Now that you’ve decided that you’re ready to create a website for your business, the question is how to do it. It seems that everyone from your 14-year-old nephew to the 70-year-old grandma next door is able to design a web site these days.
Many people will tell you that you can even build the site yourself using some inexpensive software program. However, is this the route you really want to go?
To have a professional-looking website, you should consider hiring a professional website designer or website design firm. Consider the analogy of learning to play the piano. You can pick up an informative book and with a little trial-and-error, quickly learn to play a few chords. But to really make music, you need a great deal of acquired knowledge, practice and also talent.
Creating a quality website, requires an understanding of graphic design, the various types of web design software, programming and coding, and Internet marketing.
Furthermore, a good web site designer will know the specs of different browsers and computer platforms as well as how search engines spider through websites. Fail to make the right design or programming decisions, and you risk creating an ineffective website.
How do you choose a web design firm or web site designer? There are so many!
Even here in my mid-sized Florida city, we have dozens of Orlando website design firms and freelance web designers. It can be overwhelming choosing the best web designer for your needs.
Of course, nothing says you need to choose a web designer right in your own city. You can work with someone in another city, state or even country using tools like Skype and email to communicate. I personally have had excellent success working with web designers in the Philippines.
Here then are the key factors to consider in choosing someone to design your website:
Web Design Firm vs. Freelance Web Designer – Do you simply need your website designed or will you also need assistance with copywriting the content, marketing your website and website hosting?
A freelance web designer can satisfy the design angle, but you may need a larger, more sophisticated web design firm to meet all the criteria.
Coding – Coding and developing websites are alternative terms for programming. Some web designers are proficient at coding the sites they design, particularly if they use a well-known platform such as WordPress. Others though, may rely on a separate programmer to execute their design.
Be sure to get clarity on your web designer’s capabilities and responsibilities. You’ll certainly want to know if you need to get another vendor, a programmer, involved and whether that means incurring extra expense.
Another option, if technical topics don’t intimidate you, is to learn how to do programming yourself. Start with some free front-end development courses.
Credentials – Does the web designer have professional qualifications in graphic design, web design and the Internet?
Experience – How long has the web design firm been in business designing websites? Look at the design of their own website and other sites that have designed. Do the colors and text look balanced? Do all the links work? Does the site load fast? Is it easy to navigate? Do all the pages have a consistent look?
Style – Designers have their own style. Since art is in the eye of the beholder, you’ll want to choose a designer whose style you like. Check out their portfolio to see if the websites they’ve made for others — and even businesses not in your industry — look appealing to you.
Testimonials – Ask for referrals from the web designer’s customers. Perhaps a list of testimonials from these customers is readily available. If not, ask for contact information and then call on a couple of the customers. They’ll tell you the skinny, good or bad, on the website designer.
You can also Google the web designer’s name to see if any reviews have been posted online.
Technology – You want someone who is proficient in the web design platform and language you choose so they can make your site as functional as it is attractive.
If you want to use advanced technologies on your site, such as database integration or e-commerce capabilities, make sure your designer is familiar with them and has the necessary programming software.
SEO – Search engine optimization is a necessity if you want your site to appear on Google. Your web designer should know SEO best practices to be able to make your site search engine-friendly.
Mobile Friendly – Many people are likely to view your website on their Smartphone or tablet. You want to work with a web designer who knows how to make your site responsive, which means it’s able to be viewed properly on any device and any screen size.
If your site is not responsive, Google may not rank it as high, as mobile friendliness is one of the factors it considers in displaying search results.
Services – Be sure the website design firm you select offers all the services you need. Among the questions you’ll want to ask: Can they help you obtain a domain name? Will they handle hosting? Can they provide a form reply page for queries for your site’s visitors? Will you be able to update your website and add content yourself after it’s been designed or will you rely on them?
Copywriting – Web designers are not copywriters. They’re artists. They rarely write the content that goes on the websites they design. However, they may be able to assist by providing a recommendation for a copywriter they’ve worked with in the past.
Pricing – Cost will obviously depend on what you want. Every website is a custom job. Attempt to develop an outline on your own before calling on web designers, otherwise you’ll have difficulty obtaining quotes that allow you to compare apples to apples.
Be sure to figure the costs of hosting into your total budget, as this is usually a monthly fee. That is, you wouldn’t want to save a little on your website’s design only to spend much more over time in monthly hosting fees.
Payment Terms – Of course, every company and vendor is different. However, my experience has been that most web designers demand at least partial payment (usually 50% of the total) up front before starting a project.
They will wait until you are completely satisfied with the final website design and it is online operating smoothly before billing you for the balance.
Ongoing Support – Web sites, more so than any other type of marketing media, require continual updating to be most effective. Support means that you know you can contact your website developer and get prompt service at a fair price whether it’s to fix a technical issue or make changes to your site.
Think of your website designer as a partner in your business. The work he or she does could have a strong impact on whether you’re successful. Do your research and choose wisely; you’ll be glad you did.