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September 2015

How to Find the Best Web Designer to Sell Book Online

Why Are Web Designers Such Flakes? A Reality Check.

Circling the drain of unresponsive or missing in action web designers is a common dilemma. The Question is this: As a self-respecting author with a plan and a purpose, how do you choose a designer you can afford and rely on?

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As a small publisher, or self-published author, you are faced with the high-cost of publishing a book. Your ever-growing budget includes editors, book cover and interior design, maybe a book coach or advisor, printing costs, fulfillment needs, marketing … my goodness, where does it end? When does the author start making money? Well, this is a question for another article all together. The point here is, how much should you allocate to the added expense of hiring a web designer? Can you hire someone who can do it all and is affordable to boot?

Ah, herein lies the problem. The one-man show dilemma-freelance artists. A newly graduated artist (or even an established one-person show) can be a very enticing option for someone with a small budget, especially when they are often a third of the price you would pay with a full-service design house. They are typically hungry, excited, talented, reasonably priced, and they can do it all. Yeah!!! So what goes wrong? Burnout. A freelance artist often over promises and eventually under delivers. They over commit because of the opportunity to build their portfolio; they chock it up to needed experience, and maybe even their desire to help another artist. But at the end of the day this is the perfect recipe for disaster. Why? Because it’s truly hard to do it all yourself and when you finally reach that wall, you shut down and walk away, close the door, stop returning calls-you move on.

This does not mean that because someone is reasonably priced that they are a bad choice for your needs. The question we seek to answer is: How do you protect yourself?

As you search for a reliable, talented designer consider the fallout. As you become overwhelmed with the production of your book, you tend to need a leaning post. That is, someone you can consider a partner, someone who cares as much as you do and will be there till the bitter end, or God willing the glorious payout. But let’s talk reality folks. Few people care about your project as much as you do. At the end of the day, people will do what is best for “me.” If you lay something precious in someone else’s hands you have to know that they will cherish that precious thing and treat it with the same care that you would. In the business world, this means you pay them to care-you appreciate them, you praise them, you create an environment that is rewarding, you pay them hard-earned cash.

What you are looking for is a long-lasting relationship, someone who delivers, who knows their stuff and someone who isn’t going to close up shop and leave you holding the bag.

A Sad Tale of Trust and Where it Went Wrong:

The Spark: You have just written a book! You are ready to meet your public. You are told you need a web site. You look around, you ask a few people for references, you weight the costs, you’re not quite sure how it will benefit you, you’re just about out of money, or worse your sinking further into debt. And then you meet Bob at a community function. Bob is great! He is dynamic, he loves your book, he has great ideas, he is excited, talented, and he can help you build a site for a fraction of the cost-this you can afford.

The Honeymoon: You get started on the project and Bob really seems to listen, he’s working quickly, he answers your calls, he has something for you to see right away, and it’s pretty good, you like it, OK maybe it’s not great, but hey it was practically free and it’s something, its better than nothing.

The Fallout: You have a big signing at the local bookstore, you’re excited, but your site needs to be updated and there’s that issue of those few spelling errors you haven’t gotten around to fixing. You know you need to talk to Bob. But Bob is out of town until next week. You call some friends to see if they know of anyone who can help, yes, but do you have access to the web files? Hmm, no Bob has that. Bob doesn’t seem to be returning your calls, or emails-Bob is MIA.

The Reality: So what if you do find someone who is so excited and hungry that they are willing to do it for very little, or even better, for free. What happens when your designer needs a leaning post and you are pushing for more-you’ve started with this person, you need them to finish the job, your marketing success depends on it…they stop returning calls, they are less and less responsive…you go crazy with frustration, the process of getting a simple update to your site is maddening, you throw your hands up in exasperation, the love affair is over and you are left to pick up the pieces.

You face the facts, you know you must find another web master, you search for people in your area, you are horrified by the high-prices, your benchmark, what you had come to rely on was so much less expensive. How can this be? OK fine, you find someone you think you can trust and they tell you your previous web designer didn’t know what they were doing. Salt. Wound. Pain. They tell you have to start over and it’s going to cost you. Yikes.

