Selecting a website designer that you can work with is vital, whether it’s for a personal site or for a major business site. Creating a website can be a wonderful experience, or a nightmare, depending on who you choose to work with.
One of the most important things you need to do is find is a website designer that you can get along with and who will listen to you. They should also offer a contract up front so that both of you have a clear understanding of what will be done and what everything will cost.
Have a talk with the designer. If they are in your area, you should try to meet with them face-to-face. It is not necessary that the designer be in your city. We have clients from all over the world even though we’re in Wisconsin (the power of the Internet!). You need to feel at ease with the designer since you will be dealing with them for weeks or months while your site is created, and perhaps even longer if they are going to maintain the site for you. We have clients that we’ve been working with for over ten years now.
Ask your designer what program they use to create their websites. The most popular are GoLive and Dreamweaver. We would suggest avoiding anyone using FrontPage, as it is a definite sign of a beginner. A lot of people use it and like it, especially since it costs less than $100. However, it writes HTML a little differently than other programs, which will lead to problems, including HTML errors, adding extra code (which causes pages to load slower), and incompatibility with other browsers (which causes the page to show differently and even incorrectly in some cases depending on which browser you use). Some web hosts can’t (or won’t) even host sites constructed with FrontPage. Website designers who use FrontPage often use the templates that come with it, thus limiting the creativity that could be used on your site. At Hansen Web Design, we use what we consider the best and industry standard – Dreamweaver.
You want to be sure that your potential website designer asks a lot of questions about what you want and need, instead of trying to talk you into using what they offer. Your website should meet your needs and expectations, not only in function but also in layout and design. We’ve recently seen a small town near us get sold an interactive map for over $20,000. For curiosity sake, we drove over to the town only to discover a community of less than 7,500 – there was not even a downtown to speak of – what is the “interactive map” going to cover on this website for them? This type of snake-oil salesmanship hurts everyone and will also likely make that website incompatible with older browsers and slower Internet connections (in other words – the townspeople themselves are likely to have a hard time using their own website!). Simple is always better when it comes to website design. Content is what is MOST important – not animation, graphics or anything else.
When looking for a website designer, ask these questions:
- Are the web pages they design easy to use? The designer should have a page on their site with links to the sites they have created so you can check this out. Even better, they should have testimonials and references available upon request.
- Is the website, and its pages, organized in a logical manner?
- Do the pages, especially ones with graphics, load quickly? A page should load in 30 seconds or less on a dial-up connection.
- Are the main points of a page (products and services offered) easy to find, and do they stand out?
- Does the website entice visitors to take some kind of action (buy or use something)?
- Contact people they have created sites for to see how they were to work with. You can usually do this by e-mailing their clients and asking these questions. “How well is the site working for you? Did they meet deadlines? Does the website work properly? Was the estimate accurate? Did they do any follow-up to be sure everything was working properly? Are they easy to get a hold of if anything needs to be fixed or updated?”
- Ask if the site will be usable on browsers other than Internet Explorer. Some other common browsers are Firefox, Opera and Google Chrome. Your site should also be usable on older version of all these browsers.
Don’t be intimidated, know what you want and shop around until you find a designer that can do what you need.
You usually get what you pay for. The lowest price may not be (and likely isn’t) the best choice for you.
Know what pages you want on your site and what you need it to do for you. Are you going to sell a product or service? Do you want it to be a portfolio for your artwork or photographs? Think carefully about what you want and write it out so you can give a copy to the designer. (See our earlier article about planning your website).
If you have a deadline, let the designer know up front.
It can be helpful to have a list of a few websites that are similar to what you want yours to look like. This will give you a clearer picture of what you want, and the designer can see what you like.
You are going to spend time and money creating this site, and you have a need that this site must meet, so be sure you get what you expect. You and your designer need to be a team in order to accomplish this task, so you want to make the right decision up front. Feel free to ask all the questions you want. Then you can make an informed decision – and you will find that working with the right designer can be a very enjoyable process!