Help me hire a web designer
December 6, 2010 6:39 AM   Subscribe

I need some advice about hiring someone to build our very small web site.

There are a limited number of web designers in my town and the very good ones are so busy that they often take too long to get started and finished. I'd like to hire someone via the web and I'm looking for advice. This is for a small site that just displays information about a bunch of people and projects. It doesn't won't have anything interactive or sells anything etc. My main goal is to have it look professional. I imagine 10--20 pages total and I'm very technical and can update it myself.

My questions are:
- where do I go looking for web designers looking to take on such a small project? Is my project too small?
- in person)?
- what should I have prepared before talking to the designer?
posted by about_time to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Do you not have time to do it yourself? (I see by your profile you're a computer geek.)

I thought the idea would be insurmountable until posters here put me onto Weebly; an elegant drag-and-drop program that turned out to be a perfect solution. No geekiness even required.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:48 AM on December 6, 2010

My company outsources a lot of projects both small and large to freelancers from So far, I've only dealt with freelancers from outside of the USA, and the results have been hit or miss; I'm a sysadmin and only have to deal with the completed work (i.e. deployment) and not their design. YMMV.
posted by jbiz at 6:54 AM on December 6, 2010

I'm not much of a techie, so when my my wife asked me to make a website, I searched for the most user friendly model I could find. I ended up going with Yahoo Web Hosting. It's cheap, easy to use with it's Sitebuider App, and reliable. You don't have to be an expert to put together a pretty nice site. My site won't be winning any design contests, but it suits our needs very well.
posted by lobstah at 6:57 AM on December 6, 2010

Best answer: 10-20 pages is the bread and butter for many freelance designers and agencies. The site itself is not too small, but maybe your budget is? is another resource for finding a designer.

You should be prepared to discuss:
* content needs (how much you have, how much the designer needs to find)
* scope (number of pages, any functionality like contact forms, etc.)
* management (will you need a CMS, will you FTP in and change code manually, etc.)
* ongoing needs (SEO, analytics, hosting, etc.)
* budget and schedule

It's sounding like you need to be especially mindful of having a good contract and production schedule that states deadlines, responsibilities, and penalties for overages (on both sides). After having an initial discussion with a designer, you should ask for both an estimate and a timeline. So many designers drop the ball on the latter and have a rather cavalier "it'll be done when it's done" attitude.
posted by Wossname at 7:03 AM on December 6, 2010

You should just use a company like Homestead, and make it yourself.

They have all these canned formats, that look professional and are easy to use. As long as you don't have anything interactive (as you say) - these type of web companies are great.

I am not a very savvy tech guy - and I made our site on homestead. It is easy and took like 6 hours, and cost nearly nothing. Here is my web-site, so you see what it looks like
posted by Flood at 7:09 AM on December 6, 2010

If you're willing to take a chance on a rookie, I'm sure there are many aspiring web designers who are looking to add to their portfolio. They may even be willing to do it pro bono. Perhaps you could search through resumes on Craigslist, Dice, etc.
posted by Anima Mundi at 7:19 AM on December 6, 2010

Why not post it on jobs?
posted by Wordwoman at 7:43 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If it's small as in, "seems like it shouldn't take long to make OR cost that much" then I would do things in this order:

1) Fill out a web planner (I have one here, but many are available online) to make sure you have what you need before talking to a web designer

2) Web planner in hand, call your local guys if you're willing to work with them. Tell them "I have two weeks and $2400 (or whatever) and need X,Y,Z. Possible?" And see what they say.

3) If they all sound like your parameters are off a bit, ask what they think is better and ask if they know of anyone else good to ask.

4) If you really don't get good results with this, look at the suggestions above. I've seen people get fair results with Squarespace and pre-made templates, so that might be worth a try for you. You might also check out communities like Forrst and see if anybody there looks like a match.

Please remember that your definition of "looks professional" will be a deciding factor in how much this costs and how long it takes. "Looks professional" should be more than just a few hours in Photoshop, and should include a style guide or a CMS that styles things for you if you are going to be maintaining this by yourself.

Good luck!
posted by circular at 7:57 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm a web developer and online marketing consultant and I can tell you that if you choose to build and design your site yourself it will almost certainly not look professional. Content-wise, you should be able to manage that fairly well. You know your business better than anyone, so it makes sense that you should pitch yourself.

It sounds like you're going to want to have someone set up a simple content management system (CMS) that will allow you to add pages and manage content. WordPress has traditionally been a good option for this as it is simple to use and has solid support resources. What you would want is to have a designer build a WordPress Theme that you can install and manage. One option for this is to get quotes on a site like DesignCrowd or put an ad out on craigslist. Most designers are capable of creating a WordPress theme.

Installing a CMS is usually fairly straight forward, most hosting companies have installation platforms for these applications. You can use a versatile hosting provider like Bluehost, Host Gator, or Surpass Hosting, or you could use a simpler "Out-of-the-Box" solution like GoDaddy.
posted by bhamrick at 8:54 AM on December 6, 2010

If you post it in MeFi Jobs you are likely to hear from me about doing it :)
posted by COD at 9:27 AM on December 6, 2010

Best answer: Sortfolio will let you search designers based on location and budget.
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 12:26 PM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great advice!
posted by about_time at 6:53 AM on December 7, 2010

Response by poster: An update for the archives. I went with Sortfolio and was very happy with the company I connected to and the design they delivered in the end.
posted by about_time at 5:40 AM on October 7, 2011

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