For the past decade, I have consistently been one of the highest grossing freelance writers on Upwork (formerly Elance and oDesk), the largest freelance job site around. In four of those years, I was the #1 individual in the world for the writing category, and I can...
After all, if you want a great cup of coffee, then you would visit the best coffee shop in your town. If you need a new suit, then you go to the premiere tailor around. So why wouldn’t you hire a website designer to help you build a great website?
To put it simply, a freelance website designer is good for only one thing- coding HTML into websites. And for the sake of argument, let’s say that you do need a website built. Should you hire one then?
No. Heck no. Don’t even think about it. That’s a big mistake Mister. Do not hire a website designer and expect random miracles.
Why? The initial coding elements of your website are a minor part of the overall picture compared to things like design, branding, marketing, search optimization and customer engagement. The vast majority of web designers don’t know about any of those things, so they’re definitely not the one you want leading your online face lift for the masses to see. Choose a creative design firm instead.
If that’s not enough to sway you to never hire a website designer, then here are 27 more things to consider-
1) Can you speak in HTML, PHP or Klingon?
Let’s start with what websites designers are actually good at; programming in languages like PHP and HTML, plus brushing up on their Star Trek lingo for this summer’s Comic-Con. Since you don’t speak these languages though, then you’re going to have no idea how to make any adjustments.
2) Do you care about customer service at all?
Besides, have you ever asked a website developer for help understanding something? That’s like asking Gollum from Lord of the Rings for fashion advice…there’s simply no answer to the equation.
3) Are you a genuine WordPress expert?
Let’s say that you do hire a website designer and they deliver you a site as promised. Now what? Do you know your way around WordPress enough to actually turn an empty domain into a place that potential customers would want to visit?
A website designer is a person who takes instructions and works with code to make your idea come to life. But well over 90% of them now very little about how to attract customers or make a website become popular.
4) Do you enjoy overpaying for imaginary services?!?
Besides, most of today’s web developers still work on an old-school monthly-rate plan, which means that you pay for your website up front and then shell out a large chunk of change each month for site maintenance and other imaginary services.
Well, guess what? You don’t need to pay someone to sit idle and collect monthly fees for absolutely nothing. Don’t EVER hire a website designer under these conditions without spelling out exactly what they’ll be doing for you each month
5) Do you enjoy being frequently lied to?
Now, we’re not saying that website designers are liars, because most of them have the best intentions in the world when they say that they can design your new website from top to bottom in a few weeks. But again, they’re thinking about code and the bare minimum of back-end stuff to make something qualify as an actual website. All of your content marketing, lead banners and images in place are a completely different story.
If you hire a website designer with the sole intention of driving sales or attracting new customers, then that’s the very first question you should ask- can you prove that you can do that kind of stuff?
6) Do you follow the latest SEO algorithm trends?
If you do then that’s great, because your web designer almost certainly doesn’t. He has to keep up with new programming languages and the latest apps/tools instead. That means you’ll have to do a lot of reading on and for hiring a website designer.
There’s another inherent problem here though- and that’s Google’s inherent love towards innovative online businesses that strive to make customers happy. If you hire a website designer that’s not studying these trends and continually expanding their strategies, then you’ve already lost before your website is even built.
And don’t even get me started on those “specialty website design firms” that essentially sell everyone the exact same website over and over again- the automotive world wastes billions of dollars every year on websites that will never, ever draw customers because of poor design and horrible SEO.
7) Do words really matter at all?
Most website developers will quickly volunteer to write your website’s content for a nominal fee, and then turn around to do one of two things-
· Hire a writer from India for $2.36/hr., who sub-contracts it to a gal in Pakistan for 1/4th that amount
· Write the content themselves…which makes the Pakistani look like a true poet in comparison
Either way, none of these people are brand experts that can help you drive in conversions. And if pleasing customers and making sales isn’t a priority, then there’s no sense in having a website to begin with.
8) Can you create an effective banner ad?
Since sites like and make it easy for almost anyone to get their art on, then maybe you can crank out a decent looking banner all by yourself. But do you know how to upload it and link it to your squeeze page? Can you configure it with your lead generation software?
Probably not…and neither can your web designer. That’s why you never hire a website designer to handle creative aspects of your domain (HINT- which should be the ENTIRE FREAKING WEBSITE!)
9) Do you like people who overstate their credentials?
