December 5, 2018

Getting a web app to look professional

How did you go about getting it designed to look good and professional?

I'm a developer, so building the application isn't that hard. It's just that it kinda looks like shit and i'm kind of embarrassed to show people it.

I don't mind spending money on a developer, but i don't know how to do it. Who did you go to? An agency? Freelance site like upwork or 99design? Friend?

I don't really know what the best choices are in front of me and was hoping maybe you guys might have an idea.


  1. 3

    Hi Marv, I am a developer myself. Dribbble has been a major source of inspiration for me. For a lot of my projects, I get UI/UX ideas from there only.

    Other than that if you don't want to build the UI components from scratch, there are many great admin dashboard themes, based on the framework you are using, out there.

    I would like to work as a freelance developer If you need help with building the application. :)

  2. 3

    I love going with base bootstrap and getting a theme from Themforest is decent too. Doesn't cost much and looks great.

    1. 1

      What is the right license if I want to buy a theme for a SaaS admin dashboard on wrapbootstrap?

      1. 2

        Just the single license is fine. The multi is if you want to use it on multiple apps.

  3. 2

    Hi Marv,

    I'm a developer too, and my designs improved over time with a lot of tweaking, running them past my designer friends, and observing how other websites do it.

    Learning design takes time, but it's also very rewarding to be able to come up with a basic design scheme that looks professional.

    In general, I've learned that it's super important to make sure of the following:

    • Clear visual hierarchy

    • Things are aligned neatly

    • There's enough contrast between different things

    • Similar things are grouped well

    • Text is legible

    • Ample white space.

    Once you have your typography sorted, you can play with the images, colors, fonts, illustrations, and animations.

    Some resources that have helped me:

    1. The Non-Designer's Design Book

    2. for picking a color scheme

    3. for understanding typography

    4. for picking great fonts

    5. Some of my favourite websites to learn from:,,

    If I may present a plug; I run a mentoring service, with which you can interact with expert designers and improve your design skills. Please get in touch, if this interests you:

  4. 2

    Upwork is a great resource for this - try searching for "html/css designer".

    HTML, CSS, and Javascript typically are the key skills . I have found designers that can make really high quality static sites with some basic animation.

    They will be able to prototype stuff really quickly in HTML / CSS, which you can convert easily to a modern framework.

    The best designer profile that I've found are people who used to sell their own HTML / CSS admin themes on Themeforest.

    The best thing about someone like that is - you can purchase a high quality admin dashboard template with clean code, and have them iterate on top of it to brand the theme to your desires.

    My workflow typically is - start off with an admin template that is clean and simple. They will build UI prototypes on top of that directly in the repo, and a dedicated frontend developer will convert it to production level code.

    Designer manages global and component-specific styling (we used styled components) while developer manages code organization, app configuration, and integration with data source.

    A designer helped us with our main product (You can see the results at and we couldn't be happier with the results.

  5. 2

    Why not check out dribbble and search for designs that you like. That's what I do when I am in a pickle.

  6. 1

    Follow this guy on Twitter:

    He has a whole bunch of resources on "design for developers." Some examples:

    He's coming out with a book to this end in a few weeks.

  7. 1

    If you have a budget I can point you in the direction of the guy who helped me design

  8. 1

    I know your feeling, I went through that phase.I hired designers on up work also purchased templates and altered them.

    My best recommendation is browse through prebuilt templates and purchase a templat and alter it. Upwork designer not only costly and time taking but also not sure about end result. Now I purchase a bootstrap or other template and alter it to my needs.

  9. 1

    Hi @blankit I like to inspire myself from the Hinata Template on the ThemeForest, just take a look at the demo and you will understand.

  10. 1

    I agree with @hereisnaman and @makr .

    You can also work with a css framework like or (recommend)

    To help get started.

    1. 1

      Yes, I do use them for all the projects. Check out they also provide high-quality UI kits.

      Helps me jumpstart with my projects.

  11. 1

    Honestly if you're a decent developer then something like themeforest could work. My experience is it's best to find something that is good looking but not very complex. Avoid anything with a page builder or gimmicky css things. A decent bootstrap or foundation template is all you need, and they can be had for less than $40. View source is your friend :)

  12. 1

    Why don't you try a template or ui kit? If it's a prototype it could do the trick. Maybe it's not a good fit for every case but for dashboards and admin panels there are a few cool templates availables from creativetim and also adminLTE looks good. The work well for prototyping.

  13. 1

    I use Dribbble and Behance to find nice designs for similar products. Then try to hire the designers who made them!

    Many of the designers who share on there are freelance. Pay attention to who you are looking at on Dribbble - some heavy users are big agencies and they can be quite expensive. I recommend looking for individuals who list their personal email and say they are open to work.

    Designers fees can vary my experience you'll be able to hire better designers directly if your budget is $1-5k... but don't worry if you can't afford that much.

    When I want to spend <$1000 I typically go on Upwork instead and pay hourly. On Upwork I write out the job requirements and post a job...but I've never hired anyone who applies to the posting... usually these people aren't so good. After you make the post, I would recommend searching for freelancers portfolios and inviting the ones you like to apply for your job.

    When writing the requirements - it can be pretty simple, don't overthink it. Just say what the app does, who it's for, what sort of people will use it... these are things the designer might find useful.

    include a few screenshots and references for apps you like the look of. It should be quite easy.

    1. 1


      Wondering when you hire on behance/dribbble, what does a contract look like? What would the designer usually agree to deliver on for, lets say $5k?

      1. 1

        Well I don't usually go for a full contract unless they want a downpayment.

        If so I would just use a form template type contract saying I own all the rights to the work after.

        And then separately draft what the deliverables look like e.g. - PSD files or CSS/JS/HTML files. But for $5k I think I could get both the designs & the code. The contract might say that we have designs done first, usually, in sketch or something, then once we agree on those, deliver the code for whatever designs we agreed on. Plus maybe 1 round of improvements after that first deliverable.

        1. 1

          Makes sense. Super curious, so what do you typically ask a designer to do for you, if it's not a full contract?

          Really interested in exploring that community and seeing what people have done in the past, in terms of collaborating in a cost-effective way.

          1. 1

            Well mainly because I don't employ a full time graphic designer I have lots of little things, like designing header images for blog posts, or making nice screenshots for app stores... and I have a few designers I have worked with in the past. They already have my brand colors and logos etc. We have an established hourly rate, I just email and ask for assets to be made. They bill me. Often they have other jobs and make cash on the side this way. Am I answering your question? :)

            1. 1

              Yessir! Sometimes it takes a sec to fully understand what kind of projects I can give to someone on those sites and what the "Standard" is. Now its super clear. Thanks!

  14. 1

    I think getting a freelancer to design the UI for you is a good way to go. For starters you may get away with working with a good ui framework and adjusting the css to match your brand. Unless your app UI truly needs to be innovative. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.