schlep around the actual furniture at the warehouse because they don’t really have salespeople there. Then you have to go and deliver it to your own house. And then you have to put it together, and those are all things that typically other furniture manufacturers would have employees do.

hire a professional website designer

The truth is, when you’re assembling Ikea furniture, you’re not a professional furniture builder, and therefore the quality and the output is not going to be as good. And that metaphor applies to website design. Most people are not professional digital marketers or designers or understand user personas, or how to get traffic, or any of those things. And so, not only are you using all of your time to build the website but then you’re not getting as high-quality an output as you would as if you just hired someone who did that full time.

Website Designer Mistake #2.

Paying Too Much

This is the exact opposite of mistake #1. Let me start by revealing a dirty little secret when it comes to website design. Most people think, Oh, I’m going to hire a professional website firm because I want a “real website” As opposed to a Word Press website or something else. And what most people don’t realize is that all websites are made from the same stuff.

hire a good web developer

On the front-end it’s all just CSS, HTML, and JavaScript, and I mean, all websites.

If you go to Apple.com, Facebook.com, Amazon.com, any website on the web, and you look at the source code, it’s just CSS and HTML. The HTML gives it structure, the CSS gives it design, and the JavaScript gives it animation and that’s it.

If we look at a $50 template site, it’s made from the same stuff in the source code as Apple.com.

san francisco web developers

So, when you work with high-end local web designers, it’s not as though you’re paying for something different. You’re just paying for a higher quality version of the same thing. Someone who knows how to code better, someone who understands design better, hopefully marketing better, and really, that’s what you’re paying for.

A lot of people think they should work with a large agency for their website because they’re going to do a better job. So you’ll go to their office and it’s a beautiful office that looks to be quite expensive in a nice part of town and they have ping pong tables and people are playing and having fun.

high-end local web designers

And if you’re wondering, “Wow, I wonder how they can afford to have all this nice office space,” well, the price of your website is going towards those things. Right? And, the way it typically works is you will get contacted by a slick salesperson who will sell you on the idea of working with their firm and he seems very polished.

Hire a web developer

But then, typically what happens is you end up working with a junior-level employee who is quite new, and that’s really your day to day contact, the point person that you’ll be dealing with throughout the project.

One thing I would advise people when it comes to choosing a website is to just focus on the result. At the end of the day, it’s, “do you like their work?” Do you like the quality of their portfolio? And trust your own judgment, because basically, most expert opinion is a lie. Let me explain what I mean.

So they’ve done studies with world-class sommeliers who have been blind taste-testing wine and they can’t tell the difference between, the highest scoring wine and regular wine.

They’ve taken world-class violinists and had them blindfolded and test a Stradivarius violin worth millions of dollars which were made 400 years ago versus a modern-day violin, and they can’t tell the difference.

Warren Buffett made a $1 million bet that a regular index fund using the S&P 500 would beat hedge fund managers over a 10 year period, and he won.

hiring a web designer

So, basically, at the end of the day, just trust your own judgment and don’t be clouded by the aura of someone who claims to be an expert, because generally speaking, it’s not as powerful as you might think.

Website Designer Mistake #3.

Hiring a ‘Designer’ to as your Website Builder

So, what do I mean by that? That sounds weird. So, when I say designer, I mean someone who’s strictly an artist, or someone who focuses mainly on graphic design. A lot of ‘designers’ are only concerned about the aesthetics of the site. What it looks like, or if it’s unique, or if it follows the latest website design trends. But at the end of the day they don’t really ‘get it’ when it comes to what the primary purpose of a website is.

And so, let me ask you, what's the primary purpose of a website?

Is it to look beautiful?

Not really, no. It’s not the primary purpose.

Is it to improve user experience?

Not exactly, no, that’s not the primary purpose.

How about to win awards? Uh-uh, definitely not.

hire a web designer

If you’re running a commercial enterprise, the purpose of the website is to make money. And the only thing you should judge a website by is, ‘does it bring in more money?‘ Otherwise, what’s the point of getting it? Right?

And so, most designers don’t understand that.

The way we approach it is marketing plus design.

The way I like to think about a website is, there’s a particular person, and they’re looking for something, and there’s a next step that they want to take.

