What to look for in a web designer

My work background is in Network Management. Armed with that knowledge and over 12 years experience (in corporate networking), I’ve learned a bit about how all of the pieces work and in this article, I’ll share observations I’ve made as well as questions I recommend that you ask when looking for a web designer for your business or blog.

First of all, you should be aware that the saying “you get what you pay for” does not necessarily apply in the world of web design.  I’ve seen a lot of mediocre sites that have cost people thousands and have been left incomplete or non search engine friendly.  Just because someone charges you a lot does not mean they are going to give you a lot.  An ideal web designer needs to be customer service oriented and realize that people are paying them for a service that someone else could provide.  Your web designer should make the experience as painless for you as possible and you should know in advance what you’re going to get for your money.

Second, keep in mind that your web designer does not need to be geographically close to you.  Websites are built every day by and for people who are continents and oceans apart from each other.  Modern technology can put everything needed within reach in a matter of seconds.

Here are some other things to look for:

  • Check out their portfolio—hopefully it’s not just static non-clickable images.  Go to the actual sites they’ve built and maneuver around and see if you like the layout, the feel, the consistency and functionality of each of the sites.
  • Don’t be afraid to use contact buttons on their client’s sites to email and ask if they were pleased while working with their designer. If the designer lists testimonials, chances are good that there will be links to the client who left them.  Contact them!
  • Check out the web designer’s site.  Do they try to answer your questions with their content?  If it’s sloppy and has silly (lazy) spelling or grammatical errors or if things don’t line up very well… then move on and find someone else.
  • Find out how accessible the designer will be to you.  If they don’t respond to your initial inquiry in a timely manner, that’s a good indication that your site will not be a top priority to them.
  • Ask if they’re going to stuff your site into a template or if you can have some creative input.  I generally don’t recommend using templates, although there are some really nice exceptions out there.  I’d want a site that was made just for me and showcased my product or services uniquely in a way that pleased me.  After all, you are the customer and should get what YOU like.
  • Make certain that they’ll at least start you on a trail to getting your sites listed with the big search engines.  If no one can find your site, then it’s not going to do you much good.  I’ve discovered that a lot of web designers don’t even bother to follow some of the most basic SEO rules–they’ll skip putting in your meta-description, meta-tags (keywords) and do not uniquely name each page of the site.  This makes for a poor website, even if it looks pretty on the outside.
  • Ask questions.  They won’t be able to teach you everything that they know, but they should be willing to try to explain some basics to you.  Find out how things work at least at an entry level.
  • If they don’t list their average prices right on their website or insist on meeting with you in person in order to give you a quote, beware.  These are all red-flags that could mean you are heading into some high pressure sale techniques and that they’ll charge you a lot more than you need to pay.
  • Find out how much they’ll charge you to make changes to your site.  There will always be things that you’ll wish you’d said differently or need to adjust for search engines or a newer/better picture falls into your hands.  Make sure those changes will be made for you and at what cost.
  • Rarely will your site design include hosting fees and domain name.  Ask what those fees will be and for what duration.  I personally would question paying more than $250.00 for 2 years for hosting and domain name.  Anything else may be a heavily padded setup.  If their cost is more than that… ask why or if you can obtain your own host agreement with a reputable company.

Above all else, go with your gut.  If this feels like the right person to work with, you’ll probably be just fine.

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