Hiring a web designer is like getting married, it sounds like a bit of a stretch doesn’t it?

However, the longer I have worked as a web designer the more I have come to believe this statement is true. Promises are exchanged, commitments are made and arguments can often ensue.

Let me explain what I mean...

Its not just about good looks

The first thing to remember is that looks are not everything. Its easy to be seduced by the prettiest girl in the room. However, she could easily have bad breath or a terrible personality.

With web design agencies, website owners face a similar challenge. An agency can have a stunning portfolio, but that doesn’t mean you should consider them ‘attractive’.

A site’s aesthetics is only one factor of a successful website. Like bad breath, a poor user experience will undermine a site’s attractiveness.

Also remember a web design agency may produce great work, but if their approach and personality does not match yours, it would be a mistake to hire them. It will only lead to disagreements and an eventual breakup. A successful working relationship is just as important as a designer's ability to produce visually attractive work.

Communication is essential

Any marriage counsellor will tell you that good communication is the cornerstone of a successful marriage. The same is true for the client/designer relationship.

Too many web projects fail because their is a lack of communication. You want an agency that is always on the end of the phone, quick to respond to emails and constantly giving you feedback on the project.

You also want a web design ‘partner’ who is proactive in communication too. A good web designer will suggest ideas and not just respond to yours. They will contact you with project updates instead of waiting to be asked. However, most importantly they will include you in the design process rather than working in isolation. 

You must want the same things

Before you get married it is important to discuss and agree on key issues such as whether you want a family. If both parties do not want the same thing it will quickly become a sticking point in the relationship.

Too many web designers have their own agenda rather than sharing that of their clients. They want to create stunning portfolio pieces or try out new technology. Instead they should be focused on your business objectives. 

Before entering into a contract with an agency, be sure they share your agenda and values.

It should be a long term partnership

Surprisingly many website owners treat their relationship with a web designer as nothing more than a one night stand. They commission an agency for a single project and then cast them aside like a jilted lover.

Although working with an agency on a single project can have its place, it will not build anything of lasting, long term value. Truly successful websites receive ongoing investment and that means working in partnership with the web designer for a considerable length of time.

I recently wrote an article on my blog about how we increased the sales on an ecommerce site by 10,000%. Although this sounds impressive, that process took five years and involved building up a long term partnership with the client.

It will change and evolve as you learn

I have been married now for 12 years. Over that time our lives have changed. As we have grown older and more experienced, we have gradually made better choices which have led to improvements in our lives.

We should expect our websites to evolve and change in much the same way. We don’t throw out of old lives every three-four years and start again. Why then do we do that with our websites?

As you and your agency work together, you will tweak and improve your website, making it more effective and building on past work. It is insane how some companies go through expensive redesign every few years throwing out the old site, only to leave the new one untended before repeating the process. As I say in my book, the Website Owners Manual:

For your website to have a long term future, you need to must stop periodic redesigns and embrace continual development.

Look for an agency that wants to work with you to improve your site incrementally rather than going for the expensive design.

You need passion

Finally all good relationships need passion. Is your web designer passionate about your website or is it just another job to them?

You want a web designer who calls you at three in the morning (not literally) with a brilliant new idea for your site that just couldn’t wait.

Your web designer needs to be as enthusiastic about the success of your website as you. Do not settle for anything else.

Straining the analogy

Perhaps I have pushed the analogy too far. However, my point is that selecting a web design agency is about more than asking ‘do they produce amazing looking websites?’

A great web designer should be passionate, committed, communicative and have a clear focus on your business objectives. If you meet the right agency then there is a real chance you will raise a beautiful, happy and successful website together. 

Paul Boag

Published 20 January, 2010 by Paul Boag

Digital Strategist Paul Boag is the author of Digital Adaptation and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or his personal blog Boagworld.

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Comments (12)

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Matthew Phelan

Matthew Phelan, Director and Co-Founder at 4Ps Marketing

This is a really interesting post. Interestingly @4psmarketing we just do SEO and PPC meaning on our 20 + clients we probably work in partnership with 15 + web agencies appointed by the client.

Not to stretch your analogy too far BUT You could even call these an “arranged” marriages (I couldn’t resist). As you mention though the key is communication and agreeing what you both want out of it.

over 8 years ago


Russell Bishop

An excellent read for both Freelancers, Agencies, and those looking to hire a web designer.

Although the relationship analogy fits well, I think you may have gone a little overboard! "and then cast them aside like a jilted lover."

Overall though I agree that it's very important for both parties to share the same enthusiasm and interests for any web project, and that finding the right person/team for your needs is essential to getting the best results possible.

May forward this to a few clients to show my undying affection!

over 8 years ago


Nils Geylen

It's interesting that besides committment, communication and the likes, you mention passion. That's a major prerequisite too.

However, I think that also goes both ways. Personally, I only (aim to) work for clients who themselves display a passion for what they do.

Sometimes it's harder to create something for people who hardly care than it is for customers whose business is based on strong ideas, the pursuit of quality and passion already.

Everything else mentioned in your post will follow if you look at it that way.

over 8 years ago


Noel Wiggins

Indeed a relationship with your designer is a sexless marriage, it is important that the client and design firm actually like each other and work well together. This relationship is more of a partnership or collaboration more than simply a vendor client relationship, like a printer would be.

I agree with the idea that the relationship should be long-term, and even though I get excited with any new prospect who buys into the there, I always start out a new client with one project first, hopefully not too large so we can both test the waters to see if we're compatible.

Not only does this give an opportunity to see my dedication to customer service but, give me a chance to test the client out as well, how are they with feedback, do they pay on time, do they listen to my ideas and find them valuable to the process or do they simply want it done their way and thats it. 

If they turn out to be a red flag client then why would I want a long term relationship?...


Thanks and Regards

Noel for Nopun.com

<a href="http://www.nopun.com/">professional graphics design</a>

over 8 years ago


Laura Sultan

Don't forget the prenup!

Web designers talk a lot about the importance of a good contract, but clients benefit from one as well.   A good contract outlines the responsibilities of both parties in the relationship and what happens if the relationship goes sour.

over 8 years ago


Carl Franke

I am still in contact with clients whom I designed web site for 4 years ago. During the brainstorming, design, launch, and marketing phases, it was a complete marriage. Of course, some clients I was looking for an immediate divorce, but I always felt that having a strong communicative bond via phone, email, and occasional personal visits made us both more understanding of each other's needs. (sigh!) 

over 8 years ago


Carl Franke

I am still in contact with clients whom I designed web site for 4 years ago. During the brainstorming, design, launch, and marketing phases, it was a complete marriage. Of course, some clients I was looking for an immediate divorce, but I always felt that having a strong communicative bond via phone, email, and occasional personal visits made us both more understanding of each other's needs. (sigh!) 

over 8 years ago



Good one.

over 8 years ago


Vietnam Property Holding

I love how you likened it to a marriage. You made good points there ! Just like in a marriage, if you don't agree on important matters - then the marriage will end up in divorce. I can't stop laughing though as my friend is a Web Designing and I'm teasing him right now !

over 8 years ago



Hit the nail on the head.

over 8 years ago


Marketing Web

Loved your analogy. There is nothing worse than a client who expects to give you almost no information, no assistance, not be there for you when you need feedback or information, and then expect the world. As with most partnerships, the more they are willing to commit to working together the better the result.

about 8 years ago


webdesign professionelles Webdesign

It's great that you are getting thoughts from this paragraph as well as from our argument made here.

over 5 years ago

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