Web designers have online portfolios — that’s just the nature of the business. I’m a web designer here in (currently) rainy Portland, Oregon, and my own portfolio has been through multiple iterations since I started in the year 2000: outboxonline.com.
So, if you’re looking for someone to be your web designer, you’re likely going to see lots of online portfolios. It can be overwhelming, but with some simple things kept in mind, you can increase your confidence in creating your short list of who to contact. Here’s a checklist to get you started:
- Is their site easy to use?: There are some truly beautiful websites out there, but sometimes they’re so clever that it’s tricky to figure out how to navigate to what you want. Look for clear navigation, clear titles, and clear descriptions. Is it easy to find examples of their work? Are you clear about what they do and don’t do? Is it easy to get in touch with them? The designer who provides these things on their own site, is likely to provide them on your site too.
- Is their site aesthetically pleasing to you?: Of course you want to love their sense of design, not only on their own site, but in the examples they feature of their work. The examples of their work should not only be consistently attractive, but also appropriate for your project. Someone might be really good at designing websites for restaurants, but if you’re looking for a website as a OBGYN, they might not be the best fit for you.
- Who are their typical clients?: If you have a limited budget, and are looking at a site for someone who does work regularly for Fortune 500 companies, know that they likely charge for their level of experience and skill. This isn’t to say that highly skilled designers don’t work on smaller projects with limited budgets, but keep in mind that they might be booking projects months ahead of time and likely charge more than someone who does smaller projects for individuals.
- Do they have the skill set you need?: If you’re looking for ecommerce, are there examples of ecommerce projects they’ve worked on? What about blogs? Or if you need a logo along with your website, do they do both? You want to make sure the kinds of things you want/need your website to do are demonstrated on their site.
- Are they a single person or a design firm?: Some web designers do everything (like me) — they do the planning, design & development of your site from start to finish. Others work as part of a team, ordinarily splitting the work between the design & development. With larger firms, you might have a creative director, a designer, a developer, and someone acting as a project manager. Keep in mind that the more people are involved in the project, the more it might cost, and it might also impact the length of the project schedule.
- Do they understand business decisions in addition to web design?: Your website is an important face of your business & you want to be working with someone who understands how to make sure your website will meet your business goals. Their site should talk about how they will make sure that your site is not only beautiful, but also a working solution for your business.
- Have they been doing this long?: Sometimes it’s difficult to know, but working with someone who has at least a few years of experience should help your project go more smoothly. You can certainly save money by going with someone who is a new web designer if you’re prepared to do most of the project management yourself & have a firm idea of what you want, but working with someone with some experience under their belt means that their work has allowed them to be in business for awhile with exposure to many clients, and that’s a good sign. Look for testimonials and examples of sites that you can look at live.
This list isn’t fool-proof, but it should help you get started on your search. Happy hunting!