Finding a web designer for your small business site: 6 top tips

Are you building a small business website? You need a top-quality designer to keep your site running smoothly and attracting customers – here’s how to find one.

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As a small business owner, you should conduct proper market research, read customer reviews, and compare rival costs to ensure you are sourcing the best, highest-quality designer for your own website.

Why should you do this? Well, choosing a good website designer will help ensure that visitors have positive interactions with your brand. And, if you own a small ecommerce business, a savvy designer will know how to make it simpler and more alluring for your users to make purchases – a win-win!

Poor design, on the other hand, can have a disastrous effect on your business. According to a 2021 survey by TopDesign Firms, 42% of consumers will leave a website because of bad functionality. So finding an experienced designer that is aware of common pitfalls and knows how to delight users is a crucial first step to setting up your business website.

No time to compare the market youself? Don't worry – our specialist team of website researchers has designed a handy web designer comparison tool that matches you to quotes from the top UK web design services. It’s quick, simple, and 100% free to use.

Or, if you prefer, read on for our full step-by-step guide. We’ll go through the six best tricks and hints to selecting the ideal web designer, from the initial research stage to the website launch.

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Decide between a web design company or freelance designer

You've decided to invest in a designer for your business website, rather than build one yourself. You want a site that promotes your business to new customers and has lots of features – and one that doesn't compromise on functionality or user-friendliness.

So how do you get started?

The first step to choosing a web designer is to work out whether you want to work with a web design company or a freelance web designer.

Why choose a web design company?

Web design companies are typically creative or specialist developer agencies that work to deliver projects to different clients.

You should use a design company if you want a quicker turnaround time and better communication.

Design companies also typically work closely with branding and marketing teams, which means you’ll get support with aesthetics and SEO as well as web functionality.

Because of benefits like these, a design company will usually be more expensive than a freelancer – so it won't always be the best option for SMEs.

But a web design company will not only create your website – it will also help manage it long term.

As a result, we recommend this option to small firms with high-maintenance website needs, such as those requiring an ecommerce or content hosting site.

How do I find a web design company?

One approach to finding a web design company is to search a directory such as the UK Web Design Association. Here, you can browse through listings and check agency profiles.

Or, for a more bespoke recommendation, we’ve designed a simple web design service online tool that only takes a minute to complete. Once done, you’ll get quotes from the top web design providers matched to your business’s specific requirements.

Why choose a freelance web designer?

A freelance web designer is a self-employed designer – not an organisation – who works for clients.

The difficulty with choosing a freelancer to design your site over an agency is that freelancers typically have fewer resources to ensure they can stay on top of deadlines.

But a good freelancer is usually more customisable than an agency and more open to new ideas, as you only need to discuss your idea with one person. Freelancers are also typically cheaper than web design agencies.

For these reasons, you should use a freelancer if your website is an aspect of your business, but not your main source of income – if you run a high street cafe or shop, for example.

Look at portfolios

Wix portfolio example

Example portfolio

You wouldn’t hire a portrait artist without first wanting to see their work – and finding a web designer is similar.

When searching for the best design company or freelancer for your site, make sure you get a proper, detailed look at their previous work – it can usually be found on their website.

Why is this important?

If your website is going to be effective, it needs to look great and perform brilliantly. It should also be unique to your business, so take care that the company you’re considering isn’t trying to palm you off with a templated design that’s used by countless other businesses.

It’s a good idea to have a look around the web to find sites that you like the look of, are easily navigable, and that you feel are effective in their market.

Usually, the designer will be credited on the site. If not, you could get in contact with the business itself and ask them who's behind their build – which brings us to our next point…

Read customer reviews

Effective web design tends to recommend itself. If the sites that a designer has created do appear to be professionally designed and bespoke to each client, it's time to check the designer's reviews.

Sites like Trustpilot are useful forums to get feedback from, but there are also tools that can give you more industry-specific analysis, like Clutch.

Web designer customer reviews

Should a prospective designer really be reliable and capable of designing professional-looking websites, then their customer testimonials will prove it.

Alternatively, scout around and ask friends or fellow businesspeople if they know of a web designer whose work has been successful.

An unreliable and unproductive designer will not get a personal recommendation, so you will be assured of their quality this way.

Ask about their CMS

It’s important that the company you choose to create your website has a built-in, easy-to-use content management system (CMS).

Without one, you’ll be left with a site that’s impossible to update.

Being able to edit your website is crucial, as you need to regularly add fresh content to ensure it performs well in search rankings and accurately reflects your business over time.

