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5 Things To Do Before You Hire A Web Designer

So you think you're ready to take your passion, your business to the next level, huh? Everyone everywhere - including me - is telling you that you need a website and amazing graphics and you're probably freaking out. You’re usually the person that takes matters into your own hands. DIYing is always the first option but you're thinking it's time to hire a designer. You need to prepare but how? There are a few necessary steps to take before you event contact a web designer to make sure things run smoothly and your vision is brought to life. Here’s a few tips:



Before engaging a designer at all, you need to map out your site goals and priorities.

What is the purpose of my site?

To sell products and/or services?
To simply provide information?
A little of both?

What are the top 3 things you want a visitor to know or do when they land on your site?

See my portfolio?
Fill out a form?
Download a freebie?


Create a virtual design vision board/wish list

Vision boards are not only for 20-somethings that are trying to get their lives together. They also can help business owners make decisions and create an aesthetic for their brand.

Your virtual vision board can be a Pinterest board or just a folder of images on your desktop but the point is to include things like colors you want incorporated into your brand, preferred font choices, slogans or phrases, and graphics you intend to use when marketing your business.

While visiting other sites for inspiration to create your vision board, keep a wish list of actual functions and features you want on your site. This could be things like button and menu types, social media links, a booking section, an email list and other forms, etc.

Create your content + HAVE it ready

This is the part most people skip. If no one has ever told you this before, thank me later.
Web designers are not copywriters. Web designers are not photographers. Web designers are not social media managers. Web designers are not business managers.

Now, you will run across Superwoman/man-like people that have a few of these skills up their belt but I’m telling you not to assume.

A web designer is someone who is both creative and technically inclined, and uses both these attributes to build or redesign websites. The web designer has the ability to understand what is needed to make a website functional and easy to use, but at the same time make it aesthetically appealing to the user.

You might be surprised to hear this, but you should have the words for each page ready to go before your designer begins work on your website.

We’re not talking ideas and outlines here; you need the final polished copy for your site completed. If you have no clue what to say or feel uncomfortable or unable to write it yourself, you’ll need to hire a writer to do it for you.

The goal should be to hand over this final copy to the designer at your project start date. This way they can design around it. This will save you money since the designer doesn’t have to walk you through copy creation, and it will help speed up the process overall.

As the business owner, it is your job to determine what the content is so that we [web designers] can make it functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Ask yourself -

How many pages do you want your website to have? What is the goal of each page? How much copy, or words on each page, do you anticipate? Do you have images to accompany or illustrate the copy. Do you have product/service descriptions?

These are just a few of the questions you need to ask before approaching a web designer who will most likely charge you by the hour to help you answer these questions.

Again, the best approach is to find websites in your industry you admire and try to emulate (not copy) what you like and take not of what you don’t.

If you don’t know how many pages you’ll need, start with these five pages that your customers expect to see:

  • Home

  • About

  • FAQ

  • Product or Service Details

  • Contact

Your website will be a fluid marketing channel for your business, meaning you can update it as time goes on to keep it current, if the structure exists to support it.

Keep in mind that adding pages, changing the format, or making any significant design changes to your website will take additional design work. Meaning, it will cost you more money for a designer to update your site. The goal should be to create a baseline site that you can easily update with information and doesn’t require structural changes.

What to do with it

Chances are you already are creating and managing your business materials using tools like Google Docs or Dropbox to manage files. Since easy online collaboration is key when working with other creatives, create a folder online to begin gathering ideas and storing key pieces of information they will need to access for your project.

Here are some of the items you will want to store in this online folder:

Your Copy

A shared file is a great way to create draft copy for multiple people to review simultaneously. By using software to track changes to the document, users can view changes made in real time. This can be a great way to speed up the creative process.

Images, graphics, and pictures

Any image owned by you for your website should go in this shared folder. You will want images for your website including photos, logos, illustrations, and animated gifs. What I mean by “owned”? This is where copyright comes into play. Any image on your site needs to either be created by you or obtained through professional help or purchased outright. Do not copy and paste images from other sites or blindly download images you found on Google.

  • Take your own pictures or hire a professional to get the quality shots you need

  • Purchase stock photos from stock images websites that sell images for commercial use

  • Hire a graphic designer or illustrator to create custom graphics/illustrations for your website

Images will tell your story as much as the words on your website. Make sure they look professional, compelling, and brand-specific to have the most impact.

Website sitemap

This is an outline of your website. Each subset of this basic planning sitemap should include the page name and give you a sense of the layout of your site.


You wouldn't hire a babysitter without doing a background check. Everyone you work with, who has any type of access to your life, you need to be able to trust with your information and your vision. 

Do your Googles but also use your professional network. Ideally, you want someone that comes highly recommended from someone else you know. If you are the kind of person that wants to sit down with someone in-person rather than on Skype, your network might help you find them.

Know your budget

Building a website is a lot like most purchases in adulthood: it always costs more than you anticipate. I’m not saying this to scare you. I want you to prepare you.

Genuinely, not everyone knows their budget. It’s rare that web designers get specific figures out of people and that’s absolutely fine. Knowing a rough budget is often an even better starting point than an exact budget. If you can come up with a range, then we know what level of service we can offer.

Do your research and find out what the going rate for web design work is in your area before you speak with potential designers.

