When it comes to building a website for your company or small business, you want a web designer who is going to do a great job for you. Having a great web design is almost just as important as having a great office or facilities, because for many consumers, your website is going to be the first impression that potential customers will have of you and your company. Unfortunately, picking a great web designer is a task easier said than done; there are a lot of great designers out there, but also a lot of not-so-great ones. So how can you separate the bad from the good? We’ve got some tips to make your decision easier.
1. View Potential Designers’ Portfolios Before Making a Decision
As obvious as it may sound, you should always, always, always view the portfolio of previous work a web designer has done before committing to a designer or team. Does each of their sites have a unique and applicable feel to it? If a web designer is simply recycling their fundamental web design for every site they build, you should stay away. After all, you want your company to stick out from the crowd and have a unique identity and feel, right? It also is the sign of a lazy designer who’s probably not going to put that much work in for the paycheck. Likewise, when viewing the portfolio of a web designer you should do some basic tests. How long does it take for their site to load? A good website doesn’t take five seconds to load, and may turn off customers and penalize you in search engines. Speaking of which, see how their sites perform in search engine queries. Go to Google, and type in some keywords you might search for when trying to find a business of that type and see how it performs. If it takes multiple pages of results (typically three or more) on multiple keyword attempts, you might want to go with another designer who is better at optimizing sites for search engine results.
2. Don’t Listen to Designers Who Promise Extreme Results
Relatedly, don’t choose someone who over promises the results of their web design. If you’ve done your homework in #1 you should already be able to separate the fact from the fiction. Nevertheless, if you contact a web designer and they promise you that your site will be the #1 result on Google, you should probably ignore them and hire somebody else. Why? Well, for one, they’re probably lying to you: SEO is a difficult game to play, and one that’s constantly changing. SEO is also something that doesn’t happen overnight with a website redesign. Chances are they’re just trying to get your business with unattainable promises. Secondly, one the off chance they aren’t lying to you, then they probably don’t know their stuff. Again, if they assume that getting you to the top of Google is as simple as website redesign, then they know little about the way internet marketing and search engine results work and you should pass them over for a more experienced designer.
3. Pick a Person (or a Team) That Does Both Design and Coding
Pretend that Picasso and Van Gogh tried to paint a painting together. It probably wouldn’t be very good. Their styles would clash and they’d have different goals for the final goal of the painting. The same sort of result occurs when you choose to pick two unrelated parties to do the design and coding for your site. Even if they’re both great at their own niche, it can lead to disastrous results. A good design needs to be considered hand-in-hand with the back-end coding of the website. Otherwise, you get a site that isn’t designed or coded the way the other party intended and you waste money, time and ultimately the quality of your website. If you’re picking two different people or offices to handle different aspects of the creation of your website then you rely on them to communicate effectively, which more often than not, probably won’t happen. In the end, if you’re picking a designer for your site, either pick an individual who will do all the work on your site, or a team of designers who have worked together in the past to build effective, quality websites.
4. Pick a Designer That Uses a CMS Platform
A great architect doesn’t build you a home and then refuse to hand you the keys, only allowing you to admire the home from the outside. In a similar manner, good web designers won’t lock you out of your own website when you’re through. If a web designer does their job properly, they’ll help you setup and understand a CMS (or “Content Management System”) for your website, so that after they’ve built the foundation, you have the ultimate control to make the changes to your site and add content long after your designer’s tenure is up. If a designer doesn’t want to “give you the keys” so to speak, or tells you that you’ll have to contact them to make any changes to the site, don’t do business with them. At the end of the day, your site is your site. Which means that a good designer recognizes that when the job is done, you are the owner and operator of it.
5. Do They Understand Responsive Design?
More and more people are eschewing traditional means of viewing the Web from a computer in favor of looking up information on their smartphones or tablet devices. This is especially true of people trying to find your business on-the-go. Because of this change in viewing methods, it’s incredibly important that your site is optimized for a viewing experience regardless of the medium by which it is viewed. A web designer might make a great site for your computer, but viewing it from your phone might be a hassle and difficult to use. Ask web designers (or check their portfolios) to see if they are familiar with “responsive design.” Responsive design refers to the practice of websites automatically optimizing themselves for the ideal viewing performance. An easy way to check this is to take the corner of your browser and re-size the window of the site to the size of a smartphone or tablet. Is the site adjusting to intelligently fit the content on the screen as you resize it or does it require horizontal scrolling to view everything? A great design will be an easy viewing experience regardless of the medium. Responsive design is also better than a mobile version of the site, which creates duplicate content and doesn’t help you out in the search engine as much as an effective and responsively designed site.
Ricardo Casas is the founder of Fahrenheit Marketing, a web design company in Austin, Texas. Ricardo has seen countless poorly designed websites that could’ve been avoided by companies following the steps above.