Web design, and graphic design in general, are more important than we can even put into words for your marketing. Your aesthetic tells your audience what you’re about before they even take the time to read the details. It’s your chance to make the first impression you want, convey your style, your brand, and then to hopefully, use all that to set the hook with what you have to offer. It can make or break your bottom line. Choosing your web designer or design agency is so critical that we thought it would be helpful to create an insider’s guide of what you should look for.
What Makes a Great Web Designer?
1. Talent + Skill
Here’s the thing: web design and other graphic arts are no different from any other form of creative arts. Technique can be taught, basic principles can be studied, but talent either exists or it doesn’t. It’s like the pixie dust of the marketing world. Magic. Good things can happen without it, but GREAT things happen when talent is paired with skills and knowledge.
This goes beyond color theory and learning the basics of composition. You need someone with an eye for creating something attractive and functional that is also fresh and in line with your company’s goals. It’s a balancing act, but talent is where a web designer can take all the rules of design and use them to think just outside of the box effectively.
It has become increasingly common for companies to take existing designs or templates, make slight tweaks, then plug your information into it and sell it as an original design. A digital artist isn’t afraid to step away from the glow of the computer screen and instead start with the basics: brainstorming on paper. With a pencil. Just like we all did when we were children, our little fingers clenching colorful sticks of wax, drawing from our imaginations. The great web designer takes that human ability to create and molds it into a digital rendering that serves are specific purpose. That’s not to say we don’t take inspiration from the work of others. On the contrary, we should! The trick is to start there, but not end there.
American Modernist Paul Rand said it best. “It is important to use your hands. This is what distinguishes you from a cow or a computer operator.”
So how do you recognize talent? Chances are that you’ve reacted to killer design when you saw it, even if you didn’t know why. Before choosing your web designer, it’s good to get some basic familiarly with design principles and then look at portfolios. Clean and bright design is on-trend right now, but try to think beyond that and consider how you feel when you see something, trendy or not. (Let’s face it, trends come and go.)
The eye naturally starts are the top, left of a page. Did you end up clicking on something or reading something in the bottom right? Then the composition worked. Did you enjoy the visual trip there? Did even a simple design feel somehow rich and polished instead of flat or typical? Then someone applied some talent to the mix. The tiny details are what make something sharp.
Just like in a successful marriage, you need great communication. When you contract a company to do your web design or branding, you’re entering into a relationship that is founded on trust and communication.
You’ve probably heard the term “communication arts” in reference to marketing. Marketing is the art of communicating ideas and information for business. When choosing a web designer or marketing firm, you really need to be cognizant of TWO forms of communication: the visual communication you are hiring a designer to create, and the ease of communication between you and the web design firm or team member. The former can too easily be hindered by the latter.
Once you’re satisfied that you’ve found someone with talent and skill, have a conversation about your ideas and goals. They can’t communicate with your target audience to the best of their ability if they aren’t great listeners, first and foremost. The goal of communication arts isn’t to shout your message at people. It’s about sparking a conversation. You want your customer to hear you, and then ask you for more. You and your design firm need to hear each other too.
3. The Nuts and Bolts
You need to know what functionalities your website needs to have prior to the creative work being done. This goes back to communication, and these details are critical. If you need social media integration, e-commerce, a prominent blog, etc. then your designer needs to know what to account for in the web design. Your final, approved design is then handed to a web developer to take it from design to fully-functioning website.
Your experience working with a firm to create your web design will need some basic details in your contract that will hold the entire project together in a way that keeps everyone happy and accountable. You should agree on a timeline for when you are responsible for providing files or information to the designer and for when the designer should have deliverables such as mock-ups or files to you in turn. You should know how many design revisions are included in the agreed-upon price, pricing to expect beyond that, and how additional revisions affect the timeline.
If you have any questions about the process or the contract, don’t be afraid to ask.