How Much Does a Web Designer Cost?

So you’re considering hiring a web designer, but need to know how much it will cost? Setting your design or development budget is an important consideration, so keep reading to learn more before you pull the trigger on a new hire.

Design or Development?

The first thing to do is identify whether “Web Design” is what you actually need, or whether you might actually need “Web Development” instead. What’s the difference? When you visit a website, all the images, icons, buttons, and layout all contribute the site design. Designers put thought into the look and feel of the site, and their main focus is on the user’s visual and interactive experience.

Okay, so what’s “web development”, then? Development refers to programming – the logic that dictates how your website responds. User logins, passwords, online ordering, shopping carts – all this functionality is built and managed by web developers.

To give an analogy – If the web developer builds the house, the designer adds the carpets, drapes, lighting and accents. The structure, doors, windows, electricity, plumbing – all the functional stuff is coded by a developer – then a designer makes it feel warm, inviting, and homely, and ensures a great interaction with the user.

Now that you know the difference between web design and web development, you can more accurately narrow down your hiring needs. New logo? Designer. Website says it has an error? Developer. Editing product photos? Designer. Tweaking shipping calculations? Developer.

It’s worth mentioning here that there can be some overlap, and some designers can develop code, while some developers are also skilled with design. It may be a good idea to look for someone who can fill both roles if you foresee both needs. We call these unicorns, but they do exist and if you find one you should never let them go.

You can also consider digital agencies, who will be able to pull in the necessary talent to match your project.

Full-time, or Contract Work?

Now that you’ve narrowed down whether you need a designer, a developer, or someone who can fill both roles let’s look at your time needs. Do you have 8+ hours worth of work for a designer or developer, every day, year-round? If so, It may be a good idea to hire a full-time developer. Someone who will always be available during business hours and will work solely on your project. Web developer salaries can range from $60k – $300k+ depending on experience and skill. Keep in mind that the lower end of that price range is a junior developer salary – fine for simple tasks and features. Not fine for site-wide security audits, complex functionality, or planning big website additions.

If you’ve got less than 8 hours worth of work each day or your workload is more seasonal, it will make more sense to contract the work. You’ll want to find someone you can pay by the hour or by the project, rather than the year. Contract developers generally range from $100 – $300/hr. Some choose to give quotes for each project or feature, rather than work by the hour. Either is fine. While you can find developers for less than $100/hr, you’ll find they are both junior level, and often have issues with communication, language, or delivering on time. I always remind clients that they generally get what they pay for.

Per-Project

Some developers are ok with giving you quotes per-project. This ensures a guarantee on the budget you’ll need. The downside to the increased certainty is decreased flexibility. Once a budget is agreed on, you won’t be able to make a lot of changes to your specifications. Changes would alter the budget, so either a new budget agreed upon after each and every change, or you simply won’t be allowed to make changes at all.

This can work for some people, especially for those who aren’t picky about every detail. If, on the other hand, you’re the type to change your mind frequently – stay far away from per-project fees. You won’t be able to make all the last-minute changes you’ll want to, and you’ll strain your relationship with your developer if you change your mind frequently. If you need this level of precise control and the ability to make last-minute changes where necessary I always suggest you work hourly with your developer. Developers working hourly won’t mind undoing, redoing, and doing work over and over until you’re happy. Per-project developers won’t find that style of work acceptable.

Make sure your developer billing style matches your planning style.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential web developers, be sure to check out our post on How to Know if a Web Developer is Any Good

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