10 Questions You Should Ask Your Web Designer to Get Tangible Results

by Naomi Niles · 27 comments

Ask Questions To Get Answers

Getting real results from your website can be hard…

Sure, you can hire a great designer, but remember, good design is subjective, whereas design that gets results is all in the numbers.

What kind of numbers? Sales, traffic, and subscribers, or in other words, the building blocks of an online business.

So, how do you know if your designer is qualified to get you business results? Here are 10 questions you can ask before hiring them:

1. Do You Get Business Results for Clients?

If you want to hire a designer that gets business results, look for someone who publishes case studies about how they helped their clients.

For example, if you see something like “The site redesign of client XYX helped them increase their online sales by 24%,” you’re on the right track!

If they don’t publish any case studies, you can ask them directly. If they’re legit, they’ll happily provide examples.

2. How Much Do You Charge for Web Design?

Results-oriented web design takes time and expertise to do right. So if you find that your web design is cheap, it may be safe to assume that your designer will take as many shortcuts as possible.

Note, when you ask your designer for a price quote, ask them to tell you what the quote entails. For example, will you receive a high converting email newsletter subscription box?

3. How Much Time Do You Spend Planning and Researching?

Designing a website for results requires planning and research, so, before your designer gets started, make sure they allot time for a basic analysis of your business, competitors, and market.

How much time should be spent on planning and research? Personally, in my custom web design firm, I slot anywhere between 3 and 10 hours per project. It may seem like a lot of time, but things like content structure and delivery, overall website functionality, and other details must be planned out!

4. Do You Create Wire-Frames Before Designing the Website?

Website wireframes are visual representations of where the content on your site will be placed. As you can see below, there aren’t any graphic design elements or content. Instead, there are boxes explaining where certain content will be found.

Example Website Home Page Wirefram

Figure 1. Example Website Home Page Wireframe

Why are wireframes so important?

Well, placement of items on your site has a lot more impact on your results than you may think.

For example, a good results-oriented designer will know that placing your newsletter subscription box high up on the right column will increase your subscription rate better than if it was placed on the bottom.

Now I know that seems like common sense, yet, most designers still place subscription boxes below the fold, as if they were an after thought. With a wireframe, there will be no after thoughts because everything is planned out prior to the web design.

5. Do You Create Easy-to-Use Websites?

A website with lots of personality may look beautiful, but if it causes your visitors to flee in frustration because they can’t find what they need, it’s a complete failure.

However, a good results-oriented designer has a basic understanding of website usability. They know how web visitors navigate websites and cater to them to help you achieve your goals (subscribers, leads, and sales).

Note, while asking your prospective designer this question helps, you should visit their portfolio, too. If their previous work is easy-to-navigate, you should be set!

6. Do You Do Market Research Before Creating Web Designs?

A web design should bring you closer to your customers. To do this effectively, your web designer must understand who they’re building the website for. In the end, you may want your site for you, but if you’re running a business, it’s really for your customers, right?

As a side note, another way to bring you close to your customers is by taking advantage of the nonverbal cues that influence your website visitors. To learn more about that, check out the free report that Derek Halpern wrote here.

7. Do You Do Competitive Research, Too?

This question is important because it helps your designer look outside the box to identify what else is out there. Often, good results don’t come directly from optimizing your site, but by also doing things better than the competition.

8. Do You Offer Conversion and Usability Testing?

If you want your website to live up to all it’s worth, you must optimize your pages for results. However, how do you know if your pages are doing everything they can to generate those results?

You test them. Instead of making a guess, you create two different pages, and pit them against each other. The page that does the best, should be continuously tested to ensure maximum conversion rates.

How do you do this type of testing? It’s called split A/B or multivariate testing. Results-oriented designers should know all about it, so you should ask them if they offer this as a follow-up service.

9. Do You Analyze My Current Traffic Before Making Design Decisions?

Analyzing a site’s metrics, if done correctly, can help identify the current site’s strengths. For example, what if your blog has great visitor loyalty, but the rest of your site doesn’t? Or, what if one of your pages has a lower bounce rate, can anything be implemented elsewhere on your site?

In summary, by looking at your site’s metrics, designers can arm themselves with information to better equip themselves to make better decisions.

10. How is Your Design Going to Help Me With My Business Goals?

When you decide to lose weight and start a new diet, you have a goal weight in mind, right? A website design project is just like that. You’ll have goals, and you need to ask your designer how they’ll help you achieve them.

