How to select a web designer

Paul Orangetree

Paul Orangetree on How to select a web designer

Rather than describe the ins and outs of the website design and the internet, waffling on for several pages we will assume you have given some thought about why you want a website, what you want it to do and how you want it to do it. Now, you need to find someone to help you to do it, here are a few tips that might help ...

  1. Ask!

    The best way to find a web designer or developer is to ask people you know and whose websites you like for a referral. It is also worth finding out who designed websites that you really like, especially if those websites 'do' roughly what you want of yours. Hopefully you will be able to find a list of a few prospective suppliers.

  2. Chat

    Talk to those people you have been referred to. The most important thing of all in this whole process is that you pick a designer that you like! This may sound glib, but websites are evolving things and you want someone who will still smile when you ask for your 100th amendment. Make sure the designer asks about your business, your website and your goals for the website. A good designer will want to know what you need your website to achieve for your business, listening is a very big part of the designer's job. If you are considering outsourcing your designs make sure your chosen designer is one you can talk to easily, lengthy, difficult calls abroad can end up being costly.

  3. Check

    Ask for at least two or three reference sites that you can check and ask how involved they were with the design of the website; they may have only done the programming. There are some simple checks you can do:

    • Does it look appealing? If there is a splash page with a 'skip' or 'enter' link is often a bad sign. If this page is a flash animation it's a very bad thing. You can ask if the customer insisted.
    • When you google the domain and the 'headline' do both searches find the site? If not it may be a bad sign ... ask why not.
    • Do the pages have sensible titles? (Shown in the very top of the browser window). If they say things like 'home page' the web designer may not understand much about search engine readability.
    • If you validate the website using this page does it pass? It should!
    • If you use Firefox view the page without any style (View/Page style/No Style). Does it still make sense? Does the 'headline' still look like a headline? Does the order of the page make sense?

    If the website doesn't pass these tests the designer may not be using the best coding practises. (If you don't use firefox you should!) View the page source (on firefox use View/Page Source, on IE use Page/View Source) does it look relatively neat and tidy? (This is obviously subjective and looks a bit techy but you can use it to compare different web design companies) You might also want to check out the viability of the design company, this might be a long term relationship.

  4. Compare

    Ask prospective designers to provide a development plan, pricing model and costs. Things you may need them to include or discuss include: Design Branding logo's artwork (if applicable) Content placement and or copy writing Contact forms E commerce Content Management SEO Agree Negotiate with your chosen designer to reach the ideal of functionality versus price and the timescales for each step of the design process.

Then agree the payment schedule, most web design firms and individuals like to be paid in stages. An upfront payment of 50% with the remainder on completion is a very common model; you need to agree a payment schedule that you and your designer are happy with. You might want to steer clear of companies that want 100% up front. A contract outlining the agreed design brief, delivery and costs is worth having to save later wrangling. Keep in touch Your web designer should keep you up to date with progress, but if not keep in touch yourself. Reviewing frequently can save lots of time at the end of a project.

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