Question About Finding a Web Designer

This week’s question comes from Victoria Powell.

I have been looking for a great web designer for about 4 years now. I have paid more than $5,000 so far, and have only a template that an office manager did for me, who has no experience, using godaddy. Its not AWFUL but I want and am willing to pay for so much more. I can’t seem to find the right person. Maybe I am one of those problem clients? I have specific needs which are going to take some thinking for me and my dream web designer. I want a web designer who wants to win awards for her/his design, and I want, of course, great SEO. How do I find what I need?

Sherpa Aaron Gustafson answers:

Finding talented, reliable people is probably one of the hardest tasks a business owner or manager must do. And, unfortunately, there’s no magic formula to find them, nor is there a well from which they consistently spring. Even accolades like design awards are not always a good indicator of the quality of work you and a designer are likely to produce together.

Trusted Recommendations

Start your search by seeking recommendations from people you know and whose judgement you respect. If you don’t know anyone personally who may have a recommendation, reach out to a designer you think is amazing but may be out of your league. 

Tell her why you love her work and tell her about your project, timeline, budget, etc. Be upfront and explain that while you realize your project may not be ideal for her you would appreciate it if she could recommend someone else. Who knows, she may want the job or she might give you a lead or two. Or she may not respond at all, in which case I’d recommend turning to a specialized web design job board like Authentic Jobs or 37signals Job Board.


Once you have gathered a handful of interested designers, interview them. Ask them to walk you through some projects from their portfolio, with a focus on the project process for each rather than a sightseeing tour of the designs. Process is extremely important, and a designer whose process consists of “I came up with a few design ideas and the client went with one of them” is probably not going to produce the best quality work. 

Also during your discussions, look for clues that the designer listens to her clients and involves them in the design process. Ask about project challenges and how she overcame them. This line of questioning can give you a sense of how she thinks about her work and should give you an indication whether you two are on the same wavelength. If all goes well, you should have a new designer for your project within a few weeks.

WaSP Interview Guide

For more questions to ask during these interviews, I highly recommend checking out theWeb Standards Project’s Interview Guide. It’s currently in beta, but provides a well-rounded series of questions to ask, as well as valuable background information about why each question is important and how to interpret the answers you receive.