Choosing and hiring a web designer based off of their web design portfolio can be difficult. It's relatively easy to recognize a gorgeous portfolio. However, it's important not to get so dazzled by the bright lights and pretty pictures that you miss the big picture. It's important to know which skills to value and how to effectively judge a candidate that’s right for your particular project. Use the following tips to effectively see past the fanfare and effectively judge a web design portfolio.
A web design portfolio should undoubtedly be professional, logical, and easy to use. The sites a designer has previously designed should encompass the presentational approaches that are relevant in your industry. The images should be relevant and the copy should be appealing to your clients. Whether you’re choosing to write your own content or you plan to hire someone to create it, it's still best if your web designer understands how to implement these functions.
All of the pages should load quickly and work properly across different browsers on different devices. With the increase in mobile browsing and the availability of different browsers, it's important the designer includes at least one mobile-friendly design on their web design portfolio. The best design is a responsive design, which allows the website to effectively load on practically any device, regardless of screen size.
Site navigation is extremely important on professional websites. If the navigation is custom, it should clearly communicate that the designer understands the nuances of user-friendly design. You should be able to move to and from pages seamlessly, backwards and forwards. While stunning graphics and technology are extremely vital in building professional websites, a user-friendly navigation and layout is equally important.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engines are a gargantuan source of visitors to your site, so it's of no benefit to you if your website ranks #1,001 on a search engine results page. As you review a designer's web design portfolio, you should ask if he or she has examples of their work that have achieved relevant rankings.
When choosing a designer, a great resume is just as important as the web design portfolio itself. The resume is the qualifier, which means you should look for certain criteria and qualifications. For example, make sure you pay attention to:
- The number of years in the industry
- The number of years and projects relevant or similar to your industry
- Different types of formal design education
- Recognizable agency and company names
When you are looking at a professional's web design portfolio, it’s also important to pay attention to their professional references. Since the web design industry is unregulated, anyone can state they have "years of experience" and provide testimonials from friends and family. Today, WordPress sites and template-based websites have made it especially easy for anyone to build a website without any knowledge of CSS, HTML, or Google search guidelines. Any reputable web designer should be able to provide you with credible references. If a potential designer has done any government work, those sites serve as excellent credibility. You should also make sure you ask whether the designer has a membership in any professional associations. If they are part of an agency, investigate whether they have Better Business Bureau ratings or Dun & Bradstreet ratings.
BONUS TIP: The best indication of a digital agency’s capability is their own website. Is it aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate? Are all of the pages and links working? If their site is a mess, it’s fair to assume they’d make a mess of your site as well.
Professional websites require a substantial level of understanding and actual design chops. Ultimately, the portfolio should provide you with an experience that renders insight into the designer's skillset, experience, and approaches, and leave you feeling confident that interviewing the designer would be beneficial.