The Idiot: Was your last designer really an idiot? Maybe, but probably not. First of all, it’s important to know that designing and programming are two very different art forms and it makes sense to leave each task to the expert. I once saw a very talented illustrator design the interior layout of a book one page at a time, as opposed to flowing all of the text into one document (which certainly makes things easier when it comes time to make future changes). Was this guy an idiot? No, he just didn’t know what he was doing, but he sure was confident that he could get the job done. And boy did he. Now the second edition needs changes….

With web programmers, another thing to consider is that there are numerous ways to build a web site. Building a site is much like organizing your files, because in fact it is; web coders are a unique brand of person and each has his or her own naming conventions and ways of organizing files, which could be near impossible for someone else to decipher. Plus, there are numerous ways to code, programs to use, platforms, etc. Just like you might be baffled by my filing system, I would likely be baffled by yours. So for a programmer to look inside your site, it can take a lot of maddening hours and cursing-clearly the last person didn’t know what he or she was doing. No, they just did it differently. But, why would I want to tackle that frustrating beast? Hmm, this is gonna be pricey.

Synergy, Longevity and Web Designers; The Answer:

Finding the right Web designer is sometimes like trying to find a needle in a haystack. So what’s a savvy author to do? First, get referrals. Qualified referrals will save you a lot of time, especially if they are from fellow authors. For this reason, consider joining your local authors’ guild and attending authors’ conferences where you can connect with other people in your industry.

Be sure to choose a designer who is familiar with your industry. A successful Web site goes way beyond the nuts and bolts of programming and coding. Your designer should have a firm understanding of what you are trying to accomplish and a definitive plan to reach that end. For instance, your navigation should lead your visitor in the direction of a sale-think of it like a funnel. You should implement an effective call-to-action that will guide your readers through the funnel and convert them into sales.

A successful home page will appeal to varying personalities in different ways. Use both imagery and text to say the same thing. This will reach the analytical and the visual; no matter how you say it, both will lead to the same place-a sale. A marketing-savvy firm will understand the importance of this element and provide valuable insight.

Ask for testimonials. Does he or she complete projects on deadline? A typical site should take from two to five weeks to design and build. Also, ask to see samples-including live sites. Test them for ease of use and loading time, as well as the general feeling you get from the sites you view. Chances are, if you dislike everything someone has done, you will be unhappy with what they produce for you as well.

Does he or she listen to your needs? A good way to tell if a company designs for the client or for themselves is to view their samples. If all of their samples are similar, this could be a red flag-unless, of course, that is exactly the style you want in your design. A good designer should be able to listen to your needs and translate them into a workable site that exceeds your expectations. Ultimately, your site should reflect your personality-not theirs.
Make sure your design team is easy to communicate with. Do they speak your language? Remember: this should be your vision, not theirs. Ego can often get in the way of your goals. When it comes down to it, they work for you. They should be able to set their artistry ego aside and follow your line of thinking, providing you with valuable insight and ideas that you hadn’t considered.

Ask Questions-Expect Answers

Ensure that your designer and the person coding your site are two different people. They are very different jobs and require different skills, just as your architect and your contractor are two different people. That’s not to say that you should hire two different firms-quite the opposite: a well-trained team works smoothly together and should be able to handle anything you throw their way.

A good firm will provide you with at least three “comps” or design samples. This is the part of the project where you will have the most involvement. That’s not to say that you should be able to stare over their shoulders as they create for you-but you should be given ample opportunity to verbalize your needs. You should approve the design before it goes to the programmer. Also, find out what their policy is on additional changes once you have approved the final design; you do not want to get stuck with hidden costs halfway through the project.

Always get a contract. Know exactly what to expect. A contract protects you as much as the design house. Read your contract thoroughly. Be sure that you own the rights to your site, the design, all the images, and your copy. When it’s all said and done, your designer should provide you with a disc that contains all your design files and your Web files; keep this disc and all your passwords in a safe place-in fact, make backups. Should something happen to your design house, or they go out of business, you should be able to seamlessly transfer everything to a new firm. And remember: this is a relationship, if you are not happy with your team, or you are not getting the results you expected, then don’t be afraid to find someone else.

Don’t rush it. Costly mistakes are made when people rush. Once your site is up and running, you can decide to change it, but it will likely mean starting all over and costing you twice what it should. Often, this can be the straw that breaks the marketing camel’s back. It is easy to get discouraged when you have invested so much of your heart and soul into a project only to find out you are back at square one. From the perspective of a coder, it is less costly to start over than to give your site a facelift-changing colors, navigation, and the overall look and feel of your site isn’t as easy as it may seem. Avoid costly mistakes in the beginning, even if it means stalling your project just a little longer.

How Much Should a Web Site Cost?

While industry standards are typically followed, prices vary widely. The Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines is a sufficient reference guide for industry pricing standards when it comes to illustration and design; this will give you a firm place to start.

It’s possible to pay anywhere from $200 to $44,000 on a Web site; all of this depends on the size of your site and your programming needs (and who you hire). What you want to concentrate on is the relationship you have with your designer. Meet with this person, and see if you like him or her; after all, you will likely be working very closely with this person. You should be developing a relationship that will help make you and your book shine.

Keep in mind, just because your site looks great doesn’t mean it’s effective. Discuss these elements and see what kind of ideas your potential designer may have that can bring your project to a higher level. Use someone who understands books and the publishing industry. While one firm may be able to design and build an incredible site for real estate agents, they may not know the first thing about selling books.

All of these things are crucial elements that you must consider before signing that contract. Always ask for a contract; no matter how much you trust this person, business is business-be professional. It’s okay and even necessary to build relationships and even friendships in this business, but never forget your end goal: You are an author with your own business, and only you will look out for you in the end.

Make a List-Check it Twice

Before you start shopping for a design house, jot down a list of your expectations; that way if it comes down to one or two firms / designers, you will make an educated decision based on all your needs.

Lastly, follow your gut feeling; listen to your instincts. If something doesn’t mesh, move on.

Finding a design team can be an emotionally overwhelming process. The following checklist will help you find the right team for your needs. And remember: just because the price is right doesn’t mean the fit is, and vice versa; an expensive team may be just that-expensive. You want to choose the best designer for you and your book. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.

1. Do they listen?
2. Are they responsive?
3. Do they explain things in a way you can understand?
4. Do you like the other sites they have designed?
5. Are all of their design samples the same? Do they have the feel you are looking for?
6. Are their sites easy to navigate?
7. Do they have experience in your industry?
8. Do their sample sites load quickly?
9. Will they give you recent testimonials and references? Do they have happy clients?
10. What is their timeline?
11. Do they provide more than one design sample for you to choose from?
12. Are the designer and the programmer different people? Does the design firm have a specialized team?
13. Do they offer hosting services?
14. Do they offer E-commerce solutions?
15. Do they understand Internet marketing?
16. Do they have a company Web site?
17. Do they provide a contract that outlines your rights?
18. Do you get to keep the rights to every element of your site, including design and images?
19. How much do they charge for Web site maintenance?
20. Do they employ a solid back-up system? If so, do they keep back-ups offsite for added security?
21. Upon completion, will they provide you with all your files and passwords?

10 Steps to Hiring the Best Web Designer

You have been planning forever to get a website designer to work on your site. Your plans are clear and you have prepared your content. What next? How do you go about choosing the best web designer or web design company?

Step 1. Ask around. Ask friends, or similar companies who have hired a web designer in the past. Besides getting the contact numbers of the web designers, ask how it is to work with that person. Find out what happened during the design process and what they think of the designs submitted.

Step 2. Do your research for contact information. Use the internet or your phonebook to get the names and contact information of web design companies in your area. If you use the internet, have a peek of their past work. Then contact each and ask for a quotation.

Step 3. Look through the portfolio of the web design company you are choosing from. See if the designs are professional-looking, clean and easy to use.

Step 4. Look at the experience of the web designer or Web Design Company. How long has the person or company been in business? How many companies have they designed for?

Step 5. See if the designer or web design company is up to date with the newest trends in web marketing. Useful, profitable websites attract the correct traffic with search engine optimization and usability and by employing web 2.0 strategies such as social media marketing. Effective web sites take SEO and usability into serious consideration. See if your web designer has at least a basic knowledge of both. In order for your website to be successful you need to be able to implement a successful internet marketing campaign.

Step 6. Look at the web designer or web design company proposed turnaround time. Does it match the schedule of your company’s plans?

Step 7. Examine the web designer or web design company terms of service and website files ownership. See if you agree with the conditions set by the designer to work with you. See also the rights as to who owns the final output and what sizes. If this is not clear from the start, you just may be surprised to find that the work you commissioned is not yours and you may have to pay extra to get it.

Step 8. See what the web designer offers for after-design services. Will the designer help maintain your site or is the designer only expected to do the initial design?

Step 9. Talk to the designer. Is s/he easy to communicate with? You should be able to communicate with your web designer easily. You should be comfortable presenting problems that you want solved. Your web designer should be respectful and prompt. You should both be able to compromise on what will work best for the viewers, not necessarily your personal taste.

Step 10. Look for previous, happy clients. You may look through the designer’s website or blog and see if there are client testimonials. Note what they have to say about the designer. You may also try to call them (you may ask the contact number from the web designer) and ask for comments regarding the design process and final output.

Five Simple Steps to Follow design web

1. Flashy Pages: unwanted Distractions

Most of web designers feel the need to create stylish splash pages that do nothing but create a barrier which stops web users in their tracks and forces them to make the unnecessary decision of whether to push forward to the home page or to leave your website forever. These “website introductions” are typically short Flash-based movies that showcase the web designer’s flash design skill set, yet offer the web user nothing but a distraction. Flash animations are so common these days that it’s almost impossible to actually impress a web user with a Flashy page. The main goal of any website design should be to either deliver the web user what they want or to get the web user to perform an action. a flashy page only slows down this process and should be avoided at all time.

2. Banner Advertisements: Less Is More

When it comes to the strategic placement of banner advertising, the old proverb “less is more” needs to be applied to web design. A single successful banner advertisement is more profitable and valuable then a whole bunch of banner advertisements that get minimal click-through. The harder it is to secure a single banner advertisement space, the more appealing it becomes to advertisers. it’s best to try and fill space with useful content. Another tip is to surround your banner advertisements with as much useful content as possible; this will also make the space more appealing to potential advertisers.

3. Navigation: Is The Important Key

The fastest Bike in the world is useless if no-one knows to drive it. The same goes for websites. Website owners can choose to invest thousands in web design, logo design, flash design, splash pages, funky animations and a whole host of other aesthetic goodies to make the site look fantastic, but if web users cannot navigate around the site to consume the content or purchase products, then the whole website fails to achieve its goals. In web design when it comes to designing effective navigation it’s best to keep it as simple as possible. Once again, web designers will often go overboard and design navigation menus that include flash animations, multi-tiered dropdowns and a whole host of other unnecessary additions that only work to distract the user, instead of helping them navigate around the website. Navigation is the key that unlocks good website design

4. Coding: Never Copy & Paste

Amateur web designers will often copy and paste code from various websites and compile their website like its Frankenstein. When an error occurs, the web designer doesn’t know how to fix it because they didn’t write the code. Web designers must then sit down and waste time working out what each piece of code does, before discovering the error and then rectifying it. During this time it’s the web users who suffer, as they sit through error after error. Although writing the code from scratch causes longer initial development stages and may cost more in the short term, it will save you a lot of time in the long run if any errors do happen to occur. As mentioned above, errors need to be avoided, whatever the cost. Before seeking professionals to do your website design or flash design, always run double-checks to see how much of the code they are actually writing. If the web design agency is copying code from within their own web design / flash design team, then there is nothing to worry about because someone in the agency will know what to do if a problem arises or they typically have an FAQ that can be easily referenced. The only time you should worry is if the code is copied from an external website.

5. Consistency: Way To Success

Regardless of size, every website should remain consistent to ensure the web user knows exactly where they are and where to look at all times. This applies to everything from simple navigation links to the location of help menus. The goal should be to make the web user familiar with all aspects of your website, from the colours used in the design to the overall layout. Some web designers, who are often pressured by management to create a variety of web designs, feel the need to experiment with different colour schemes and website layouts within a single website, but this does nothing but confuse the web user by causing disorientation. Only break consistency when the website is receiving a complete overhaul.

Author: Rajesh Benjamin, Bytesflow Technology Solutions is an Information Technology company that offers technology-based services for organizations across the world. We tower over all other IT solution providers in our commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction.

Our proficiency lies in providing cost-effective and customized IT applications that meets the technology needs of clients. Our focus on technology and process innovation makes us a strategic technology partner who will give you the edge. With our services we have helped several clients generate a high return on investment and garner more market share.Bytesflow Technology Solutions is an Information Technology company that offers technology-based services for organizations across the world. We tower over all other IT solution providers in our commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction.

Web Site Development The Roles of Web Designers and Web Programmers

A web site is a software package. By definition, a package is a ready-made program that is available to users for use to perform some tasks. These users include non-IT professionals. Thus, a web site qualifies to be a package like Microsoft Office, Peachtree Accounting packages.

Before the revolution of The Web (WWW), development of software package was the exclusive preserve of skillful programmers. Programmers or software developers develop the logic of programs which a package will eventually use to function. This logic building aspect of software development requires high level of intellect. This together with the intricacies of mastering programming languages made the development of packages uninteresting and unattractive to a large spectrum of people.

Following the revolution of The Web, it became possible for non-programmers to develop packages right from the inception. These are web-based packages and of course, web sites, requiring no programming skills. The result was the creation of a new type of profession called Web Design. A web designer is someone who organizes a web page by arranging texts, pictures, animations, forms etc on a page and formats them to produce good presentation. All he needs do is to make use of any of the appropriate web development tools like Macromedia Visual Studio and Microsoft FrontPage. Through the Design section of Macromedia Dreamweaver, for example, you can design a whole web page without using HTML codes. What you have is a web site. A web site is one or more web pages. These web development tools are the equivalent of what the popular package Adobe PageMaker does which is to organize and format pages of books, magazines, newspapers etc. No programming is required.

The limitation of web designing is the creation of static web sites which may be suitable for some applications but not all. They produce non-interactive and non-dynamic web sites that are unsuitable for certain applications and needs. For example, online registration. The role of a web designer stops at this point and that of a web programmer begins. As a result of the limitation of static web sites, the need to move further arose. People wanted sites where they could post forms for tasks like creating accounts online and authentication of passwords. This led to the development of web programming languages otherwise known as scripts. Examples are JavaScript, ASP, ASP.NET, JSP, PHP, ColdFusion etc. The result was the creation of the profession of web programming. A web programmer is someone who develops programs for the purpose of performing automated tasks on a web site. Some prefer to call them software developers. Example of such tasks are:

  1. Data validation.
  2. Form submission.
  3. Sign Up.
  4. Database search.

Thus, it became possible to develop dynamic and interactive web sites capable of doing what conventional software could do on stand-alone computer and network using non-internet technologies. Online banking, stock broking are examples. These functions can now be carried out entirely on internet. To develop functional scripts for such automated tasks, logic building and mastery of the programming language to use in terms of syntax are required. Most of the programs are written from scratch.

Can you be a web designer and a web programmer? Yes, you can. There are people who double as web designer and web programmer but specialists are noted for doing better in their respective fields of specialization than non-specialists. Some sites do not require more than web designing but many sites nowadays require both web designing and web programming like the multi-tier applications that have presentation layer, the logic layer that interfaces the presentation layer with the database, and the data layer that contains the database. There are even database specialists who design database and write what is called stored procedures and triggers right inside the database. The use of stored procedures increases the overall efficiency of site execution as it minimizes the number of times SQL statements are parsed, compiled, and optimized during execution. You can see that site development is quite deep.

The roles of web designers and web programmers are complementary in the development of web site. You need to identify where your ability lies and allow that to inform your choice of area of specialization. If you know you have the ability to write programs, you can go beyond web designing and become a web programmer but if it is otherwise, stick to web designing and continue to grow and sharpen your skills. The truth of the matter is that programming is not for everybody.

If you are a conventional graphic artist, you will find it easy to crossover to web designing and if you are a conventional programmer, you can readily crossover to web programming. What I mean by conventional graphic artists are those who have the expertise in the use of tools like CorelDraw, Photoshop, and PageMaker to perform Desktop Publishing tasks. By conventional programmers, I mean the experts in programming languages like C++, FoxPro, COBOL, and Dbase.

As long as you can determine where your ability lies, you will surely overcome frustrations in your tasks of developing web sites and you will continue to enjoy what you are doing. If you are a web designer and you have a job that involves programming which you cannot handle, look for assistance from a web programmer. If you are a web programmer and you are having issues with web designing in your task, seek the assistance of a web designer. If you can handle both areas to a very large extent, well and good.

Olumide Bola holds a bachelors degree of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and is currently pursuing chartered membership of the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN). He is also a member of Nigeria Computer Society (NCS). He has trained scores of people for well over a decade in programming and non-programming courses. He is currently a Software Developer and the Managing Director/CEO of Victolay Technologies Limited.