Checklist: What you need before calling a web designer

by Jeremy Powers on July 15, 2012

Web Design Checklist

Now that you know what to look for in a web designer, have you put much thought into what a web designer is looking for from you?

Truthfully, what you need depends on the quality of designer you are planning to hire. For our purposes, I am going to assume you are hiring a true professional.

Checklist: What to know before you meet your web designer

I always cover these areas with new clients when we first meet. I don’t necessarily use a checklist, but there have been times the first meeting would have been better if I had sent a questionaire in advance. Below are the topics you should plan to discuss with Winding Staircase, or any quality internet marketing firm, before we start building your website:

Web marketing budget

I know this is painful, but if you can’t tell me what you have to invest, I can’t make an informed decision about the best way to get started.

  • Immediate budget: How much can you invest in the next 30 days to get started?
  • Short-term budget:  Is more internet marketing in the plan for the next few months?
  • Ongoing budget:  Are you planning to spend a certain amount each month for marketing, or are you allocating a certain amount each year toward internet advertising?

If you don’t trust your designer to give you the “best deal” when you tell them what you can afford, then you should simply choose a more credible designer.

Website content

There are many types of content, and you need to know who is expected to provide this content before you sign a deal with a “web guy.”

  • Copy – The first basic question is who is writing the copy? Many low-end designers simply do not write, or they write very poorly. Many high-end design shops charge thousands of dollars for copywriting. I usually ask my clients for sample brochures, contracts, and other collateral to get me started in the copywriting process.
  • Photographs / Images – Professional photography is usually an additional charge. If you don’t have images for your website, be sure to discuss with your designer who will be coordinating the photography.
  • Videos – Videos are not part of basic web design. I know quite a few folks in this industry, and we all either charge for video work or refer it to another contractor. Even simple videos require significant time for scripting, shooting, and editing.
  • Custom graphics – Logo design is not part of web design. Many of us have designers that can handle the work, but proper logo design requires significant interaction with you, and quite a bit of time. If you are expecting new logos or branding elements as part of your website contract, be sure you tell the designer before he estimates the job.

Here in Cincinnati, and I believe this is probably true in other parts of the country, disputes over content generation is probably the number one reason web designers struggle with their clients. Many designers are “not in the business” of writing, scripting, or photography.

Website purpose

What is the #1 thing you want your website to achieve? Is this a brand building tool? Do you want online sales? Are you really hoping for more email subscribers? Often the designer can help you determine an objective based on your feedback in these areas:

  • Sales structure – Do you have a dedicated sales force? Is more of your business from existing customers or from new customers?
  • Phone set-up – Does your business have a “main” number? If so, is it ALWAYS answered during normal business hours?
  • Do you have an email marketing program? Should you have an email marketing program? (Insert Link)
  • What product or service do new customers most commonly purchase?

Provide as specific an answer as you can to these questions. Small business websites are effective when they are focused on a specific objective.

Design ideas

There are many different layouts and styles of websites. Narrowing the universe of web design down to something “in the ball park” of what you want is critical to an efficient design process.

  • Find three websites of Cincinnati businesses you think are well designed and similar to what you would like.
  • List the 2-5 products or services you want to promote on your website.
  • If you know what search terms you plan to target, list those as well. Force rank them from “most valuable” to “least valuable.” Your internet marketing partner might recommend additional or different terms based on your budget. Having a starting list is helpful.

The estimating and design process is always faster if you, as the customer, can give examples and specifics of what you want and why.


Professional web designers will get you what you want. To stay within budget and on-time, however, more information at the beginning of the process is best.

Have you ever paid for a website and received something VERY different from what you wanted?

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