Unfortunately, most website developers earn a bad rap because people have no idea what they’re looking for when hiring a professional. So here’s a little cheat sheet-
- Web developers install themes and write code
- Programmers create apps, often from scratch
- Designers make pretty page layouts & graphics
- Copywriters and bloggers handle your site’s content
- Marketers focus on traffic and generating leads
- Analysts dig deep into the data to find insights
Very rarely will one person have some serious skills in all of these areas since each can take decades to master. That’s why you hire a digital marketing team instead of a web developer.
10) Do you prefer face to face business meetings?
If so, then your boss will either laugh or cry when the “website guru” you hired shows up in the board room wearing cutoff jeans, a tie-died tee shirt, and flip flops. Either way; you’re probably in for an ear-full from the VP of Common Sense after the meeting adjourns.
Not that web designers can get dressed up for a meeting, mind you…that’s not really the point here. You need a firm representing your brand online that understands business, marketing, sales projections, customer loyalty and all that good stuff that really matters.
11) Does your company work late-night?
If so, then hiring a website developer may not be such a bad idea after all. That’s because a large portion of the top web geeks tend to work well into the night and sleep until noon…just because they can.
Between that and Halo tournaments, that’s essentially why it takes three weeks for you to get a simple answer.
On the bright side though, if you hire a foreign web designer then his nights are your days so everything works out perfectly! That is, as long as you have enough time to overcome the language barriers.
12) “It puts the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose again!”
What, you don’t like random pop culture quotes forwarded to your inbox sixteen times a day? Then let’s hope that you didn’t accept your web developer’s Facebook request…that’s where the real magic happens!
Seriously though, coders are a special breed that don’t always march to the same drum cadence as the rest of society. That doesn’t make them any less dependable, mind you, but most are simply not made for the board room.
13) How important are overall results anyway?
Let’s say your boss is a big AC/DC fan and he wants the song “Highway to Hell” to auto-play on your homepage as soon as new visitors arrive. Sounds like a pretty terrible idea, right?
Well, too bad for you that the web developer you just hired could care less about what may seem like a good or bad idea. Their only job is to build a site and get paid…they could care less about results. And once your boss realizes that heavy metal misses the demographic , guess who gets paid all over again? Cha-ching! Time to hire a web designer all over again.
Go ahead and click play though- you know you want to. Better to get it out of your system now.
14) Hey look, the homepage is giving some random 500 error…
Oh, you actually believed that random web developer when he said that you can call him day or night? Sorry friend, but it’s a Buffy the Vampire marathon weekend and definitely not a good time. Maybe try back next Tuesday when his mom will be there to pick up the phone…
Seriously though, you want to hire a website designer that has a long history of great customer service. At times it will fell like you’re married to your design firm since they play a vital role in practically everything your company does. So focus on your relationship early and makes sure all lines of communication are wide open.
15) Are you looking for results-based quality?
Surely by now you’ve seen a little bit of a pattern forming here…it’s not just in your head. The average web developer knows absolutely zero about actual design, marketing, search optimization or your customers, so they can only deliver a mere fraction of what you’re looking for.
That’s what I’ve been saying all along here; do not hire a website designer if you’re looking for the total package. Such a person doesn’t exist in the modern world unless you’re looking to spend $150/hr for the next 18 months.
16) What if I want to work directly with a top-level programmer?
Here’s a little secret for you- the rock star programmers in today’s world are earning comfortably in the six-figure range creating apps and future technologies. The few that do develop websites are often either-
· Making their own custom themes and affiliate sites, or
· Earning a huge paycheck with a top-tier agency/corporation
17) Okay, but what if I want a website built from scratch anyway?
Well, that is the way to go if you are a large company with 6+ figure online sales and millions of web views per month. Clean code from a professional will easily pay for itself in no time, plus save you countless headaches. So in this one very specific case, you need to hire a website designer…through a design firm.
Why? Remember how arrogant Tom Cruise and his fellow fighter pilots were in the movie Top Gun? In real life, a superstar coder is likely going to be five times as self-righteous and twice as quick to defend their excellence.
These types of work relationships almost always end badly without that designer being on premesis and working as a part of a team. Think epic proporations bad.
18) Do you take deadlines even halfway seriously?
Was Picasso given timelines when creating a masterpiece? Heck no…and he didn’t even know C+ Basic. So when you’re braving the world of programmers and building something from scratch, there’s no such thing as a timeline for actual launch. You can be given estimates, but definitely not any sort of deadline.
To be fair, you can experience this type of setback with any reputable design firm if communication breaks down or you simply like watching underlings dance in terror. That’s why you never want to hire a website designer without properly vetting them first- grab the phone and call a few of their previous clients directly. Just because their site is pretty doesn’t mean it didn’t finish six months late and $15k over budget.
