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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!

10 Things To Think About When Selecting A Web Designer

1. Look at the detail of the web design company’s own website. This is almost always a good indication of the level of detail your new website will have. See if you can find any areas that have added level of detail, such as images with added effects. This could be rounded corners, gradient effects, colour fading etc. No matter if you do not want those design elements on your own website, it gives you information about the designers and their eye for detail and quality.

2. Know what you want. Even if you don’t know the technical aspects or terms of web design, you should have a fairly good idea of what you want the end result to look like. If you leave vital parts of your website design and functionality to the web designer, you are likely to pay more than you have to. If you don’t know what kind of features you could ask for, look around online at some larger websites. If you are selling products, you could try and look at ebay.com or amazon.com for some design ideas. If it works for them, it most likely will work for you.

3. Ask if a detailed quote is available. Just as with other areas of business where you have little or no idea how things are done or how long they take, it is important to get a breakdown of services that you are paying for. Are they only giving you a total price for the web services you have been discussing over the phone or email? If so, they are not giving you information that you can use to compare other web design companies with. You should ask what their hourly rate is which can help you figure out from the total cost how long it is going to take to design the website!

4. What level of support is available during and after building your website? It is very important to know how many changes you can make to your website while it is being built that are not going to cost you extra. Is the web design company giving you an option to view work in progress? How about if you change your mind on a design aspect after the website has been designed? These things need to be part of your contract before you agree to have work done. You don’t want a surprise invoice for “additional requested web design work” to land in your inbox. Always be clear on what is going to be charged for and what is part of the web design package.

5. What do other clients think about the web designer? If you want to get an honest and unbiased opinion about this, there is no better way than going straight to the source! Find a previous client’s contact information and send a quick email asking if it is possible to have them share some of this information with you.

6. Will your site be search engine friendly? Becoming part of major search engines such as Google and Yahoo is the inevitable next step after standard web design work has been completed. When you have a brand new website filled with information about services and products you offer, you want people to find it! Search engine optimization, or SEO as it is usually called, is an art form that takes years to master. It is a constant challenge for the web designer to keep up with ever-changing rules that the search engine companies make for who is more “important” in the search engine rankings.

You should not expect to get this service for free if it is done properly by a knowledgeable person, since it can potentially take more hours to complete than your entire website, and it is an ongoing process. You should be able to settle for a level of search engine optimization that suits your budget and still gives you an increased level of visibility online. Always ask how the search engine process will be carried out since anyone can say they are “optimizing” your website and all they do is adding keyword phrases in a few places.

The most important thing to remember about search engine optimization is that it must be supported by strong research into your specific business niche. If your web designer does not find out exactly what people are searching for when trying to find your type of business, you are just paying for guesswork and are wasting your money.

7. How will you be billed? You want to know how work is being billed, both for web design work that is part of your contract and for extra services or additional hours of work. It is common that a percentage of the total contract is charged up front before web design services have started. It is not recommended without a valid reason to pay more than 50% up front, which is a fair level for both parties. It can be agreed on that additional hours of work are added to the final payment, or invoiced immediately. As long as you feel that your needs and requirements are being satisfied, either way is standard procedure.

8. How much control will you have over content? It is still very common today that all additional work that you want done on the website will be carried out by your web designer. If you want to be able to update content on a regular basis, look for web designers that allow you to log in and update information on your own. This requires your website to be dynamic, using elements of programming code that can separate you from your visitors.

The best type of website for this purpose is a CMS-based website. CMS stands for Content Management System and is a completely different style of web design than a standard static website that only displays the same information every day. If your web designer uses a CMS to design your website, you will be able to have website visitors give comments or write articles directly on your website such as in a blog, or give different people different level of access to content on your website.

This is the direction the Internet is moving today, with so-called “Web 2.0” websites such as YouTube and Facebook popping up everywhere where users can add their own movie clips, images and other information. Of course, your website does not have to have these features to use a CMS, but a content management system allows your website to grow and expand easily for future needs. It is important you try and figure out how you may want to use your website in a few years from now and if you need a CMS or not. This type of design usually comes at a higher initial cost, but will make all changes and additional work on your web site a breeze later on.

