Expert roundup: Hiring a web designer

Part 1

What is the #1 tip you'd give to someone looking to hire a web designer/web design agency?

Ask yourself important questions

Jared Ponchot, Creative Director at Lullabot

Lullabot is one of the foremost strategy, design, and Drupal development companies for large-scale publishers of household-name websites in the entertainment, education, and government verticals.

“Ask questions about why you’re doing your project and how you expect your organization to benefit from it (e.g. increased revenue, improved customer satisfaction, etc.). Once you’ve done this, you can more effectively evaluate the strengths of potential designers/vendors to see if they match the needs of your project in order to meet your goals. For example, if your primary driver is aesthetic improvement, don’t be afraid to be honest about that and weigh heavily the look of the portfolio of the designers/vendors you’re considering.”

“If your primary driver is more user/business focused, make sure to consider UX Designers and firms that may be less flashy brands, but show great results in their portfolio. Case studies are another way of effectively evaluating how designers/vendors think about their work and whether the solutions they employ are of an appropriate scale and reflect a penchant for strategy.”

Do your homework

Gabriel Shaoolian, Founder & CEO of

DesignRush features the top agencies both locally and globally.

“Hiring a web design company is like hiring a contractor to build a home. Have a detailed spec doc/blueprint ready for your website if you want an accurate quote. If you don't have a blueprint/spec doc ready, then pay an information architect to document one for you. Just like you wouldn't build a home without a blueprint, you shouldn't build a website without a spec doc.”

Andy Crestodina, Co-founder / CMO at Orbit Media Studios

Orbit is a web design and development company in Chicago. We've done 1500+ projects over 18 years.

“Define your goals very specifically and stay focused on them. Ask yourself which of your preferences align with your project goals and which do not. Web design is more science than art. Beware of your own opinions. They will derail your website's success. Every decision you make is really just a hypothesis. Follow the data post-launch and be ready to adapt.”

Look at an agency’s website carefully

Nat Rosasco, Principal+Creative Director at Olive Street Design

Olive Street Design helps businesses grow by creating a web design and marketing strategy that’s authentically you.

“You need to check an agency's portfolio and look for depth and breadth of work. Look for a number of styles to see the range of designs and capabilities of their websites, but here's the most important point. Look at the agency's own website; I don't know how any agencies with poor websites get hired.”

Do your research

Andrew Ruditser, Co-Founder & Lead Technology Coordinator at MAXBURST, Inc.

MAXBURST is a top-rated NYC website design & digital marketing agency focused on creative and results-driven solutions.

“Try to research and then shortlist about 3-5 reputable agencies. Go online and read what their clients write about them across multiple channels and then review their online portfolios to make sure that their work is aligned with your design tastes.”

Kara Jensen, Creative Principal at Bop Design

Bop Design helps B2B companies all over the world in establishing a brand identity, creating an engaging website design and utilizing content marketing to drive inbound marketing leads.

“Make sure the agency you hire has a good online reputation and can be found on search. Don’t just rely on references they provide you. Look at third party agency review sites like and just do a simple Google search. You are hiring an agency to help build your online brand and reputation - how can you trust that they can deliver that for you, when they can’t even do it for themselves?"

Review their portfolio

Matt Bowman, President of Thrive Internet Marketing Agency

Since 2005, Thrive has created gorgeous, effective websites that are custom-designed to their clients’ needs and specifications.

“Do some research. Look at a company's web design portfolio and get a general feel for their style and culture to determine if you'd be a good fit.”

Don’t bother with a request for proposals.

Tim Frick, CEO of Mightybytes, Inc.

Mightybytes helps mission-driven organizations create sustainable growth and amplify their impact.

“Don't waste your time on an RFP. Hire an agency based on qualifications and experience doing specifically what you need them to do. Plus, many of the best agencies don't answer RFPs.”

Talk to their customers

Ian Loew, Owner of Lform Design

Lform Designs creates thoughtful, well designed custom websites for mid-market B2B companies that increase sales.

“Call clients listed on their site to get a true sense of how they are to work with.”

Jason Schwartz, Managing Director at Bright Bright Great

Bright Bright Great is a brand strategy focused interactive agency located in Chicago and Las Vegas.

“Ask the designer/agency how they’d focus on your mission.”

Know your audience

Dan Bowen, CEO of Bowen Media

Bowen is an award-winning creative digital agency that partners with businesses to create powerful, enduring results.

“Take the time to define and understand the mindset of your target audience.”

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