What we do when working with clients is we identify

Who are the different types of people coming to the site?

Hire Web Developers & Designers

What are they looking for?

Hire professional web designers

What’s the next step that they want to take?

Hiring a website developer

Defining those variables is our process for converting leads into customers.
And that’s marketing. We do marketing first and design second.

Web Design Mistake #4.

Not Getting a CMS

So, what is a CMS? A CMS stands for Content Management System, and it’s essentially a piece of software to manage and update your website. Word Press and Square Space are both a CMS, and there are a million different CMSs out there. The one thing to note is not all CMSs are the same, even within Word Press.

There’s a concept within business called a phantom deliverable, and a phantom deliverable is something that you as the business give to your customers that they’re not really expecting or they don’t know that they should be expecting it.

WordPress user friendly backend

One of the phantom deliverables that we give to our clients is the backend of the site. Most people, when they’re buying the website only think about the front-end. They think about its appearance, and they don’t really think about the ease of use or the number of hours or frustration it would take to edit and update the site.

WordPress sample unorganized backend

Sometimes you’ll get a site like this on the backend that’s very hard to edit and update. You essentially have to know how to code to be able to do so.

hiring a good web designer

Versus, this is a site from our backend where the image, the title, the description, every little thing is easy to edit and update, just like updating your Facebook profile.

One thing I would advise is to check under the hood of the company that you’re looking at.

hiring a web designer

By that I mean ask if you can look through the backend of one of their sites to see how easy it is for you to edit and update because that should definitely factor into your decision when hiring a website builder.

Local Website Designer Mistake #5.

Not Doing Your Due Diligence

Some basic simple things could be to check out to see if they have any reviews. So look them up on Yelp, Google Reviews, and LinkedIn. See if people are saying nice things about them, or if anyone is saying anything particularly bad.

Some basic simple things could be to check out to see if they have any reviews. So look them up on Yelp, Google Reviews, and LinkedIn. See if people are saying nice things about them, or if anyone is saying anything particularly bad.

The most important thing is ‘do you like their work?’ We talked about this before, but at the end of the day, that’s what you’re getting. You’re getting the results and so make sure you’re happy with their work.

As well as, look at their work on mobile. A lot of people don’t take the time to think about what their site is going to look like on mobile and it’s really simple. Just look at their portfolio sites on your mobile phone.

Another thing is most web designers only list the best sites on their portfolio, but if you want to see, all of their portfolio, here’s a little hack that you can do.

Thomas Digital Web Design backlink signature

At the bottom of every website that a website design firm makes, they typically have a signature. Ours says “San Francisco Web Design by Thomas Digital”, but it could say “Website by XYZ Media” or whatever.

Web Site Designer Mistake #6.

They Don’t Practice What They Preach

Just as you wouldn’t trust an overweight personal trainer or a skinny chef, you should probably never trust a designer with an ugly looking website or an SEO specialist who doesn’t rank well on Google or an “internet marketer” who uses direct outreach to generate leads. And by that I mean, if someone is selling you the idea of getting traffic through Google or Pay Per Click or Social Media, but they’re using cold outreach, like, they’re direct emailing you or they’re using word of mouth to get in contact with you, they’re really not practicing what they preach.

For example, we rank number one on Google for “San Francisco Web Design.”

San Francisco Web Design

Ready to Hire Someone to
Make a
Website?

So, if you’ve made it this far, then you’re probably thinking “I need someone to build my website for me.” So, I’d like to make you an offer that you can’t refuse.

We will design a Free Custom Mockup of your new website before you sign or pay for anything. We create your design in Photoshop, at no cost and with no obligation. There is nothing to sign, and no credit card information is taken. So, if that sounds like something that might be of interest to you, click the link below.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to hire a website designer?

The answer is, it depends. The truth is, it’s not a matter of how much a website designer costs as much as it is what kind of website do you need and what is your budget for it?

Saying the word ‘website designer’ is like saying the words ‘football player’. A football player could be someone in the NFL or a kid a peewee league. Technically, they are both football players.

The same applies to a website designer.

