There are myriad ways to build a site today—from excellent website builders like Squarespace to self-hosted WordPress templates—but the gold standard remains having a professional plan, design, and build your site.
What to Look for in a Web Designer
Anyone can say they’re a web designer—there are no credentials or certifications needed. But finding one that has the right mix of design sense, industry knowledge, and the ability to finish their projects on time and on budget can be a challenge.
When looking for your web designer, treat the process like you were hiring an employee at a business.
Ask for References
Testimonials on the designer’s website are great—but you should request direct references, and actually follow up on them. Even clients who love a particular designer will have something to say that can help you work with the designer successfully should you hire them.
Study Their Work
Does their design style match what you’re looking for? Do they have experience creating sites for nonprofits? Do the sites they link to in their portfolio achieve the goals of their owners? Are the clients’ brands represented well?
The proof is in the portfolio. Don’t merely glance at the work they’ve chosen to show there.
Look for Credentials
While web design is a profession that only requires a computer and some know-how, good designers will often be recognized by third parties. Check to see if their work has won awards, been featured in media outlets, or has earned some sort of credentials, such as a certificate in one or more of their key skills.
Take the Interview Seriously
When you finally get past perusing designers’ sites and move into the hiring phase, you’ll be speaking with or corresponding via email with a few different prospective providers. These exchanges should sound and feel like job interviews—because that’s exactly what they are, and you’re the boss. What interview questions would you expect to be asked if you were applying for this job?
Ask the designer about how they work on their projects, and what steps they take in creating a website. Find out what work they are particularly proud of and why. Ask them what they feel their weaknesses are, and how they compensate for them.
In conclusion, regardless of how you decide to build your site, be it DIY or hiring a professional to do the hard work for you, you’ll need to have a lot of input in the process. Remember, your website is not just a requirement of modern marketing—it’s a launch point or endpoint for what a potential reader will do next after discovering your book. A poor site will stop them dead in their tracks.