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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What is CSS?

CSS is an Abbreviation

It stands for Cascading Style Sheet.

Style sheet refers to the document itself. Style sheets have been used for document design for years. They are the technical specifications for a layout, whether print or online. Print designers use style sheets to insure that their designs are printed exactly to specifications. A style sheet for a Web page serves the same purpose, but with the added functionality of also telling the viewing engine (the Web browser) how to render the document being viewed.

Cascade is the special part. A Web style sheet is intended to cascade through a series of style sheets, like a river over a waterfall. The water in the river hits all the rocks in the waterfall, but only the ones at the bottom affect exactly where the water will flow.

The same is true of the cascade in Web style sheets.

Every Web page is affected by at least one style sheet, even if the Web designer doesn’t apply any styles. This style sheet is the user agent style sheet – the default styles that the Web browser will use to display a page if no other instructions are provided.

But if the designer provides other instructions, the browser needs to know which instructions have precedence.

For example, in my Web browser, the default font is “Times New Roman” size 16. But nearly no pages I visit display in that font family and size. This is because the cascade defines the second style sheets set by the designers to redefine the font size and family and override my Web browser’s defaults.

Where is CSS Used?

CSS is used to style Web pages. But there is more to it than that. CSS is used to style XHTML and XML markup. This means that anywhere you have XML markup (including XHTML) you can use CSS to define how it will look.

CSS is also used to define how Web pages should look when viewed in other media than a Web browser. For example, you can create a print style sheet that will define how the Web page should print out and another style sheet to display the Web page on a projector for a slide show.

Why is CSS Important?

CSS is one of the most powerful tools a Web designer can learn because with it you can affect the entire mood and tone of a Web site. Well written style sheets can be updated quickly and allow sites to change what is prioritized or valued without any changes to the underlying XHTML.

The challenge of CSS is that there is so much to learn. But it doesn’t seem like it. After all, there are only around 60 properties in CSS Level 1 and around 70 in CSS Level 2. Compared with the number of HTML tags and attributes to learn, that can feel like a cake walk.

But because CSS can cascade, and combine and browsers interpret the directives differently, CSS is more difficult than plain HTML. But once you start using it, you’ll see that harnessing the power of CSS will give you more options and allow you to do more and more things with your Web sites.

If you want to be a professional Web designer, you need to learn Cascading Style Sheets. But luckily, they are fun to learn.

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