Don’t Look for Web Designs

One common query I get upon enquiry is on web design. Clients would ask, ‘Show me your previous designs’ or ‘What designs have you done so far?’ However, this is the wrong question and to be frank, you don’t need web designers. At least not for 80% of all websites.

Let me qualify my argument. In Malaysia and Singapore, most clients are on a budget. They want a website which is ‘peng leng cheng’ (meaning ‘cheap, beautiful and versatile’ in Cantonese). But it is near impossible to find cheap and good at the same time. In fact at a cheap price, most web designers don’t really do design work.

For the sum of USD 300 to USD 1000, you will be hard-pressed to find any web design work done in proper design tools like Sketch/Adobe Illustrator.

As part of our Website Checklist, (a comprehensive series of articles on how to find the best Web Designer/Developer in Malaysia and Singapore), we bring you this article on why you shouldn’t look for web designs. Really. Especially when you meet a web developer.

Don’t Look for Web Designs: An Introduction Why You Shouldn’t

I don’t have anything against web designers nor web designs, really. But I have an issue with numerous people calling themselves as web designers when they don’t bother designing nor drawing anything in real-life. You see, a real web designer likes design, art or drawing. At least that’s what I have noticed.

They constantly want to design the next interesting looking thing or website. And usually, they have a regularly updated portfolio on say, Behance and/or Dribbble.

dribbble designers: why you shouldn't ask for web designs
Don’t look for web designs. If you want to, look for the best designers. And then web developers to implement the designs. Or just go for a web developer who understands front-end engineering

In comparison, a web developer don’t really like to draw. Rather a web developer is usually a lazy person interested to use code to make process easier. (That’s why we work so hard to learn coding) Or someone who wants to solve problems. You can see that they are constantly tinkering and coding something up. Be it in their free time or at work.

Now the issue is, the term, ‘web designer’ is messed up. Just because you cook doesn’t mean you are a chef. Neither does carrying a DSLR make you a professional photographer. Thus, not everyone who call themselves a web designer actually qualify as one.

There are some questions you could ask to find out more. Like do they use, Adobe XD/Illustrator or Sketch to design the mockup of your website? How about Invision for prototyping? How much do they know about UI/UX? Do they even take time to ponder on the user experience before designing?

For the sum of USD 300 to USD 1000, you will be hard-pressed to find any web design work done in proper design tools like Sketch/Adobe Illustrator. Rather, your web designer would probably use a multipurpose theme and some page builder.

And mind you at the time of writing, most Malaysian and Singaporean designers end up using Visual Composer, the worst performing page builder of the lot.

Don’t Look for Web Designs: What Else to Consider

bootstrap example
Here is a ready made bootstrap template

The other reason why you don’t need a web designer is, most web developers can come up with a decent design using tools like Bootstrap. You see, unless you want something truly special and can afford to pay to build it, most of the time your site will end up looking like most other sites.

You will most probably have a header, footer and perhaps a sidebar. Bootstrap enables web developers to churn out beautiful looking websites without much fuss using Bootstrap’s grid system. For more advanced web developers, we use Flexbox and CSS Grid.

Other than that, a proper web developer usually starts off with a beautiful template that he/she then customise to your needs. This means, your website will definitely look good if not great once you get a competent web developer.

Don’t Look for Web Designs: Consider Technical SEO

One common issue I see on websites done by ‘web designers’, is a lack of technical SEO. That means, your web designer either don’t know or is ignorant of what makes search engines like your site. That includes having proper Schema, meta descriptions, site structure, local SEO, breadcrumbs among others.

Some terrible ones even resort to keyword stuffing. In this time and age whereby black hat SEO techniques like that risk a permanent Google penalty, you need to stay clear of them. But again, you might not know how to inspect their sites using Google Chrome Developer Tools.

Don’t Look for Web Designs: Good Designers Are Rare

Having said that, I need to qualify that we need good web designers. I have worked with web designers with an impeccable sense of space and design. Plus they do really mean HTML/CSS as well. Usually for clients who want something custom, my designer will come in to do things like

  • Wire framing with User Experience in mind
  • Sketch mockup
  • Invision prototyping
  • HTML/CSS template

Upon completion of the HTML/CSS static template, we then code in the various functions to make it a proper website. But the process to creating a really beautiful site is time consuming. And it requires skills that takes time to hone.

Don’t Look For Web Designs: What Is a Better Way

A skilled web designer will always be in demand. And, they usually work in a team with web developers as they don’t like working on the backend code. You see, most designers are artistic while most web developers are logical.

As God is a fair God, we end up either being artistic with an eye to detail/flamboyant or we end up logical. This means, if you meet someone who says they do both web design and web development, stay far away from them.

But if they are good at one aspect (web design) and work in a team with someone of the opposite spectrum of skills (web development or vice versa), then you are in the right hands.

Thus, here is our advice

  • If you are on a budget LESS than USD 2k – Ask your web developer/designer if he/she have anything that fulfils your need and if yes, what kind of customisation is included and could be done to the theme.
  • If you are on a budget ABOVE USD 2k – Ask your web designer/developer how much is it to build a proper technical-SEO optimised site. Then work with the designer on the wire framing and the user interface and user experience and finally the mockup. Then work with the web developer to implement all this to the website.
  • And always – Ask if the Web Designer/Developer will be on Visual Composer or some other page builder. Do remember page builders means limitations.

On our end, we don’t work on custom-designed themes for anything less than USD 2k. Why? Because of the time factor to design, redesign, consult and implement. And the truth is, most digital/web agencies will cut corners on design work for anything less than USD 2k.

And in many cases, agencies still deliver you a page builder website even if you paid USD 4k. This is because a page builder website means we get to cut down on time tweaking the code.

But it is detrimental to the long term health of your site. You will find it hard to embed short codes of some plugins, because it just won’t work. Or to add certain elements, just because it is not on Visual Composer (or whichever the latest page builder is)


Do you actually need a web designer for your new website? For most websites, a web developer would suffice. And for something special, talk to your web developer to bring in his/her web designer buddy. Together, they will be able to produce something special for you.

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Leo Koo
I run a small agency building and maintaining turnkey and bespoke WordPress sites. I also review WordPress plugins and digital marketing tools while running this site and the WPStarters Facebook Group. Do swing by and say hi :)
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