Posted 04.19.2011

How to Find the Right Designer / Developer (Part 3)

How does price relate to quality? You often hear “you get what you pay for.” But is that always true?

If I requested several proposals from various companies for a website, I’d get a range of quotes back. Let’s say ranging from $5,000 to $30,000. If “you get what you pay for” is true, then that makes the decision obvious, right? Go with the highest bid. But, is it really that easy?

Lawyers and doctors can charge an outrageous sum of money because of scarcity. Not many people have gone through the amount of schooling they have to be able to do that job with that level of excellence. Is the $30,000 bid about scarcity or the illusion of excellence? How do you tell the difference?

I’d argue that the price is not always right.

(Updated: I was re-reading this post and not sure I made the point I was trying to make). I believe there is a sweet spot with design. There’s a point where you do get what you pay for. On the low end, the design looks cheap because it is. On the other end: you’re paying for the false illusion of quality. It’s why you have “name brands.” A lot of times the generic brand is the exact same thing, but you’re willing to pay more for the label. So, where’s that sweet spot? The place where you’re paying for quality work and paying for what it’s worth?

My advice from the other day still stands: Look at their portfolio. Their work will speak louder than anything else that they say. You should be able to tell from the quality of their portfolio whether their services are worth the price they’re asking for. Remember someone will judge you’re doing within 5 seconds of visiting your site. You need your site to look great. Design is not something to skimp on. Pay attention to what they’re doing on other projects to see if you want them to take same approach taken with your work.

Posted 04.16.2011

How to find the right Designer (Part 2)

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post: How to find the right designer / developer, Know what you’re looking for. Today’s lesson: the first thing that you should do is look at their portfolio. A designer knows (or at least they should) that they live and die by their portfolio. If they’re applying for a full time job, the first thing an employer will ask for is their portfolio. There’s no reason why you, looking for a freelancer, should be any different.

When you’re looking at their portfolio, a few things to keep in mind:


There are 31 flavors out there. Different styles that appeal to you personally, appeal to your audience, communicate your brand, and different styles that certain designers are more comforatable with. When you look at their portfolio, is there stuff similar to what you’re trying to do? If not, I’d encourage you to consider other options.

Type of projects

Look to see what types of projects the designer does. Logos? Brochures? Letterhead? Business cards? Banners? Websites? These are all different mediums, presented in different formats, serving different purposes, communicating different things. There are certain understandings and limitations with each item. You might find a designer and you absolutely love their brochures. I issue a word of caution if you haven’t seen any of their logos or web sites. You can still that use that designer to design your brochure, but there’s nothing that says one designer has to do it all.

Ask Questions

Don’t take a designers portfolio at face value. Ask lots and lots of questions.

  • What was your role in this project? (that’s right, sometimes it’s a team effort and the designer’s role may have been limited.)
  • What were some of the guidelines and limitations you given on this project?
  • What are you most pleased about?
  • What was the hardest part of this project?
  • What were you trying to communicate with this project?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What did you learn from this project? (that’s rihgt, every project should teach a good designer something.)

I know. It’s a lot to think about. But you’re intrusting someone with your brand, the visual representation of your company, and (sometimes) people’s first impression of who you are.


Posted 04.15.2011

How To Find the Right Designer / Developer (Part 1)

I’m currently in the Dream Year program that Ben Arment is doing. He has all of us divided into tribes based on the types of projects that we’re doing. I’m part of the community tribe.

The thing about my project is that I’ve actually been working on it for the past copule of years. I’m definitely further along in the process than everyone else, but it has allowed me the opportunity to help those in my tribe learn from my experiences.

The questions that I’ve gotten over the past month or so has been about development. How do you find the right designer / developer? This is your dream, you want to make sure that the person you’re entrusting your site with will handle it with care. You want to make sure you’re being charged appropriately. And that the end result is exactly what you had in mind, something that you’re proud of.

I’ve been fortunate, in that I’ve been able to do all the design / development work for myself. But, how do I coach someone else that is going through that process? My next set of 101 posts is aimed at them. I want to help them and others like them.

So, let me start off with: In order to find the right person, you must understand what you need.

Let me start from my perspective: the designer / developer. I’ve run into clients before that didn’t know what they wanted, or even needed. How can I meet expectations when there are none? Neither one of us are set up for success!

One of the first things I do when I meet a potential client is ask them a series of questions to help them define the scope of the project.


  • describe your company
  • describe the concept, product, or service you are aiming to promote
  • the deadline for completion of the project
  • budget for the project


  • who do you consider as your competition?
  • where are your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • aside from direct competitors, what other companies have stellar creative the inspires you or you wish to emulate?
  • what makes your company stand apart from the competition that we can highlight?


  • describe your primary audience
  • why do you think your audience chooses you over your competitors?
  • what should be the goal or actions of your audience?
  • if you had to describe your company in one-word adjectives, what would they be?
  • what should they be?

Look, Feel, and Functionality

  • are there any colors that you wish to use? or stay away from?
  • social media: what do you like? dislike? want? not want?
  • will your website require media components like video, audio, podcasts, and photo galleries?
  • how many pages will the site consist of? (please list)
  • will the content need to be updated regularly? if the answer is no, is it important that you have the ability to update the site yourself?

DISCLAIMER: Most of these questions were taken from Weightshift’s questionnaire. They do some fantastic work.

The client’s answers to these questions tell me what site structure they have in mind, what style they’re thinking, what’s important to their company, who their target audience is, etc. The saying is true: “Communication is Key.” My job as a good developer / designer is to ask the right questions, to make sure I understand the client and they understand me.