9. How is communication between you and the web designer? How fast do you get responses to your emails? Are the responses long or short and do they seem to get shorter for each question you asked? You want to make sure that you can ask “dumb” questions and still receive the highest level of professionalism from the web designer. Is the person you are talking to the same person that will do work on your website? You want to have direct contact with the web designer(s) that are going to work on your website, to avoid miscommunication and “lost-in-translation” scenarios. If you call the web design company, try and get a feel for if they are dedicated to your satisfaction by listening to what you have to say, or if they are constantly doing sales pitches to try and convince you to pay for other services.

10. Ask for a resume. A professional web designer should be willing to give you a resume of his or her previous work and background. Knowing the background of the person or company that you are going to work with (usually over a period of several weeks) gives you a better understanding if you have found a web designer with skills that will suit your needs. What you want to be looking for is someone who truly enjoys his or her line of work and has dedicated his professional life to this field. If a person enjoys doing what he/she is doing, it shows in the detail and quality of the work produced – and eventually in your new website!

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.

7 Tips for Successful Web Design and Promotion

If you’re thinking about having a website built, it’s important for you to have a clear idea of the process before you begin. Your website could be a profitable business venture for you, but only if you’ve really done your research ahead of time. Many people begin investing in their new websites before they’ve really thought out each step and end up wasting money on sites that never see fruition. However, with some simple planning and research, you can set yourself on the right track toward developing a successful website. Here are seven tips for web design and promotion to get you started.

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1. Survey the Market and Research Your Competitors

Before you get ahead of yourself and begin hiring a web designer, take some time to survey the market and research your competitors. Look at what other types of websites are out there and see if anyone is doing something similar to your plan. Consider how many people are running similar websites, as well as how professional their websites look. This will help you to determine whether or not it’s worth setting up your own site, before you’ve invested too much in it.

To help ensure the success of your website, you should begin finding a niche market that you can target. You may be tempted to attract any and all customers that you can but you’ll actually have greater success targeting a very specific demographic. Think extensively about who your potential audience members are and what they would be most interested in. Then, you can begin to develop your website around these ideas.

2. Brainstorm Design Ideas and Figure Out What You Like

Once you’ve thought a little more about your site’s purpose, you should now think about your ideas for the design. You’ll need to consider the best way to present your message or to feature your products to audience members. Keep in mind that people tend to skim websites looking for something interesting or eye-catching, so make sure that the most important elements of your site are featured prominently.

The best way to figure out what you like is by looking at other websites. You can make a list of things you do and don’t like, in order to show your web designer. Look at the designs and colours of other websites, as well as their use of text or images. Think about the pages functionality, as well. This type of list can help you to get clear on what you’re looking for in your website and will also help your designer to implement your vision.

3. Determine Your Budget

Figure out what you can reasonably afford to spend on your website design and begin to look for designers in that price range. It’s best to contact a few web design companies ahead of time, in order to get an idea of general pricing. If the designers you talk to are telling you that your budget is too low, you may need to raise more money or lower the scale of your vision for the site.

Keep in mind that quality web design is not cheap. Too many people don’t put enough money into their web design budget and their sites suffer for it. If you want a website that will look professional and that will really engage your visitors, it’s important to set your budget realistically.

4. Research Your Options and Choose a Web Designer

Now you’re ready to begin searching for a web designer. Research your options and look for a web designer that has experience in building similar websites. Most web design companies keep an online portfolio where you can see examples of their past work and see their design styles. You can also check out reviews of designers on third party websites like Which Web Design Company. Again, it’s important to remember that quality web design requires an investment on your part. Web design is an area in which you truly get what you pay for.

Before hiring a web designer, make sure that you can communicate well with him or her. The designer will be an important part of your team as you work toward building your website and beyond. It’s also important that you and your web designer are able to see a similar vision so providing a detailed specification will be extremely helpful but we will cover that in a moment.

5. Work With Your Web Designer to Set Clear Expectations

Once you’ve hired a web designer, you should begin working together to develop a very specific idea of what the website will look like. Give the designer your list of what you do and don’t like, as well any particular elements it’s necessary for the website to have. Though the designer should be able to give you feedback about your design ideas and can offer great advice, it’s also important for you to directly communicate what you’re interested in. Some designers may try to persuade you to do things their way but stand your ground.

