3 questions you need to ask your Squarespace designer before you drop a dime
So you're dreaming of hiring a Squarespace designer to uplevel your site... Congrats! You're taking a huge step in building your online presence and polish.
Hiring a designer can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be! Beyond design being a more subjective field- unlike other fun investments like shoes, you really just don't know what you're buying into. After working with several clients who have come to me after poor experiences with designers, I have determined that there are 3 questions that can help you decide if your new designer is really a good fit for your vision... before you lay down that deposit.
WHAt's your process?
If you're hiring someone to do your website, it's important to know their process. The most common issue I see is designers who take on web clients without any previous branding work (and no branding built into their process).
If you have not had a brand guide made for you, ask your designer how they plan to develop your color palette and fonts. Will they use the defaults in Squarespace or do they create a mood board to explore color and font work before you did into the site?
Your designer should have a roadmap for developing these key visual elements or require them to be done before you book. If they don't... it might be a red flag that they will build your site, but are not taking care to build a visual experience with a well-considered vibe.
here's a look at my 'web-only' process
there are several checkpoints to clarify vision, visuals and vibes before the full site is designed
Do you use code to customize the template?
This is another HUGE question you should be asking. Squarespace is fantastic because you can build a gorgeous site without writing (or knowing) a lick of code. However, if you're hiring a designer and have visions of images fading on hover, text blocks with a blush background, or even just a few more header options (beyond Squarepace's H1, H2, H3), your designer will need to be able to write a few lines of CSS.
Now, not all designers write code, but if you want a really custom 'I cannot believe that's Squarespace' site- your new design diva should be CSS capable. CSS is a front-end code language that allows designers to edit how things look. It allows a designer to say, hey i want that word to be violet and the others grey. It can create hover effects with you mouse over things and create some stellar collages.
CSS isn't mandatory to build a gorgeous site, but it sure as hell helps it break free from the square. It can also make updating much easier. An image can be updated without using photoshop but still keep it's styling- a cute border or a marble background, for example. I've seen an entire about page dropped in as 1 image from Photoshop... text and all (gulp!) Talk about terrible SEO value and mobile friendliness. I won't link any names... but if you have to open photoshop to update your copy, something has gone very, very wrong.
CSS edits to LOVE
Where is the contract?
No contract? Your boots are made for walking... but you need to run. Working without a contract for such an important part of your brand's presence is a HUGE red flag. JUST. DON'T. DO. IT.
A contract may seem silly for such a creative process, but that's even more of a reason to have one. The creative process can be tricky and run wild if you let it... don't let it. Get everything in writing- the deliverables, the dates, the payments. Talk about things like who is paying for that gorgeous custom font on your site or the sock images you're using. These things can not only add up financially, but can also be your legal responsibility.
You should always have a contract to protect yourself in any partnership. For me, I see it as a sign of respect- that I respect my client enough to put my promises into writing and that they respect me enough to honor their side as well. Who doesn't love to feel safe & respected? And if ever something terrible happens like your designer steals an entire site and sends you into the world with it (yes, this can happen), your ass is NOT responsible for that mess. no, sir.
Need to write a contract on the super-fly? Try HelloSign. It's wonderfully simple... and legally binding in case shit does get murky.
Hopefully this will help you on your design journey to make confident, empowered hiring decisions.
Hearing design horror stories absolutely breaks my heart. It can be so disheartening to invest in someone only to find out that they just cannot deliver. Don't fret- not all experiences turn out this way. The key is to ask the right questions upfront and have an open mind about the designer's process. Usually they have developed a way of doing things because it produces rad results. So if they ask for a call every Friday or a to communicate via instant messenger (team Slack all the way!), trust that they have a reason and a flow for creating at their fullest potential.
XX + Best of luck!
ummm... shameless plug...