Questions for web designers

The importance of having a website today is indisputable but if you are not a website designer by trade, creating one from scratch can be a daunting task. In this blog post I draw on my experience of working as a web editor and advise on questions to ask before you employ a website designer, to help you choose who to work with and ensure you get the design you want.

Question mark speech bubble isolated on yellow background.
Image by Adobe Stock.

What is a web designer

The Technojobs website describes a web designer as ‘An IT professional who is responsible for designing the layout, visual appearance and the usability of a website. A good web designer needs to have both creative graphic skills and technical skills. They need to be able to visualise how a site will look (the graphical design of the site) and how it will function (conversion of a design into a working website).’ It goes on to explain ‘The term web designer is often incorrectly interchanged with the term web developer and vice versa. A web developer is often more likely to be a software developer who works with programming languages to create a higher level of interactions on a website such as the integration with a database system.’ 

So, in layman’s terms, a web designer will design the look and feel of your website, think colour, theme, layout, typography and they will also have the technical skills to pull this all together into a working website but it is important to understand they are not necessarily logo designers, content writers, marketers or photographers.

Getting started

First things first, you need to meet your designer, this will give you the opportunity to see if you are suited for working with one another, to ask questions and share ideas. Essentially you are employing someone to do a job for you, albeit short term, so you need to treat this first step in the same way as you would if you were interviewing a prospective employee.

If you are considering hiring a web designer who is not located in the same country as you, consider the time zone  because if you hire a company in a different time zone, you may find yourself doing business ‘in the wee small hours of the morning.’ Consider language too  — you don’t want to have communication issues with your designer because of language or cultural references. If you remember the HSBC ‘We never underestimate the importance of local knowledge’ advertisements you will get the idea.

Question mark speech bubble isolated on blue background.
Image by Adobe Stock.

It takes two

Web design is a two way process. On one hand, you are employing someone to take charge of a  process you are likely unfamiliar with, however, building a website is one thing, having someone build a website that fits your needs, the needs of your customers and represents your organisation is quite another.

If you have an existing website, you should firstly ask your potential web designer if they will look over this. Doing so will enable them to understand what you have been working with to date, what you like and don’t like about your current website, what works well and what doesn’t and what you need your new website to do for you.

A web designer should not advise you to build a new website if making a few changes to your current site is all you need. And an experienced designer should be able to design a website for any business but it is a good idea to ask if they have ever worked with a business like yours — if not, ask what research they will undertake to understand you and your requirements.

However, the more you understand what you want your website to achieve for you and how you want it to look, the easier you can make the process for both you and your designer. If you are clear about what you need at the outset, it will enable you to communicate this with ease and to  recognise if the designer will be able to provide the service you require. And make sure to ask your designer what they need from you before they start work.  While a website designer can design your website, without a logo, images and content it is an empty vessel, so if you need to provide these, make sure you provide them, when they are asked for, in the format they are asked for (say JPEGS, original artwork, portrait or landscape style) so as not to delay the project getting underway.

Your web designer should be able to create a site map to show you how your website will be laid out to give your customers the best possible experience but you can do this too, simply by grabbing a pen and paper and drawing your website, using boxes to symbolise pages and adding page titles to be boxes. Doing so will give you a visual of how many pages you need and how the pages will link together, as well as seeing whether there is any duplication of content and any areas where information could be condensed.

Question mark speech bubble isolated on red background.
Image by Adobe Stock.

One size does not fit all

Not all websites are the same. What works for a virtual assistant, will be different to what is required by an online retailer, which will likely need many web pages to display the products they sell and the ability to accept payments in different types of currency, or a recruitment agency that will need people to be able to search for work, say by job type, location or salary.

You may have seen website designer adverts similar to ‘five page website for £500.’ If you are a small business, such a website may be fine for your needs and your website will likely have a small number of web pages along the lines of:

  • homepage
  • about
  • services
  • blog
  • contact.

However, you may need more than five pages to display legal information such as terms and conditions, cookie policy and information about GDPR.

Ask to see a portfolio of work

Web designers should be able to provide examples of their work. When looking at it, ask yourself these questions:

  • do you like what you see
  • is the design style a good fit with your organisation and industry
  • is it modern and professional or does it look as if it was designed in 1993
  • are there various design styles or only one
  • is the imagery crisp and does it follow a theme or does it look as if it has been thrown together
  • is the website easy to navigate around and find what you are looking for
  • does the client have good reviews from past clients.

