Choosing A Web Designer
The Best Designers Are Out There! You Just Have To Find Them!
With the popularity of the Web sites skyrocketing – there are many checkpoints for finding a qualified company to fulfill your needs. So, how do you find the design company best suited to you? Design firms vary widely in price, skills, quality, and services offered. What follows is a checklist to help narrow the field and find the best match for your company or organization.
COMMUNICATION Web design is a collaborative effort. Design is a process, meaning a collaboration of ideas between the designer and the client, and this requires ongoing communication between you and your designer. To achieve your goal with a web project, ultimately communication is an essential element, if not the ultimate key to success. Make sure there is rapport. Does the designer take the time to understand your company’s character and needs? Does the designer explain Web matters well, in terms you understand according to your technical or non-technical level? Furthermore, can the designer advise you on aspects of site design that you may not have considered? Are there ideas offered that enhance what you already envisioned? Another big factor to consider is whether you get a good vibe from the designer. Do you click with this person? If so, then that person is more than likely more capable of carrying out your goals and ideas for the project. Too many so called ‘Web designers’ have a really big sales pitch, but cannot follow through with the job. If you have a gut feeling that this person is not on the up and up, the best recommendation is to run to the nearest exit!
REPUTATION Make sure that the firm you are considering doing business with is reputable. Look for a proven track record and satisfied customers. How long has the Web design company been doing business? Are they doing Web design part-time or full-time? If it’s a part-time job, then obviously your project will not be a priority. If they were a serious designer they would be dedicated to web design full-time. How many Web sites have they completed? And how many clients do they have? Are the clients reputable businesses? Definitely look through their portfolio of projects. If they don’t have a portfolio, then there is definitely something wrong. A professional designer or firm will have a portfolio for you to view. If you don’t like what is in the portfolio, then don’t expect this designer to create something any different for you… And by all means, don’t hesitate to call their current clients and ask about experiences. If the clients are not happy, they will definitely say so. If the designer cannot provide a list of clients to call, then more than likely something is up. Either they really don’t have any clients or they fear you talking to someone that would tell the truth. If the design project is to be conducted entirely via electronic communication, check for a verifiable address and phone number. You don’t want to make a down payment only to have your designer vanish into thin air.
CUSTOMER SERVICE Can you reach the designer quickly and easily? How much time elapses before you receive a response to questions? Can the designer complete your project within a reasonable period of time? Customer service is an extremely important aspect of choosing a Web designer, not only with the initial stages of the project, but after project completion and in the future, making certain that you have a good overall feeling of dealing with the designer – with the ability to trust the care of your business site and marketing in their hands…if there is any question of reliability or honesty, then you should trust your instinct and call someone else…
LOCAL Although location may not be of great importance to you, typically finding a local designer enables you to work with the designer in person. It allows you to go through detailed ideas and goals with an in-person meeting. It also lets you get a personal overview of who your designer really is, which can give you a lot more insight than just a phone call. Ultimately it’s all about credibility, if your designer is a 15-year-old kid wearing flip-flops and cut off shorts, obviously this is something to consider…Do you really want to put your business in the hands of inexperience?
HARD SELL If your designer is putting on a hard sell and pressuring you to commit with their company, this may not be in your best interest to choose a designer who is only looking out for himself. If you intend on having an ongoing relationship with your designer, make sure you are working with a web design company that enables you to speak with the designer directly, not just a sales person. Usually a hard sell means they are struggling for business – a good design firm is typically a busy one – and their services will sell themselves…they won’t have to lay on the hard sell to get your business.
PROPRIETARY CODE One of the local design companies here in Oklahoma City is famous for using proprietary code for their sites. What does that mean? It means that they design ‘your’ website using ‘their’ proprietary coding, so if after your investment of design services, if you were unhappy with them and wanted to part ways – then you are stuck, you cannot take anything with you upon termination of services except basic text and images that you owned. Does that even seem ethical? hardly. If you spend your hard earned money and invest in a site, you should also own the coding for it.
QUALITY Make sure pages are coded correctly using the latest Web standards, including standards for browser compatibility and valid code. Ask the designer if they check for compatibility within multiple browsers. If they use style sheets (css) or if they don’t know what a style sheet is, then they are not a real designer. Also, ask them what programs they use to design sites in. Some of the professional programs are Adobe Dreamweaver and Adobe Photoshop (for graphic design elements)… Some designers may hand code. Programs like Microsoft FrontPage are strictly novice. A true professional designer wouldn’t design in FrontPage. Also, ask the designer if he uses templates. There are all too many ‘so-called’ designers that purchase cheap cookie-cutter templates and then just drop in your content and call it good, yet charge you a big fee…If you are paying for a professional site, it should be custom designed specifically for your business—not a site where you can search the web and find 1,000 other sites exactly like yours, unless that’s specifically what you requested.
PRICE One of the most common questions is: How much does a Web site cost? There are many factors in quoting a Web site project, from number of pages and features, to the complexity of the design and whether it involves a database…It’s kind of like asking how much does a house cost. Do you want a big house, a little house, a frame house, or a mansion with a pool? The best way to determine the price of a project is to create an outline of your project, starting with the number of pages you envision, then go through the goals with your designer and they can create a quote based on your specific goals. Think of a Web site as an investment in your business, a good firm or designer is essential. A professional designer will provide an outline of your project, along with estimated timeline for completion. While a professionally designed Web site may not be cheap, it will eventually pay for itself by boosting sales and site traffic. On the other hand, a poorly designed Web site will make your business seem unprofessional and can actually turn potential customers towards your competitors.
ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS Once you have narrowed down the field to a manageable number of designers, contact each of them and give them a description of what you want. Here are a few more things to consider before making your final selection:
- Make sure that you’ll be able to keep a paper trail of all agreements, deadlines, time schedule and payment schedule.
- If you had the designer purchase your domain name, make sure you own the domain name and not your designer.
- The designer should certainly listen attentively to what you want, but should also be capable of advising you about adding (or omitting) site elements in accordance with what is most suitable for your target audience.
- When choosing a designer, it should be someone you can establish an ongoing relationship with. Your next door neighbors, sisters, brother-in-laws, bosses babysitter may not be interested in working on your Web site ‘next’ week… find a dependable and professional designer/design company.
BOTTOM LINE Be willing to invest in quality. Look for a good match between your particular needs and the designer’s skills, but don’t overlook the element of rapport. Choose someone who you feel confident will be willing to give your project the time and attention it deserves. And don’t be afraid to do a little investigating to ensure your designer is the one for you. Knowledge is power! Once you find the perfect match, your Web project will have all the basic elements of success!
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