What your web designer needs to know to build your website

Hiring a website designer to build your website while you complete other areas of your to-do list is smart delegating. But how do you choose? The following questions and topics are starting points of the conversation you should have with prospective designers. Choosing a website designer that best fits your business needs can grow into a strong relationship that can help your business succeed and allow you to focus on other parts of your business. This is not an exhaustive list of topics but offers a good starting point of what to consider when hiring and working with a website designer.

Do you have a current website?

Are you looking to refresh your current website, or start from scratch? Website designers usually have a chosen platform they work with. If you are looking for a refresh, but the website designer doesn’t have experience with where your website is hosted or isn’t able to work with that platform, that website designer probably isn’t the best choice. If you are looking for a brand new website, is there a website hosting platform you would like to use? There are many options available such as Weebly, WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, ZephyrCMS, and others. Knowing which platform or platforms your website designer works on allows you to have a conversation about the pros and cons of the platform for your business.

Do you have the marketing copy written?

The marketing copy is anything written for your website and business to sell your product or service. Writing marketing copy is something you can do on your own, or hire a professional. Writing effective copy is an art and profession. Some website designers are part of an agency and either has someone in house to write the copy or will contract externally when needed. It can often be changed or adjusted to best showcase and explain why your product or service is the best. It is best to have the copy written before work on the website is started, or have a plan agreed on with your website designer if they are assisting.

Do you have images or graphics picked out?

The images, videos, and graphics of your website can offer as much persuasion for a potential buyer as the marketing copy. There are great resources for both free and paid options. Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay offer free images to use on your website and social media. iStock and BigStock offer paid images, videos, and graphics. You may also have photos of your own such as headshots or product shots done by yourself or a professional photographer. If you need different images or new images, have a written agreement with your website designer about if the cost of purchasing images, videos, and graphics is included in the project, if there is a budget, and who owns the images, videos, and graphics. 

Are you a product based/services based or both business?

Product and Service-based businesses each have different tools and applications to help customers and clients purchase, pay, and schedule for your business. By doing some preliminary research around which products you will be using in your business and website, you help your website designer to more accurately propose the cost, timeline, and tools needed to build your website.

If you sell products, how do you have them hosted online? Are you using Shopify, Esty, SquareUp, or something else? Would you like these integrated into your website platform, or would you like your website built on the same platform you’re s

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elling from? If you are a service-based business, do you use scheduling software? How do your customers pay? For either type of business, will you have email marketing and a signup area on your website? Think about a business that you’ve recently bought from or scheduled with as an example of the products you want to use with your business.

Are there applications you need to be incorporated?

Similar to what your needs as a product or service-based business, what applications (if any) do you need? An application is a third-party provider such as an email marketing platform, scheduling software, or payment processing. These are important to talk about with your website designer to make sure they have the skills and resources to create your website correctly. Your business may have a long term goal to expand and need a more robust website with different applications than what you need now. If you have an idea of the future growth, start that conversation now. You will know if the platform the website designer works on can handle the growth, or if you will need to invest in something different when that time comes.

Do you have a brand sheet or brand guidelines?

What’s the look and feel of your business? Do you have a logo, colors, typography, and graphics chosen? Or do you have a mood board or inspiration you can share? If you are brand new and don’t have any of these chosen, make sure you’re open and honest with your website designer. This may be work you need to develop and the website design may need to wait until you’ve figured this out. Or the website designer may offer to help develop your brand or refer you out to someone who can. The scope and price of the project will change depending on where you’re at.

What’s your budget?

Website design costs vary drastically. Remember to see this as an investment. Your website is often the first impression for potential customers. It is a portion of your business, but not the whole business. When you take the time and find a website designer that you can work with beyond the initial build, it frees you up to work on all the other areas of your business. Websites need upkeep and adjusting as your business grows and changes. Your upfront cost of building a new website will be followed by monthly or yearly costs for hosting and maintenance. A low-end cost for the initial build is $2,500. Depending on the complexity of your needs, websites can cost up to $10,000 or more. The more specific you are about your needs, the better proposal for cost and timeline you will receive from different designers. 

Who is your ideal customer or audience?