You should begin by giving the designer ideas about the general look and feel you want the website to have. Make notes about any specific colours or design elements you want, as well as the features it needs. Think about how many pages you’ll need for the website, as well as any content you already have or will need to develop. Working with a clear set of expectations can help the web designer to implement your vision quickly and on budget.

6. Launch Your Website and Begin Marketing Heavily

It’s a great idea to have your marketing strategy in place before you’re ready to launch the website. When launch day arrives, you’ll be ready to start off with a bang and begin receiving traffic instantly. You may want to write press releases to feature online or through local media. You can also utilize social media to spread the word about your website naturally through Twitter and Facebook.

You may also want to consider using Google AdWords and other pay per click advertising sites to build traffic to your website. Plan to spend around £300-£500 per month for the service so you get a good influx of traffic which will be essential to getting those orders flowing. It will help you to receive traffic instantly, which can help you greatly as you work to spread the word and promote your website. Even if the visitors you pay for don’t buy anything they may well tell others who will. If you want your website to be successful, it’s essential that you receive as many visitors as possible. If you’re having trouble getting traffic to your website, it will be difficult for you to make any sales.

7. Allow Time and Money for Search Engine Optimisation

Google AdWords is a great way to help you get started but it’s also important to use search engine optimisation, or SEO, to build organic traffic to your site. While AdWords will automatically place you at the top of search engine rankings with an advert you will have to continue doing that for ever. SEO can help you get to the first page of rankings naturally and eventually you will receive lots of traffic for free. This is important to increasing your traffic and building your site’s legitimacy and authority on your subject.

Be sure to budget the time and money for SEO. It’s not cheap and it can take 6-12 months to get your page to the first page of rankings for a number of keywords but it will generate a great amount of free traffic when you get there. It may cost about £300-£600 per month but SEO is truly the best way to start bringing in consistent traffic. Over time, your SEO efforts can help you build a reliable customer base and increase your sales. You’re website will now be a true competitor in your niche market and well on it’s way to success.

How to Choose a Cheap Web Designer

Choosing a web designer can be like choosing a tradesman. Who do you trust? Which ones are genuine and which ones will leave you feeling out of pocket? I have compiled a list of questions that we feel you should always ask before commissioning a website. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re going for an expensive site that is all singing and dancing or a simple site – you should still expect and receive a great service.

So here are the top questions that we think you should ask your web designer or check on their website. Please don’t be put off! There are thousands of honest, fantastic companies out there who want nothing more than to make their customers happy. However, as I search on Google, some companies aren’t perhaps quite what they appear…

1. Do the examples of their work click through to a website?

I have noticed that on some web designer’s sites, examples of work are displayed, but it is not possible to click through and actually view the site they are claiming to have created. I cannot think of any reason for this, other than:

a) They haven’t actually created the site – they have simply taken a screen shot of any website and added it to their “portfolio”.

b) They have created the site, but it isn’t very good and so don’t want you to see it.

c) They have created a site with a fantastic looking homepage, so that they can add the screenshot to their “portfolio”, but they can’t show the rest of the site, as it doesn’t exist!

If you can click through to the site, I recommend the first thing you do is scroll down to the bottom of the page. Most web designers stipulate in their terms and conditions that the website will have a “Created by… ” link at the bottom of the customer’s website. This is the norm in the industry. If then, you scroll down to the bottom and you don’t see this, I would be suspicious that the company who claim to have designed the site, possibly haven’t.

Also, if you can click through to examples sites, double check that they are genuine! I have seen “portfolio examples” that are clearly fabricated. Perhaps the telephone number of the web designer’s “customer” is 01234 5678910, or the domain name is a sub domain, rather than a real domain name. Be vigilant – it will be worth it!

2. Do they offer testimonials that can be verified?

As with tradesmen, often the best way to gauge a web designer is on testimonials from previous clients. I care about the work I do and I want to ensure that my customers are satisfied. On completion of their site, all my customers are sent a short questionnaire about the quality of my work, service, price etc and I am proud to display these on my site. Your web designer should be happy for you to contact previous clients, as this is truly the only way that the testimonials can be verified.

