You know you need a new website, but how do you find a web designer with the skill sets you need? How can you find someone in your budget to deliver your desired product? Should you just DIY? This article provides answers to these exact questions—and many more.
This article is for you if you’re a marketing leader, business owner, or website manager. We’ll guide you through finding a trusted website to show you precisely what you should look for.
When looking into building a new website or updating an existing site, one of the first choices you’ll have to make is whether you should do it yourself with a DIY website builder, hire a freelancer, or find a professional web designer. And if you hire a professional, where do you start?
Many ecommerce and website platforms claim to be so easy to use that it makes you feel like even your grandma could create an attractive website by herself in no time.
However, not so long ago, there would have been no question of hiring a pro to create your website. The rise of online tools like website builders like Wix, Squarespace, SiteBuilder, and others has made it much easier for anyone to build a decent website.
Just because you can, though, doesn’t always mean you should. It’s a decision that’s worth weighing carefully since, for some projects, a professional cannot be replaced by a tool.
In the end, with web design and development, you can use a DIY website builder, hire a freelancer, or a web design agency. Each option offers different advantages and disadvantages and varying prices.
It’s a decision that’s worth weighing carefully since, for some projects, a professional cannot be replaced by a tool.
However, every growing business eventually needs to partner with a professional freelance web designer or web design agency to create a website that works for their business. Here’s how to find a website designer you feel great about that fits your job and budget.
Considerations on Choosing a Website Builder vs. Web Designer
Suppose you are like most people who are smart and savvy enough to use a DIY website builder to create your new website. Why not do that rather than find a professional web designer? Here are a few thoughts to consider.
Templates are generic
Unfortunately, the ease of using DIY website platforms like Wix, Squarespace, SiteBuilder, and others, is also their Achilles heel. They skip the design process by offering design templates for you. That’s all fine and good. However, it’s hard to stand out when you use a generic template.
When you do, your website looks like thousands of others. Getting stand-out business results is hard when you’re thrust directly into building your website without considering website strategy and web design, which is where the professional web design process starts.
Most people still need help with their website after using a DIY website builder
Most people who use a DIY website builder want to throw their laptops out the window because it’s frustrating when your DIY website doesn’t stand up to the quality of your competitor’s custom website.
Most people realize they need some design help if they want a professional website that attracts potential customers, processes sales, and provides other tangible results for their business.
You wouldn’t believe the number of Consult Calls where a potential client seeks our professional web design services after failing to do it themselves.
A third-party website builder, like Wix or Squarespace, still requires web design experience. Even though these do-it-yourself (DIY) website builders can help your team create an attractive website, they don’t ensure a user-friendly site, which is critical if you want people to purchase your product or contact your company.
DIY website builders don’t replace professional web designers
A visual website builder does not replace finding and hiring professional web design services. In other words, you don’t use a DIY website builder if you need a professional website design. Those two solutions are for different problems.
If you’re starting and don’t have a big budget, you should consider a DIY platform because you don’t need a professional website.
If you’re a growing business with an established customer base and a website, you should consider finding a professional website designer because a DIY builder won’t cut it.
Suppose you’re willing to spend more to get more. In that case, you should hire a professional web designer to create a premium, customized web experience that creates value for your business and customers.
Typical Troubles When Trying to Find a Web Designer
At first, it seems like it should be easy to find a web designer. After all, web designers are everywhere!
However, as you may have already discovered, sifting through the many web designers to find one with the skills and experience that match your needs can feel overwhelming. Not to mention that it’s a significant challenge to find a web designer within your budget.
As you start to wrap your head around what it will take to hire someone, you also begin to see some problems.
Most website designers are hard to find
You’d think a website designer would have a website that’s easy to find. Not always! More often than not, they don’t have much of a presence on the internet because they’re inundated with client work.
That’s both positive and negative. On the one hand, they’re focused on their clients! That’s a noble trait for any professional to be focused on caring for their customers. On the other hand, when new clients are looking for their services, they’re almost impossible to find.
That’s precisely why you’re reading this article today! “How do I find them?!”
Most web designers are inefficient
Once you find one, finding one that fits your budget is a challenge.
That’s because they want to design cool stuff! Budgets, timelines, and processes. Yeah, right! Most agencies, especially local agencies, became an agency because their founder started as either freelance web designers or developers and eventually built a team around themself to complement their skills.
