Tips to hire a web designer for your startup


A recurring question we get asked by our startup clients is how to hire a web designer that will help them craft a state of the art corporate website.

Startups play by a different set of rules than large corporations. They normally rely on smaller budgets, tighter deadlines to deliver, with overall less room for mistakes than well-established businesses.

Hiring the wrong person to design the website that will get your name out to the public can prove fatal. Not only will it cost you recruitment fees (if you're working with a headhunter) as well as a few months worth salary, but it will also cause delays in promoting your business which may soon result in unsufficient cashflow.

In this post, we'll discuss key points on how to hire a web designer that will help your business thrive right from the start.


Don't go for artists


It's a common misconception that you need to get the next Picasso on board your team in order to launch a successfull website. While it's true that big corporations sometimes look for genuine artists to craft their digital assets so they can stand out from the competition, startups are better off sticking to less artistic, more down to earth profiles.

People who are artistically skilled usually aren't very good at more technical stuff such as wireframing, CSS coding and UX. Also, artists tend to have a lot of pride and often don't take criticism well.

If you're in the early days of a high risk business venture (as is the case with most startups), the last thing you want is someone with an arty-farty attitude asking you to praise some original yet unefficient piece of design.

Instead of focusing too much on aesthetics, look for someone who understands how to win customers through effective designs and outstanding user experience. 


Look beyond the portfolio 


It's quite frequent to hear managers explain how they hired a designer based on their portoflio.

While a portfolio is a good way to start filtering out people, keep in mind it's only an overview of what a candidate claims he or she's able to create. 

Get them to do stuff right in front of you during the job interview, such as quickly sketching a wireframe, or replicating a design with Illustrator or Photoshop in as little time as possible. This will not only prove that they're good at designing (and that their portfolio wasn't ripped off somebody else's work), but it will also give you an idea of how they work under pressure.


Make sure they know the basics of coding


While you don't need to hire candidates with hard core programming skills to take care of the design side of your website, having someone  on your team who can implement creatives beyond the Photopshop/Illustrator fase will be a key asset for your startup.

Again, this is something that bigger companies don't need to be worried about, as they can afford to hire multiple profiles that only have a specific skillset. Startups on the other hand are better off hiring cross-functional profiles in order to reduce costs and increase value.

Look for candidates who know HTML5 and CSS3 well enough, as this will save you the hassle (and the cost) of hiring a web developer to do just that. Chances are you already have programmers in your team if you're running a startup, and these are people you can always fall back on when developing your website. However keep in mind that putting a full-stack developer to code basic CSS on your website is a poor way to take advantage of your company's human ressources.


Find someone who knows how to work with CMS


Even though your web designer might not be the person who ultimately gets the whole code up and running for your website, it's better to look for someone with prior experience with either Joomla, Drupal or Wordpress. 

Web designers who are used to working with well-known CMS platforms are familiar with the concept of templates, and are often able to take existing templates and tweak the design to give it a unique look and feel.

This will save you a lot of time, as introducing a new hire to the world of CMS can be a cumbersome task. The more your web designer knows about CMS, the easier it will be for him or her to interact with whoever is in charge of the programming side of things in your team. Creating a website is teamwork, and everybody needs to be on the same page if you want to deliver results in a timely fashion.


Designing a great website is one of the key components for successfully launching a startup. Unless your company is backed by signifcant amounts of venture capital that allows for mistakes and delays, make sure you hire a web designer with cross-functional skills who understands that sales weigh more than art in the business world. Don't forget to test their knowledge in real-time during job interviews, as this will allow you to filter out people who's actual skills don't live up to their portoflio, and will also show you how they react under pressure.


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