Note, before you ask your designer to turn water into gold, you should know that you’re better off setting realistic goals. A results-oriented designer will help you come up with these goals, but if they don’t, here are some goals you should consider:

  • We’d like to increase the overall revenue generated from our website by 20%.
  • We’d like to increase the orders from our PPC campaign to our landing page by 20%.
  • We’d like to get 20% more newsletter subscribers within the next 6 months.
  • We’d like to increase our average order value by 20%.
  • We would like to reduce our bounce rate on page X by 20%.

All this said, sometimes the goals of a new website design or redesign are related to things that can’t be easily measured like increasing awareness of a brand, spreading a message, or increasing authority.

However, if you are looking for measurable return on your investment, finding a designer that can help you get tangible results can be a very wise choice.

Photo credit: SMJJP

About the Author: Naomi Niles is the founder of ShiftFWD, a full service conversion optimization consultancy specializing in full website audits, continual testing, and landing page optimization.

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{ 27 comments }

Derek

Naomi, this is a great follow-up post to our other article this week. While the last article by Cynthia teaches people to communicate effectively with their web designer, this article tells you specifically what businesses should ask web designers before hiring them. Thanks for contributing!

Darren

Great post. I think if there were an 11th question, it would be if the designer builds any SEO into the site design. I find that most times I have to make this a specific request when hiring a designer.

Derek

This is why you should develop on a framework like Thesis. The site stuff is built in by default. It no longer needs to be a question… it’s just assumed.

Cynthia LaLuna

I don’t agree, Derek. Just because the empty fields are there doesn’t mean that they’re populated. Thesis makes it easy to optimize your site for the proper keywords, but it doesn’t optimize itself, IMO.

Since most clients don’t know their way around the Thesis dashboard, if a design/dev studio will at least initially populate those fields with the right keywords, that can give the project a great leg up at launch.

Eric Weidner

Another helpful, real-world post!

One item that clients should also consider: what happens after the site is built?

How will content be updated?
Will the design firm be available for small and large edits?
How much will edits and tweaks cost?
If I get a content management system, do you offer training or a user guide?

These questions will not only make sure the site is built right, but ensure you don’t get any surprises after it is launched.

Thanks again for the great post.

Cheers, Eric Weidner

Bret Phillips

These guest posts are rocking my world.

Before I work with any new clients I am sending them to these last two blog posts so that they can get a strong understand of what it is they need, and how I can help them.

Great post, I’m also now RSS following your blog Naomi. :)

Bret

Naomi Niles

I’m so glad you found it useful, Bret! So nice to have you along on RSS as well. :)

Mars

There really should be a new title for Web Designer because it’s more than just designing it’s more like Web M.A.D (Web Marketer – Analyzer – Designer), the unfortunate part is getting your clientele to understand these steps, for people that want a simple design it’s not that a web designer is not experience or unprofessional (although that might be the case too) it’s just that they base their effort and time on the clients budget and hey at the end of the day web designers want to eat too and provide for their families. So it’s not just about short cuts as it also is about proper understanding on the clients end.

Derek

I think you’re right. There are some designers out there who base this stuff on the client’s budget, but, in my experience, Web Designers are horrible at communicating this to clients. Instead, they quote a price, and fail to offer any other options unless the client asks for them.

Naomi Niles

I think you’re right about that, Derek. Designers often fail to communicate that there are options like these available to clients. Most clients don’t realize they are out there and don’t ask for them. You have to be very clear about exactly what you are going to do for them. In my biz though, I never leave out the research/planning no matter what the client’s budget is. It’s like building a house without a wireframe to me.

James Thompson

Naomi,

Great article. I agree with both Bret and Mars’ points as well.

My only reservation, and it’s rather a huge one is “Do you get business results for your clients?”. While I do all of the above, 90% of my clients, as I am sure others are as well, are not savvy enough to quantify those ‘claims’ of results.

It plays into the hands of those that claim to be in our profession, and as you stated “cut corners”, the ‘cash and dash’ people. There are literally multiple individuals that are for all intents and purposes my competition, that promise just what you are saying should be asked for, especially when it comes to google rankings. Sadly, one click to view source, the site has no doctype, no meta tags, no h1, no alt tags, etc.

Now anyone that would put Search Engine Rankings as a service, and “We will get you to the top of google results” with that sort of code base; Do you think they will answer that first question honestly?

