Last updated June 4, 2019.
Update – The Short Version
Anne here, sharing the BEST webdesign experience I have ever had. I worked with Dabble Media, who do FIVE DAY website redesigns. That makes them absolutely remarkable in the world of websites. Way more folks, myself included, have experienced the multi-month, drawn out, disappointing web design experiences.
You can read all about my amazing, easy, satisfying redesign project here.
Brea’s Previous Experience
Everything happens for a reason, right? Well, this particular thing ended up being a big mistake. Follow my tips for hiring a web designer, so you don’t make the same costly mistake.
Y’all may have noticed that over the weekend this site changed a bit. It got a “new” look…but that new look wasn’t without a lot of headaches. Back in April, I purchased a “total” design package from a designer on Etsy. She had great reviews but will admit that I kind of glossed over them. Looking back, this was my first mistake. She had an absolutely gorgeous portfolio, and I think I got sucked in by the “design experience”.
Who doesn’t want to have a package created from their ideas? It’s great salesmanship. And at first, it was a great experience. Granted, the “two days” that were promised for review took more like a full month. I tried really, really hard to be patient. There were redesigns, and she did work with me on the logo…and in the end, I was happy with it.
Hiring A Web Designer
And then we moved on to the website. I had explained that I already had a blog, but it became apparent that this wasn’t high on the priority list. Which should have been another red flag. And the fact that the package price dropped by nearly $200 after I purchased, which I would have happily overlooked. Until we got to the final product.
I approved my design on the test site and waited for the install…and waited…and waited. And was told “Friday!” And I waited some more. Nearly 120 days after purchasing my redesign, my site was live!
I felt like Dr. Frankenstein! I had been waiting so long for this day…but it wasn’t perfect. There were elements that just didn’t look right or weren’t working the way I had envisioned them.
So I contacted my designer. I was upset, but not angry by any means.
I had paid good money to have the website work the way I wanted it to. I’m not a designer (if I was, I would not have had to hire one), but I did expect that my site’s functionality would not be affected. Now, perhaps this is ignorance on my part, but when you pay someone $1225, I think it’s safe to say that is something that should be unspoken.
Obviously, it needed to be spoken, and I should have been more clear. I think that because of the way that the package was sold, I felt that I could be more hands-off in my approach. This obviously didn’t serve me well, as I had to call on a designer friend to fix some glaring errors.
My Costly Mistake
When I asked my designer to fix them, I was rudely told that it wasn’t her responsibility. Up to that point, I was just frustrated. That brought me to tears. And then she terminated our “relationship” at that point and refunded me $125 of the $1225 that I paid, stating that was all she owed me.
I still do not have business cards, social media headers, nor do I have my stationary. Sadly, I purchased a full experience and was left desperately wanting. I understand that I’m not innocent, but I paid good money to someone I thought I could trust. 140 glowing reviews couldn’t be wrong….
But when I asked her why my photos were all skewed and badly cropped, this is the response I received:
I am not responsible for resizing all of your current blog post photos.
Lesson Learned: Be extremely clear about what you are purchasing and the IMPACT of a new design on your existing content. A good web designer should be able to highlight these types of things as being an issue in advance.
I Paid $1225 For What?
At this point, I went from frustrated to disappointed. What had my $1225 paid for? Sure, I have a beautiful logo…but now I feel like it’s tainted with distrust and misrepresentation. Not only that, but I never received items that I had paid for. I understand the need for refund policies, and the fact that a designer works hard to create their product…but at some point, the customer needs to be considered, as I stated here:
“I paid you an insane amount of money, and this is unacceptable. If you are using a theme that is not capable of resizing images, then you may want to reconsider the theme that you do use. At this point in time, I feel that there are two options:
1. You need to figure out how to fix the images IN the theme.
2. You can refund me the cost of the non delivered items and I will move forward with a different designer.
I will say that I love your work, I love what you’ve created, but I paid you over $1000 and I should NOT have to be modifying things on my end. I chose you because of your professional packages, portfolio, and reviews.
As a business owner, it’s my job to make sure that my customers are beyond happy with the product that they receive from me. That’s just part of doing business. I should have asked some very pointed questions about exactly with was considered “included”.
My sidebar widgets had been stripped out, my analytics tracking code was removed, my SEO was broken. It was a mess. And I removed her as a user just as she was doing a hard resize to all of my photos, which is not a professional solution.
In the end, I recovered $125.00 that I had paid for social media icons and another $225 for the unfinished product. I was also able to recover $650.00 for services not completed. For those of you keeping track (or math challenged), that’s a total recovery of $1000, which means that I’m only out the $225 that she currently charges for logo design-which she did deliver to my satisfaction.
And I still have to pay someone to come in and start from scratch again to make it look like it currently does. Thank God for Kelsey!
My girlfriend Kelsey is amazing, and she gave up her Sunday to help me. She is also doing a total redesign for me that is going to be amazing, fun, energetic, and done right. If you’re looking for a designer, you should definitely check out her portfolio. She rocks.
The thing is…I shouldn’t have had to call on her. At all. I should have just hired her in the first place (I hadn’t met her yet, unfortunately).
Tips for Hiring a Web Designer
Please, please do yourself a favor and do what I didn’t do. Ask questions and demand to see their work. Don’t assume that the images and pictures (and even reviews) are accurate. Make sure you take your time picking a web designer and just don’t jump because they have two good reviews. Ask the questions, look at their work, and dig deep.
Make sure that you look beyond their flashy front page. Pay attention to the little things. Are buttons centered? Is the text easy to read? Is navigation usable?
Read All The Reviews
Pay attention to what other purchases have to say. And look at what products the designer is selling. If you can’t find a lot of buyers for their website design, look elsewhere. And if they have reviews disabled anywhere, RUN.
Remember that Etsy has a 60 day review policy. This means that reviews are only available in the first 60 days after purchase. This explains why all of her reviews were of a half-finished product. I was happy in the first 60 days, too!
Review The Payment & Refund Policies
The designer that I hired had a ZERO refund policy for items delivered. Even though I was not satisfied, so that is something to be aware of. If you are unhappy with work, will they make changes, offer refunds, or is it paid and done in their policy?
Quality designers will charge you a deposit when the begin your design, not the whole amount.
I didn’t realize this, and was so blown away with the portfolio that I went ahead and purchased without due diligence.
Contact The Sites in the Designer’s Portfolio
How was their experience? Are they willing to talk to you about what it was like to work with the designer? Was the designer attentive and prompt in their communication?
Or better yet, find a website you love and look for their designer. Shoot them a message and ask who they used and how their experience was. If I’d done this, I would have spent about $500 and had an amazing site.
Build or Design?
There’s a big difference. When I hired my designer, I was doing so based on visuals only. After the fact, I will admit this was my mistake. She has an amazing talent for design…but she really doesn’t know how to code. The framework she chose was very strange and not customizable.
Ideally, you’ll find someone who can do both, like my friend Kelsey.
What Theme Will Be Used?
If you haven’t heard of it, don’t just trust them. Do some research.
Once you’ve found your designer and done your homework, be crystal clear about what you want:
- Which websites do you like?
- Do you like a certain font?
- Do you love plaid or hate chevrons?
- What do you DO?
- What do you want to communicate?
Be specific, dynamic, and demand good communication. Don’t shrug it off. It’s your site. They should be making your vision come to life. Be involved.
In short, you’re better off asking around and getting a personal recommendation. Trust me on this one.
Anne’s strong recommendation is to start with Dabble Media.