Now The Question Is Can They Fashion A Technology-Forcing What to Look for in a Web Designer or Design Agency

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What to Look for in a Web Designer or Design Agency

Google for web designers or web design firms and you’ll get millions of results for companies that all promise very similar things: timely delivery, budget friendly, search engine optimization and browser compatibility, etc. Now if they were all great, why are there so many ugly websites you might ask. Here are some skills that will help you weed out the good web designers from the bad ones.

Large Portfolio

A great portfolio shows creativity, variety of styles and most importantly includes examples of real client work and not just specific work from school. Make sure the overall style of the web designer in their portfolio matches what you’re looking for. Test their pre-launched websites to ensure they are user-friendly, error-free, suitable for their target market and fast loading.

A great portfolio always beats design experience or training. Web designers with a lot of experience can be set in their ways and less open to new ideas or trends. And just because someone has taken a few design classes doesn’t mean they have an eye for it. We have come across many websites that offer web design services to weird websites.

Customer service

No matter how stellar your designer or agency is, if they can’t respond to your calls or emails in a timely manner during business hours, they most likely can’t meet your deadline. If your project is time sensitive due to something like a product launch, this could spell death for your business. Some freelance web designers are freelancers, meaning they have full-time jobs and pick up the odd project here and there for extra cash. Be aware of those people because they probably won’t be around when your project fails and forces you to lose your deposit.

Required Skills

The one you choose should be proficient in the web technologies your project requires. If you need Flash for an animated clip, make sure your web developer is proficient in Flash Actionscripting 3.0. If you want to convert your website to a CMS, make sure they are well versed in your chosen CMS and the web technologies that support it. Most open source CMS are controlled by PHP. It’s always better to hire a professional who can be good at what you need rather than a tradesman who is just average at everything. Generally, you should evaluate this based on their online portfolio.

Their time is based on your time

All projects have a deadline or preferred time by which you want them to be completed. Inexperienced web designers often quote very optimistic hours. No matter how simple your website design or redesign is, it is almost impossible for the design process (from concept to completion) to take less than two weeks because there will always be changes. I always laugh when a potential client emails me and assumes that their new website is very basic and shouldn’t be up for more than 2 days. It is much more professional to say longer and deliver sooner than expected. However, if your web designer says it will take much longer than their competitors, they may be moonlighting.

Full-Service

Full service is usually offered by design firms as it requires a team of developers, designers and marketing specialists. Full service means they offer comprehensive web solutions like SEO, ecommerce, branding, mobile compatibility and social media marketing all in one place. Rarely will you find a web designer who specializes in all of these categories, so some companies hire design firms if they have the budget.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are just as important as design and programming skills because if your web design communicates with bad grammar or spelling mistakes, so will your website. Do they describe the problems well? Can they translate complex technical jargon into physical words? You can easily assess their communication skills with your initial calls, emails and project proposal.

Marketing / SEO experience

What is your website if your target market can’t find it? Your web designer or design company should understand how to develop it. If you found your website designer by Google using industry-specific keywords, then they must know something about SEO. Here are some other simple SEO techniques that your web designer should implement to build your web presence:

  • Create new content relevant to your target market with a blog
  • Enter a meta title and description tags
  • Include your keywords in your titles and headings (H1 and H2 tags respectively)
  • Sprinkle your keywords throughout your content
  • Create a sitemap for search engines to find
  • Add your website to online business listings
  • For more SEO strategies, check out my blog post about Driving High Quality Web Traffic.

Customer Resources

Ask for customer references and make it a point to call them. Ask your customers if they were responsive on time and within budget. Some web design companies hire through freelance sites like Guru where you can find reviews.

Social Media Presence

Social media helps you respond to people talking about your brand and understand how they perceive your company. There are many social media networks but the ones to follow are Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. A good practice is to send a status update whenever you publish a blog post or new website content.

Cost / Budget

It is important to consider all of the above and then consider the cost or budget if everything else is in place. The cheapest quote is rarely the best.

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