Looking to redesign your nonprofit’s website but overwhelmed by all the options? Here are 5 tips for finding your organization’s right website design partner.
Choosing the right website design and development studio for your organization’s website project can feel a bit, well, overwhelming.
But also, it’s an important step in the process because finding the right partner means having someone who will understand your unique needs and help you create a website that is functional, strategic and supportive of your organization’s goals. Additionally, the wrong partner can leave you feeling frustrated and stressed out – two things that don’t add to the success of a project.
So where to begin? Today we’re sharing our top five tips for finding your right website design partner, as well as a few questions and considerations to make before and during your search.
IN THIS ARTICLE
→ What’s the difference between website design and development?
→ When is the right time to start searching for a website designer?
→ Decide between a freelancer or a studio/agency
→ Determine your budget and available resources
→ Look at their past experience and reviews
→ Connect with multiple potential design partners
→ Have clarity on the scope of your technology and design needs
What’s the difference between website design and development?
Spoiler alert, there’s a difference between a website designer and a website developer. While they’re often used interchangeably, I think it’s helpful to share about the differences, especially prior to embarking on your own website project.
Website designers are creating the look, feel and aesthetic of the site. They help you determine things like page layout, graphic location, text formatting and color selection, based on your visual brand standards. They’ll think about the big picture of the website’s strategy and then bring it to life through intentional design.
A website developer is then responsible for the actual creation of the website – making it functional and usable. This is most often done through code and requires all the ‘techy’ knowledge.
Here at WCO, we operate on WordPress and use the Divi theme and page builder. This allows us (and our clients) to design and develop a website without too much tech knowledge. Squarespace and ShowIt are two other website platforms that make it easy for one person to be both the designer and the developer.
When is the right time to start searching for a website designer?
Here’s the annoying but true answer: the right time looks different for every organization.
But also, there are a few considerations to make that might make it easier to determine what that looks like for your organization:
• What team members/stakeholders do we need to support this project?
• What major events are coming up that we need to be aware of/plan around?
• Who will be involved in this process and when do they have capacity?
• What are we hoping a new website will do for our organization?
Decide between a freelancer or a studio/agency
You know you want to bring in support for your new website but the next natural question is, ‘What type of support?’
In the website design space there are two overarching paths to choose from – a freelancer or self-employed designer and an agency, studio or company.
Hiring a freelance web designer means you’ll work directly with an individual; they are the one providing your new website and who you will be interacting with from start to finish.
The pros? From trying new concepts to adjusting schedules, you will usually have more flexibility because it’s a one-person operation. Additionally, choosing a freelancer is generally less of a monetary investment because they don’t have the additional expenses that come with a team.
The cons? Resources are generally less available because it’s a one-person show. From client meetings to collection of website content to meeting deadlines, everything is handled by one person, which can be a detriment if there isn’t a proven process in place. The other consideration for resource availability is their capability as a website designer – there can be limitations to their skillset and expertise as a website designer which can negatively impact your project outcome.
When you partner with an agency, studio or company, you’re hiring a team of people to work together on your website project.
The pros? You have access to a team of people with a variety of expertise; this is especially helpful if your website has specific functionality needs since you’ll be able to tap the resources of multiple people versus a single designer. Additionally, because the scope of the project is divided among multiple people, the turnaround time can be quicker and the communication more streamlined.
The cons? Because of the team, it’s generally a higher monetary investment to work with a company. Additionally, there isn’t always as much flexibility in terms of timeline adjustments and change in scope of work.
Determine your budget and available resources
Before you begin your website designer search, it’s important to get clarity on the resources your organization has available. Yes, a significant part of this is budget but also, team. .
Let’s first chat about budget. There’s a lot of choice and variety out there when it comes to website design price, which can make the entire process that much more overwhelming. It’s helpful to first determine what functionality your website needs to have and then come up with a range that you’d like to stay within to accomplish your website goals.
Because numbers are helpful, I think it’s reasonable to expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 for a basic website (freelancer) to $30,000+ for a more complex website (studio). Again, this goes back to getting clear on what functionality your website needs to have in order to support your organization’s goals. And of course, you can always determine what the ‘must-haves’ are for right now and the ‘nice-to-haves’ for later down the road.
