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What to Look for When Hiring a Web Developer and Web Designer

Building a well-performing, sexy, website is important to any business in today’s digital economy.

But many people struggle with hiring a web designer, puzzled by questions like:

  • Should I hire an in-house designer or a freelancer?
  • What should I ask in the interview process to identify the best candidate?

Here are some great answers to these questions that will help you hire the right person for your team.

But First, What Does a Web Designer Do?

Kapost Web Designer, Mark Peck

Kapost Web Designer, Mark Peck

A web designer is a person who develops, designs, and create websites. They are responsible for the look of your site and the site’s technical aspects, such as performance and functionality. In some cases, companies hire two different web designers: one person who is responsible for the artistic look-and-feel of the site and UX (user experience) design, an another person who is responsible for building out the actual code.

But more and more, web developers can do both. So the next question is…

Should I Hire an In-House Designer or a Freelancer?

This depends on your budget and needs. An in-house developer can move from project to project with relative ease and help multiple departments with their online needs, whereas a third-party design firm may only work on one project at a time.

Kapost's web developer Matt Sobieray

Kapost Web Developer, Matt Sobieray

For companies invested in content marketing, an in-house designer is beneficial to build out various gated landing pages, interactive assets, and other content-related features to support content marketing efforts. That said, if your company has relatively simple one-off projects, an out-of-house designer could be a great way to get the work done without investing an annual salary into a position.

Some statistics suggest more companies are choosing to invest in a full-time web developer. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of web developers will grow by 20% from 2012 to 2022. But ultimately the availability of budget and resources may be the real dictator here.

If you do hire an in-house designer we’ve made hiring easy for you.

Get a full job description for a web designer (like the one below) by downloading the free job description templates.

  • You can copy it
  • Paste it
  • Put it right into LinkedIn

What Should I Ask in the Interview Process to Identify the Best Candidate?

The next step is parsing the good resumes and candidates from the “good-looking.” This has become especially hard as end-users can now buy pre-made sites from places like Theme Forest or WooThemes, and a simple glance at a portfolio doesn’t cut it.

If you’re an enterprise-level company, you’ll likely need someone who can build a revenue-driving fully-functional website from scratch.

As moz.com says, “Any developer worth a damn should at least be able to write a simple HTML document without relying on external resources.

To make sure your web designer applicant can really get the job done we stole these awesome interview questions from moz.com, and reposted them here.

  1. How comfortable are you with writing HTML entirely by hand? (+exercise)
    Although their resume may state that they’re an HTML expert, often times many developers can’t actually write an HTML document from top to bottom.  They rely on an external publisher or have to constantly flip back to a reference manual.  Any developer worth a damn should at least be able to write a simple HTML document without relying on external resources. A possible exercise is to draw up a fake website and ask them to write the HTML for it. Keep it simple and just make sure they have the basics down – watch for mistakes like forgetting the <head> </head> tags or serious misuse of certain elements.  If they write something like: <image src=”/some/image.gif”>, it might be a good hint to wrap things up and call the next interviewee.
  2. What is the w3c?
    Standards compliance in web development is where everything is (hopefully?) going. Don’t ask them to recite the w3c’s mission statement or anything, but they should at least have a general idea of who they are.
  3. Can you write table-less XHTML?  Do you validate your code?
    Weed out the old-school table-driven design junkies! Find a developer who uses HTML elements for what they were actually intended. Also, many developers will say they can go table-less, but when actually building sites they still use tables out of habit and/or convenience. Possibly draw up a quick navigation menu or article and have them write the markup for it. To be tricky, you could draw up tabular data – give them bonus points if they point out that a table should be used in that scenario 🙂
  4. What are a few of your favorite development tools and why?
    If they say notepad you’ve obviously got the wrong person for the job. Not only can this help you gauge their level of competence, but it’ll also see if they match the tools everyone else uses in-house.
  5. Describe/demonstrate your level of competence in a *nix shell environment
    See how well they work without their precious GUI. Ask some basic questions like how they would recursively copy a directory from one place to another, or how you’d make a file only readable by the owner. Find out what OSs they have experience with.

Assess your content marketing and business needs before you embark on hiring a web designer. But if you decide to go forward with the hire, we hope this post helped make hiring a great candidate easier.

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