WordPress gives you a vast range of customization options – but that doesn’t mean you’ll end up with a professional-looking website on your own.
Hiring a WordPress designer can save you a lot of headaches. Website design is a learned skill, and those who mess with a site risk reducing its effectiveness for conversions. Dedicated WordPress designers are those who have the experience and portfolio of work behind them to show that they know what they’re doing – those are the people you want!
A huge part of WordPress design work is that it’s not just about making your site “look pretty.” It’s about having a fundamental understanding of how design contributes to conversion optimization and what will be appealing to visitors.
How do you find the right WP designer? Here are some of our tips:
Designer vs. developer: Know the difference
What does a WordPress designer do? They are solely concerned with the front-end look of your website. They are usually experts in design principles, color, typography graphics and how all of that ties into conversion optimization.
On the other hand, a developer is responsible for the back-end coding of your website. They make sure that everything works as it should and that your website is built to perform well. Sometimes you will find there is overlap and that one person takes both roles, but it’s still important to realize the difference, especially because someone who is heavy on developer skills isn’t necessarily good with optimization.
“Off-the-shelf” vs. custom WordPress design
Another common term to understand is “off-the-shelf” vs. custom WordPress design. This is especially applicable to your WordPress theme (the coding that decides the overall look of your website), but can also apply to updates later.
Basically, you can buy themes and other features “off-the-shelf” and many of them are great. These options tend to be cheaper than custom design because the original developer can sell their work at scale. They’re also quick to set up (most of the time). However, off-the-shelf has drawbacks, too. It’s not always reliable or even easy to use. You still might need expert help.
Custom WordPress design is just as it sounds: you get a designer to build you something from scratch, or at least to start with a base template and customize it. The advantages include that you can have basically anything you want, while also ensuring that it is stable and well-coded. The main downside is that it is more expensive.
Where to find a WordPress Designer
There are a few places you can find experienced WordPress designers. Firstly, there are many who work independently as freelancers. You might find them via their own website or advertising. Typically, most will also have profiles on common websites for finding freelancers. Some of these include:
Second, there are WordPress agencies out there that specialize in packages for WordPress sites, including design and development. There are many to choose from, so you may even prefer to search your own area first for businesses nearby (although obviously, this sort of work can be done at a distance!).
Third, several larger WordPress businesses will list “trusted partners.” Among those, you will often find designers of high caliber: the business values their own reputation and wouldn’t recommend them otherwise!
A fourth option is web design agencies that include WordPress among the platforms that they work with. The thing to be careful of is that they do in fact have a strong portfolio of WordPress work behind them. Web design experience as a general skill doesn’t always equate to WordPress design skills.
Look for related experience first
All WordPress designers should keep a portfolio of their work that you can refer to. Look at their work and the style that shines through. Is it a good fit for what you envision?
Experience should be a core criteria for hiring a designer. You need to know that they’ve got experience in the type of work that you need done and that overall, they’ve got good recommendations for their work. It doesn’t hurt to ask for references and speak to those people. What if a designer produces amazing work, but takes much longer than agreed upon to finish a project? Some key points to consider include:
- The level of communication provided by the designer. A web design project should involve plenty of clear communication to ensure that your needs are met and that there isn’t a need for time-consuming rework. (And remember, communication is a two-way street. Be as clear as possible and come with examples!).
- How up-to-date the designer is. When was their most recent work? Are they current with Gutenberg and other recent changes?
- Are they recommended for delivering on-time and within budget? (Something to check with those references!).
Look at pricing
You’re going to see a range of pricing for any custom WordPress design work. The cardinal rule tends to apply – you get what you pay for.
If you’re unsure what you should be paying, try asking around among your networks and contacts – what sort of pricing have they paid for similar work? You can at least come up with a range for the type of work you need done.
If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll usually walk a fine line between designer experience and price. Top talent asks for top prices, but you can usually find someone who will be able to provide a professional service within your budget.
Beware of any that seem to be underpricing the job, especially if it’s well below the range you came up with. Sometimes it means they don’t fully understand the extent of the job and will want to add things on later. In some cases, it’s because the design work is being done in some kind of “mill” environment where low-paid designers of varying abilities do the work. Always verify via past work and references.
Look for their ability to support you long-term
WordPress is a platform where updates are made regularly and it’s normal for there to be several changes, even just during the course of a year. When these happen, sometimes your website needs some rework in order to remain optimized.
A designer or developer who is willing to provide support on an ongoing basis can make a huge difference. You won’t have to worry about finding someone else and getting them up to speed with your needs.
Some designers offer support on a retainer basis, or otherwise will negotiate with you per project.
There’s a lot to be said for hiring a WordPress designer to do custom design work for your website. It can give you the advantage of having a unique, stand-out website that is truly optimized for your customers.
Look at it like this – WordPress as a platform provides you with the basic ingredients, but if you want to go gourmet, you need professional help. The standard platform is not optimized for conversions and will require some work to get there.
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