Purrrrr Design & tips in hiring a designer

When I first started selling Mooncups and Cloth pads back in 2004, my primary concern was to keep it cheap. I wanted an avenue that would cost me the least money, be (fairly) easy to update and let me open up an online store instantly.

That’s why Fem Choices was opened on V Store. Yes, it is really basic, can be slow to load and the backend of loading up products was a pain in the behind.

Finally, after 2+ years I’d had enough! Time to upgrade to a better site and one that’s says more about what the shop is all about.

Fem Choices was all about providing an eco-friendly choice for women – well, there’s so many ways that we ALL, female / male, can be eco-friendly, and hence Tiny Tapir was born.

I needed to find someone who ‘got’ that and someone with mad design skills who could come up with a store that would have me excited about spreading the word (rather than with the Fem Choices vstore which is kinda embarrassing to tell people about!).

Thankfully I found Purr Design, and thanks to Lindsay, I am pretty happy with the clean look of the new site. Not to mention the lovely tapir logo, which she got right in basically 1 shot!

I’ve read and spoken to some people about really nasty experiences with web developers and I’m just so happy that I landed a good one! I personally didn’t think she was pricey either, compared with local designers even (does anyone else think the majority of the local Malaysian designers all come out with the same ‘style’ of design which is kind of messy and all over the place?).

I’d actually discussed with 4 designers before I picked Purr. Here’s the things to consider :

1. Time

A good web designer probably won’t be free to start your project immediately (obviously if they’re good they’ll have at least 1 or 2 jobs lined up at any time!), so don’t be impatient and choose based on who is immediately available.

Of course the converse is not true – just because someone is busy it doesn’t mean they’re that great either…

2. Portfolio

This is SO important. Check out the designer’s style and functionality by spending some time on their portfolio listed sites (since I’m an online store I tried out the purchasing system, had a look at the ‘flow of the site’ etc). Some designers may be too busy to update the site with latest projects and prune ones that went belly up (it happens, especially in the world of low start up internet businesses), so email the designer and ask them for an updated portfolio.

Google their design company name and see what comes up.

Contact some of the people they’ve done work with and ask whether they recommend the designer or not.

Best is if you can let them know what you want to do with your site so they can send you relevant examples.

Do you like the designer’s style? Does they feel like something you would like to call yours? That’s how to choose a designer

3. Know what you want

I can’t stress this importantly enough. Quite a few people online I’ve known just don’t like the end product – no matter how great the designer was. Either it didn’t suit their needs or it wasn’t as organized as they liked.

What a waste of money. If you don’t know what you want – neither will the designer.

Sit down and work out roughly what kind of pages you want and the kind of hierarchy that would best suit you. If you can, draw out a site map of your dream site.

You should also think about things like color schemes, who your target market is and what the site is going to be used for.

What I did was a project briefing – I sat down and wrote up what I wanted to do with Tiny Tapir, the kind of products I stocked, my desired target market etc etc. And then I sent that write up to the designers I was in discussion with. The designers who replied to this (admittedly quite) long missive with more questions and showed a personal interest in the store’s vision and mission – they were the ones who were short listed.

4. Ask what you’re getting

Be very VERY clear with the designer what you want her to do – and then clarify, clarify, clarify when you get the fee estimate. Don’t assume something you thought they were going to do was part of the fee, this can just lead to disagreements later (frustrating for both the designer and for you).

Does it include Print work (like business cards etc)? What about web banners? Are they going to do SEO for you? Who is responsible for inputting the products into your new store? Will they walk you through how to use the shopping cart? How many designs do you get to choose from? is the shopping cart software included in the price? What about domain and web hosting?

The questions that should be asked would fill a whole other post!

Same as for most things in life, being shy to ask will just lead to you being resentful and feeling cheated in the future – even if in reality, in the designers mind, you’re only getting what you paid for.

5. Payments

Most web designers will have tiered payment systems – maybe 20% upfront, another 40% somewhere at the 2/3rds complete mark and the balance upon completion (i.e. when the site is functional and running).


On a last note – don’t be afraid to hire a designer in a different country. As long as you can communicate well with them there’s no reason to stick to a designer in your home country. Most communication is done through email anyway!

Thanks again Lindsay!


2 thoughts on “Purrrrr Design & tips in hiring a designer

  1. That was a concise run-down and run-through, interesting even for someone without a budget for a designer (sigh). After quickly poking around your site, a further lesson would seem to be that sometimes, minimalism works and less is more: So long as the result is sleek, all the needed info can be accessed easily and the working parts are well-oiled, one doesn’t need the elaborate structures that are designed into some blogs/websites these days.

  2. I love the tinytapir name.
    and regarding your article: some nice points. It’s also worth understanding what you are being charged for. The designer has to make a profit obviously but be clear how they are charging. Some will provide their service ‘free’ but apply a markup to all the products they buy others do it in reverse and other do as a combination. IF the designer is making a profit on the items you are acquiring remember that they MIGHT be able to get them cheaper that you and remember it also takes a LOT of time to select and buy stuff so they really are providing services beyond just the design of the scheme.

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