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Web designers are less than a dime a dozen these days. They’re more like a dime a gross. Everyone with a web connection and a copy of Fireworks hangs their shingle out and calls themselves a web expert. It’s a lot like social media experts, but that’s another topic for another day. When you’re looking for a web designer, how do you separate the bad from the good, and the good from the great?

This is a topic near and dear to The Blog Studio, and something everyone who works with us discusses on an hourly basis. Choosing the best designer for your project isn’t easy. Here’s 3 topics you should explore when looking to hire a pixel slinger for your project.

1. Does their work appeal to other designers, or to your potential market? Some designers achieve notoriety because their work appeals to the creative fancy of other designers. This isn’t always the most practical choice for a commercial product. A good, successful design will appeal to the end users, the public & not only to the design community. These aren’t mutually exclusive, but in many cases it’s a choice between one or the other. Choose the designer that has your users needs in focus.

2. How many sites in their portfolio are still up and running? When you view a designers portfolio, take a second and chase down those sites live on the web. Are the sites still live and in business? Are they successful? Take a look at the site traffic on a site like Alexa, are they generating numbers? Have the sites been re-designed by someone else? It’s one thing for a designer to have a portfolio of great looking sites, but it’s another for a designer to have a track record of sites that have become commercially viable. Ask the hard questions above to get on the right track for success.

3. Is your designer active in the design community? While you don’t want a designer that is so wrapped up in the ‘art’ of design, they don’t put your audience first, you also don’t want a designer who works in a vacuum. Take a spin around the internet and see what other designers have said about their work. Find out which magazines, blogs and podcasts they consume. Have they won any awards, or participated in any design initiatives? Are they active in writing about design or commenting on other designers work? Check some of the Twitter hashtags like #design and #web and see if they pop up. Participation in the design community ensures they’re up to date on the newest trends and design techniques. You don’t want to hire a dinosaur.

This is just a jumping off point, because choosing a designer should be a conversation between the designer and yourself. I hope these questions spark some thoughts and conversations the next time you’re starting a new endeavor. What are your favorite questions to ask a potential web designer? We’d love to hear your successes and your horror stories, so drop some science in the comments.

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