The next part of our Starting an Online Business series will cover Choosing a Web Designer. Web designer is a very broad term so you need to make sure the person you choose to create your website has all the skills and knowledge that will make your website successful.
Before you contact anyone for a quotation, make sure you have done your research. How much does a website cost? is a very difficult question for the web designer to answer without some idea of what exactly you would like done.
Price should not be the only determining factor. We are all on budgets but taking the lowest costing route just might not work out as the best decision.
Prepare Your Website Plan
After researching your target audience you should have a list of features that your audience expects. Make a priority list of these features. Your budget may not be large enough to include everything at first but with a complete list of features you will give the web designer an idea of what the total plan is. This can affect how the website is built initially, so get out the pen and paper or word processor and make that list!
Having a website plan will also help in the process of choosing a web designer. If there’s too many things on your list that the web designer cannot do, then they are not the right one for your particular project.
Looking for a Web Designer
Before you start looking for a web designer, determine if you are comfortable working long distance or if you would prefer to be able to meet in person on occasion. Either way works, it’s just a matter of what you are more comfortable with.
Search the internet to find a few website design firms to consider, there are lots to choose from!
Web Designer Portfolio
As you are searching the internet for a web designer, there are a few things to keep in mind as you look at their website and their portfolio.
- User friendly designs
Are the websites they have designed user friendly? Is it easy to move around the website and find everything that you would need to find?
- High use of graphics
Does the web designer favour high graphic web design? Include just the right amount of graphics? Does not use graphics enough?
- Do all their samples look the same?
This could be a hint that they use templates and switch out colours and graphics to suit the customer.
If the web designer specializes in ecommerce websites, do their sample sites look like every other ecommerce site? Another hint that they use ecommerce templates and change the colours and images for each client.
- Did you require Flash, Quicktime or another browser add on to view the sample sites?
Some websites are built with technology that requires special browser add ons to view the site.
- Were the sample websites quick to load?
A well designed website will load quickly, even if it has a number of graphics.
- Was there a horizontal scroll bar as you viewed the sample websites?
If a horizontal scroll bar appeared, then the web designer has not taken into consideration the various resolutions and monitor sizes users have.
- Can you change the font size?
In your browser you can change the font size used to view a website. If the font does not adjust then the web designer used a fixed font size. This could be a problem if your website visitor can not read the font size chosen.
- How do the sample websites look in different browsers?
Test the sample websites in different browsers. They possibly won’t look exactly the same because of browser differences but the site should not break either.
Is there a note “Best viewed in ….”? This would be an indication that the site was designed for a specific browser. This could alienate potential customers if they are using another browser and the website breaks.
Once you have narrowed down your choices of web designers to consider there are a few more things you need to be able to answer.
The Web Designer Will Ask
Before contacting any of your short list web designers, be prepared to answer:
- What does your company do?
Be prepared to describe what exactly your company does. Giving the web designer a complete picture of the type of business you run, how sales are generated and the future plans for the business will prompt new ideas you have not thought of and give the designer an indication what future features the web design needs to be able to incorporate at a later date.
- Do you have existing an existing logo, branding or marketing materials?
If your business is existing, the web designer will need to see your existing marketing materials to be able to incorporate the existing theme and/or branding you have already established.
For a brand new business, working closely with your web designer and the people creating your marketing materials is important to continue the company branding into the website.
- What are the goals of the website?
As part of your preparation for moving the business to an online prescence, a list of goals for the website is required as a tool to measure the success of the website.
- What type of information do you wish to provide on the website?
Each type of information you wish to provide to your website visitors will require a different type of setup. Providing PDF versions of instructions for your products will require some extra work verses having the instructions as regular web pages, for example.
- Who are your competitors? What are they providing their website visitors?
Have you taken a look at what your competitors are doing with their websites? Are there things that are missing from those websites that you could provide to make your website different and more useful to potential customers?
Being different from the typical website for your industry can make your website more memorialable than the competition.
- Will the site require online purchase capabilities?
- Have you already set up PayPal or a Merchant account if website visitors can make online purchases?
- What website features are required?
Have your list ready, complete with priorities selected.
- Do you have a list of three or four websites you like and what about the website you like?
Having a selection of websites you like and why will help the web designer get a feel for what type of look and feel you would like.
- How many pages and sections of the website will be required?
Some web designers price projects by the page, some by the amount of time they expect the project will take to produce so having a clear list of the pages and sections in hand will result in a firmer, sharper price.
- What is your budget?
Don’t be afraid to disclose a budget figure. You can give a figure lower than you really have to spend so you have room to absorb some extras but having a budget in mind saves everyone time.
- Do you have a deadline for when the website is to be launched?
Disclosing up front that you have a product launch, article coming out or any other special deadlines is the best. Both parties are clear on when the completion date is then. If you have a short completion date and a complicated site, then don’t expect to get a sharp price and quality work.
- What level of assistance will you require to maintain the website?
If you plan to maintain the website yourself then it may need to be constructed differently than if you were going to hire the web designer to maintain the website as well. Your level of expertise on website coding would also influence how a self maintained website will be constructed.
As you can tell, choosing a web designer isn’t as easy as it seems. The more research, preparation and clear you are before calling for quotations on your website design, the better pricing you will receive and the clearer you will be on what you are receiving for the price quoted.
Be sure to have the quotation in writing and the legalities of ownership of the website design and graphics need to be stated.
Do You Own Your Site?
Do you own your site? This depends on how the contract between yourself and the web designer is written. Some web design contracts have a clause that the designer retains ownership of the design and you are given certain rights to use it. If you want to own the design outright complete with all the files that were used to create the website, then be specific in your quote request that this is what you want. Be prepared to pay a price for this.
“Paying a web developer to create your site doesn’t necessarily give you the rights to it. Generally, that work is still the intellectual property of the designer and derivative works might sometimes be the subject of legal issues in the future….”
You should look at the Do You Own Your Web Site? post also at Meryl.net.
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