3. How much do they charge for hosting?

When you get a web design quote, you will often find that hosting is included free of charge for the first year. You must ensure that you know exactly how much your hosting is going to cost after this time. For example, I had a customer who had a great website that had cost GBP50, but they were being charged GBP30 per month for hosting! This is far too much (and in my opinion unethical). Their cheap web design ended up costing them a fortune.

You should expect to pay anything from GBP30-GBP60 per year for your hosting for an average site. More than this and I would walk away. Conversely, if you are told that hosting is “free forever”, then I would also be suspicious. Perhaps you will be charged a high fee to renew your domain name instead…

4. Will they accept payment from you, without having discussed your needs first?

I have seen some websites that send you directly to a payment page. I would never recommend making a payment for a website without having first discussed exactly what you want – either via telephone or email.

Before parting with any money you need to ensure that your web designer understands what you want from your website, how many pages it will be (you need to know what constitutes a “page”), what you need to supply and what they will source, what would be the best domain name etc etc etc. There’s a whole list of factors that should be decided before parting with your money. If a company is happy to receive payment before this, be wary.

5. Do they have Terms and Conditions?

You are entering into a contract with your web designer and as such, you should firstly ensure that they have T & Cs and secondly read them! They are there to protect both you as the customer and also the web designer themselves (yes, sadly sometimes the customer tries to rip the web designer off also). If they don’t have T & Cs and say not to worry, it is all based on trust, then be wary.

6. Whose name will the domain name be in?

This is really important. The domain name should always be registered in your name, not the web designer’s name. This means that you own the domain name. For example, an unethical designer may register the domain in their own name. If your business is successful (which hopefully it is!) and the time comes to renew your domain name if the domain name is not registered in your own name, the web designer can charge you whatever they like to use the domain name. This is not a situation you want to find yourself in.

Luckily, I think this practice is fading out but I still have the occasional customer who doesn’t own their domain name – their previous designer does. How do you check this? If the company’s portfolio is genuine, you can visit the website http://www.who.is, type in the domain name and it will tell you who the owner of the domain name is. The owner of the domain should not be the web design company (although they are often listed as the administrators, which is fine)

7. How much will you be charged to makes changes to your site in future?

This is a tricky one. Having your website designed is usually just the first step in. Once your site is up and running, you often want to make changes to it, add special offers, new pictures etc. Obviously it would be unfair to expect your web designer to carry out this work for you for nothing (although some customers do think that web designers should do updates for free!). On the other hand, you want to know that you’re not going to be ripped off every time you want to change your site.

You can expect to pay around GBP25 per hour for updates and this is around the norm for most ethical web designers. It’s possible get a lot done in an hour, so it generally works out pretty well for customers. Some companies will charge GBP25 per change however, so watch out for this. For example, a designer might alter some text for a customer, add 2 photos and an extra PayPal button. It could usually do this in approximately half an hour let’s say, so it would cost GBP12.50. If you were being charged per change, this would be GBP100! Again, just be aware of all the costs before committing.

Something else you may want to look at, is whether or not you have the option to be able to update your own site in the future. This means that you can log into your website and make changes to your own site as and when you like, without worrying about the cost each time. As technology becomes more user friendly, this type of service is becoming increasingly popular.

I hope that helps in your quest for a web designer. Please don’t be put off by any of the above. Like all industries, you will hear both good and bad stories and as long as you do your homework, trust your instincts and follow some basic principles, you will end up with an appealing, user friendly, navigable, SEO friendly website.

Top 10 Tips for Choosing a Web Designer

How to Choose a Web Design Firm

Simple. You do your homework on them. Then, you start asking questions and taking notes. There are plenty of web designers available. You want to go with the best because, in fact, your web designer is in essence your partner. You want to choose a designer that takes YOUR business seriously.

What questions do you ask?

There are several important questions to ask when choosing a web designer for your business web site.

Creating your web site can be a tricky process. Choosing the best web design firm for your business web site is a very important decision. And if your company is like most small businesses, you probably do not have web design experience. Building your web site will take time and work. And working with a web designer is no easy task. So choose the right web design company from the start and avoid do-over’s, which can be costly and time consuming.