However, they don’t invest in their operations. If they were a designer, they hired a developer and vice versa. Then they hire a writer and an SEO manager. Their team then becomes excellent at doing work but not organizing it.
The result is that they get bogged down, bottlenecked, and struggle to deliver what they promised within the scope they promised it.
Most website designers are one trick ponies
Many web designers only have one or the other skill set in their toolbox. They may be incredibly skilled at web design and able to design a beautiful website from scratch, but they might lack the technical skills to develop your site on a web platform.
On the other hand, web developers tend to have excellent technical chops and understand how web platforms work, but they may not have the eye for web design that you need to create a professional-looking website.
Most web designers don’t have clear pricing
The age-old question getting millions of searches monthly: “What does a website cost?” The answer depends on dozens of factors, including the website designer.
You can shop around and quickly receive a quote from one website designer for $5,000 and another for $50,000. You told them both the same thing; what’s the difference?
The difference is precisely the problem.
Most website designers don’t have a standardized pricing process that helps them provide cost-effective and consistent pricing to their clients. They make guesses and hope it works out. Frequently, their guesses are either way too high or way too low.
This is why Structure uses simple website design packages that are clear and defined. This greatly benefits our clients because they can select the package that fits their budget.
When to Find & Hire a Professional Web Designer
Website design agencies have teams of skilled web designers and developers that can help you create the website you’ve always wanted. Additionally, they have standardized pricing processes that ensure you’re not overcharged or undercharged for your project.
If you don’t know what you need, hire a web design agency
Designing and building a professional website requires planning. Suppose you do not know your project requirements, budget, timeline, or expectations. In that case, you’ll need an experienced agency to consult with you to evaluate your current website, identify what you need, and propose what you should spend. That’s called Website Strategy or Website Planning.
Most of the time, this happens when established businesses have an existing web presence. Still, their website is difficult to use, holding them back from growth, or doesn’t reflect the quality of their products or services anymore.
Whether it wasn’t designed or built correctly, or your business has outgrown its website, you’ll need a multi-skilled web designer or web design team who can help.
In this case, you need to find a professional web designer with a track record of website redesigns specializing in web design strategy and user experience design. Typically, this is a web design agency or website design service like Structure.
Hiring a web design team will help you identify what’s currently working on your site, research to understand how users interact with your site, and then redesign your website using the existing infrastructure. If they’re as good as they say they are, they’ll know that it’s best not to reinvent the wheel and to use as much existing content and structure as possible.
Hiring a design team isn’t cheap, but you’ll do it right.
If you have a complex website, hire a website design agency
What is a complex website, you might ask? A complex website would include a website with functionality for e-commerce, multi-site capability, high traffic, dealer or store location finders, and product quizzes, to name a few. Sometimes even a website with only a few pages can be complex if it supports data integration or processing with business systems like a CRM (Customer Relationship Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), or ESP (Email Service Provider).
For example, one of our website design, development, and website management clients, TotemMats.com, has a simple website that doesn’t look very complex. However, the short contact form on every page captures data and sends it to multiple business systems in particular ways that require precise configuration and management.
Everyone wants e-commerce these days. Still, most don’t realize there’s far more than goes on in the background to support beautiful product pages, smooth checkout experience, and shipping notifications than just how it looks to the customer. Even when you use a CMS like WordPress with an out-of-the-box ecommerce platform like WooCommerce (our recommended ecommerce setup), there are still many requirements to consider and implement: product information, payment processing, shipping options, inventory tracking, and management, notifications, and so much more.
If you want a custom design, hire a web design agency
Most freelance web designers use website templates to complete their work. They either use a template entirely or find one online and customize it to meet your requirements. While that can be a cost-saver if that’s what you’re looking for, it means that your website is not genuinely custom or unique to you.
If you want a custom website design, hire a web design agency to take you through a custom website design process. If they’re good, they’ll consider your current brand and audit your website, including how people use it. They’ll create a custom design that supports your objectives and builds on the success you already have. You’ll improve the wheel without unnecessarily reinventing it.
This is an often unknown benefit of hiring a professional website designer if you’re redesigning your website. They have a process in place to identify and leverage the good that you have. They’ll also make improvements that won’t hurt your traffic or sales but will improve them.