The best resource to find out this information is to ask other local business owners in the area who they hired to create their website, and the total cost involved. If you find yourself loving a specific website that isn’t local, reach out to the owner and ask if they would mind sharing the contact information of their designer. They will appreciate the compliment, and most likely would share that information.

Now you’re ready to contact a designer. When they say “you’re so prepared,” tell them #AshleeTaughtMe.

Creative Lingo: Brand vs. Branding vs. Brand Identity

Am I the only one that has to step back and remember I’m a nerd and others might not know what I’m talking about? Yeah? Okay cool.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that the terms I use are not in everyone else’s daily vocabulary. A huge part of the joy I get out of running a design business is educating my clients and sharing knowledge with other non-designers.

In light of that, I’m going to be breaking down some common terms and buzzwords. Here we go:

The design terms I want to focus on clarifying in this post are




Wait, Ashlee! “Branding” … “Brand Identity”? This isn’t all the same thing?

Were you not listening?  That’s why I’m here. The terms “brand,” “branding,” and “brand identity” are sometimes treated as interchangeable, but that’s not the case.

  • Brand is the perception of the company in the eyes of the world.

Let’s say you’re the socially anxious kid at school but you want to sit at the jocks table at lunch. You know it's not that easy. Otherwise, you would have just sat down and started charming them, right? You can’t just expect other people to have that image of you. In order to develop this brand, you need to do some work.

  • Branding involves the marketing practice of actively shaping a distinctive brand.

You start working on your free throw. You study the stats from last night’s game. You rehearse your intro in the bathroom mirror. I’m not encouraging you to be something or someone you’re not but you get the point, right? These actions are the work you’re putting towards developing your desired image; they’re your branding. Finally, you need to make sure you look the part.

  • Brand Identity is the collection of all brand elements that the company creates to portray the right image of itself to the consumer.

You hit Footlocker for some new hooping shoes. You get your haircut. You try out for the team. You make the team!! Those tangible elements—the shoes, the haircut, the team membership—that’s brand identity.

Your brand identity is what makes you instantly recognizable as the jock - or makes you recognizable to your customers. You want your audience to automatically associate your visuals with your product or service. That identity shapes the connection between you and your customers. It builds customer loyalty and determines how your customers will perceive your brand.


It all came full circle, right? Cool. So, what are the next steps? You need to get started on developing a strong brand identity.


Have any other terms you’re confused about? I’d love to help you understand those, too!
Leave them in the comments below, or send them to me in an email at

Brand Graphics: Do's and Don'ts

Graphics and images play an integral role in your brand as they extend across platforms and presences. They need to work on your website as well as be able to stand alone on various platforms.

You can spend a lot of frustrating time creating brand graphics and still not be getting the results you want or are expecting. Here are a few do's and dont's to think about when creating your own.

DO include your website name (domain name) or logo variation

DON'T include your main logo

Here's my reasoning.

Adding a logo variation or your typed domain name to a graphic helps readers identify the source of the content. Including your name allows for readers to easily associate your name with your graphic, especially if they see it shared on social media. 

Including your logo on every single graphic or image is overkill. Do you really want your logo repeated over and over everywhere on your IG and website?

Personally, I prefer to use my domain name on most graphics as opposed to my logo.

DO include your brand colors and fonts

DON'T adjust your fonts depending on the content of the graphic

Nothing is more noticeable than when graphics change fonts post-to-post on an IG feed or a blog. Use the same fonts and colors throughout your designs.

DO add plenty of white space to your graphics

White space is just as important as the content itself. If things seem cluttered, take something out. Most of the time, I've found the issue is simply trying to include too much information.

Use grids and the alignment tools in Photoshop and Illustrator to help you space out text and icons evenly. Don't squeeze anything in too tight and don't extend anything all the way out to the edges. Less really is sometimes better!

DO emphasize keywords

DON'T break phrases at awkward points

Readability. Readability. Readability. 

For example: Seven Tips to Improve Your Photography Skills

  • You want to keep the following words together: “seven tips,” “to improve” and “photography skills.” You might consider breaking at “Improve Your Photography” makes sense, but you are splitting up the verb – “to improve.”
  • The key phrase is “Photography Skills.” If your template has different font sizes, “Photography Skills” should be the biggest and most eye-catching.

With these small changes, you are on your way to making a bigger, more consistent impact with your brand graphics.

Get started creating your brand graphics by customizing these premade, social media graphics!

Social Media Templates | Fashion Sale Kit

You need the perfect social media images for your brand? I've done the work for you! Grab a few social media templates and replace the images to make them your own.

Templates are great to build a cohesive brand style. The best part is you don’t have to worry about design, layout, or sizing. You'll get it right every single time. 

Theses templates are editable Adobe Photoshop files. 


  • (3) 3000 pixels x3000 pixels templates
  • 72 DPI for online (web and social media) use
  • Example image used is from
  • Instant Digital Download
  • Templates are non-refundable 
  • Sold in an unlimited quantity
  • Template Copyright 2017 Ashlee Nicole Artistry, LLC

Requirements: This download is designed in Adobe Photoshop and is available for CS4 or higher and Creative Cloud. It does not work with any other software. If you do not have an Adobe Photoshop, you can download a free trial here.

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