How to choose a web designer

Questions to ask your web designer

With so many web design companies and freelance web designers out there its hard to decide on who to choose. Many companies do the hard sell, and before you know it you have signed up for a website that is entirely unsuitable for you, or has far more features than you need at a price you really did not need to pay!

As a small business / individual you may not know much about the internet, websites or even computers, but you may desperately need a website. How do you know who to trust and what questions to ask potential website designers and even if the answers are correct? It’s all very overwhelming to someone dabbling in the world of web for the first time, so that is why I have written this article to try and help you find a designer to suit you.

First things first, before you even contact any designers ask yourself, why do I need a website? How will it save you and your company money or how will it generate income for you? Just because your competitors have a website does not mean that you have to get one. It has to benefit you and/or your business or it is entirely a waste of money.

Decide why you need a website

Before you contact anyone ask yourself these questions and contemplate them for a few days, not only will it get your needs clear in your head but that alone will help your designer understand your needs and provide you with the best solution:

• Why do I want a website?
• How will it help my business?
• Will I need to update the site myself or is it simply an online brochure?
• Will I sell products from the website? Do you want to be able to accept payments online?
• Will the website be static – a brochure for the company?

• What should my website have on it that my visitors would like? What you want the website to do, and what information you want your website to contain?

• Do you want ongoing support, or will your site be pretty much static once it has been built?
• Do you want a unique bespoke design?

Check their web site

The first step in making you shortlist of designers is to check out their website.One of the most important signs of a good web design firm is their web site. Take the time to study the site.

• Do they even have a web site? (Avoid them if they don’t)
• Do you like the design? If you don’t you may not have the same design taste, we don’t all like the same thigs and designers usually have a design style.
• Is the web site easy to use?
• Did the website load quickly, afterbrowsing a few pages does the website seem too slow?
• Is the navigation clear and simple?
• Does the site stay consistent (fonts, layout, etc.) as you browse through the pages?
• Is it easy to find the information you are looking for?
• Do they have a client list or a portfolio? (if there is no portfolio, best stay away)
• Is there a section about their company?
• Is their contact information listed clearly on the web site?
• Are there any broken links?
• Do you get a good feeling from the site? Do you think you will like person or persons behind it?

The Portfolio

This is probably one of the most important factors in choosing a web design company. Look at their work and see if you like the style. A designer always has a style, do you like their sites?

Do they know your business?

It is important that they have some knowledge of your industry. Have they completed a design for your industry before? Do they create sites that suit your industry, its no good if they produce flashy sites for bands or events when you want a classic eccomerce site for a gardening tools company.

Contact information

Make sure there is an actual address and phone number listed on their web site. You want to know where they are located. An e-mail address alone is not enough. You want to make sure you can call them and talk to them any time you need to. Beware of companies who are reluctant to share contact details or location.

Response time

One of the best tests of a web design company’s support system is how quick they reply to your initial inquiry. How long did it take them to call you back or reply to your e-mail? Was the response in a time scale you are happy with?

The home work

When the design company first called you back did they seem that they did some homework before they called you? Good design firms always go the extra step and do some research on your company and/or your current web site. Give them extra points if you didn’t give them your web site URL and they did some snooping around and searching to find it and study it or to study that of your competition or industry.

Interview your web designer

Once you have identified companies you like the look of, give them a call, ask them the following questions, after all its an interview for a web developer jobs really:

• Who owns the finished design? You should should own the final design!
• How many pages are included in the price? If you choose a static site how many pages do you get? If you choose a site you can update are there any limitations?
• What is the time scale to finish the site? They should give at least an approximate finish time and explain the reasons for that time scale at least briefly.
• Is the logo design included in the price? Most companies add logo design as a separate service, this is something you can negotiate into your package perhaps.
• Will the web pages be optimised for google search engine or other search engines (Search Engine Optimisation)? Remember that no web designer can guarantee top placement on search engines they can only do their best to optimise your site, ask them how they do this (read my SEO articles or research SEO so you understand the answers?
• What keywords are they being optimised for and why?Your perth web designer should consult you on what words you think your clients would use to search for you on search engines.
• Will the website be submitted to the search engines as part of the service? If so which search engines?
• How much will it cost for additional pages?
• Do you provide training so you can add pages yourself? All CMS (updatable websites) websites should come with some element of training whether it be a training manual, support for free for a month or a training session, it’s up to what training you will accept as part of you package!
• Do you offer any guarantees? Is there a web hosting guarantee, a money back guarantee if you are not satisfied, or a no money to pay till you are happy guarantee?
• Who will be hosting the website and how much does it cost, what are your on going costs? Domain names are renewable every X years depending on if .co.uk / .co, etc. Ask what renewal fees are. Also web hosting will be an ongoing cost, if your site only costs £100 to build but web hosting will be £300 a year then you need to look elsewhere.
• Will the domain name be registered in your name? Any web hosting company worth its salt will register a domain name in your name, it should be, you need to own it!!
• If you choose to move web hosting or your domain name at a later date, will it cost you and how much? Some companies register your domain name for £6 but then charge £100 to transfer it, some companies charge £20 a year for hosting then wont give you a back up of your website to move even if their service is terrible. A reputable company wouldn’t do any of this! There may be a small fee but thats what it would be…SMALL!
• Do you offer any support and how much does it cost?
• How much do web design changes cost and how long do they take?

Finally, you need to be able to work with your designer. Even after all the questions have been asked you should still go on gut instinct too. If you contact a designer who answers your questions brilliantly that’s all well and good, but you need to have a good working relationship with that designer too. You should choose someone who you can communicate with easily, who shows willingness, and eagerness to help you and your company. Someone who is motivated to help you and your business. Freelance designers often show these qualities, big companies don’t! Building a good working relationship with your designer is paramount to you getting a GREAT website!!!

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