startup, business, people

Testing a Web Designers Knowledge

Hiring a web designer: what should I know? This is a question I received from many people. However, this is for a concerned child looking out for their parent who is struggling to grow their business. Here at Zhoustify we want to make sure education is free and accessible to all. So let’s get into exactly what was asked of us.


I’m actually asking that question on behalf of my mother.

She is sitting on the board of a nonprofit and they are meeting with a web design company tomorrow to do an overhaul of their website. She asked me to link a couple of articles that explain the basics of web design so that she could have at least a minimal understanding of what the designers will be talking about.

Although I’ve done a bit of WordPress design myself and my Google-fu is usually pretty good, I can’t find anything that would be a concise and clear intro for her. So here I am, turning to reddit for help: does anyone know a good article or YouTube video that would help my (dear, adorable) mother get a grasp of the basics of web design?

If I was sitting down in a meeting with a new agency or firm, this is what I would look for:

  • Are they asking questions about your business and business needs, or are they focusing on the site design from the outset? If it’s the latter, they are not a good choice.

  • Are they able to speak plain English or do they use a lot of buzz words that obfuscate their meaning?

  • In their portfolio you either want to see a diversity of provided solutions or a series of similar solutions that match a similar need to yours. Watch for any signs that this is a “new” type of site for them to build.

  • Are they trying to offer any rust proof undercoating? Meaning – are there products that are either proprietary to them or paid products from third party vendors that they are packaging in unnecessarily? This is harder to discern, but to root it out, if you hear any products described that you aren;t familiar with, ask for a plain English reason why they are necessary, ask for a link to their documentation, and then come back here or somewhere like it and make sure you aren’t being sold something that does not benefit the work.

Some other things to consider:

  • Can they predict how separate they are making your content from your presentation layer? This will facilitate future upgrades, exports, etc. You don;t want to be bound to a tool and a template for eternity and need to start over when you rebuild.

  • If they are building a custom CMS, is there training, maintenance, and documentation included in the deliverables?

  • Obviously, above all else, you should be picking people you like and who seem willing to work with you and who you like. No amount of three letter acronyms should keep you from remembering this.

In general, make sure they are prescribing you a solution that matches your specific need, not trying to corral you into a pre-cooked solution they have on hand. Not so great firms will be pushing a particular product because it maximizes their profit and minimizes their efforts, which can be a bummer.

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