Web Design Preparation – Things to do Before Hiring a Designer

Client: I need a website designed.

Me: Great! Let’s go over your site’s and your business’ goals. What do you want the site to accomplish?

Client: Well… I just want to provide clients with information about my business.

This is a very common conversation that occurs, and while most may see that as an acceptable answer, it tells me that most people are unaware of how to implement a website into their marketing strategy. Instead, there’s the misconception that a website is needed simply because everyone has one. While that is true to some extent, having a site for the sake of having one is a waste of your money and resources.

Your website is an extension of your brand and is an experience that you will provide your target audience. It is often the first interaction that you will have with your customers and—in many cases—may be your only chance to make an impression. To ensure that your website works with and for your business, follow this checklist:

1) Assess your current visual identity and marketing materials

website design preparation

This includes things like your logo, company colors, font types, business cards, brochures, menus, letterhead, and email signatures. Is there consistency? Do they convey the proper message about your business? Do they need to be updated?

Imagine if you were opening up a brand new restaurant, but did not have a consistent image. How odd would it look to have out-dated menus, mismatched furniture and clashing colors all set in a brand-spanking-new location? Unless “tackiness” was part of your identity, I doubt this is what you would want.

Prior to having a website designed, your visual identity should already be in place. This will help you and your designer(s) establish a general look for your site that will remain consistent with all marketing materials.

2) Establish your site’s purpose(s).

website purpose

First ask yourself WHY you need a website. Again, having a lemming-esque attitude is not the appropriate answer. For example, this is my answer to this question: “I need a website in order to provide potential clients with information about my design process, to showcase my portfolio, to provide clients with useful resources and articles, and serve as a central hub for all of my online communications and networks.”

This will help you and your designer determine the most appropriate features required. Given the above information, I chose to include a blog, a photo gallery, several contact forms, and implemented a content management system for easy changes.

3) Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable (or Achievable), Realistic, and Timely. All goals set should follow this acronym.

Set website design SMART Goals

Specific – They should be well-defined and clear to anyone that has a basic understanding of the project. What are you going to do? Why is it important? How are you going to do it?

Bad Example – Get people to send me a message through the contact form.

Good Example – Obtain 50 emails through the online sign-up form.

Measurable – Is your objective measurable?

Bad Example – I want the site to sell my product.

Good Example – I want to sell 100 products within the first quarter.

Attainable - While your goals should test your limits, setting unrealistic goals are counterproductive since you’re likely to not keep your commitment.

For example, say you are starting to workout with free weights and it’s been years since you last worked out. Would you start off with the highest weight? Of course not. You’d start off testing which weights you’re able to lift comfortably while still feeling the resistance. As time passes, you’ll begin to lift that first weight with relative ease and you’ll need to increase the weight to feel/see results.

Realistic – Your goals should utilize the skills and resources that are already available. It shouldn’t include anything that is beyond your means. Some effort should be required, but it’s about finding the appropriate balance. Too high and you have an environment set in failure. Too low and you have set the tone that says you’re not capable.

Timely: Set a timeframe for your goals. 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 months, by end of the quarter, by the end of the year… This gives you a clear ending and target. Without a time frame, there is no urgency.

4) Know your target audience and determine the site’s content and tone.

The content and tone is a major part of your branding and part of the experience your website will provide. Knowing your target audience will help to answer several questions and allow you to understand what information should be highlighted or featured.

Content – What information will your users be most interested in? What should they know about your business? How are you going to provide that information? How would you describe your services and/or product? Why should someone hire you or buy your product?

Tone – Will you be professional? Will you include some humor or keep it light-hearted? How high or low is the reading level of your site?

5) Have a clear understanding of what you like visually and what you don’t like.

thumbs up and down

Check out several of your favorite websites in your industry and make note of what you like and don’t like. Doing this will help your designer to better cater to your preferred style.

“I’m not sure until I see it” does not work and will cause both parties a lot of time and grief.

6) Prepare a budget.


There are several costs that are involved with good web design and it’s best to set aside a website budget. What are you willing to spend? What can you spend? Good Designers will work with YOU to make sure that you’re getting the maximum value for your investment.

Be sure to do some homework. Some designers/firms may charge hourly, while others will provide a per project price. Most will work out payment in installments and some will even work out a monthly retainer. You’ll find a wide spectrum of rates online and it’s good to know what to expect.

Please bear in mind, many different things go into website development and design. Features, functionality, and design complexity will all affect the cost. Here is a quick list of items that will most likely incur charges:

  • Layout design and any custom graphics (icons and/or illustrations)
  • Stock Images and any photo editing (includes image licensing)
  • Copy writing and/or proofreading
  • Code Development and Functionality (XHTML, CSS, PHP, Javascript, Shopping Cart, Paypal, Photo Galleries, etc…)
  • Domain Name
  • Hosting
  • Email Setup
  • Content Management Systems (A CMS like WordPress)
  • Search Engine Optimization

Have anything to add? Have any questions? Share your comments with the Tek Community below!