Who you are trying to attract has a great influence on the look and feel of your website. A website attracting a woman who has children and a job who is looking for a life coach will look different if you are a mountain bike off-road racer looking for a bike repair shop. The more specific you can hone in on your ideal customer, the better. This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to market to a wider audience, or that your website will only attract that specific person. The more general and vague your website is the fewer opportunities to show confidence, skill, and expertise in your line of work. The images, graphics, videos, and marketing copy should all be focused on this ideal customer. 

Would you like to help upkeep the site, or will the website agency be the only one responsible?

What’s your vision in how you interact with your website? Do you want to see the backend and update blog posts yourself, adjust pricing, or change some wording? Do you expect your website designer to make changes and updates from your direction? What is your expectation for turnaround time for changes to be made? 

These are great questions to have answered before you decide to work with a website designer. When both of you understand the workflow expectations once the website is launched, the designer can factor in any training they need to do or recommend what you should and should not change or adjust (you don’t want to accidentally affect the look of your website for the worse and then wait for the website designer to fix it). It also gives you the opportunity to learn if the web designer is comfortable sharing those responsibilities with you, or if the platform they are using is feasible for you to learn and work with. 

On the other hand, if your expectation is to be completely hands-off and delegate all website responsibilities to the designer, a conversation about turnaround time, how often you think updates and changes need to be made, and what their costs are for maintenance is important to know before you agree to work together.  

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What’s your deadline?

Website designers may have a waiting list of four to six weeks before they can even begin work. And it may be another month or more before your website is ready to launch. As you are setting up your initial to-do list for your business, pick your desired open date, and set a timeline back from there. Have you given enough time for the website to be built

? How long will it take to get all the components (images, graphics, copy, logo, brand colors, etc…) ready? It’s best to interview a few different designers to find the perfect match. You can start this process at any time and learn how far out they are often booked up to see if that will affect your timeline or if you can adjust your timeline to fit their schedule.

Do you have examples of websites you like or dislike?

If you’ve ever changed your hairstyle, showing a picture of your inspiration can be very helpful for your hairstylist to understand what you’re looking for. The same goes for your website. By sharing a list of why you like certain websites or a Pinterest board of the look and feel of your business can give your website designer great direction. And the same goes for a list of why you don’t like certain websites. If there are websites in your industry that you love and hate, explaining why helps the website designer focus on making you a unique site that showcases your specific desires and allows your business to have a different and attractive feel for your customers.

What’s the role of the website for your business?

It may seem like a silly question. Even though the main goal of your website for your business is to help make your business profitable, how it does that can differ depending on the business. If you’re a blogger and make income on affiliate marketing, advertising links, or product reviews, the role of your website needs to show your expertise within the topics you cover to gain trust in your readers and business partners. If you are a boutique owner with both online and in-person shopping specializing in seasonal gifts, your website’s look and feel will change slightly depending on the season. Your website’s role is to demonstrate your shop has the gifts and goodies for the upcoming season and those products will arrive on time. If you are a public speaker, your website’s role will be to show your expertise with video clips, a list of past appearances, and copy showcasing why you’re the perfect fit for your customer’s or client’s event. By knowing the job your website has in your business is yet another important factor to understand so it can work for your business, and not against it. 

If you’re anything like me, you’ve just realized the work that not only goes into building a website, but the investment in time to choose someone who aligns with your business goals! If any other topics came up for you, please let me know. I will continue to update these topics. I’ve created a template of these questions and topics you can fill out while you interview different website designers. This will allow you to easily compare the advantages and limitations of each designer. 


Erin Detka is the owner of DTK Studios, a website and marketing agency. DTK Studios works with small and micro “do-it-yourself” business owners to create customer-focused websites designed quickly and within a small business budget. What was supposed to be an easy task, setting up a business, can turn into a huge list of tasks that some small business owners don’t have the knowledge or skills to do in the amount of time they thought it would take. By investing in a website designer instead of  trudging up the learning curve, they can jump start their business and start selling sooner. Learn more at dtkstudios.com


Erin Detka is the owner of DTK Studios, a website and marketing agency. DTK Studios works with small and micro business owners to create customer-focused simple websites designed quickly and within a small business budget. What was supposed to be an easy task, setting up a business, can turn into a huge list of tasks that some small business owners don’t have the knowledge or skills to do in the amount of time they thought it would take. By investing in a website designer instead of trudging up the learning curve, they can jump-start their business and start serving their community sooner. 

Erin Detka Owner of DTK Studios, Website Design for Small Businesses