These days, unless you have a website, you aren’t considered a legitimate business. In fact, the younger generation has never even heard of the Yellow Pages — they look for their goods and services providers online. Which means you must have a captivating, well-designed, user-friendly website to promote your products, goods and services. So how do you choose a website designer who will understand your business and capture your vision?
Rely on word of mouth
Some web designers can be a little fly-by-night. We’ve heard of worst-case scenarios where the designer takes your money and ends up in Rio on the beach — with your money. Or they build your site and hold it hostage so you can never make any changes to it without getting in touch with them. So our first recommendation is to ask other businesses for referrals. This a great way to find a good web designer who is responsive, trusted and possibly local. And be sure to check out the other websites that potential website designers have created to see if their style and capabilities sync with your needs.
Ask about website design qualifications
When choosing a web designer, look for designers knowledgeable in compliant code. They need to know the current standards of XHTML and CSS programming and have a strong background designing in popular content management platforms like WordPress, Joomla and CMS Made Simple. These content management systems are simple to use, even for a non-techie, so you can update or change your website without having to pay someone to write the code for you.
Request a portfolio and references
Ask potential website designers for a portfolio of different website designs that you can use to preview specific design techniques. Asking for references is also a great way to discover how they work with their clients.
Consider search engine optimization (SEO) and originality
You should avoid a web designer who wants to create your website using all images or all Adobe FLASH. While these sites are beautiful, with gorgeous pictures, movies or slideshows, they are not search-engine-friendly; search engines cannot read images, so your site will never be indexed in places like Google or Yahoo! Also, keep in mind if your website designer uses licensed templates, another business could have a website that looks similar to yours. If you want an original web design, be prepared to pay more.
Make sure your website needs are met
Many website designers are not writers, graphic designers or marketing experts, which means that you may have to provide content and artwork for your site. As you choose your website designer, ask what services he or she can provide. A lot of web designers also provide hosting services. Hosting services are places to park your website so it can be found on the World Wide Web. Keeping all of your Internet resources in one place will make future changes easier.
Get it in writing
When you’re choosing a website designer, make sure you get a written contract. It should outline exactly the duties or jobs that will be performed, and the time frame for website completion. The contract should also include the costs, licensing rights and confidentiality clause (you don’t want the web designer sharing confidential information with competitors or other clients). Depending on the complexity of your website, costs will vary. We have seen websites ranging from $500 for a simple static website up to $50,000. For most small businesses with relatively simple websites, you should expect to pay between $1,200 and $2,500.
In short, there are good, reputable website designers out there who can create an outstanding website that will be easy for your customers or clients to find and will meet your website needs. Just be sure you take the time and do a little homework to find the best website designer for you!