How To Find the Right Web Designer For Your Blog | Food Bloggers of Canada

There comes a time for most of us where we look at our blog and sigh.  It's just not doing it for us anymore.

Maybe it feels tired or old.  Or maybe it doesn't have a slick recipe index or a sweet landing page like those other cool blogs have.   Maybe it looks cluttered or your photos don't pop, or you hate your logo or your fonts or your background.  Or maybe it's on Blogger and you want to be on WordPress.  Or vice versa.

Maybe you just want to scream every time you look at it.

So what to you do next?

How Do You Know When It's Time to Hire a Professional?

For most of us, when we start our first blog we sign up for a free blogging platform, like Blogger or WordPress.com, and we use a built in theme or template.  Some of us who feel comfortable with CSS or HTML might tweak it a little to make it reflect our personality.  But very, very few of us actually hire a web designer our first trip out of the gate.

So when is the right time?  Sometimes it's as simple as wanting something prettier and more functional than you're able to do on your own.  But, here's a few other signs it might be now (hint: most of them are related to earning income):

  • you want to start earning income from your blog whether it's via ads, sponsored posts or as a stepping stone to your food related freelancing business (ie, food writing, food photography, nutritional consulting etc)
  • you want to move from a free platform to a self-hosted platform
  • you want to move away from the standard home page of a list of blog posts to something more interactive that encourages browsing
  • you're ready to work with brands and as such, you want to make sure you have a recognizable identity
  • you want to increase your traffic and subscriber rates
  • you want to make your site accessible and as user friendly to your readers as possible
  • you're looking to make your site mobile device friendly

Before You Start Looking For a Designer...

Before you start your search for a web designer you need to sit down and think about what it is you want to achieve with a redesign.  This is different for every blog so it's important you think about the direction you want to take your blog in.

Here's a few things to consider and do before you start your designer search.

TIP: a good designer is going to ask you a LOT of questions before they put together a quote for you so you might as well be prepared - you'll impress them if you are!

Start Researching

  • start looking critically at other blogs in your genre. Start with the ones you usually read but then start looking for "new to you" food blogs
  • start looking at other genres.  Food blogging is very visual so why not seek out some design, fashion or photography blogs for some new layout inspiration?
  • ask yourself what it is you like?  Is it the colours, the layout, the use of space, the graphics, the flow, specific features, the feeling it evokes?
  • make notes of the features you like AND dislike.  As important as it is to be able to tell a potential designer what you like, telling them what turns you off is also very helpful!

Start Planning

  • what's your time frame? When do you want your new look to launch?  Most blog projects can take 4-8 weeks to complete (this can vary widely).  Also consider, the designer you really want to work with may not have any open slots to start working with you immediately. You may have to go on a wait list if they're in high demand.
  • make a list of goals for your new site: is it increased traffic, increased email subscribers, more e-book sales, more page views/vist?  This will vary dramatically from blogger to blogger so don't get caught up in what other bloggers are doing - think about what YOU want to do
  • decide on features that are critical to you.  Do you need a recipe index?  Will you be sharing videos?  Do your photos need to be the star?
  • order your goals and features in order of importance - this will help if your budget is limited and you need to make tough choices
  • think waaaaay into the future.  Even if you can't afford to implement some changes now, being able to tell your designer the direction you want to head in means they can design with the future in mind.
  • create a pinterest board just for your redesign and collect images that you like: logos, colour palettes, fonts, pictures.  This is a very useful tool to show your designer. TIP:  your new designer will probably ask you to do this anyway so get a jump on it now!

Start Budgeting and Saving

Budgets differ radically - anywhere from $30 for an Elegant Themes template to 10s of thousands of dollars for a full blown corporate e-commerce site.  If you're a blogger and you want custom design work done, you should probably budget in the $500 - $5000 range.  That's still a pretty big range! It will vary based on your needs and, to a degree, the designer you choose to work with.

RELATED:  FBC Member Blog Badge (and how to install it!)