19) What if I just skipped using a web designer completely?
Oh, you mean like one of those that allows you to launch a complete website in 15 minutes? That’s a great idea…except that they absolutely, positively suck. Not only do they vastly overcharge you on a monthly plan to move forward, but the “plug and play” coding is also a jumbled mess that the search engines hate.
So if you’re going to be a do-it-yourself type, then buy a and find a highly rated foreign WordPress expert on to install it. This will save you a small fortune if you can serve as your own tech support and figure out the content/marketing elements on your own.
20) Wait- there are cheap AND talented foreign website developers?
Definitely, and you can find some world-class developers from Pakistan, India and similar regions for less than $200 a week for full time work. But be warned; there are many language and cultural barriers that will drive you absolutely nuts if you don’t know what you actually need completed.
These are super-friendly, hardworking people that really aim to please…just be prepared for quite a long trial and error period. If you do hire a website designer from overseas, then it would be a great idea to start with a consultation from a reputable digital marketing firm here in the USA (hint, hint- that’s us!) and have them manage the project with your cheap labor.
21) Are you a true patriot?
Of course you are…so why are we talking about hiring foreign web developers and putting some hard working American college graduate out on the streets? You should be ashamed of yourself for even entertaining the notion!
Then again, what’s more American than saving money on business expenses? There are certainly pros and cons to hiring individuals overseas so I’ll let you decide how to proceed there.
22) How versed are you on finding and optimizing keywords?
These days, it is almost impossible to appear on the first page of the search engines for your major keywords by accident. Ranking a website is a process that’s both time consuming and highly technical; plus it takes a creative flair and a solid understand of consumers to execute correctly. So this person with a multitude of talents either needs to be on your staff (likely for six figures), or it can be part of a creative team working on your behalf.
For you to hire a website designer that has all of these skills though, it will be like finding a needle in a haystack. Unfortunately, the only way a designer becomes the total package is by sheer experience working with a number of leading companies and start-ups while wearing a number of different hats. And quite honestly, these types of folks usually get hired by major corporations before you’ll ever find them.
23) What is your actual end goal with web design?
Most people would answer this question by saying, “I want to make more sales or gather more leads.” That’s what we all want from our websites. But the only way to achieve that is by having a fully optimized website that engages your customers and answers their most pressing questions.
Remember that getting the customers to your domain is only half the battle…the rest is convincing them to stick around and actually experience your brand.
24) Who’s going to hold your web developer accountable?
Hopefully you’re not the type that listens to some fast talking salesman and then says, “Sure, let’s run with it!” Since you don’t personally know website design or the many other skills it requires to make a website rank favorably, it will be impossible for you to hold a web developer accountable or even guide them in the right direction.
That means you either need someone on your staff that understands tech or you need to partner with a firm that has earned your trust through delivering actual results. If you just hire a website designer off the streets though because you saw their spammy ad on Facebook, there’s very little chance that they’ll have your best interests at heart. After all, they’ve already proven that they have a quantity over quality mentality.
25) Who’s keeping an eye on your competitors?
Large corporations spend millions of dollars per year analyzing their competitors and creating campaigns to counter their rival’s latest moves. And on a smaller scale, you should be doing the exact same thing with your website and everywhere you keep an online presence.
Is the guy who writes website code the best person for this job though? Not by a longshot…you’d be better off hiring the average 7th grader to take on the job. At least you can keep them focused with a juice box.
26) How do you measure success and failure online?
When a website visitor stumbles on your website, how do you know whether they had a great customer experience? Where’d they even come from? What do they want? Is anyone actually paying attention to this sort of stuff? You need answers to these difficult questions and very few website developers are qualified to be the one interpreting it.
If this is starting to sound like a broken record, that’s because you should never hire a website designer that doesn’t talk about conversion rates, click-through rates, time on site and all the other metrics that mean your customers are actually being engaged.
27) Why are you so negative about website developers anyway?
Like I’ve mentioned several times already, I have nothing against web developers since they are essential for both my business and yours. I just want for it to be crystal clear in your mind that website development is a very small (although important) aspect of your complete online presence. Web developers are generally weak at copywriting, photography, graphic design, search optimization, lead generation and marketing…which are all vital to your success.
So you absolutely, positively need to hire a website designer…but you don’t want that person in charge of your overall campaign. Would you recommend an awesome mechanic to be the next VP of Marketing at Ford or Chrysler? Of course not- the same principle applies to hiring web developers.
Have any good horror stories from hiring a website developer? Did I miss something in my list? Feel free to share away in the comment section below.