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How to build a successful web design team

Joanne Amos's Layout avatar

Choosing the right team can make or break your web design business.

Assembling the best people is crucial for the success of a web design project, but a design team is more than just the people – it’s the roles they perform, the tools and methods they apply, and their ability to find the right balance between being creative and strategic. Team members need to understand the structure of the project, the client’s needs and goals, and be able to transform those concepts into reality.

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Whether you’re taking the first steps to building a web design business or putting together a new team from scratch, building that team and mastering the art of delegation is your recipe for success.

So where do you begin? Here are some suggestions for constructing a successful web design team.

What skills do you need?

An effective web design team needs the following roles:

  • Project manager: Without one of these, it’s very easy for a project to spiral out of control. A project manager is there to facilitate communication, manage the project, and ensure everybody stays on track.
  • Project architect/strategist: The architect or strategist helps to formulate the website strategy. They research and analyze the current website, craft personas for the target audience, and create wireframes for the new site.
  • Web designer: An integral part of the team, a web designer is responsible for the design and functionality of the website. A talented designer will take a concept and bring it to life.
  • Back-end developer: The back-end developer takes the strategy and design and builds the framework for the site interface. They develop the code, perform numerous tests, and deal with any bugs or issues that arise.
  • Front-end developer: The front-end developer develops and implements the part of the website that users engage with, and makes it look good across a range of browsers and devices.
  • Site tester: The tester will try out the website on a range of devices and browsers, and try to break the site to find out if it has any weaknesses.

In addition, there are a number of specialist roles that may be required, including (but not limited to) sales and marketing, content writing, SEO specialist, security expert, UI and UX specialists, and graphic designer.

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A note on people and roles

In many successful web design teams, there are people who wear multiple hats. You don’t need to match up people to each role; some roles combine well together, such as project architect and designer.

If you’re just starting out as a web design business or you’re putting together a team to work on a fairly small-scale project, then combining some roles can be a great way to bond your team and encourage great teamwork. However, if you’re putting together a team to work on a large-scale project, it’s best to have people in more specialized roles.

If you’re the brains behind the venture, you might be tempted to take on the role of project manager, as it’s a role that suggests leadership. However, unless this is a role you excel in, think again. If your team is going to be at its most effective, you need each team member in their specialist role. So if web design or coding is your specialism, leave the management roles to those with experience and the right skills for the job. “To achieve success, you must put aside your ego when it comes to making business decisions. ”

Assembling the right people for your team

Finding people for your web design team won’t be a problem; these are popular jobs and there are many people out there with the necessary skills, from university design graduates to freelancers and self-taught digital artists. Your task is finding the right people, inducting them into your team, and retaining them.

Unless you’re diving headfirst into a large-scale project, you probably only want to appoint the main roles to begin with; all the others can be hired on a project-by-project basis.

When writing your job ads, don’t fall into the trap of making the roles too restrictive by cataloging a long list of specialized technical skills. Obviously you need the right skills for the task, but your front-end developer doesn’t need to know every obscure type of code out there – as long as they have a solid grasp of the most common types of code, they can look up the stuff they won’t need often, as and when required.

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In addition to the necessary technical skills, all team members should be flexible and have the ability to think on their feet. They need to be dependable with the ability to see tasks through to completion, not just dream up big ideas. They need creativity and inspiration. And, most of all, they need to be a good fit for your team. There’s little point hiring somebody whose technical skills and knowledge are first class if they don’t have the ability to work well as part of a team, or if you simply don’t get a good vibe from them. Remember, the success of your project depends on your team members and you need to able to trust them, so you shouldn’t feel uneasy about not taking on a candidate if you don’t think you would work well with them. Always trust your intuition.

Bonding your team

Once you have your team on board, ensure they understand the vision of your company, and the aims and goals you’re working towards. Make sure everybody has a clearly defined role; you don’t want tasks left out because everyone thinks that somebody else is dealing with them, nor do you want to waste resources by having two people doing the same thing. And ensure those roles are based upon that person’s main strengths and that they avoid any weaknesses.

Excellent lines of communication are paramount; there are a number of online tools such as Slack and Redbooth, which are fantastic for communication, collaboration, and project management. As the driving force behind the team, you need to strike a delicate balance between having team members look up to you, and trusting their judgment for their specialized roles and skills.

It’s also essential to encourage a positive team spirit. Work shouldn’t be a 9 to 5 boring chore; it should be fun, inspiring, and an enjoyable process. Play is far more conducive to a creative environment than a stressful, time-pressured atmosphere.

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Growing your team

Like many things, growing and bonding your team will be a matter of trial and error, and it may be a while before you hit the right formula. If you find a team member isn’t working out, don’t be afraid to let them go – you can’t expect the other team members to carry somebody who isn’t pulling their weight.

Once you’ve got a few decent projects in the bag, you’ll probably think about growing your team, especially if you have people covering multiple roles at the start. When you take on new team members, get them involved in the team process as soon as possible so they can learn on the job – this is the best way to integrate them into the team.

Remember that learning is an essential component of any job, especially with web design roles because new tools, methods, and processes appear on a regular basis. Ensure your team members have adequate time to learn new procedures, and lead by example by making sure you never stop learning either. This will help to inspire the team, and encourage them to keep up with your exacting standards.

Building a successful, effective web design team won’t happen overnight. It requires careful planning, excellent communication, and strategic hiring (and sometimes, firing!). You need to remain flexible, and be prepared to experiment with different people and different working processes before you hit on a winning formula. But once you’ve assembled your team, it will be well worth the effort.

What tips do you have for building and growing a successful web design team? Join in the conversation below.

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