The good, the bad and the ugly of finding a web designer

These days, every business needs an online presence whether you are selling goods or services through your site or just advertising your ‘wares’.

The question is where to start to find a good website designer. If you are starting an online business or even just setting up an online presence for your business, it is essential to have a good website design. This means both design and functionality. You can try to do this yourself or you can try to find a good designer.

This may prove more difficult than you could anticipate…

Here is the good, the bad and the ugly to help guide you in your quest to find the ultimate website designer:


There are lots of great website designers out there. The problem is finding them. They all say and think they are ‘website designers’, but some are graphic designers with no concept of website design, others are, well, not so good.

Finding a good one means you should be able to save time and money, even if they may be priced higher. You should not base your criteria on price alone but ensure you look at their past work and portfolio, check out reviews and ‘test’ them on a smaller project. Research sites you like; check their customer reviews and then contact them to discuss and obtain a quote.

You want them to be responsive, meet deadlines and be able to make suggestions about both creative and functionality options. Good web designers will know about user interface and SEO. They will be able to design good navigation, content layout, search functions and page design so that it minimises your website load time. Good website designers are hard to find but once you find one, they are like gold.


Sadly (especially for you if you have paid them first), there are bad designers: ones who use clip art and call it ‘designing’; others who are too graphically based so your website page load time is too long. A designer that does not include (or ask about) your navigation, does not think to ask about legals for your site and, importantly, does not meet your deadlines is not a good designer.

Some designers even try to pull traffic and link ‘juice’ from your site by adding their name and link back to their site without asking you or getting your confirmation. This is not a good designer.


The worst of the worst. Some website designers do not (and will not) provide you with your website software code and passwords at the end of their job. Despite having paid them, they keep control of your website and your software code that you thought you owned.

A very important note: if you cannot show ownership of your website and code, you cannot sell your business. It’s also difficult to prove ownership if you want to register your intellectual property or want to solicit investors. They will want confirmation of your ownership of all aspects of your business.

In addition, not having agreed ownership of your code prior means the designer can (and they do!) replicate your site and general idea for another customer with only slight changes to the concept without breaching your copyright. They can also hold your site ‘for ransom’ and when you try to change designers or developers, they will ask for even more money or refuse to pass the code and passwords over to enable you to change.

If you do not obtain your software code for your website, some designers may require you to come back to them if you need anything or they may ask for a monthly charge to ‘maintain’ it for you. You may be okay with paying them a regular fee in return for their monthly provision of maintenance and making your requested changes from time to time. However, you need to understand exactly what is included in your monthly maintenance fee and what you can ask them to do without incurring extra fees.

Before you agree a designer and a price, make sure you make it clear at the beginning before you engage them to do your website, that you will actually ‘own’ and receive your software code and understand the details of what you expect to be included in the price.

So, what are the solutions to finding a good website designer?

Research websites you like and find out who designed them, check reviews and contact them;

Test your designer with a small project to see their style, responsiveness and ability to meet deadlines; and

Clear up all ownership expectations, cost and delivery timing upfront-sometimes giving incentives to meet deadlines is a great way to get your website designer to ‘invest’ in your business.

Be aware of these issues and if you can find a great website designer or developer, they will be your longtime, long-term best friend for your business success.

This article first appeared on StartupSmart.



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