Another downside of using a template is that they don’t consider your current pages, templates, or what’s working. A template is a default that might hurt a otherwise valuable page that should’ve stayed as close to the original as possible. A good web design agency will know this and help you navigate the process.
If you have a budget larger than $5,000, hire a web design agency
If you have a large budget and want to get the most out of web design, hire a web design agency. An experienced web design agency will take your website from concept to completion in one package. They’ll help you assess requirements, plan wireframes, determine content strategy, develop mockups, etc. They’ll also help you create designs and assets, integrate any features or functionality needed (e.g., an e-commerce platform or web application), and launch the website.
A web design agency also typically offers web hosting, maintenance, security, and digital marketing services—all of which are essential components of long-term success on the web. Furthermore, they’ll provide ongoing support to ensure that your website is always up-to-date and secure.
In short, web design agencies aren’t cheap. However, they have the expertise, resources, and experience to bring your web project from concept to completion—no matter how large or complex. They can help you envision a website supporting your business’s long-term goals and creating an engaging user experience.
If you need ongoing website support, hire a web design agency
If your web developer isn’t in-house, they may not be the right choice for updating content or managing web hosting services. Agencies usually offer web maintenance and hosting services. That way, you don’t have to worry about finding and managing separate web maintenance contracts.
In addition, should any web development issues arise, a web design agency can provide the expertise needed to resolve them quickly. If a web developer isn’t available or doesn’t have the necessary level of knowledge, it could take longer to resolve any issues.
Ultimately, web design isn’t a one-time event—it’s an ongoing process. To ensure your website meets your requirements and remains successful over time, web design agencies are often the best choice for web projects of any size. They provide the necessary web maintenance services, web hosting expertise, web optimization advice, and web design services under one roof.
How to Find a Web Design Agency
Here are a few ways to find the perfect web design agency for your project! Take your time and do plenty of research. This will help you find the right web designer that fits your budget and meets your needs.
Search on Google for an agency near you
Start by searching in Google for “custom website designer in Oregon” or “custom web design agency in Arizona,” for example. Just change out the state for wherever you live. If you’re in a large metropolitan area, try “website designer in Boise.”
The more specific you are, the better results you’ll get. If you want to find a web designer specializing in manufacturing websites, try “manufacturing website designer in Oregon.”
A web designer should have a portfolio of designed or developed websites that you can review. Look for style, functionality, and usability.
Search on LinkedIn when looking to find a web designer
You can also search LinkedIn for a web designer focusing on your industry or region. You can use the search box for free. Or, if you have a Premium account, use the Sales Navigator features to find specific website designers you might be looking for.
Ask for referrals in your network
Don’t forget that you can message professionals in your network. Ask if they know anyone who could help you with web design services or refer you to someone who does.
Ask friends, family, colleagues, and professional contacts for web design referrals. People often know web designers who fit their budget and provide the style of web design they’re looking for. This can be done on LinkedIn or anywhere.
Post an RFP on an agency matchmaking platform
Through platforms like Breef, companies can post a job and receive pitches from vetted agencies. You’ll get access to an intuitive platform to post your job requirements and budget. Then receive proposals from web designers matching your needs.
Search review and referral sites
Find agencies in website footers
Finally, look at websites of companies like yours that have an excellent web presence. See if they list their web designer in their website’s footer or elsewhere onsite. If they do, you have a great starting point for a few specific web design agencies to reach out to.
When to Find & Hire a Freelance Web Designer
Freelance web designers are often a great solution. If you’re on a budget and need to start quickly, finding and hiring a web designer is the way. Freelancers are also great if you seek web design services but don’t require ongoing support.
If you know what you need, you might consider a freelancer
Do you have wireframes and project specs ready to go? Are your website goals documented and clear? Do you have a list of all the functionality required? If so, you can find freelancers who will run with your goals and strategy.
You might not need a full-time freelancer to build your new website if you’re that savvy. A part-time front-end developer/web designer be efficient enough to make a few tweaks.
However, you might need to start there if you don’t have your website planned and ready to plug in a designer. Or, consider hiring a web design firm to help you iron out those details.
If you have a simple website, you might consider a freelancer
If you’re looking for a web designer to update an essential website or build a simple one, freelancers may be your best bet. They can work quickly and efficiently with the right specs, often cheaper than web design firms.
