Choosing a web designer

Choosing A Web Designer

Choosing a web designer can be a minefield, especially when there are so many unprincipled designers around. Some of our clients have been affected in one way or another by their previous experience with unprofessional web designers, and with this in mind, we have provided some information on what can go wrong and how to avoid it.

The aim of this guide is to help you to be confident in your choice of designer, and although we’ve attempted to keep it jargon-fee, we’re aware that we haven’t been entirely successful… of necessity you’ll need to know a little bit about how the web works, so please bear with the more techno-babbly bits.

Where to begin?

Your best bet for starting the process is by word-of-mouth. Ask friends who have websites if they were happy with the design process. Ask the owners of sites that you’ve seen and liked who created them and whether it was a good experience or not. Try and find out how much they paid for their web sites, including web-hosting fees.

Check out the web sites of potential web designers. If the site looks appealing and is easy to navigate, that’s a good sign. Any experienced web designer should have a good portfolio of sites they have created for previous clients – spend some time looking through these and evaluating them. Do they load quickly? Are they well designed? Do they appear professional? Is there any particular style that you like?

Having examined the designer’s portfolio it’s easy enough to contact a couple of their clients for references – just go to their Contact pages! Call several site-owners and ask about their overall experience with the web designer. Were they pleased with the results? Was the site completed in a timely manner? Was the designer helpful and easy to deal with, and did they respond to queries quickly? Was the web site costly and did they get exactly what they paid for? Was there anything they didn’t like about the company? Would they recommend them?

Getting definitive answers to these questions will help to ensure that you make the right choice of web designer.

10 Questions to ask a prospective Web Designer

This the aim of this section is to suggest questions that you may not have thought of, but we think are prudent to ask.
We think you already know the first one…

1. Can you guarantee that all the pages on my site will conform to W3C specifications?
If you’ve read the ‘technobabble’ section above, you’ll know why this question is so important…

2. Will it be tested in all the popular browsers and on different-sized screens to ensure that it displays well?
‘Nuff said.

3. Do you use tables to lay out your sites?
Unfortunately quite a few Web designers use invisible tables to hold the page layout together. For the client, this is something that is hard to detect, since it’s not evident when looking at the design itself. But it is something that needs to be checked — a site that uses tables won’t be accessible (a legal requirement in some countries), will perform less well in search engines and will take significantly longer to load. Tables should only be used where tabular data (such as a list of products and prices) is being displayed.

4. Can you register a domain name on my behalf, and provide web hosting — if so, what are the costs?
You need a domain name so that your site can be seen on the internet. You need web hosting to store your website files (think of it as renting space on the web), and to set up email addresses.

5. Do you hand code your web sites?
This is important. It shows a level of expertise that you cannot get with designers that use software to develop the site.

6. Talk me through the design process…
Know what to expect from the point of commission.

7. What kind of after-development support is provided?
It’s all very well having a website designed at a good price but if the after-sales support is priced extortionately then you haven’t got a good deal. Find out how much changes will cost, and if possible try to negotiate one month’s free support after your website has been completed as there are always unexpected changes that are required.

8. What about updates?
Depending on the likely frequency of updates, you may be offered a Content Management System (CMS) so that you can manage your website yourself, but this can be costly — anything from £200 to £500 a year for a decent CMS. An hourly rate for updates is a common solution proposed by design companies. Ask if you will be charged a minimum amount of time per update such as a full hour of service even if the task takes less time.

9. Is web design your main business?
It’s surprising how many print designers offer web design services these days, as do many graphic designers and even computer programmers. It’s usually best to go with a company that specialises in web design rather than a ‘Jack of all trades’ that has recently branched out. The skills required for each discipline are really very different.

10. Do you refuse to wear Crocs?
How can we put this? It’s doubtful that someone who would create a clean, elegant site would be caught dead wearing shoes that look like chew toys. Yes, they are practical and comfortable, and you won’t slip off a boat if you’re wearing them; but you need someone who’s a stylist as well as a geek — someone who is up on colour palettes, branding, typography, and page design that doesn’t obscure message or content. (Side note: If they subscribe to Grafik Magazine, that’s a good sign.)

Lastly, it’s important to establish a good rapport with your web designer. You’ll not only be working closely with them for the duration of your project, but will be collaborating with them for site maintenance for some years to come. If you’re instinct tells you that you’re not going to get along, then look further afield.

(Funny article and some good stuff by: artyitwebdesign)

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