How to choose the right web designer
The reason for using a professional web designer is because they know their own industry and they know how to deliver the best results for their customers.
There are a plethora of web templates and DIY solutions out there that lead you to believe that at the touch of a button you can design your own website. These solutions may be cheap and can therefore be tempting but they are not as simple to use as they promise. Many people find themselves frustrated having spent months working on a website themselves to find it looks amateurish, doesn’t get any traffic and ends up being an embarrassment. It’s a waste of time and time is money. Instead you could have been marketing your business, honing your services or making/sourcing your products.
Using a web designer is an investment. If you want your customers to trust you and buy your products or services, you need to show them you value them. A shoddy website that doesn’t function properly sends out a very negative message to potential customers.
How to choose your designer and the questions to ask
1. If you can get a recommendation that’s great but you still need to go through the checking process just to be sure they are right for you.
2. Define what you need. Some designers may provide you with a creative brief which lists things they’ll need to know in order to give you a price for the project. Writing a specification will force you to think through what you actually need/want.
3. Look at their portfolios and visit the sites they have built. Do you like what you see? Do their sites load quickly? Are they responsive for mobile devices? Do they function well? Are they engaging?
4. Read any testimonials they have. You could also contact a few of their clients to hear it ‘from the horse’s mouth’. A designer will be more than happy to provide you with names and contact details.
5. Find out how long they’ve been in business. You don’t want to employ anyone ‘fly by night’ who’ll be gone once the site is live or someone who’s just tinkering with website design as a side-line. Treat a designer as you would any other supplier and think long term. You need someone with whom you can establish a relationship.
6. Don’t let preconceptions about the size of the agency sway matters. This will not determine the quality of the work. There are a lot of small agencies out there that produce fantastic results and are more affordable than a large agency with larger overheads. However, if you are a large business yourself you may feel more comfortable using a larger team of people with more in-house resources.
7. Get together for a chat. Designers work remotely and don’t necessarily meet all their clients but if you’re local why not go through your ideas face to face.
8. A web designer should ask a lot of questions. If they don’t, the alarm bells ought to ring. How are they going to be able to provide you with a website for your business if they know nothing about you and what you want to achieve with the website. A good designer will be able to guide you through the options available for your budget, explain the pros and cons of these and ultimately provide the best solution for you and your business.
9. What related services do you require and can your web designer provide them? Do you need a logo designed, search engine optimisation, help with social media, a video, photographs or online marketing? Often small agencies will have a list of trusted professionals and associates that they use to provide additional specialist services. If they don’t handle these in-house they will certainly be able to liaise with these experts on your behalf. This can be reassuring if you are worried about being asked technical questions you don’t understand.
10. What do they know about search engine optimisation? Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. You need to be sure that your website is search engine friendly which means it should be easy for search engines to crawl (read) and understand what the website is all about. There should be no additional cost for making your site search engine friendly.
There is a lot of competition on the web so even with a well-built search engine friendly website you may find you require an SEO campaign to increase your ranking i.e. list you higher in the search results. There are different ways of achieving this and your designer will be able to recommend the best solution for you depending on your business, the competition and your budget. An SEO campaign will usually be costed separately from the website build. A small agency may not handle the SEO themselves but they’ll have a partner or associate.
11. Who owns the site, domain and hosting? Once you have paid your bill, this is you. If there is any doubt about this avoid that design agency. Your designer will probably recommend a hosting company they like working with but make sure that if they buy a domain or hosting on your behalf these are in your name and not theirs. If you part company in the future you don’t want there to be an issue with ownership. There should also be no question that you own the website once it is paid for.
12. Who will maintain the site once it’s live? Most sites these days are on a content management system (CMS) so you will be able to update things yourself. If it is not, ask how it will be updated and how much the designer will charge. We would always recommend having a site on a CMS. Check the process of making the updates. Will you have to download software or simply login through your website? Will you be provided with instructions? Is face to face training available if you need it and will this cost?
13. Make sure your website is responsive for mobile devices. If you are checking out a portfolio, you may find that some older sites a designer has built will not be responsive but anything they have produced within the last 2 years should be.
14. Do you like and trust your designer? Do they understand what you are trying to achieve? Do they have ideas and suggestions? If you ask them to do something they don’t think is right for your business/aim/online objectives/target audience, will they say ‘no’ to you? You need good honest advice not a ‘yes man’. It’s good to remember that their advice is based on years of experience and their aim is to provide you with the best website they can.
15. When deciding which designer to use, don’t base this entirely on cost. Buying too cheaply may be a false economy when you discover part way through the project that the designer does not have the expertise you thought they did or the job takes much longer than they estimated. Some unscrupulous web designers pull the job in at a cheaper price but start adding on costs once the project is underway. A good web designer will always want to avoid this kind of scenario and will have gone through your requirements with you in detail so that their quote covers everything you need.