There are a lot misconceptions about hiring a web designer or developer that we hear almost weekly. There's a number I'm willing to forgive, while others are painfully obvious.
1. Web design is cheap
Let's get the most common and talked about out of the way first. Web development is not cheap and it's not made overnight. That said, it doesn't have to be expensive. You can get affordable web design within your budget with the right designer but you should be clear about your goals and budget with your web developer beforehand.
Most people seem pretty afraid to share their budget upfront and that's probably because they feel they're comparing developers or that they'll get taken advantage of. But the truth is that most developers can build you a site at your budget. Your budget, however, may not be realistic and you won't be happy with the result. If you're working with an honest developer, you're just paying for hours and I guarantee the 40 hour site will be far better than the site someone spent 10 hours on.
It really comes down to that old adage, "you get what you pay for." I'm always mind bottled (yes, mind bottled) by how little some people want to spend on their website. They're willing to spend thousands on marketing, products, and other areas of their business, but not the first thing that people see. Your website is your modern day storefront and it makes your business run. Put hours into it and you'll see the ROI it deserves.
Host Gator has a great infographic that touches on some very basic concepts of web design usability and why it's important.
2. Good developers write a lot of code
This is a metric that has long been debunked. Ironically, the less code your developer writes, the higher the paycheck. This is because shorter code is easier to read, loads faster, and is much easier to extend later.
Good code is often preceded by very long verbose code. Sometimes I'll write 100+ lines only later to be reduced to 10 to 15 lines. Clients who have access to the code source sometimes feel they're overpaying as they're paying hundreds of dollars for a few lines of code. But this is not an accurate reflection of the hours put into to optimizing legibility, reducing load times, or cost saved in the future. A developer from Google answered this question on Quora regarding the amount
Dividing, we find that I have written 18.6 lines of code per hour. Note: there are serious methodological difficulties here. For example, the lines of code counted a very large 2000+ line data file that I checked in early in my tenure that I wouldn't really say is "code". Also, moving files around counts as deleting them (and counts as writing that many lines of code).
3. I'll tell my web designer my idea and they'll handle the rest
No, no, no- absolutely not. A great website needs great content- you need images, text, and most importantly a great idea. The truth is that most web designers do not handle logos or graphic design and that's completely acceptable. You don't want a jack of all trades who is handing your code and your logo. How many coders have you met that are also artists?
The best web design companies will help you out with this or at least hold your hand through the process. Larger companies may employ both graphic designers and developers. Others may handle the project management side of things for you so that there isn't any confusion between the web development and design of the project. This ensures your design doesn't include something impossible to develop and your development doesn't look a distant cousin of your original design.
However, you cannot expect a web designer to run your entire business. At a minimum, you must provide the idea and basic premise for your idea or business. A great web developer will play devil's advocate with you and walk you through potential pitfalls. By no means should you go to a developer and say "I'll pay you $2000 to build you a web application that generates 6 figures per year." I wish I was joking when I say this happened to us.
4. Hiring a web developer near you is important
We do get the most clients looking for web designers in Atlanta, but that hasn't limited us from taking on international cases. Rarely we still get clients who want to meet in person, but I personally find these are the most inefficient meetings. We're working on websites and as such there's nothing you can't show us physically in person that you could just as easily share online (especially with all the tools at our disposal). Everyone's time is valuable and sitting a couple hours out of several people's day to go over something you could have marked in an email is just plain wasteful.
On the contrary, using email or Trello or your favorite collaboration app leaves an easy paper trail of what both parties need. There's notes on what the client needs and attachments of relevant files. I often find myself asking clients to email us with the files they chose to share in person after physical meetings and consequently having a "wtf was the point of that meeting" moment. Here's a screenshot from a collaboration app called "Concept Inbox".
Not only that, but a client demanding in person meetings throws some red flags. I'm generalizing a bit here, but even recently we had a prospect ask us to drive from our office to his an hour and a had away and give an hour presentation. He also delightfully informed us that this meeting would be free and he would not be paying as he was comparing web designers. This would have been 4 hours out of my busy work day for a potential client. I may have fallen for this trap when I first started in web design but after a decade, we have more than enough clients coming in and can select clients that have a mutually beneficial relationship.
Now I'm not saying that physical meetings or phone calls are off limits. But understand that designers and developers are professionals, and much like you wouldn't ask any other professional to spend half their work-day on you for you without pay, you shouldn't ask this of your web designer either. Someone who works half a day for free is either expecting a big pay day or hungry enough to have to do this. In my experience, if you have a large enough budget, you also have enough to pay for an hour or two of your developers time if a physical meeting is what you need.
We do make house calls to clients in the greater Atlanta area and Roswell. We've even taken some meetings internationally, but when we do so our clients are generous enough to value our time. These meetings are also far more productive as everyone knows the clock is running and you're not just there to blow smoke.
5. A good website design is the most important aspect
So many fall into the trap of hiring the best designer they can find without considering the other half- development and execution. Yes, affordable web designers are hard to come by and when you see a pretty portfolio you may rejoice in thinking your hunt is over. But the design itself is only a portion of the project. You have to remember that this may be only 25% of the project. So much more is needed to actually develop and get this product to production.
What if I purchase a great web design and outsource the development work? No doubt this is the cheapest way to make a beautiful website cheap. But with cheap web development comes poor code. Most sites where we've seen this done are held together loosely by duct tape and silly putty to fill in the gaps. Not only is this making it more difficult to continue extending functionality of the site, but load times are general abysmal and Google is penalized you on the SEO front.
This kind of brings us full circle back to point number 1. If you expect your business to make it, why not invest in it? Playing cheap with your business appearance and interaction with the world will guarantee your business never takes off or scales.