What to Look for in a Web Designer or Design Agency

Google for web designers or web design firms, and you will get millions of results for companies all promising very similar things: timely delivery, budget-friendly, search engine optimization, cross-browser compatibility, etc. Now, if they were all so great, why are there so many crappy websites, you may ask. Here are some qualifications that will help you weed out the good web designers from the bad ones.

Great Portfolio

A great portfolio displays creativity and style variety and, most importantly, has examples of real client work, not just spec work from school. Ensure that the web designer’s overall style in their portfolio matches what you are looking for. Test out their previously launched websites to ensure they are user-friendly, error-free, suitable for their target market, and fast-loading.

Web Designer

A great portfolio always trumps design experience or education. Web designers with too much experience could be set in their ways and less open to new ideas or trends. And just because someone took a few design classes does not mean they have an eye for it. We have encountered many websites offering web design services with hideous websites.


Customer Service

No matter how stellar your designer or agency is, they most likely cannot meet your deadline if they cannot promptly respond to your calls or emails during business hours. This can mean death to your business if your project is time-sensitive due to something like a product launch. Some freelance web designers are moonlighters, meaning they have full-time jobs and pick up the odd project here and there for extra cash. Be wary of those folks because they will likely not be around when your project goes awry, forcing you to forfeit your deposit.

Required Skills

Whoever you select should be proficient with the web technologies your project requires. If you need Flash for an animated clip, ensure your web developer is experienced in Flash Actionscript 3.0. If you want to convert your website into a CMS, provide they are well-versed in your chosen CMS and its web technologies. PHP controls most open-source CMS’. It is always better to hire an expert who can excel at your needs than a jack of all trades who is mediocre. Usually, you should be able to evaluate this based on their online portfolio.

Their Timeline Fits Your Timeline

All projects have a deadline or preferred time range in which you would like them completed. Inexperienced web designers often quote overly optimistic timelines. No matter how simple your website design or redesign is, it is almost impossible for the design process (from concept to completion) to take less than two weeks because there will always be revisions. I laugh when a potential client emails me and estimates that their new website is fundamental and should take only two days. It is much more professional to quote a longer timeline and deliver earlier than expected. However, if your web designer says it will take much longer than their competitors, they may be moonlighting.


Design firms usually offer Full-service because it requires a team of developers, designers, and marketing experts. Full-service means they offer all-encompassing web solutions like SEO, e-commerce, branding, mobile compatibility, and social media marketing in one place. Rarely will you find a web designer who is an expert in these categories, which is why some companies hire design firms if they have the budget.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are just as important as design and programming skills because if your web designer communicates with bad grammar or spelling mistakes, so will your website. Do they articulate issues well? Can they translate complicated technical jargon into layperson’s terms? You can easily evaluate their communication skills through initial calls, emails, and project proposals.

Marketing / SEO Experience

What good is your website if your target market cannot find it? Your web designer or design firm must understand how to promote it. If you found your web designer via Google with industry-specific keywords, they must know something about SEO. Here are other simple SEO techniques your web designer should implement to build your web presence:

  • Generate fresh content relevant to your target market with a blog
  • Write a meta title and description tags
  • Include your keyword search terms in your headings and subheadings (H1 and H2 tags, respectively)
  • Sprinkle your keyword search terms throughout your content
  • Create a sitemap for search engines to crawl
  • Add your website to online business directories
  • For more SEO strategies, refer to my blog post about Driving High-Quality Web Traffic.
  • Customer References

Ask for client references and make a point about calling them. Ask their clients whether they were responsive, on time, and within budget. Some web design firms look for work through freelance websites such as Guru, where you can find reviews.

Social Media Presence

Social Media helps you respond to people discussing your brand and understand how they perceive your company. There are so many social media networks, but Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook are the ones to monitor. A good practice is to post a status update whenever you publish a blog post or new web content.

Cost / Budget

It is key to consider all of the above and consider cost or budget if everything else falls into place. The cheapest quote is rarely the best.

Jeanette Kwok Web Design is a full-service design agency with clients in the US, Canada, and Europe that provides:


Alcohol scholar. Bacon fan. Internetaholic. Beer geek. Thinker. Coffee advocate. Reader. Have a strong interest in consulting about teddy bears in Nigeria. Spent 2001-2004 promoting glue in Pensacola, FL. My current pet project is testing the market for salsa in Las Vegas, NV. In 2008 I was getting to know birdhouses worldwide. Spent 2002-2008 buying and selling easy-bake-ovens in Bethesda, MD. Spent 2002-2009 marketing country music in the financial sector.