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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

How To Find A Good Web Designer

A few years ago any networking event you attended would be abound with accountants, estate agents and solicitors but that's now all changed.

How often have you found yourself sat at a table with a solicitor, banker and 3 web designers/online marketing experts?

It would appear that we have evolved and grown and found that there is a huge market for our services.. "Great" you'd think.. well no not necessarily.  Like all sectors we have our fair share of sharks, con-men, wannabees and the just downright awful! So how do you pick your way through this mind field and find a professional in an area that you're unlikely to have a huge amount of experience?

I have lost count of the amount of times I've had clients come to me having been ripped off for hosting or basic maintenance, hearing how much they've been charged for a simple static website or worse have someone tell me they've given up on the internet because they've had such a bad experience..

Part of the problem is the availability of code-writing software such as Dreamweaver, free template sites and schools teaching a little "media" as part of the curriculum.
Being able to buy a "Create Your Own Will" pack from WHSmiths does not a solicitor make me and unfortunately a lot of "web designers" are doing no more than filling in the blanks of a pre-made document.  Even more scary hiring cheap labour from India and having no concept of how to fix the bugs once a site goes live.
So how DO you choose a good, reputable web designer?

I've listed a few points below and I hope that these will help you to avoid costly and business damaging mistakes..

  • Ask for referrals.. Seems simple enough in a social media world where everyone is scratching each others back BUT it works.  If I'm going to refer someone I'm going to make sure that I know, like AND have seen or had experience of their work. After all it's my reputation on the line if I pass a bad referral.
  • Check out their website.. Ok so anyone can have an all singing all dancing website but you can still glean valuable information here.  If their site is all Flash driven chances are they have some whizzy kid out of uni and little experience of SEO, if their site is tired and dated then they're not moving with the times and will be unable to help you move your business forward, equally if it looks like everyone elses then chances are it's template driven and they're not offering you bespoke no matter how much they say they are. I realise I'm generalising here but you get the idea.
  • Compare prices... Cheap is not necessarily bad and expensive not always the best! If it sounds too good to be true then chances are it is and look for hidden costs, if it makes you suck in a breath then you're paying too much!  In todays market a ball-park figure for a fully bespoke CMS (Content Managed System) site with basic SEO should not cost you any more than £700 - £900, a template site that's been customised for you will be significantly less.
  • Talk to them.. again really obvious advice but until you speak to someone you don't know whether they're going to be someone you can work with.  A good designer might not have to meet you in person BUT they should be able to get a feel for you and your business ethos in a very short time. If they don't "get" you then they cannot accurately create a site that reflects your company and its direction.
  • Know what you want.. How many times have you gone into a shop not sure about what you wanted and come away unhappy with the purchase because the shopkeeper has bamboozled you? Have a look at other websites, think about what you want the site to do for you business and know some terminology. No one is expecting you to speak code but do try to find out the basics - we don't need to be car salesmen to know what FSH, PAS, VGW mean.
  • Finally find out about aftercare.. once the site has gone live that's not the end of your web designers job.  You need to know that you can get help, advice and follow up service such as SEO, social media and marketing help. 

As with any professional read their terms and conditions, find out how long they've been in business and if possible look at what they've done before.

A few terms to help:-

CMS - Content Managed System -  a good one will allow you to add and remove pages (including on a drop down menu) update your content, allow you to upload images and re-size them, add spreadsheets, pdf's or any other item you want to display on your site.  Don't expect to be able to change the basic site layout though!
SEO - Search Engine Optimisation - how your site is ranked and found in search engines such as Google.
Analytics - how your site is performing, there is no reason for you not to have even a basic monthly overview of performance.
PHP, HTML, CSS,JAVA - these are languages and scripts that a designer will use and shouldn't expect you to understand!!

Hope that helps to provide  a little more insight and gives you confidence to find the right designer for you.
If you need any more information please don't hesitate to contact me.

1 comment:

  1. You make some good points but not all sites designed in flash are done by other people. Flash isn't the best for SEO but good designers have experience in more than 1 technology, I know I do. Its very easy to see which sites have used standard templates but in many cases these will very adequately do the job that the site is designed for and this does help to keep the cost down. Its very hard sometimes, for people to understand what's actually involved in the design and the time that it takes which makes it difficult for them to justify the cost. A dish in a pub costs less than a similar dish in a 3 star restaurant but its likely that far more effort has gone into the starred dish, which is why it costs more. Its the little things which make the difference and while a completely bespoke website will cost considerably more than a modified template, the abundance of people who charge next to nothing for a template make it difficult to explain why a custom site costs so much more.