You need a new website: How to find the right design partner

Your current website looks outdated, isn’t mobile-friendly, or isn’t attracting the customers you want. Perhaps you're overwhelmed because your current DIY site needs an upgrade. Or, maybe you’re a start-up and don’t even have a web presence yet. Wherever you’re starting from, you’ve decided it’s time to bring in an expert to up your game.

A well-designed website can have a big impact on your business—transforming your website into a powerful business tool. It should clearly communicate your offering and what makes your product or service different. It should empower customers to perform tasks and find information easily. It should look professional and function smoothly. Customers today are used to quality design and expect it. If your website or product is not user friendly they will move on and find a competitor that is.

Achieving a high-quality website involves working with the right web designer who can balance aesthetics and functionality. Their skills will ensure your site not only looks great but also serves your business needs effectively. Here's a basic guide for finding the right web designer (or app designer) for your project in Vermont and beyond.

Think about what you need

Take some time and write down a list of what you need your website to do. Do you need to sell products, show off your work, or write a blog? Maybe your brand needs a new look, or has begun to feel inconsistent after years of ad-hoc additions. Is the story and messaging on your website congruent with your current business values and offering?

Another helpful approach is to zero in on what isn't working for you now. This will be a great starting point for your initial conversations with prospective designers. A good design agency will have their own suggestions about what can be improved with content organization, visual consistency, and the overall user experience that you may not have considered. They can also provide a helpful outside perspective, thinking about your website from the customer’s point of view.

No matter your needs, there are a few basics every new website should include:

  • Responsive Design (A website that works across all device sizes)

  • ADA Compliance (A website that is accessible and usable to all types of users)

  • A content management system (CMS) that lets you make changes to a website. WordPress is a popular CMS, but there are many others. Sites on platforms like Squarespace also use a CMS.


Make a list of potential partners

You’ve compiled your notes, now it’s time to find someone to work with. First, ask your network for recommendations. Begin with friends, family, co-workers, and local businesses. People who've recently worked with a designer and were happy are usually eager to connect you. Personal recommendations will offer insights that may not be apparent from the designer's website or portfolio.

Websites like DesignRush list web design agencies in Vermont and have reviews. These lists are not comprehensive, but will give you a good sense of the market and types of talent available in your area.

When you have your list of agencies and designers, it's time to filter it down. Look at their portfolio of work, evaluate their style and craftsmanship, and see the type of clients they work for

Budgets and timelines

Think about how much you want to spend and when you need the project completed. If this is the first time you’ve hired someone in creative services, you may not know how much you should expect to spend. Here are some benchmarks:

Template site

Sites built with pre-made templates, on platforms like Squarespace, Shopify, etc. These sites get the job done quickly. They are good for simple websites that don’t need custom features or functionality.

The cost will be dependent on how much custom development the design firm does on top of the platform for your website, and how much of it is using pre-built templates.

Budget: $5,000 - $10,000

Custom website

The benefits of a custom website are that there is more flexibility in the design as well as what functionality and interactions you can include. If you want something that is going to stand out and perform better, this should be your target.

Cost for a custom website can vary greatly depending on the number of pages and functionality required.

Budget: A simple 3-5 page site may be $15,000, whereas a web application or very large website for a university with hundreds of pages may be $150,000. It varies depending on the size and complexity of the site.

If you have a specific amount you’re prepared to spend it is helpful to share this with prospective design partners. Working from this number both parties can determine if it is a good fit, and what a scope of work for your budgeted amount would look like.

If you have a hard date for when the website or app needs to be completed, plan ahead. A custom website will usually take at least two months. For custom mobile apps, expect at least four to six months. Many design and development companies have a lead time of at least one to two months. Rushing the process can add cost, as well as reduce flexibility and creativity in the result.

Schedule a meeting

This is the time to discuss your project, evaluate expertise, and just generally see if you have a good rapport with a prospective designer or agency . You'll be working closely, , bringing them into your business, so it’s important you like them!

Short list of questions to ask:<

  • What is your process?
  • What will my involvement as the Client be? How do you handle potential feedback?
  • Who will I be communicating and working with during the project? Who will be doing the design and development work? Is it a senior partner? Is it a junior designer? Is it a third party contractor overseas?
  • Will you be using a pre-built template or will the design be custom?
  • Once the designs are completed and the website has been launched, how will updates and changes be handled? Is a content management system included?
  • Do you bill on a time and materials basis or is it a fixed fee?
  • Do you provide a detailed Scope of Work outlining the project requirements, functionality included, deliverables, timeline, cost, etc.?
  • What happens if down the road I’d like another firm or designer to manage the website? Am I locked in?


Compare notes and make a decision of who to go with!

About Brault & Barnes Design

We are a Vermont-based digital design studio, designing and collaborating with clients for the past 12 years. We are not only passionate about design, but also solving your business and customer needs.

Clients work directly with founding partners Jeremy Brault and Lisa Barnes throughout all phases of your project. This hands-on approach allows us to deeply understand your business, and provide a level of customer service that we are proud of.

We've worked on websites and digital products of all sizes and complexities. Engagements we've taken on range from focused, month-long projects, to long-term relationships lasting 8+ years.

If you have a design project you think we’re a good fit for, we’d love to hear about it. Jump over to our calendar here: Schedule a call. We'll be honest and transparent with you, and get you pointed in the right direction, whether it's working with us or someone else. Let’s get creative! Looking forward to hearing from you.