How to Hire a Web DesignerPosted: December 2, 2013
What is “web design”? It’s simply the design and creation of a website. Anyone who thinks he or she can create a website can call themselves a “web designer”. But there is a big difference between designing a website and publishing a canned template.
A web designer who uses someone else’s template and simply adds your information to it is like the burger flipper at McDonald’s calling himself a “chef”. Since WordPress started being used as a web design platform, and template websites starting cropping up everywhere, there are lots of “chefs” out there. And like the $1 special at a fast food restaurant, you can often get one of these websites for a very low price. But is it worth it? Like the ingredients in that fast food burger, you have no way of knowing exactly what you’ll be getting.
Issues to Consider
There are many issues to consider and questions to ask when deciding if you want to go with the bargain web designer. Here are just a few:
- What template will the web designer use, and does he/she have samples of other websites using this template?
- How flexible is the template? Will the designer be able to, say, move an image over slightly, make the page longer, add a column, or other such changes? Many templates are rather static, meaning that certain changes simply cannot be made.
- Does the web designer know html and css coding? It is imperative that the designer know at least basic coding since templates are never a one-size-fits-all solution and coding will probably be necessary to customize the template.
- Is the designer familiar with search engine optimization and the proper way to word the website title, description, and body content so it helps your site’s search engine rankings?
- What company will they use for web hosting and your domain name registration? Or will they expect you to handle this?
- Will they be available to make changes to the website in the future, or at least provide you with login information so that you (or a future designer) can access the website files?
- Will they use images and photos you send to them, or only “stock” images that they’ve used on other websites?
- If they use your own photos, how will they prepare them for the website? If your web designer is not experienced with image manipulation, your images and photos could look bitmappy, blurry, the wrong dimensions, or take too long to load.
- After your website is published, can the designer offer services to help promote the site, such as online marketing and social media services?
- Does the web designer have his/her own website? How does their website look? Are there errors such as misspellings, typos, incomplete pages, or elements that don’t work? Does their website show samples of other websites he/she has designed, with links that allow you to visit those websites? Do the websites he/she has claimed to design have their name at the bottom as proof that they did indeed design this site (some unscrupulous web designers claim other designers’ websites as their own).
Dropping the Ball
Unfortunately “dropping the ball” can be common with some bargain basement web designers. If you start working with a web designer and find it difficult to get through to him/her, calls are not being returned, and changes are not being made in a timely manner, obviously this is a bad sign. Web design may be a part-time gig and this person is going to school or working full-time, or is a stay-at-home mom busy with her children’s daily activities. Other times you may be dealing with a very large company that may use subcontractors or outsource its work to other countries (see my blog on SuperMedia/Yellowbook websites), so you’ll rarely talk to the same person more than once.
WHAT YOU WANT
You want a web designer who does web design full time. This means that your web designer’s livelihood depends on doing the best job they can do and keeping their clients happy. It means that your web designer is more likely to stay in business than someone who is just doing websites between jobs or to pay for college.
You want a web designer who is proactive. And by proactive, I don’t mean someone who simply waits for you to get back to them. If you’re a small business owner, it’s easy to let things fall through the cracks. Your web designer should understand this and reach out to you to get the information needed to start and complete your website.
You want a web designer with integrity. Anyone can make promises that they may not be able to deliver. An honest web designer will tell you that no matter how good your website is, it’s not going to automatically put you in the number one spot on Google or get you dozens of calls within the first month (at least not without additional services, which will not be free).
You want a web designer with technical expertise, creativity, and several years of experience. Web design is an art and a science. The website has to be visually appealing and work correctly. Technical know-how without artistic creativity, and creativity without technical expertise, will not be enough for a great website.
Speaking of creativity, you want a web designer who will actually “design” your website. This means using an original layout and design that he/she created, instead of using a template that was already designed by someone else and looks like every other website out there.
You want a web designer who knows how to hand-code “old school” style. This means being able to type html and css code by hand, which very few younger and inexperienced designers are able to do, particularly those who work primarily with WordPress and other templates. A thorough working knowledge of html and css means that your website can include detailed customizations that would be difficult or impossible to do otherwise.
You want a web designer who has experience not just with web design but with everything else that goes along with it, such as advanced image/photo manipulation, search engine optimization (SEO), online marketing and promotion, social media, etc. Your website is only one facet of your online presence.