What should you look for when choosing a website designer?
Ask any professional web designer to name a few of the most important aspects needed for the creation of a website, and you might get an assortment of answers according to his or her level of expertise.
As a whole, professional website designers are a geeky lot and I say this with all the love I have for my fellow professionals because I am one. And as such, I can tell you that all web designers come from one of the following three areas of expertise:
- They are graphic designers who apply their skills to design websites that are aesthetically appealing. (Think of a Ferrari and their concern would be more about how the car looks as opposed to what kind of an engine it has under the hood.)
- They are coders (programmers) with a range of expertise in their chosen coding language(s) and they apply the latest coding methodologies to drive the websites they design. (They are the engineers who build the engine inside the Ferrari. They want a car that roars and are less concerned about how it looks.)
- They are gurus in the art of bringing traffic to a site and though they have learned some of skills of both of the above groups, they are neither graphic designers nor coders. The websites they build are designed to be friendly to the almighty search engines. (They can build an engine, fit it into a car and make it look as good as they think it should, but it’s unlikely to ever be anything like a Ferrari.)
If you spend as much time as I do browsing through websites, you’ll begin to discern within a few seconds the underlying skills of a particular site designer’s skills.
You might say:
This site was built by someone who is really good with graphics, knows about color coordination, balance, fonts etc… all elements that are the bread and butter of a competent graphic designer, therefore I think the designer is primarily a graphic artist.
I love all the fancy animations, the way elements react when I click or touch something on a screen, how the menu unfolds… This designer must be someone who is a programmer.
This site is more functional than it is gorgeous and has less of that “geeky” feeling that a coder’s site might have. I can see that the structuring of the site, the content, the images, the titles, the calls for actions and any number of other sophisticated website elements are all in there for one reason, and one reason only. To get noticed by the search engines.
Of course, I am aware that I have over generalized the differences between the three groups and there are some designers out there who have accumulated sufficient knowledge and experience from all tree areas of expertise that they should really fit into a fourth group. I call this group:
4. The independent website designers.
These are men and women who are self employed, may even work from home and have a workforce that rarely extends beyond 3 or 4 people, including themselves. When they first started creating websites for customers, they were either primarily trained as graphic designers or as coders. But through necessity, they soon realized that they also should have the skills of the other group and thus trained to do just that.
Did you know that website designers have to learn new skills every day to keep up with technological advancements in online industry?
So… What kind of a website designer should YOU hire?
Here’s my take and before I share my own recommendation, let me make the following disclosure:
I am an independent web designer.
That being said…
If I wasn’t in this business and I was looking for someone to design a website for my new company, knowing what I do about how this industry operates, I would definitely look to hire an independent website designer.
- He or she is a business person and as such will be able to talk to you from a small business owner’s perspective.
- As a small business owner, he or she has a lot of experience and knowledge about what works and what doesn’t. In other words, his or her priority will be to find the right balance between graphic design, coding and search engine optimization to ensure that you get a website that works for you.
- With so much less overheard cost than your average main street web design agency, an independent website designer’ rates can save thousands of dollars.
- Hiring an independent web designer means that you are always dealing with a person who can make decisions on the spot.
- Independent web designers are big on customer relations. Their general aim is to build a relationship with their customers.
- You get a website that it is just as good as any other built by major agencies who will charge you thousands of dollars more for it.
What should you ask before you hire a website designer?
If you are like me, you don’t know a whole lot about car repairs. And if this rings true to you then you know the feelings in your guts when you bring your car in for repair, and you have no idea if what the mechanic is talking about and if he or she is even telling you truth.
I took my car in for an oil change the other day. When I went to pay my bill, the mechanic listed a number of items that my car needed looking into and the earliest I did these things, the better it would be for my car.
You know the feeling right? Upon pressing this particular gentleman about any deadline regarding this or that recommended repair, I was told that my car would probably be fine for the next few thousand miles but it is something I should not overlook.
Why am I telling you all this? Because many of my customers don’t know too much about the “mechanics” of a web site, and rely entirely on what I (or any other web designer) might tell them.
So here are the questions you should be asking:
- How long will take before my site is up and running.
- If you are redesigning my site, will you modify it whilst it is online or will you do the modifications on a test server so that my site remains unaffected until the redesigning is completed.
- Are there any additional or hidden costs beyond those you have quoted me .
- Will there be monthly fees.
- Will I own the site.
- Will I have access to back-end of the site.
- Will I be able to change hosting company if and when I choose to do so.
- Do you offer free support on the site after the design has been completed and uploaded to my own site. I may discover misspelling errors or minor mistakes that were overlooked.
- How long is that support for.
- Can you tell me at a minimum what I really need for my site.