1. What kind of web experience do you have?

For starters, find out what kind of design experience your potential design firm has. Do they have experience with content management systems such as Joomla or Drupal, do they have experience working with “raw” HTML? Has the web design company created web sites similar to yours? Do they have relevant industry experience? If you want to sell products through your web site and accept credit card payments, does the web design company you are considering have experience with ecommerce hosting?

2. Do you have a portfolio that I can review?

An experienced web design company will have a solid portfolio of web sites that they have created for other clients. Ask for links to other site the design company has created and review each one. Do you like what you see? Do the sites have a style that appeals to you?

3. Do you have any references?

In addition to reviewing web sites, ask for customer references. Contact their clients and ask them about their experience with the web design company. Were they happy with the results? Did they get what they paid for? How much did they pay? Would they recommend them? How long did it take? What didn’t they like about the company? How responsive was the company when they had questions?

4. What are your prices?

The most important step in pricing is to make sure the potential design company outline all of the prices associated with the work and puts it all in writing. Never enter into a deal unless all of the costs are well understood up front.

Ask them a bit about how they manage payments. If they respond in a very business-like and professional manner, this is a good sign. If they throw out answers like – “Don’t worry, we’ll manage” or “Whatever you are comfortable with”, don’t be fooled. This is trouble waiting to happen. Get the price in writing before you begin the project.

5. Do you have experience with search engine optimization?

Most small business owners do not have it in their budget to hire a separate marketing firm to work on search engine optimization (SEO), so it imperative that your web designer have experience in SEO. A good designer will know that design and SEO go hand-in-hand. Designing a web site for search engines with “clean” code that utilizes cascading style sheets is essential to getting your content indexed in the leading search engines, such as Google and Bing.

6. Do you have experience with social media marketing?

Many marketing firms do know the first thing about social media marketing. These firms are stuck in the past and are not as effective as they pretend to be. Be sure that you work with a designer that knows how to setup a Facebook fan page for your business and design a customized Twitter profile. This is important because you will want your social media properties to mesh with the design of your web site. The web site and social media pages should complement one-another.

7. What is your process for designing or building a web site?

Make sure you ask your potential web design company about the process that they use? Do they design a web site or do they build a web site? An experienced Internet professional should understand the difference between these two concepts. If they don’t, they’re probably not as experienced as they claim to be. Building a web site is a highly technical process, while designing a web site is a highly creative process. Many advertising firms specialize in web site design which does not necessarily require any web development skills whatsoever. At the same time, many firms design web sites, yet out-source the creative portion of the project. Find out from the beginning what the process if for the firm that you are considering.

8. How long will it take?

Perfectionism can be a huge stumbling block in the fast paced world of the Internet. Some designers are unable to compromise between quality and time to market needs. Test: See how long it takes until you receive a proposal.

9. What type of support is offered after web site launch?

If your design firm does not offer web site maintenance, you might want to continue looking. Most reputable design firms will offer “post-launch” maintenance for companies that do not have an in-house webmaster.

10. Which web hosting providers do you work with?

If your design firm does not know the first-names of the contact at their favorite web design firm, then this should raise a red flag. Most reputable web designers know not to choose a web host simply because they are the most popular or because they offer the cheapest web hosting. A reputable web design firm should know who to call and how to get results! Does your web designer work with a green hosting company? Environmentally-friendly web hosting is becoming more and more popular for business web sites looking to implement an eco-policy.

Getting a little recognition on the W3 is hard, even in a niche market (especially in a niche market). You have less than 10 seconds to convince a site visitor to stick around long enough to learn about the quality of your services, your products or your message. Web surfers are jagged out on information overload. If they don’t see what they want to see on your home page or a landing page, they bounce. So, making a statement about your corporate culture and your business’ core values has to happen in the blink of an eye. Visitors will never even see the “About Us” page if you don’t create a good impression – in 10 seconds. So, go green! An emblem or banner proclaiming that you employ green hosting makes an immediate statement about your on-line business. It says you care about the environment.

Do your homework when choosing a web design firm.

Good designers are creative people that need to think out of the box. Finding a good web designer is getting harder and harder. The good designers are being snatched by agencies and large projects. They are overloaded with work and often, you won’t know about them because they don’t have time (or need) to market themselves. Doing your homework and asking the right questions is important to decide if they are right for the job.