A simple website would not include e-commerce functionality, events, complex forms, or web apps. Typically these types of websites are strictly informational or, we’d call, brochure websites.
The waters can get rough if you think you have a simple website, but it’s more complex than you realize. You might hire a freelancer who doesn’t scope the project correctly. They might think it’s a simple, straightforward project, and the bar is low.
Then, they’re over their head, and you’re frustrated that it’s way more complicated than it should be. When, in fact, it was already complex to begin with.
That’s why you should only hire a freelancer if you already have a website plan. In that situation, the expectations are clear, and you’ll get what you set out for.
If you want a quick and dirty process, you might consider hiring a freelancer
It’s no secret; a web design agency has many clients, team members, and projects. One of the things you pay for with an agency is a Project Manager. The project manager gives you a white-glove experience throughout the web design process, from kickoff to launch. You’ll have a curated, clean expertise because they deal with the dirty details.
One detail they deal with is all the specialized human resources required to complete your project. The upside of this approach is that the Project Manager knows the process backward and forward and can deliver a great result. The downside is that a team of people is directly working on your project, not the Project Manager. The work has to get handed off from one person or group to another, coordinated by the Project Manager, which elongates the timeline.
However, contracting with a freelance web designer is an excellent option if you want to manage the project yourself. Some web designers will even offer discounts for clients who don’t need as much handholding throughout the web design process.
If you have a budget of $5,000 or less, you might consider a freelancer
Hiring an agency may not be ideal or economical if you’re on a tight budget. That’s why freelance web designers are an excellent option for small businesses with a $5,000 or less budget. Many web design agencies may require retainers or offer packages that start at a higher price than your entire budget.
Freelance web designers may have exceptionally reasonable rates for smaller projects. You can even find a web designer that offers a la carte services, so you only pay for the pieces of web design you need.
How to Find a Freelance Web Designer
Ask for referrals in your network
Send a message to professionals in your network and ask for freelance web designer referrals. LinkedIn is a great place to start, but you can also contact friends, family, colleagues, and professional contacts. Many people know freelancers who fit their budget and provide the style of web design they’re looking for.
Search on a freelance hiring platform
Freelance web designer hiring platforms are great places to start your search. You can find a web designer with specific skills, portfolios of work, and competitive pricing levels. Many platforms also feature pre-vetted web designers who have passed the platform’s vetting process.
Here are a handful of freelance web design platforms to consider using.
Run a design contest
Design contest sites are web design marketplaces where designers can bid on web design projects. The web designer with the best web design concept wins the job, and you only pay for the winning web design concept.
Once you post your project, web designers can submit concepts. You can review them in real time and provide feedback until you find the web design you want to purchase.
How to Evaluate a Professional Web Designer
Don’t be like a dog who finally catches its tail. Once he gets it, he doesn’t know what to do with it! Once you decide whether to use a DIY website builder, hire a freelancer, or a web design agency and identify a few prospects, it’s time to evaluate them.
1. Review the designer’s portfolio/work
First things first: review the web designer’s portfolio. Look for web design projects similar to what you need. Also, review the web designer’s style and ensure it aligns with your brand. If you don’t love the web designer’s portfolio, you probably won’t love what they do for you.
2. Read reviews
Look for web design reviews from previous clients. This can give you a good gauge of the web designer’s customer service and final product quality. Typically a web designer’s website will feature reviews. But if it doesn’t, check out third-party review sites like Clutch, BBB, and Trustpilot.
3. Check out the pricing
Finding a web design company that doesn’t force you to overspend (or underspend) is crucial. Checking the price tags of various designers will help you determine which ones fit your budget.
This can be tricky because it’s hard to pinpoint an exact price for building a website. The cost depends upon what you need on your site. This is one of the ways you can evaluate the difference between a good website designer and a great website designer.
Excellent, experienced website designers will have a process for providing accurate quotes. Novice website designers will scramble to offer a semi-realistic quote.
Furthermore, many companies don’t publish their prices online. They want you to contact them to get their pricing. This makes comparing costs challenging and seeing which company fits your needs and budget best.
Because pricing can be ambiguous and mysterious, Structure provides a WebsiteBuilder Quiz allowing you to input your desired information. We’ll instantly recommend a website design package that fits your selections and invite you to book a Consult Call to discuss it with one of our website experts.