Someone who helps you install a premade WordPress template and has just enough design and coding knowledge to update the logo and change the font color is technically a ‘web designer’ And as long as they are charging you a fair price for their work and are upfront about what they can and can’t do, there is nothing wrong with that.

But to not beat around the bush, let me help you out with some actual numbers.

If you need help installing a WordPress template, adding your content, and maybe adjusting the colors and fonts a little, you can probably find someone for under a thousand dollars.

Other designers do what I call a ‘semi-custom’ design where they use a WordPress framework such as Avada or Divi and they kind of make you a custom-looking site. It’s not really a custom site but it’s more tailored to your company than an out-of-the-box template. These designers usually charge $1,500-$3,000 for a website project.

Typically a fully custom website can’t be had for less than $5,000. And pricing can go up from there to the tens of thousands and well beyond. It just depends.

For a more in-depth article on website pricing, please check out our Web Design Pricing article.

And you can also check out our own pricing guide here.

Just as building a single-family house will take less time to build than the Empire State Building, it really depends on how big your project is to accurately estimate how long it takes to design a website.

With that being said, here are some quick and dirty guidelines.

A premade template website, of 10 pages and under can take 1-2 weeks to complete.

A semi-custom website made from a framework such as Avada or Divi can be made in 2-3 weeks.

A truly custom website typically will take a minimum of 5-6 weeks to complete for a 10-15 page website. Add a week of time for every 10 pages over 15.

Other factors that will increase the timeline of a website project are the following:

  • Number of unique page designs (page templates)
  • If you have the content already written or not
  • How many stakeholders do you have in the project (Hint: the more stakeholders, the longer the project takes)
  • If you have any unique or unusual functionality required will cause extra time with the project
  • If you have any kind of eCommerce or shopping cart functionality will generally add more time to a project

For a more detailed guide on how long it takes to design a website, check out our complete article on the subject.

The hourly rate of a web designer can range widely depending on what you are looking for.

You can get an overseas designer on a site like UpWork for $10-$20/hr

A US-based designer can range from $50-$150/hr depending on their level of expertise.

It also depends on what role the designer is really serving.

For example, someone who helps you set up a WordPress site might have very limited coding or design knowledge but call themselves a ‘designer’.

There are also designers who specialize in particular areas such as Javascript or SVG animations, versus a developer who specializes in coding PHP. And based on what you need, the hourly rate can vary widely.

You also have to take into account the possibility that you might completely be wasting your money if the word never gets done properly. So you have to take that into account as well.

So there are two parts to this question. The first is ‘where’ do you find the best web designer. The second, is what criteria should you consider when looking to hire a web designer?

As far as ‘where’ you should go, here are some suggestions:

Google

When you use Google, you want to search for web designers who specialize in your industry. Often you can find this by Googling ‘website design

A lot of times when people use Google they search for terms such as ‘website designer near me’ looking to find a website designer in their area.

But this can oftentimes be a mistake. We live in such a virtual world that you are much better off considering the best overall option, rather than someone in your area.

Google Reviews

While you’re searching on Google, another great place to look is Google Reviews. What you’re looking for is a web designer with a lot of great reviews. Ideally from clients similar to you and your business.

Website Directories

There are quite a few website directories out there. These websites such as Clutch and UpCity.

What you need to know about these sites is that the people who show up in the results are typically paying for placement. Which is fine, but it’s worth knowing.

Also, when looking at company reviews, it’s good to know how difficult it is to leave a review for a company. Meaning, sometimes, a company can be using fake reviews.

That’s why my recommendation is to use Google Reviews, which is generally more reliable.

Freelance Websites

Another place to look are websites that specialize in hiring freelance web designers. These can include sites like UpWork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.

What to look for when hiring a web designer.

Okay, so now that you’ve found some designers to look over, I recommend that you spend a disproportionate amount of time focusing on their portfolio.

At the end of the day, you are getting a result, which is a new website. And if you don’t like the work of the company you’re looking at, then the odds are good you won’t like what they do for you.

In addition to their portfolio, you should spend a lot of time looking at their reviews. You want to make sure they have a series of happy clients that will vouch for their work.

Lastly, you want to make sure that their pricing is in line with your budget.

