So you’ve been tasked with leading the re-design of a website, but you have no idea how to find a good web designer. Finding someone that is truly good can be an exhausting task, but it’s a vital step in determining the success of a web design project. Making a final vendor decision can be even more difficult. If you focus your search in the right places, and evaluate skill sets well, good designers aren’t hide to find.
Good Web Designers Stick Together
Good designers tend to gravitate toward one another online. If you’re looking for visually stunning designs that function well I suggest taking a look at the following online communities, which tend to have better quality results than a standard “web design nearby” search.
Dribbble is a community of designers sharing screenshots of their work, and gaining feedback on their projects. The best designers work can be often be found under the popular shots section. Google, Facebook, Foursquare, and other well known companies routinely recruit skilled designers from this site.
Similar to Dribbble, Behance is a network for designers to showcase & discover creative work. You can filter design submissions by type, for example Web Design. You can also sort submissions by popularity and most appreciated.
Sortfolio is a public directory of web design agencies originally created by 37 Signals. It’s a great tool to use for finding web design agencies, freelancers, and development shops in your area.
Sortfolio is no longer operated by 37 Signals, and has subsequently lost a lot of it’s original traffic momentum.
Zerply is a public directory of web “makers”, and is similar to Dribbble but caters to a slightly different audience.
Put The Word Out
Sometimes it’s best to have good web designers find you, especially if you’re looking to hire one permanently in-house. There are many specialized job sites created specifically for finding web design and development talent. In my experience, finding talented individuals using these tools is much easier than broadly searching through sites like Craigslist.
Smashing Jobs is a job board featured at Smashing Magazine — a magazine that has more than 4 million monthly users and is known to be one of the most successful magazines for creative professionals.
Coroflot is one of the top web design job boards on the web, and some of the best web designer flock to it to look for opportunities at businesses small and large.
Dribbble has created a Job Board that speaks to it’s enormous community of skilled designers. This is a great place to find a good web designer that’s actively looking for opportunities.
37 Signals Job Board
37 Signals Job Board is a job board created by 37 Signals, makers of the highly successful SAAS project management tool Basecamp and creators of the popular web framework Ruby on Rails.
Authentic Jobs is a specialized job board created by Cameron Moll, a very well known web designer, speaker and author. Since 2005, qualified candidates have been applying for great opportunities at Apple, Facebook, ESPN, Sony, The New York Times, and many other companies big and small.
Job Boards: Proceed With Caution
If you do choose to use a job board, I suggest sending your candidates to an application quiz. This will help you weed out the people that aren’t truly qualified. A tool like Wufoo or Google Docs should make the form creation and data collection process simple, coming up with the quiz questions is the hard part. Here’s a
Designer Evaluation Tips
Now that you have a list of good web designers that you think are you great, let’s look at how to evaluate their skills to determine if they are a good fit for your web design project.
Screening Web Designer Job Applicants
If you do choose to use a job board, I suggest sending your candidates to an application quiz. This will help you weed out the people that aren’t truly qualified. A tool like Wufoo or Google Docs should make the form creation and data collection process simple, coming up with the quiz questions is the hard part. Here’s a rough set of questions I’d suggest using:
I highly recommend that you customize the quiz to make sure that it tests the specific skills you need the designer to possess.
Evaluating Web Designers on the Phone
If you’re reaching out to good web designers you’ve found directly I suggest obtaining the following details to determine if they really are as good it seems.
- A great portfolio. Do they have a stunning portfolio filled with work relevant to your project? Look for details about what this person actually did for a given project. A website might look beautiful, but if they only contributed to the development process you need to know.
- Real-world examples of work. Portfolio pieces should be design and development work that is used in the real world today. You should be able to see and try the products that this individual has contributed to, and you must have a thorough understand of what they contributed to that website.
- Testimonials and recommendations. Who is recommending this person, and how trustworthy are they? LinkedIn recommendations, website testimonials, and references are great resources for finding out.
- An ability to write. A great designer thinks about content and determines the best way to convey a message to a given audience. Make sure the designer you’re considering can write concisely and has is generally good at expressing themselves.
- Strong code. Have a skilled developer view the source code on the individuals portfolio projects. Understanding HTML5, CSS3 and the latest technologies generally lends itself to talented individuals.
- Ambition & passion. What has this individual done on the side for fun? Do they treat design and development like a job, or a lifestyle? I know this sounds cheesy, but people that are truly passionate about what they do often have projects that they’ve done in their spare time. Quite often, these projects provide very raw examples of the individuals design and coding skills, because you know they are responsible for all of it.
- Experience in your industry. If you have a technical product, in a technical industry, then it helps to work with someone that is familiar with your product offerings and your target audience.
Finding a great designer is a daunting task, and is pivotal to the success of many modern businesses. Knowing where to look, how to put the word out, and how to evaluate candidates is crucial in making the right choice. Hopefully this article help’s you understand how to find a good web designer for your next project.
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About the Author
Kevin Leary is a freelance developer in Boston, MA with a strong portfolio of work, and over 13 years of experience as a programming consultant and digital strategy provider. Interested in working together? Hire me for your next project.