A personal note on pricing: When it comes to brand and website design, I’m a firm believer in ‘You Get What You Pay For’. We’ve had one too many clients come to us after being burned because they wanted to go the ‘cheap’ route. Your website is a pivotal element to your brand’s experience and it’s worth investing in.
Now for team (and other needed resources). Even when hiring a designer to support in the project, there are certain deliverables that your organization has to be responsible for. Because of this, team capacity is another significant consideration when determining when and who to partner with for your website project. If you decide to work with a freelancer, your organization may be responsible for more of the work than if you were to hire a studio with a team. Additionally, there’s feedback and deliverables needed throughout the process so that also needs to be taken into account when you map out available capacity.
There’s no right or wrong, but rather, determining what resources you have available in tandem with the budget, to help you select the right design partner.
Look at the designer’s past experience and reviews
It’s important to look at both a designer’s past work (what they say) and reviews/testimonials (what past clients say) to get an accurate idea of what it’s like to work with them.
When looking at a portfolio, see if there are any other organizations that have similar models to yours and/or in a similar category/service area. This ensures that the design partner knows what to look out for and/or what specific questions to ask or recommendations to make because they’ve done it before. I.e., A website design partner who has only worked with e-commerce print-on-demand accessory brands may not be the best fit for your human services nonprofit organization. It’s really helpful to be able to leverage the expertise and experience of your design partner and that can only happen if they’re well-versed in your space.
It’s also helpful to peruse through reviews on Google, Yelp and social media. This gives you a more accurate reflection of what it’s like to work with the design partner straight from the client. Not only are you wanting to look at what the past client said but also what the partner responded with. Both will tell you a lot about what to expect as a client and the experience that the partner provides.
Connect with multiple potential design partners
This is not the time to go for ‘One and Done’. As tempting as it may be to go with your first option or to only schedule a meeting with one person, it’s so unbelievably helpful to put the feelers out and connect with a variety of design partners.
Yes, it can be a little more leg-work up front but meeting with multiple candidates will give you the ability to compare and contrast so you can get a better understanding of what’s available to your organization. And, it ensures that you are intentional about finding your right fit.
Quick note on this: Make sure your potential partner will actually meet with you, face to face (real-life or virtual). There’s absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t make the time to connect with you and learn about your organization’s needs, especially because a website project can be a significant investment of both time and money. You deserve to see who you’re collaborating with.
Here are a few questions to ask to help you get a feel for their process and working style:
• In the last project you worked on, what was the client looking for in terms of the goals of the website and how do you see the final result as aligning with those objectives?
• Can you share more about how you interpret what the website will look like based on this [xyz] visual direction?
• We’re looking for our organization’s website to help us achieve this [xyz] goal; high level, how would you get us there?
• What does your communication look like throughout the process? What happens if a deadline is missed – yours or ours?
Have clarity on the scope of your technology and design needs
When you know what the site needs to do to function well for your organization and the style that you’re most aligned with, you’ll have a much better understanding of who will be a good fit for your website project.
For example, if your website has just a handful of pages and all you need to do on a regular basis is swap in images and update text, the right partner is going to look vastly different than if you need to collect donations, publish blog content, collect email addresses for your email marketing, have membership functionality and integrate with your organization’s podcast.
And if you need some more support, here are a few considerations to get you thinking about aesthetics and functionality:
• What must our website be able to do to best support our organization today and in the future?
• Can we identify a handful of other organization websites that we admire and articulate why we’re drawn to their aesthetic?
• What software or tool integration must our website have in order to support the various aspects of our organization?
• Who needs to use the website on a regular basis, both inside and outside the organization?
Few final thoughts
Yes, there is a lot to consider when selecting your right website design partner. But, that’s also kind of the point. A well-designed, intentional, and strategic website has the power to move your organization forward, so it makes sense to put in the work upfront to finding the right fit for your needs and goals.
And of course, if you’re wanting support with your own organization’s website redesign, let’s connect and see if we’re the right partner to support you in this project.
With that, happy branding.
All my best,
Additional brand resources
This ultimate guide to website strategy will walk you through how to create a plan for your site so that it can effectively support your business and its goals.
This post walks you through the three key steps to help you prepare for a website redesign.
Want to better understand if your current website is working for your organization? Check out the all-encompassing guide to auditing your website.
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