If you’re moving into your first college dorm, it is perfectly fine to go out to IKEA and assemble your furniture yourself. If you are middle-aged, with a family, and buying your dream home, then you are probably better off purchasing quality furniture that will last you a lifetime.

The same concept applies to hiring a web designer.

For a new business venture with an unproven business model or no revenue, then you should keep your costs as low as possible, and perhaps build the website yourself using a website builder.

If you have an existing business that is generating profitable revenue and you need a new website because you don’t already have one, or your existing website is ugly and actually costing you potential business. Then you would be much better off in the hands of a professional.

As stated in the article above, it comes down to ‘opportunity cost’.

Of all the things you could do with your money, including nothing, what is the best use of your funds.

The purpose of a website is to produce a positive return on investment. So always think about that when weighing your options.

There are a few different ways to ensure the quality of a website designer’s work.

We offer a Free Custom Mockup of your new website before you sign or pay for anything. This way you get to see exactly what our design would look like before having to pay a dime.

If your website designer isn’t willing to do Free Mockup, then check to see if they offer some type of money-back guarantee to ensure the quality of their work.

Sometimes you can work with a third-party site such as 99Designs or UpWork where they work out an escrow plan with the website designer and only release the funds when the design is approved.

But my biggest piece of advice in terms of hiring someone good is to just look at their portfolio.

If they have a large portfolio of other websites you really like, there is a good chance you will like what they do for you.

If their portfolio is limited or their work isn’t that great, then there is a strong chance that you won’t love what they end up doing for you.

You might think that posting a job posting for a website designer is the way to go. This way you get a bunch of designers all bidding for your work and you can choose from which one you like best.

But here’s the thing.

Do you know who takes the time to seek out and respond to job postings for website designers?

Designers who have too much time on their hands because they aren’t busy working on client work.

The truth is, the really good designers are always so in demand they will almost never seek out work via a job posting. So you’ll be left with the bottom of the barrel in terms of talent or website designers who are in demand.

I admit, that on occasion you might come across a new up-and-coming designer who is great and just looking to build their portfolio. But those instances are so rare that it’s just not worth going that route.

You are much better off seeking out and reaching out to the best designers in your price range directly.

What’s tricky about website design is that on some levels it truly is subjective. There is no empirical data that will tell you if it’s better to have a looping video on the hero section of your homepage. Whether or not you have one is ultimately a matter of preference.

As I mentioned before, you really want to look at their portfolio and see if you like their work.

But assuming that you do and you are choosing between one website designer or another, how do you know who to choose?

Well, take into consideration that the website design process is a relationship. You’ll be spending quite a few hours with this other person and if all other things are equal, you should consider how much you will actually enjoy working with this person.

As a website designer myself, I can tell you that not all clients are the same. Some clients I’m just much more excited about working with them and it often shows up in the work.

While enthusiasm isn’t always measurable, it’s worth considering as a factor. So if you are on the fence, go with the designer you are more excited about. Or better still, the designer who seems more excited to work with you.

The most famous quote relating to design is “form follows function”.

So what is the function of a website? Typically, unless you are a nonprofit or designing a website for a hobby, the function of a website is to make money in some way.

With that in mind, what makes a website ‘good’ in terms of design is its ability to generate increased income for your business.

The trap a lot of people fall into is they only think about a website in terms of its design.

What you need to consider is the website’s ability to generate traffic via SEO (search engine optimization), its effectiveness in converting visitors into leads, and many other factors that go beyond just the ‘design’ of the website.

At the end of the day what you need is a trusted expert who will help guide you through the process.

Just as you would go to a Doctor regarding your heath, you need to trust your business to a professional who is not only an expert in design but also digital marketing, search engine optimization, and conversion rate optimization.

The best place to find a web designer is Google. Googling around for a website in your area or a website designer who specializes in your industry is a good place to start.

Google Review and Yelp are also good places to look.

Perhaps a more useful piece of advice is where not to look.

One mistake people often make is to ask for personal referrals for a website designer. Hiring a web designer is not like finding someone to mow your lawn, where the service is interchangeable and you’re just looking for someone reliable.

When it comes to website design you really want someone who has experience in your industry and a portfolio you like.

