Before you go decide on a designer based on price or fancy graphics alone, this is a must read.
I wrote this primarily because I deal with clients who are dissatisfied with the results they are getting from their existing site. Many times, they hired an art school student or some kid armed with a cracked version of Photoshop. Often, their sites are pretty to look at, but fail miserably in the context of operating as a business tool.
Take a look at your business and ask yourself the following questions.
- What am I trying to achieve with my business, and how will a website help this?
- Which is more important? A website that is designed for my customers, or a website that is designed to suit me to congratulate myself on?
- Am I prepared to invest time into creating content, and am I willing to listen to the designer’s advice?
Once you have answered these questions go on to Step 2.
Look at a prospective designer’s website and ask your self these questions.
- Does the website load quickly?
- Does the first page you see contain quality information?
- Is the navigation clearly labeled and easy to use?
- Is contact information readily available on each and every page?
- Is the content informative and professional at first glance?
- Does their page NOT crash my browser?
- Is the website free of background sounds and large animated objects? (If it is not, run…FAST!)
If you can answer YES to every single one of these questions, proceed to Step 3. Otherwise, go back and start looking at other companies.
Look at their portfolio. Visit each of the sites in the portfolio and ask yourself the same questions as above. Additionally, also ask yourself the following questions.
- Is the website geographically specific (ie, is it for a restaurant in Bangor, Maine)
- If the website is geocentric, is this fact mentioned on every page?
- Are you able to find it in Google/Yahoo/MSN, using various combinations of both the business name, location, niche, etc?
Again, if all the answers are YES, chances are, this is a professional, business oriented web designer who can create a website to be a business asset. If not, go back to Step 1.
I call this, the courtship process. Too much information is far better than too little. Prepare as much of your text based content as possible. Gather up photos, logos, and everything else. Make sure you have a legal right to use all of this material. Then, contact the designer.
The designer should look over all of your material, and prepare you an accurate estimate, or may choose to decline at the moment if their isn’t enough material to work with. Usually, a contractual agreement is drafted that states both yours and their responsibilities. Also, limitations should also be set. For instance, a certain amount of mockup changes will be allowed, but perpetual wishi-washiness will not. It will also state a completion date.
Once you have agreed to the terms, be prepared to pay the designer a downpayment of up to 50%. We do this to protect ourselves. It serves many purposes. With money on the line, a client will often be more dilligent about delivering the material requested of them, and more motivated to finish the project. Otherwise, it can go on forever with no real resolution in site.
With both parties understanding that a website’s purpose is to assist your business, then you are already halfway there. Good luck!