Hiring a site designer or consultant for the World Wide Web is a good news – bad news proposition. The good news is, most designers have only been doing so for four years or less, which makes for a fairly level playing field. The bad news is, website design quality and pricing are all over the map. Finding a good, reasonably priced designer who understands how to design a site that will sell your products is important and often difficult. Paying a lot does not mean you will get an effective, profitable website.
A recent article published on a leading Internet research site compared the effectiveness and design of large company websites (such as disney.com) to that of smaller businesses. In most cases, the larger company sites (often costing hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars) were ranked lower than sites costing under $10,000 because they were not easy for a consumer to use, had no way to search large sites or inconsistent design.
How am I going to hire a web designer?
So, small business person, what should you do? On one hand, you can not afford to spend thousands of dollars on a website. On the other hand, you don’t want to hire a 12-year-old who just left Best Buy with his/her first copy of XYZ Web design software. Or worse yet, a designer who “creates” sites by stealing the work of others.
If you want to hire an experienced, competent designer for your business or organization website, we recommend using the following guidelines:
- Be clear about your reasons for wanting a website and your expectations of what it can do for your business. Decide how many pages you will need and what you want your site to do (sell, inform, service customers etc.).
- Determine in advance how much of your total advertising budget you want to spend for the design, hosting and maintenance of your site.
- Do a search at Yahoo or AltaVista for designers who offer the services and benefits most important to you. If low price is your priority search “low-cost website design”. If you need a database search “database developers”. If you want to maintain your own site, look for “turnkey” designers etc.
- Examine sites created for businesses similar to yours. This will help you develop the look and feel of the site you want. (Plus, find out what your competitors are doing!)
- Visit the designers’ own sites. Is it well designed, does it look professional? Is it easy to navigate? Does it place well (top 30) in the search engines? (PS: We do!)
- Look for credentials. Does the designer belong to the HTML Writers Guild, International Webmasters Association or other organization that establishes ethical and design standards for Web professionals? (PS: We do!)
- Look for an expressed concern about your design needs. You need a site designer who cares how your site looks, functions and prospers.
- Visit the sites they have designed. Look at their craftsmanship. Observe the quality of workmanship. Do you find a lot of misspelled words, grammatical errors; busy backgrounds or different color backgrounds on each page; over-long pages; music, links or animated graphics that do not work; too many fonts and sizes, colors and blinking “things”; pages that mix four or more topics; unfocused, rambling text; no business contact information; attempts to process orders online without using a secure server; and inconsistent design elements? Any or all of these indicate a lack of design experience or professionalism.
- Contact a few of their clients. Ask whether they are satisfied with the designer and if they would hire him/her again. Ask if the original work and maintenance is done in a timely manner. And, how long it normally takes to get an answer to e-mail. (PS: Feel free to contact our clients!)
- If client names are not posted on their site, do a name search at Network Solutions. Type in the name of the designer and all sites they own or have registered will appear. Visit the sites and e-mail their owners. Click here to find a little more about what marketing can do for you.
- If design prices are not posted on the site, write and ask for a design estimate. Ask what specific design services their fee includes. (Be aware, prices not posted are usually high.)
- Compare the offerings of each firm to get the most for your money. Select three designers based upon the services they offer and your budget.
- How to make a final selection? Choose a designer who (based upon their work) is competent, listens to you, understands how to optimize a website, and attempts to understand the needs of your business. (PS: We do!)
- Look for a designer who will prepare your site keeping in mind quality workmanship, ease of use and security for your customers, enhancing the credibility and /integrity of your business and long range profitability. Get someone who will be in your corner, support you and work with you over the long haul and, stay within your budget. (PS: We do!)
- Remember, high-priced does not always mean competent. Skip the designer who seems to be too busy or just in it for the money. After your site is paid for, you may have a difficult time getting changes made – even if it is a part of your maintenance package.
- You and your site designer should have a contract for the work you want doing (PS: You will get a fair contract and a site planner.)
What else should I know before I hire a web designer?
At the bare minimum, your contract should spell out the number of pages, product/service photos, the scope of the work, custom design elements, copyright ownership, total fee and payment arrangements, colors, graphics etc., who will handle search engine registration or promotion, a site maintenance agreement and completion date. (PS: Ours does!)
Free registration of your site with a minimum of the top five (or ten) Internet search engines/ directories should also be included. (PS: We do!) Registration with more search engines or placement in the top 30 listings (if they can deliver) will probably cost extra.
Be sure you are listed as the Administrative and/or Billing Contact on the Domain name registration records. (PS: We will do this for you.)
Should you pay the designer a percentage of your profit? That is entirely up to you. This type of agreement is often used to offset high design and/or maintenance fees. (PS: We DON’T do this!)
Your website can be either a tool to increase public awareness of your products/services or a means to sell them. Re-examine the usefulness or profitability of your site in six months. Some changes may be in order. (PS: We will do this for you!)
Be willing to wait for results. A website may not make you wealthy overnight. But, it will enhance your professional image and increase public awareness of your product or service. It is a relatively inexpensive, sensible and worthwhile business investment.
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