Selecting a Web Designer

Like any good business relationship, the one between web designer and client should be built on trust. A client should be able to trust the web designer to work with the client’s best interest in mind, not the web designer’s, and to be competent and knowledgeable about web design and development.

If you are considering hiring a web designer to develop or re-design your site, don’t simply look for the cheapest. If you make “cheap” your primary or only criteria for web development, you deserve what you get — which will probably make you, and your business, look cheap! Check out examples of the designer’s other work. If nothing else, the designer should be able to present a high-quality site for his or her own business. Don’t look for flashy cutting-edge techniques unless that’s directly related to yourbusiness. You’re looking for evidence of competence and an understanding of web useability, professional design skills, and effective communication both visually and verbally.

Look at the top companies or organizations in your industry or field. You should aspire to look like the best in your field. You would never go dirty and ungroomed to a financial meeting; neither should your web site.

Signs of web design incompetence include:

  • Blink tag use (If they’re using the blink tag on their business site for any reason except as a bad example, run away!)
  • Excessive use of animation
  • Plugin or special browser requirements for the Home page or critical information
  • Use of tiled, pattern backgrounds
  • Low-quality graphic images
  • Use of low-quality images for things like email addresses, buttons, bullets or line rules
  • Coding mistakes such as missing tags, images overlapping the text or styles tags that were never closed (e.g., all of the text after a certain point is in bold or italics)
  • Inconsistent use of header tags instead of correct use of changes in font style or color to consistently represent a specific kind of information.
  • Hand-coding each tag style instead of using style sheets or inline styles. (They aren’t keeping up with the technology and standards and are likely to have control conflicts.)
  • Crowded, busy pages that are difficult to read or find information on

Other questions to answer from the designer’s site and client list:

  • What kind of client are they targeting?
  • Has the designer put the client’s best interest ahead of his or her own? (e.g., were appropriate technology and techniques used to reach the client’s audience or did the designer push cutting-edge techniques to showcase his or her skills to his or her potential clients?)
  • Does the designer’s web site and the client sites look high-quality?
  • Is the site navigation and useability clear and appears well tested? Did you have any problems understanding how to get around the site or finding the information you needed?
  • Did you like the look-and-feel of the designer’s site and the client sites?

And finally, don’t be afraid of hiring a new designer, especially if you’re cost-conscious, so long as the designer demonstrates competence and skill. If money is tight, you might also look at hiring a designer to create your home page and internal page templates and then learning enough HTML to maintain and develop the rest of the site in-house. What you are paying for is graphic design skills, web useability knowledge and viable Internet solutions to your business needs. If all you are getting is someone who read a book on HTML coding and has a package of “web graphics”, don’t waste your money or your time. There are web development programs that can write the code. It takes talent to design an effective site. You want to spend your money on the talent.If a web design business is based on “volume selling”, how much personal attention can they really give you and your specific business needs? How skilled can their designers really be? Think about it.