Without a user-friendly CMS, you may find you need to contact the designer every time you want a change made, and this could mean steep charges – and a long wait – for even the smallest of website edits.

Examples of popular CMS systems include:

  • Joomla
  • Drupal
  • Magento

WordPress is also one of the top website management choices, and simple to get to grips with. Learn more about WordPress pricing in our expert guide.

Compare costs

Your website is an investment, but that doesn’t mean that handing over thousands of pounds at the outset is the right thing to do.

Not only should your website be affordable, it should also be tailored exactly to your needs. Beware of companies that try to bamboozle you with tech-speak in order to make you shell out for website features you really don’t need.

Designers can charge between £200 and £10,000 depending on the website you want to build. That’s why it’s really important to use our online tool and compare the market before signing anything. You’ll know exactly what you’re paying for and can watch out for hidden costs.

Companies that ask you to pay for your entire website in one lump sum could charge you for new features once it’s live, leaving you with an expensive outlay or a website that will quickly become outdated.

To find the best costs from the top web design providers, use our specially designed web design comparison tool. We’ll give you the best prices from the market in minutes – and all for zero charge.

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Communicate your idea

Even the best ideas can get lost in translation if they’re not communicated properly to your design team.

The final step for finding the right web designer is to confirm your vision of the website to them. This way, you know that they are fully onboard and capable of carrying it out.

Before signing any contract, make sure you sit down with the provider and let them answer any questions you might have (and vice versa).

Don’t let the late-stage aspect of these talks scare you into settling for a design that you’re unhappy with. You can always return to back-up options should you feel unhappy about a designer after your chat.

Ana Abrantes is a senior designer at a large-scale tech company. Abrantes says it is important to think of working with a website designer as a collaborative experience.

“The designer is there to help you and your business, so it's all about trusting the specialist you're working with. It's easy to be impatient and want work to be done fast, but it's important to remember that you're working with a professional. Share your opinion politely and be open for follow up questions.”

Why should I find a web designer?

Designing, or redesigning, a website requires a great deal of time and work, which is why using a third-party expert can prove more efficient (if also more expensive).

Working with a web designer has lots of benefits. They can:

  • Help with SEO
  • Manage your website – and fix any bugs – long term
  • Offer more design experience
  • Provide access to extra resources
  • Save you time

Website builders are a cheaper alternative you can use to build your own website, but these are not without risks.

Startups that are completely new to web design will struggle with the more sophisticated builders like Adobe Dreamweaver, which requires a lot of coding knowledge. Builders can also take a lot of time to learn and set up.

We recommend Wix as our top-rated small business website builder, thanks to its superb list of website features and great design flexibility. Try its 14-day free trial today to get started.

Want to find the best website builder deal?

We’ve been working with UK SMEs for over 20 years, and we know that time is precious when you’re running a small business.

Our specialist team has built a simple comparison chart to give you the pros and cons of the top builders on the market. Try it today and get the best prices for zero charge.

Choosing a web designer or web design company: summary

Our six simple steps to discovering an accomplished and effective web design agency or freelancer are:

  1. Decide between a web design company or freelance designer
  2. Look at portfolios
  3. Read customer reviews
  4. Ask about their CMS
  5. Compare costs
  6. Communicate your idea

Overall, we think that web design companies are the better choice (if you can afford them).

Whilst typically more expensive, this option tends to give you a more experienced designer. Their larger teams can also ensure that your site will be delivered on schedule.

Alternatively, web design freelancers are a budget-friendly choice for SMEs that need a website simply to have an online presence, and don’t need lots of bells and whistles.

But in terms of overall value for money, we recommend that small business owners go the agency route. It offers much-improved functionality and near-guaranteed customer satisfaction.

To get started with a web design company today, use our free online service that finds the best quotes from the top UK web designers for your business – all for zero charge.

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Need more help to make the right choice?

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Web designer FAQs
  • Can I build my own website?
    Yes! In fact, it’s usually cheaper than using a third-party designer – although it also takes longer and requires more work. Website builders like Wix are a good way to get started.
  • Do I own my website if I use a web designer?
    Once the work has been completed and paid for, your designer should offer an agreement declaring that you own the website’s visual design. Make sure this is present in any contract before signing.
  • Can I switch designers without losing my website?
    Normally, yes. How easy this is will depend on your agreement with the web designer, but as long as you can provide access to your hosting account then it’s definitely possible to switch.
  • What should I look for in a website designer?
    As well as a strong portfolio of work and a good CMS system, another web design feature to look for is website security. Make sure your designer uses a safe and reliable hosting service.

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Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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