I am now fixing a site for a client that her first “Web designer” promised results, told her all about his success stories. He placed 6 jpegs with hotspots linking to one another. Not one single piece of actual html other than what fireworks wrote for him. He cashed her check and went about his business.

Again, great article information, despite how my reply sounds. Maybe the follow up is a “How to” sort of thing.

Naomi Niles

I think this is a great case for digging in with the client before you start working on anything during the research phase. If you do that, you can help them identify concrete and measurable goals and what kind of conversion rate they have now before you start.

As far as getting the hard numbers, that’s not too difficult with things like analytics, mailing list software, measuring revenue, and testing.

It is often a case where you must take the initiative and convince the client how important it is to do first.

Cynthia LaLuna

I agree, James. I’m never comfortable guaranteeing a certain ROI to a client – and so much is out of our control, especially once the site is handed over. Also, brand new sites don’t have anything to benchmark against.

We can promise to use best practices for conversion, etc. – but the idea of specific quantification does make me nervous, and I 100% agree that scammers often lead with those type of promises.

I know Naomi knows her stuff when it comes to conversion, and can probably guess right off the top of her head what results she’ll see from her conversion consulting/implementation – but I feel that’s a separate area. In my view, clients expecting A/B testing as part of the process should be prepared to pay *substantially* more.

Ronald Redito

I am currently in the process of conceptualizing and SEO and web design company and definitely your pointers have added things that I must put on that new website.

Naomi Niles

Glad to hear it!

Rob Place

Naomi-this is a great read! Too often web designers focus on the aesthetic over the results, and you show the obvious er in that. My only question would be from a designer perspective. If half the battle is content and your client isn’t doing his/her half of the agreement(producing timely and relevant content), the best design won’t increase conversions. How do you address that on the front end?

Naomi Niles

Thanks, Rob!

I agree with you about the content. Whenever we start a new project, we try to have the content in place first if at all possible and sometimes require it. It should really be in place before the rest of the design process starts.

And if we do have the content from the client already, but it’s not up to par, we do the best we can to get a good copywriter on it.

That said, the content is the clients and in the end it’s their choice. Sometimes you just have to do the best you can with what you’ve got. :)

Cynthia LaLuna

Amen on content! The prettiest design in the world cannot overcome bad content.

Cynthia LaLuna

Great article, Naomi (per usual), and a super checklist for designers, as well – so they can see if they are offering all the services they should be offering – or get clear on which ones they are not willing to offer.

Leading with this type of questioning can also help clients stay happy with the work long after that post-launch warm fuzzy wears off and the check has cleared.

Naomi Niles

Thanks, Cynthia! Been nice reading your input on it too.

These small discussions in here about where the responsibility of the designer is and where it isn’t and some other discussion around the net has had me thinking hard these last few weeks.

Cynthia LaLuna

No kidding. That’s a whole offline discussion. :+\

Jaume Garcia

Very interesting Naomi. I definetly will add steps to my work in the future.

I see the most of readers are web designers, not clients. I hope some of them will arrive to your post. For this reason I made the translation in spanish and italian. Let me know if is ok for you.

Thanks for this fantastic post!

Kyle Clouse

That is a comprehensive list. You get down to the minute details with it. Thanks for sharing.

Patrick

Thank-you so much for this checklist! I will be referring my clients to it for sure. I have become discouraged in the responses I get from clients and prospects when I ask them questions about how their web presence is contributing to their bottom line. 100% of them say they simply don’t know! They willingly paid a “designer” handsomely for what amounts to a flashy business card on line that is buried somewhere in cyberspace! Your checklist will help to open their eyes to the real purpose of website design and save them a whole bunch of opportunity cost too.

Naomi Niles

Thanks, Patrick! So glad that you found it useful.

That is my hope. I think we all owe it to our clients to be more accountable. Hopefully things like these will help us get there.

Jeff

Very nice, Naomi. Great set of questions. I especially like #9 as a being particularly revealing and hard to fake. I do think one would need to do a bit of digging on #5, though, as I would think every designer would quite naturally say, “of course.” One would likely have to follow-up with questions about how well the designer’s sites conform to Web conventions, what kind of usability best practices the designer is aware of, etc.

Thanks for sending me the link!

Christine

Wow! This was extremely helpful. I am not a web designer. I’m an assistant to a small business owner. We are meeting with a web designer and now I have a checklist. Thank you.