Chip MacGregor

May 23, 2013

Thursdays with Amanda: 5 Questions to Ask a Web Designer


Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon andBarnes & Noble.

There’s one thing I’ve noticed about expectant moms these days (and no, this isn’t a post about pregnancy or motherhood)…Moms will spend weeks visiting various hospitals in their area, looking for the perfect match for their needs and expectations. They consider everything from doctor availability to space to freebies to distance from home to overall comfort level. They weigh each item against the other until a clear winner emerges.

It makes sense when you think about how important having a baby is.

But what if I told you that they do the same thing when purchasing a stroller or crib or carseat? What if I told you that moms these days tend to turn every babygear decision into an extensive list of pros and cons?

We always talk marketing here on Thursdays with Amanda, and we’ve frequently mentioned the need for a professional webpage, website, or blog. But one of the most common mistakes authors (and people in general) make when venturing into a relationship with a web designer is that they don’t view their career as their baby. They fail to ask questions. They fail to vet those that they hire and truly understand what they’re signing up (and paying!) for.

So, before enlisting some Joe Schmoe designer to do your website, present him with these five questions:

  1. 1.     Can you show me examples of your previous work? Just like every author writes with a unique voice, every artist creates with a unique point of view. So before you ever consider hiring anyone to do design work for you, you must connect with their artwork. Ask to see samples (because what you see is oftentimes what you’ll get). If you like what you see, then you may have a match! If you’re not crazy about it, keep looking.
  2. 2.     Can you put me in touch with some of your former clients? After you determine that you like their art and designs, ask to speak to some of their clients. This is a way for you to get an unbiased opinion on how the designer operates, what to expect (Will they stay in close contact? Will they disappear for weeks on end? Do they keep you involved in the revisions process? Do they listen to direction?), and any strengths or weaknesses.
  3. 3.     How does the payment process work? What do you expect up front? How much do you anticipate this will cost? Most big jobs will require some kind of nonrefundable deposit. Designers also have policies on when they expect payment and what the protocol is should you end up unhappy with their work. Get all of this information before you sign anything. If you don’t like the designer’s payment policies or estimate, look for someone else.
  4. 4.     What timeframe are we looking at? First, you must understand that a full website will take a few months to put together. This isn’t a quick process. But on top of that, each designer works at a different pace. Have the designer give you an estimate when he/she will have something ready for you to review. Then, have them give you an estimate as to, should everything go as planned (and should you not send them a million tweak suggestions), when the site will be finalized. If possible, work deadlines into your agreement. As long as they show that they are continuously working on your project, you shouldn’t have a problem…even if they exceed the deadline. But if you feel that they have put your project aside for weeks or months, then you have that contractual deadline to point to.
  5. 5.     What vision do you have for my site? Get a feel for how much freedom the designer will take with your site. If you’re comfortable with their abilities, then you may be excited to let them loose. But if you’re the type who likes strict control of the design, then this is your chance to gauge whether you’ll be frustrated by any artistic license.

There are many more questions you could ask, but this is a start. The bottom line is that taking the time up front to get to know who you’re hiring will save you a lot of headache in the long run.

What experiences have YOU had with designers? Or what questions do you have?



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  • maryroselyons says:

    Hi Chip! Good post. And they are very valid questions. I recently wrote a post on the same subject, but from more of an under the hood perspective. It might add to your questions above: Sadly, it was written in light of a mentoring session I was involved with where everyone in the room was being ripped off in some form or another. 🙁

  • Peter DeHaan says:

    I paid $2,800 to a firm that passed all five tests. Half way through, the project manager quit and everything fell apart. The finished product looked nice on the surface, but the code was such a mess I had to abandon it and revert to the original site.

  • Amanda. Excellent questions. Another important one is: “How will I maintain this site after your turn it over to me?” My day job is managing IT projects and we find that 80% of your costs for a system over its lifetime are for maintenance. The initial development is only 20%.
    Make sure that your designer is giving you a website that you can maintain easily without having to use expensive software. You want to be able to make updates from your iPad when you’re sitting in a Starbucks as well as your home Mac/PC. You don’t want to call the designer when it’s time to change a picture. That’s why a lot of websites are now based on WordPress.

  • Charity says:

    (And I’m not saying my site is the most fantastic ever, but it gets the job done for the money I wanted to spend on it. I figured if I ever had a need for more, I could spend more money at that time. It’s enough to connect with people online, serve as a hub for the blog/facebook/resources and to let people know a little about me. It works for what I needed.)

  • CharityHawkins says:

    One thing I’d ask is how easy it is for you to modify yourself. As a former web designer, I know the biggest issue is maintenance and you don’t want to be dependent on your designer to update the site. Blogs like WordPress (mine is about $5/month for hosting) are awesome because they’re easy to update yourself. There are many designers/technical people who can help design your template, graphics, and so on and help it feel very custom. I set one up, played around a lot, then called a technical friend (and paid him for the time) once I knew what my problems and questions were. I’d say the whole thing was under $200. Great topic!

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