You also don’t want to hire your neighbor’s kid in college or have the office intern build your site for you.

When looking for a website designer you really want to focus on their portfolio first and consider all other factors second.

When working with personal referrals you usually don’t see someone’s portfolio until after you’re already emotionally invested with this person, which can be a mistake.

If you don’t want to hire a web designer your main alternative is to use a Website Builder. These premade solutions can help you have a new website up and running within a day or two. These include options such as Squarespace, Wix, and Duda.

The advantage of using a website builder is its affordability. For for a few dollars a month, you can have a website presence and start generating new business.

Another option is to set up your own WordPress website.

This takes a little more technical know-how as you have to secure hosting, install WordPress and install a WordPress theme.

But if you’re moderately technical and you have the time and are willing to put in the effort, it might be worth the investment of your time to give this option a try.

An additional option is to try a site like Flippa where you can purchase an existing website for your business. This can include a branded domain name, custom logo, and custom-designed website for your business. You just plugin your information and you’re off to the races.

Web Designer Near Me

Thomas Digital

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$100 - $149 / hr
10+ Years in business
San Francisco

“Thomas Digital was great throughout the whole process. Glad to have received thorough help from start to finish. “

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Business Process Automation LLC

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Developers of online solutions for Accounting, CRM, Workflow Management, Merchandize and anything simple to complex business organizing systems with different workplaces and business processes. Analyze and optimize to save a lot of time and make things easy and controllable. From small shops to big marketplaces, from school interactives to municipal petition management.

Freelance Web Programmer

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I can't say enough about how great Adrienne's services were. She was super responsive, professional, fast, achieved my goals and came in under budget!
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We hired Array Digital to help our professional services company grow into new markets. The team's services have been a critical component of our growth strategy. With their help, we moved away from a pay-per-lead model to a more sustainable lead model that is supported with a solid pay per click campaign. I am most impressed by the way the team anticipates opportunities and makes solid recommendations in their clients' best interest. We consider Glen, Jamal, and Jake to be valued partners on our marketing team.
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“We are an award-winning website design and digital marketing agency that works exclusively with Home Services Companies, Medical Practices, and Law Firms. We serve all of Hampton Roads including but not limited to; Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Hampton, Newport News, and Williamsburg. We specialize in lawyer marketing, legal marketing, Medical marketing, HVAC marketing, and Home servies marketing.”

Costa Designs

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$5,000+
$100 - $149 / hr
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It has been an absolute pleasure working with Brandon Costa at Costa Designs. Costa Designs did an amazing job creating a website for our company. He and his team were able to take our ideas and designed a website that was exactly how our CEO envisioned it to be. He is extremely responsive and is always happy to assist with any questions or revisions we would like to make. I HIGHLY recommend Costa Design to any one in need of a website and I promise you won't regret this decision.
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“Since 1999, Costa Designs Inc. is a full-service digital marketing agency specializing in web design & advertising located in Virginia Beach, VA. Our capabilities include brand design & positioning, advertising, marketing, web design and online marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, print collateral, packaging, point of sale design, environmental design, and photography. We strive to provide our clients with effective and engaging interactive media and the strategic tools to drive search market traffic SEO / SEM.”

Spin Modern

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$1,000+
$100 - $149 / hr
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Dave and his team are top notch! Always professional and timely in their response. They have your best interest in mind and are geared toward results and return for your business!!
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InDigiMar, Inc.

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Come check out A Touch of Technology, your local one-stop web development shop located is Suffolk, VA. From websites to e-newsletters, and more.. we've got you covered.
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Spark Factory

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Great team to work with. They spun up my website and are helping me rank with SEO. Stellar experience
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Very creative We were able to see definite results from the marketing that we were doing I have continued to do based on Sophia’s directions
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About

Stratum has historically had the advantage of growing up with the internet. Dave Willman opened up shop in 1997 and went on to build an award-winning business from the ground up, with the goal of helping business owners navigate the ever-changing digital frontier. He and his wife, Tammy Deane, had a strong vision for the future and the determination to make it happen. Dave passed away in 2015, leaving behind a team of talented marketers and the echoes of his vivid vision.

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