Starting the Search - Where to Look

Finding a web designer is sort of like looking for a needle in a haystack.  How do you even know where to start?

  • Those blogs you liked in the last step?  Take a look in their footers and see if there's a designer credit.  If so, follow the link!
  • Ask! Ask your fellow bloggers, especially if you love their site.  Ask your friends or family who run small businesses who they've worked with.

Web design is very much a word of mouth business so don't be shy to ask for recommendations.

You've Got a Handful of Names...

Do your research.  I'm always amazed by how many inquiries I get where it's obvious the potential client hasn't even made an attempt to check out my portfolio or the type of work I do.   This doesn't do anyone any favours.

Web Designers are not created equal - and I don't mean that in a negative way.  A neurosurgeon is very different from a pediatrician.  They're both doctors but you wouldn't go see either of them if you had a heart condition!

Many designers specialize in specific platforms, like Blogger, self-hosted WordPress sites, Joomla, etc.  Some only work with e-commerce systems or large companies.  Some specialize in transferring from one CMS to another. Many will have a specific budget range that they like to work with.

Also, keep in mind that a Web Designer is different from a Web Developer.

Designers do just that: design.   They work mainly with CSS, HTML and javascript and usually have a very good understanding of how users interact with websites. They excel at visual communication. Often, they have a graphic design background and can also help you with other aspects of your brand identity like business cards, logos,  or social media collateral.

Developers make things work.  They program with languages like PHP, mySQL or Ruby and most of their work is behind the scenes coding and debugging.

In some cases designers and developers will have overlapping skill sets but it's rare to find one that excels in both fields.  Most bloggers should be looking for a competent designer.  Odds are good that they'll have a developer or two that they work with to help with some of the heavy lifting.

Check out the portfolios and websites for everyone on your list.  Do you like the feel of their work?  Do they work with bloggers?  Do they work with the CMS that you want to use? That should help you narrow it down and when you have 2-4 names that you're interested in, it's time to make an inquiry.

We'll cover that and the next steps next week in part two of How To Find the Right Web Designer for Your Blog series.

Are You A Web Designer and an FBC Member?

We're looking for FBC members who are also web designers.  If you're a full time web/graphic designer, work with bloggers and are currently accepting clients, let us know.  We'll be featuring a list of available FBC Member designers in next week's part two post.  Please contact Melissa if you fit the bill.

How to Find the Right Web Designer For Your Blog, Part 1,  was written by FBC co-founder Melissa Hartfiel.  Melissa is a freelance graphic and web designer  at Fine Lime Designs by day.   By night she writes Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach as well as being the all round FBC design & technology gopher.

Connect with Melissa on Twitter: @mhchipmunk, InstagramPinterest, or Facebook: Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach and Fine Lime Designs.

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6 Comments

Marlene Cornelis
Reply

This article is really helpful. I’m one of those bloggers wondering if I should take the plunge and go self-hosted. I’m on WordPress with a .com address, and have paid for the upgrade package. I recently redesigned my site, but there are limitations. I don’t care for the header bar and I miss the right side bar, but I love the way I have rolling photos and a bit of text for each post. I’ve been looking at their premium designs, but am afraid I’ll keep ending up ‘not quite there’ in terms of what I’m looking for. But, I love the ease of WordPress. While I ponder what to do, I’m continuing to read articles like this and following the experiences of people who’ve made the switch to self-hosted.

Liliana
Reply

It was time for my blog to have a face lift so I took the plunge this year and had my blog migrated to a self-hosted WordPress site from Blogger. I chose Melissa of Fine Lime Designs to do the job because I liked the way she designed her blog, Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach, and well she is one of the co-founders of FBC.

I couldn’t be more happier with the transition. She and her team really captured what I wanted in the blog header design.. I am still in a learning curve using this new platform, but Melissa is very supportive and replies to my list of questions.

Cathie@Calgary web design
Reply

The best match depends on all this and more. A personality and professional compatibility, an aesthetic sense that is close or better to your own, an expertise in mobile design: all this plus everything you talk about. Thank you.

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