Remember you want your website to look good but be careful of falling into the trap of creating something that is style over substance. Websites need to drive people to your business and you don’t want to have a beautiful website that no one ever visits or cannot find their way around if they do.

Mobile responsive

A  responsive website is one that that adjusts depending on the screen size of the device it is displayed on, say desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. You can tell if a website is responsive by opening the website, adjusting the size of the browser window and looking at the content on the page to see if it is moving along with the size of the browser. If the content is not adjusting, it is not responsive. Having a responsive website is crucial if you don’t want to lose customers who will expect to be able to view your website on any number of different types of devices.

Question mark speech bubble isolated on blue background.
Image by Adobe Stock.


Clearly communicate your budget at the get go and make sure you understand what is included in any price you are quoted — will any existing content be imported into you new website and does the price include web hosting, domain registration, plugins, logo design, stock images, content writing, photography and e-commerce (any form of business transaction conducted online.)

Single point of contact

Make sure you know who you are working with and ensure you have a central point of contact for your website to ensure that one person is managing the project throughout the design process.

How long will the design take

The length of a website build will vary from job to job but once you have spoken with your web designer they should be able to give you a timeframe for your individual project.  Ask how will they communicate with you, how frequently and if they will set up a project schedule so you know exactly what is happening and when. Ensure you communicate your project deadline at the outset but always allow some extra time for unexpected issues.

If you sign a contract be sure to read it, because some companies may charge late fees if a project goes past a deadline. And remember, you can help the process along by providing anything you are asked to provide in a timely manner and in the format it is requested.

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Ask what you web designer understands about search engine optimisation (SEO). Search engine optimisation should be included at the design stage and your designer should be able to explain about the SEO strategies they will use for meta data, alt tags, keyword research and responsive design.

Edits and revisions

Designers will likely offer two to three rounds of revisions but additional changes may come at an additional charge so make sure to check with your designer about their process.

Question mark on lined paper held by red paperclip isolated on yellow background.
Image by Adobe Stock.


Similar to social media platforms, you own your own content but you don’t own the platform/template you use. Make sure your domain name and web hosting are registered in your name and find out if your business will be required to lock into an ongoing contract post launch which is common with WordPress websites for example. If any graphics are designed for you, ensure that the copyright will be transferred to you, along with any different file formats.


Accessibility is everyone’s business.  If your website is inaccessible, you will be excluding people who need to view your website in ways that are not the norm and potentially losing customers because you have not considered their needs. Ask your website designer about their understanding of accessibility and ask that they show you examples of the ways they have made websites accessible.

Future planning

Future planning is important when designing a website.  You need to consider not only creating a website but who is going to keep it looking good long term. Websites have a tendency to grow like Topsy and if you don’t have someone able to keep on top of them, you could quickly find yourself with a white elephant.

Maybe you are willing to pay someone to make updates, if so ask your website designer if they offer a maintenance package. If however you intend that your website is updated by you or a member of your organisation, you need to be certain you have the skills to do this and if the answer is no, you  need to ensure your website designer uses a web platform that is easy for non website designers to use. Do your own research into whether you think it looks like something you could update and ask about whether your web designer will provide website training sessions or video tutorials and a style guide which will explain things such as what heading styles to use, so when you come to update your website, your updates are consistent with the look and feel of what your website designer has created for you.

Will your website have all the functionality your business needs now and in the future? Make sure to ask about features and limitations on what can and cannot be done with your website. Carousel designs for instance are very popular for displaying news stories, products or testimonials but are likely to only allow for a fixed number of items to appear at one time, so you need to know what that number is and be prepared to rotate items if necessary.

Remember a website is never really finished and chances are you are always going to want to add new content to keep your website looking fresh. You don’t want to find yourself trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot six months after your new design has been completed. A good website will grow as your business grows but that all stems from good foundations at the start.

If website design has always felt a bit of a headache, hopefully this blog post will have made things feel easier and got you thinking about your own questions. You can learn more on the websites below too.


Further information

© Humblebee Secretarial and Administration Support. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: