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November 2015

How to Find a Good Web Designer

Choosing a good web designer is not just about getting some guy to build you a good looking web site. There are many factors that can and will affect the success of your site. For you to know what qualifies as a good designer/developer you need to be educated. That is the intention of this article.

I believe that your web site development begins with a plan. A solid plan that incorporates search engine optimization,(SEO) and usability at its foundation. Building your web site in this manner will enable your SEO to be much easier with just minor tweaking and updating. At the time of this writing it is still not yet possible for search engine spiders, a.k.a: robots, to make sense of everything you have on your website.

Spiders love text. They don’t read javascript and they do not have the ability to read complex flash text or images. Making sure that your entire web site including all its pages are indexed by the spiders is essential. If they can’t see your pages, it may as well not be there.

So what does all this mean to you in your search for a web designer or web developer. In case you’re wondering why I refer to designer and developer as if they’re two different things, the fact is, is that they are.(if you want to be technical). Web designer seems to be the general term thrown about as one who makes or builds web pages. However this is usually the person who designs the physical appearance of the web site. He usually just works with images. Since there’s more to building a functional web site than just pretty pictures and fancy moving graphics, it may surprise you that a web page can in fact also be a computer program, or more appropriately, a web application. This is the behind the scenes code that gives the site its intelligence, so to speak. Some web designers are only responsible for completing a physical design for your site. If they don’t code in HTML or CSS, the design usually photoshop or fireworks, then goes to the coder, who actually puts it all together using html, CSS and in some instances a scripting languages like PHP, asp.net or ruby for back end programming. The end result is a web page that renders in the users browser and depending on whether some scripting was included, also allows the user to interact with the page and make choices and decisions. This is the very short version of a somewhat complex subject.

If you can keep this in mind when you go over the contract it will help you understand why the programming aspect (developing) of your site is usually pricier. Any serious web design company will have an in depth contract and should not hesitate to explain details of the contract to you.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines standards and best practices for web design and development and you should make it a point to ask your web guy whether they will be designing your website with standards compliant code. This just means adhering to the W3C standard.

If they say that they intend designing the layout of your web page using tables, insist that they don’t. For two reasons:

  1. Using tables for layout is not standards compliant and could adversely impact page loading times. (not good) The more code in your page the larger the file and the larger the file the longer it takes to download.
  2. Updating and maintaining web pages will be much harder, and could take longer, which may translates more being more expensive.

When you think of your website project try thinking ahead and plan for the long term. You want a site that is extendible and can be managed more easily. Best practices are not called such for no reason. I stress this point because it’s an important one.

A portfolio will give you a glimpse of what the designer / developer is capable of will allow you to see the design style. Any web designer with sense won’t include customers in their portfolio who were not happy. It’s bad for business. Searching for a good designer in reputable online listings is a good place to find a web designer or any other service for that matter where the company or individual will be rated by the public.

It is of greater importance to that firm that they perform well since their rating is available for the public to see. An example of such listings would be Yahoo’s Local Search listings, or online Yellow pages. A good source for finding a good web designer is to speak to people who you know who have had first hand experience and who built their web sites. If people have been given good service they usually don’t have any problem recommending their designer to you.

It is OK to ask for a mock up site. Usually designers will tend to make 2 mock ups for you to compare and sometimes they may even show you an array of various web styles and templates prior to commencing. This is a way of narrowing down the style, how many columns, colors and themes he will need to design for.

The web developer needs to advise you on every aspect of the design process. He should educate you and explain in very plain terms the reasons for doing things. Don’t just take his word for it. Ask why. He needs to give attention to what content you intend putting on your site also, because SEO is all about content, keywords and relevance. Obviously the content decided on is ultimately the client’s decision, but a responsible designer should inform you of how you could optimize your content. It is important to note that some web designers usually are not experts at SEO and there are specific SEO companies or individuals that do just that, however it is best if they work hand in hand with the designer of your website. If you do find a web designer that can do a good job of SEO then you stand a better chance of your web site being easier to market and rank.

So here are a few points I believe would make an overall good choice in a web designer/developer.

  1. Expresses the importance in planning your site for user friendliness
  2. Understands good web design that is standards compliant
  3. Can think through the eyes of the potential visitor of the clients site
  4. Uses colors well and researches the target audience.
  5. Educates the client and explains web terminology in layman’s terms.
  6. Plans a site from SEO perspective, with attention to file structure and naming schemes.
  7. If doing any programming, all the above applies and also strong focus on usability of the application. Easy user interface, secure and full featured to name a few..

These points are by no means the hard and fast rule, its just a guide. However, I believe most importantly above all, you should get good service. Good quality service is the best marketing tool for any business and you should expect it.

Roger Samboer is the founder of Alien Design LLC, a Seattle based web site development company. They create streamlined, professional looking web sites at very competitive prices. The main focus is on providing new start up companies with affordable yet high quality web sites as well as coaching and training companies to market their site better online. Information is always free!

Combining Web Design Business With Web Hosting Can Generate More IncomeWeb Designers

Web designers and developers are the foundation of the Internet. If you are skilled in web design or web development you can make a growing income on the Internet. The secret to making money with your web design and development skills is to include web hosting in your web design or web development quotes or standard packages.

You can add $50 a month to your income, hosting your client sites with more ease. You don’t need to get a dedicated server and you don’t need to worry about trying to compete with web hosting companies. What most people think is just getting a website up. They contact the web designers first, without really knowing that there are web designers and web hosts. Terms with “web designer”get more searches per day than terms with “hosting”. People are looking for web designers to get their sites on the Internet.

Web designers and developers can incorporate the sale of hosting into their web development and design projects. As a web designer you can bill your customers for the hosting fees within the design and then host the account for a year or on a month to month basis. You will be surprised at how much extra income you can generate from your web design customers.

Providing hosting for your web design clients will give you greater assurance that your customers will come back to you to make changes or update their site. This allows you to keep generating income from your work and customer base. Let’s look at some numbers, and how billing for hosting on top of your web design work can make you some serious money. Let’s assume you get paid $500 – $1000+ for a site design. If you charge your client for hosting as well you could generate up to $50 extra per site, per month in hosting fees. You could make up to $1100 to $1600 per site, per year instead of just $500 or $1000 per site. With 100 clients this could equate to $110,000 or $160,000 per year instead of $50,000 – $100,000 per year. On top of this, remember your client is more likely to come back to you to update and maintain your site which means more money for you, for easy work.

With a little effort and focus you could generate a very healthy income in your web design business. With tools like Joomla, WordPress and other highly customizable content management systems you can make the hard work incredibly efficient so you can focus solely on the design. Right now there are a myriad of powerful web applications, content management systems and shopping carts you can quickly install in your reseller web hosting account and produce a design for very quickly. There are also a myriad of ready to run, specialist applications written in ASP, ASP.Net and PHP that you can bolt on to your customers site, customize the design for and really impress your them. With these easily installable web applications you can very quickly impress your customers and raise the value of your web design fees – and the fact that they are specialist customized web applications you have put together, your web design customer will be happy to pay your hosting fees.

For your design business you don’t need anything fancy, you don’t need dedicated servers or specialists billing or server management systems. You can utilize the cost efficiencies of shared hosting to maximize your profit. One way to do it and a lot of designers do this, is get a new shared hosting account for each site they design and charge the customer more than they pay.

The better way to do it and really maximize your profit is to get a reseller hosting account where you can host all your customer sites in the one hosting account. This works out much cheaper than getting a separate account for each customer site. A good reseller account will give you far more room to move and even greater cost effectiveness which means even more profit and less effort.

Getting up and running with a good reseller hosting account is easy and incredibly affordable. For just a few hundred dollars per year you can host 50 or more sites. A quick search on reseller hosting will give you plenty to choose from. In our experience Windows hosting reseller packages are a good idea as a Windows reseller hosting account will give you the freedom and choice to run ASP, ASP.Net as well as PHP sites with MySQL or SQL Server databases. Linux hosting is incredibly efficient and gives you some of the cheap hosting options available but does not support ASP or ASP.Net applications. For an extra few dollars a month you can get Windows hosting and dramatically increase your options for your web design customers from a wider array of available web applications and freely available code in ASP and ASP.Net.

With Windows hosting you can use all your favorite web design tools and you’ll have the vast resources of Microsoft development products like Visual Studio at your disposal. As a reseller looking at Windows hosting accounts make sure the host offers Multiple IIS sites and not just unlimited domains. To properly host multiple sites on Windows each site needs to have it’s own entry in IIS (Internet Information Server – the Windows web server). Many hosts say unlimited domains and what they really mean is running unlimited domains on one site. All you get with unlimited domains on one site, is your multiple domains show the same site or requires you to write code to detect the domain and redirect to a directory. This is not a great way to run your customer sites.

With each site having it’s own entry IIS means you can have separate application settings, assign it to different application pools and maintain separate log files. This means you can have more control, more flexibility and produce a much better solution for your client. Being able to put your customer sites in separate application pools means that if one of your customer sites get’s busy or some crazy bug causes a problem it will isolate it to just that site and you wont end up with all your customers screaming at you that their sites are down.

After 12 years working on the internet. Through booms, through busts, good times and bad times web designers and developers quietly rule the web. Businesses of all sizes look for web designers first and in our experience they really don’t want to know too much about hosting. As a designer you can save your clients from the complexity and confusion of hosting and make money from it. To make money from hosting your client work you really don’t need to leap out and set yourself up as a web hosting provider with billing systems, hosting plans and support systems and processes. Start off by hosting all your sites in one reseller hosting package and you’ll be surprised at just how much extra money you can make for very little effort. The best thing of all you can keep your focus on why you became a web designer – designing web sites!