Follow me

How To Hire An Outsourced Web Designer And Survive The Process

Last week I interviewed Kyle Stalzer, CEO of a portfolio company, about an issue that’s top of mind for a lot of our companies: How to Recruit an A-Quality Designer for Your Company.  This week, I’ll discuss the second-choice alternative: how to hire an outsourced designer for your company.

It’s become a truism of the modern internet that design matters.  But what if the best-designed item in your office is the poster of dogs playing poker in your bathroom?

In the absence of knowledge, get someone who has the knowledge.

First you need to understand the different types of website-building professionals.

1. Website designers determine the layout, graphics, text, and navigation of the site. Graphic designers create graphics, colors, and fonts.

2. Website developers take the design and write the code to implement it (although, for a simpler site, a tool like Wix obviates their need).

3. Internet marketers help increase traffic to your site through search engine optimization.

However, the best design experts can’t afford to be singularly focused, a point that Lead Designer and Co-Founder of Tackk, Dan Klammer, stresses in his approach. “Good web designers need to be great communicators and have an understanding of all functions of an experience. It’s important to not only produce solid design work, but also demonstrate the user flow and experience through prototypes.  A good design that is not usable and intuitive does nothing to add to the experience, and prototype design is a much better exploration of the actual user experience.”

Get invites to exclusive events, jobs, and research.

Understand the core competencies of your team 

Though many website-building professionals will overlap on certain functions, it is important to understand what core competencies you need and to target your search accordingly.

There are many ways to go about finding a developer (for the rest of this post “developer” will be used generically in reference to any of the aforementioned web professionals).  By far, our preferred option is to get a recommendation from someone you know. The developer will have strong incentives to do the job right, knowing that you are in contact with past, and perhaps future, clients. Moreover, you can have greater confidence in the developer based on firsthand information from a trusted source.

If you can’t find what you need within your network, however, the next option is to find outsourced developers in the US or offshore. Matt Rogers, co-founder of Aroxo, lays out the process in finding a good web developer based offshore.   Daniella Norwood of ella j designs did a great job for me with and   Danni observed, “Because a Designer, Developer and Marketer are three distinct but integrated roles that are critical to having an effective website, [if you don’t do it in-house] you will be better off hiring a point of contact who coordinates their talents and manages the execution of each, removing this burden from you so that you can work on the growth of your core business.”

Tools like eLance, Scriptlance, and Rentacoder allow companies to outsource specific projects for various job functions. There are also a range of marketplaces exclusively for technical talent: Behance, Dribbble,, Sortfolio, and Folyo all connect you with designers, while Tinyproj, Krop, and Forrst connect you with a pool of talented developers, copywriters, and illustrators.  With 99 Designs and Crowdspring, you post your design project and name your price. In response, an average of 110 developers/designers will complete the project and you choose, and pay for, your favorite. Crowdsourcing enables you to get high quality work for a minimal price. Thomvest recently used this method to create their new site, and wrote a great post with their recommendations around the process, including starting on a Monday, making the contest blind, and turning off search indexing.

Don’t just hire the first promising candidate

It isn’t always wise to hire the first promising developer you identify. There are positive qualities to look for when meeting developers, and mistakes to avoid when outsourcing development. Once you have found someone you believe to be qualified, ensure you:

1.    Check their previous clients’ websites. How sophisticated are they as a developer? How relevant is their experience?

2.    Perform an online search — not just on a search engine, but also on LinkedIn, relevant forums, etc. Look for red flags, but take any individual data points you find with a grain of salt. Patterns are far more likely to be accurate.

3.    Ask for references. Don’t settle for a generic recommendation—ask for specifics. Pay special attention to aspects of the previous client’s project that might be relevant to your own. Customer satisfaction is important.

4.    Think about communication and customer service. Does this team and or developer have a strong track record of communicating effectively with clients and being responsive? There is nothing worse than working with someone who does not respond nor provide you the necessary updates in a timely manner.

5.    Prepare a list of questions to ask the company. Envision the project from start to finish and try to imagine any difficulties which may arise. Make sure you are covering all the bases and getting straightforward answers. You don’t want any surprises once you’ve committed.  Do they have experience in responsive design?

6.    Above all, think scientifically.  You have a hypothesis about the developer (that they would perform certain duties to certain standards). Now is the time to test it. Gather data. Look for disconfirming evidence. Revise or scrap your hypothesis as needed.

Also, think about the ongoing relationship before signing a contract.  Are you going to keep the developer on call if (when!) changes are needed?  You also need to get some assurances that the developer keeps the code clean and labeled properly, so someone else can easily work with the code.

Image credit:  Luke Chesser. Previously posted in Forbes.

Get invites to exclusive events and research.