4. Schedule a consultation call
Once you’ve identified web designers with the portfolio, style, and reviews you’re looking for, schedule a consultation call or video chat. This is the web designer’s chance to demonstrate their web design skills and ask clarification questions about your web project.
This is also your opportunity to assess the web designer’s communication capability and ensure they understand precisely what you’re looking for. Determining if the web designer is a good fit for you and your web project is essential. If something doesn’t feel right, move on and find another web designer who fits better.
How to Ensure Your Web Designer is a Good Fit
1. Ask for a written proposal with costs and a timeline
Finally, ensure the web designer has experience delivering projects within your budget range and timeline. Don’t be afraid to discuss budgets and deadlines upfront. This will help you find a web designer to deliver a great product with your requirements.
2. Request references
Lastly, always request web design references from the web designer. Ask their web design clients to provide feedback on web designers’ customer service, quality of work, and how well they stayed within budget and deadlines. References are a great way to ensure you’re hiring a web designer with a track record of success.
Common Questions About How to Find a Web Designer
What is a website builder?
A website builder is a web design tool that allows users to create and customize webpages with drag-and-drop tools—without requiring design and coding knowledge. Each tool’s design capabilities vary, but most provide customizable templates, web hosting, domain name registration, web analytics tracking, ecommerce, and more.
Website builders can be an excellent way for someone to get started who doesn’t know anything about website infrastructure, strategy, design, development, or management. However, running a website with a builder is incrementally more expensive and won’t sustain all your web needs as your business grows. That’s when people often turn to a professional for help.
Who should use a website builder?
While it might seem like a good idea to hire a professional website designer, for many businesses, it’s not the best move. If your business falls into one of these categories, you’re probably better off using a website builder.
- Unfunded Startup / New Business
- Unproven Concept
- Small Non-profit
A website should pay for itself within a few short years. If you can’t get a return on a professional website in that time range, go with a website builder.
Is a DIY website builder or professional web designer best for me?
Working with a professional website designer isn’t free or cheap. Design firms usually start around $5,000 for their services. However, you could lose a lot more than that if you DIY haphazardly.
If you’re a new business, with a new website, on a tight budget, then an affordable website builder is the way to go.
If you own a business with an existing website generating over $250,000 per year, using a ‘free’ website builder could cost your company countless hours and significant revenue in lost sales from beginner website mistakes.
What’s the difference between a freelancer and an agency?
A web designer freelancer is an independent contractor who provides web design services. Freelance web designers typically charge by the hour, and they’re great for web projects with smaller budgets.
On the other hand, web design agencies employ web designers to fulfill web design projects. Agencies usually offer a more comprehensive range of web design services, including web design, development, and maintenance. Agencies are a great choice for web projects with higher budgets.
How much does it cost to hire a web designer?
The cost of hiring a web designer varies based on the type of project you’re looking to have completed – whether that be an ecommerce web design, web application, or web maintenance. The web designer’s expertise and the complexity of your web project also determine the web designer’s price.
Generally speaking, web design projects with more complex requirements cost more than straightforward ones. Web design freelancers typically charge between $500 – $5,000 per project. Web design agencies charge between $3,000 – $100,000 on average.
What’s the difference between a UX designer, a UI designer, and a web designer?
UX design focuses on user experience, web design is about visual appeal, and UI design combines both.
- UX designers create web flow diagrams to determine users’ steps when using the website.
- Web designers build web pages based on these flows, following the web design guidelines set by UX designers.
- UI designers create user interface elements like buttons, typography, and web elements. They work closely with web designers to ensure web design follows web development standards.
Should I hire a web designer that uses themes or templates?
Not if you can afford it! Doing web design with themes is a fast way to create web pages. But it’s not the most custom-fit web solution. A web designer that uses themes or templates won’t be able to provide as many web design features and options as a web designer who works from scratch.
Hiring a web designer who builds web pages from the ground up ensures you get a custom-fit web design. This web design approach will take longer and cost more. However, it will provide you with a unique web product like your brand.
How do I find a web designer I’ll love?
Want to find a web designer you’ll love? It starts with identifying web designers with experience in similar web projects. You can ask web design firms and development agencies for references or check out web design portfolios.
Once you find potential web designers, interview them and ensure their web design skills meet your web project requirements. Don’t forget to ask web designers for references from past web projects. Review their web design portfolio to determine the quality of their web design work.