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Keys for Choosing the Right Web Designer

written by: theinkandpen (Robert Mullon)•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 8/5/2009

Merely having powerful (or free) web development tools at hand doesn’t make a web designer. Here we will focus on things you should look for when finding someone who will be able to implement a functional web site, whilst still making it attractive to your potential audience.

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    Why do I need a website for my business?

    A strong web-presence is crucial for the success of any business in today’s markets. Whether the business concentrates on informing, offering a service or simply selling goods, having a web site ensures that it can reach a global audience allowing you to easily communicate with your customers.

    Although you may be clear on what you want your site to do in relation to your business or service, the web site design may not be as easy to implement. This is why considering a professional who can successfully turn mere sketches into a fully-working, fluent design becomes essential, if you are serious about attracting potential customers.

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    Why should I hire a designer when I can do it for free?

    The short answer is simple: if you want something done professionally, you hire a professional! If you aren't planning on using your site for business purposes then it won't be necessary. However, since we are referring to a design intended for profit, a professional can help you 'optimize' your site. This essentially means that it won't take a long time to load and it will be compatible with many of the different browsers available (known as 'cross-compatibility').

    Along with implementing basic site functionality the designer will also make your future web site easy to search by adding 'search-engine-sensitive' code. Technically this is known as 'search engine optimization' (in short SEO), which means your site will often appear in the top results relevant to the search.

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    What should I look for when hiring a designer?

    Initially, you may have an idea (or you should) on the site’s look – i.e. its colour scheme, button layout etc. – which you can communicate to your chosen designer. But the problem is choosing the right person, or rather someone who will work close to your imagined end-product. So what do you look for when hiring a web designer? Some of the important requirements are:

    • Someone who is qualified to do the job
      • Although talent is important, it’s rarely enough. Some qualifications you would expect are advanced knowledge of HTML and Javascript (as a minimum), applications such as Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Flash (for highly animated projects), knowledge of database management and some coding ability (i.e. logic and program design).
    • Someone who has the experience
      • Coupled with official qualifications, find someone who has solidly proven they can design efficiently. Look at designers with portfolios or people who show you what they have done before, not those who can only promise to deliver. Although risk-taking pays off sometimes, in this case it only leads to disaster.
    • Good communication
      • Generally, an ability to communicate is important in any aspect of life and business. A good designer will be able to listen to your ideas and transform them into a site that's usable and close to how you imagined it to look. It is also important that he/she is able to explain a complex design simply, without using specific terms and on a similar level as the user rather than the developer.
    • Availability for your job
      • It's preferable to pick full-timers, or someone who concentrates on designing websites rather than branching-out into other areas (i.e. programming, graphic design etc..). This ensures availability solely for your job, working more efficiently and having your design completed faster than someone who is working in too many fields. This is also good when an hourly charge is applied, as some designers choose to work, and saves you money.
    • Value for money
      • Common sense but still important. Depending on what you intend to use your site for, and your initial budget, it would be good to look at what the different companies offer and the pricing. Some designers charge hourly, which can prove to be more costly, whilst some will give you a single sum estimate as you provide them with an idea for the design you want. Individual designers are cheaper than larger companies, but probably offer less.
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    How do I find a designer?

    Now that you know what to look for, you can start by finding out where. Directory services are particularly good for a varied selection or alternatively, you can use the local chamber of commerce to find someone who is near to you.

    You could also look for a particularly popular website and find out who the designer was (i.e. contact the company by phone or e-mail): although not the most cost effective way, it allows you to choose with certainty as that design will have a good chance of being successful.

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    Build a short list of whoever suits your original design best, perhaps basing it on prices or quality of work, and contact a few candidates from your list. Remember, if someone tells you they are busy with other designs it's generally a good indication that they are sought after, although it's a common business practice to gain more work. Good luck in your search!