Since many are often confused at exactly what to look at or what to ask when hiring a web designer, I’ve prepared a grouping of important things you should consider. Hiring a web designer requires the understanding of your organization and business more than anything else.
Define a 1 Sentence Business Description
What are You Doing? What are You About?
This is sort of a description and mission statement hybrid and will help everyone involved understand what you are about and looking to target as your objective and ultimately help all parties be on the same page when hiring a web designer. A user should be able to look at any page of your site and determine what they can do on the site and specifically what you do and how it can apply to them. Hiring a web designer that can take this mission statement and implement this into the presence is essential.
What Do Your Want Out of Your Site?
This is one of the items that many clients overlook…you might have 1 goal or you might have several that you are trying to accomplish. For marketing, we always suggest establishing 1 main goal and center the design around contributing to this…examples of this are below
- Gaining Newsletter Signups
- Selling products (or a particular product)
- Getting Members for Your Facebook Page, Twitter or Other Social Network
- Having Content Shared
This is really easier said than done…and continually making changes to contribute to your goal(s) is/are essential.
Provide Samples of Site Look and Feel from Other Sites
What Do You Like?
While the project is being setup…take some time to check out other websites and find what you like about them both visually and function wise…some suggestions on where to start:
- Check Your Competitor(s) Websites
- Check Your Client Websites
- Look Through Your Web Designer’s Website
This is also a good opportunity to see how they are accomplishing contributing to their goal(s) (or possibly how they could be and determining areas they could improve…which will help you establish your base).
Draw it Out
How Does it Look on Paper?
Once you have a design, actually draw out the elements on a sheet of paper (yes, even in today’s day and age, we still have to use a pen and paper sometimes…)
Create a Flowchart/Wireframe
How Easy Will it be to Use?
Mind Mapping Software is great for this. There are several online services that can be used…essentially, what you can do is create a chart and collaborate with others by sharing it…this really helps both the web designer and yourself to understand which components will be necessary, It also allows an understanding of how traffic will flow through the site…and make such traffic flow less cumbersome.
Create a Content Gem
Do They Need Your Site?
If you are in a niche market (or for any business really), there should be a level of content that you can provide to your customers via your online presence which will provide your visitors with the desire to return to utilize the content. Examples of such are below:
- Restaurant Menu
- Downloadable Forms Specific to Industry
- Updated “How To” Information
Exactly What is Being Done?
This is a must have. It is so important that you may even consider paying a professional web developer just for this element. Each designer you contact is going to have different methods and ways they implement the design and components based on your plan, so getting a price and then comparing them is not always like comparing apples to apples. If you have a very specific syllabus of the platform, design necessities and function, you will be better able to determine what you are getting for the money you spend.
Choose a Platform
What Are the Benefits of Your Platform? Are There Any Negatives?
We use WordPress or Magento eCommerce to create websites as experience has proven that this provides for a wide range of design choices, structures and the ability to edit content by the client. You must be happy with the platform and usability for accomplishing your objectives or serving your users.
Expect to Pay a Fair Price
“If It Sounds too Good to be True…”
This is very true in the realm of internet development. There is a massive amount of low budget marketing campaigns trying to sell you something that is supposed to have great function for a bargain basement price…if you are looking for results, it just doesn’t happen this way. If you end up bargaining the price down so far that the developer is under pressure based on the money involved vs. the time that he/she has to work on the site, this typically produces negative results and project stalls.
Determine What Might be Different About the Users You Desire/Current Users
Understand User Behavior Specific to Your Industry
Every industry has quirks…or things that influence user behavior (your clients may not behave like clients in other industries…they may or may not do certain things)…still further, there may be a difference in behavior between the people coming from the web search engines vs. clients you send directly to the site…or from your social networking base.
Make a List of Things You Don’t Want to Happen on the Site.
What Could Go Wrong and How Important is it?
You’ve established your goals…its time to look away from the pros of a website and think about the cons. Can your implementation have negative consequences. If you determine that some negatives can come out of your offering, you need to also look at whether or not there is some kind of tradeoff. A classic example of this is providing links to other websites. You provide good resources and people may follow them and forget about you. The alternative is obviously not to do this, bu then you suffer negative consequences in regards to search indexing on Google and the other search engines…so looking at the tradeoff and understanding that part of something is better than all of nothing seems like simple logic…but the built in need to singularly dominate is part of human nature…following what we feel as humans based on inherent desires is not always wise!
Make Sure there is an Advanced Communication Medium Between the Developer and Yourself
How Will You Communicate and Keep Organization on the Project?
If your designer doesn’t use an online project management system…quite simply, pass them up. Ask! It is just not possible in today’s day and age to manage anything of a complex nature with alot of associated communication via email. It is one thing if it is a small tech item, but for a full project or more lengthy list of tech items, you will need a repository that is easy to use for communication and related files.
Establish a Reasonable Timeline
How Long Will This Take?
Understand that working through the many items on the site and making some adjustments through the process is a necessity. Don’t try and establish a timeline that is so swift that you can’t have flexibility to make these changes.
Can Social Networking Help You Achieve Your Goals?
A Great Way to Start is by Choosing One Network Such as Facebook or Twitter and Immersing Yourself into Using it Well, Rather Than Trying to Take on Too Much. Not all industries choose to participate…mostly due to the complication of using the networks or the time involved. Still further, you may feel like there is no way to adapt your business or organization to social networking…the way to better understand how you might do this is to specifically review how your competitors are accomplishing this.
Who are Your Competitors
What Are Other People Doing?
It is essential to understand your competitors both in the online arena, on search engine top results and in the real World. Check them out, see what they are doing and get ideas for how you can compete or provide information in a similar fashion to satisfy your own customers, make your website a valuable resource for them and bring in new customers and contacts.
Ask Your Customers
Nobody Knows it All…
This sounds very simple…but ask your customers what they would like to see on your site…or what they could get from your site that would make them want to return. It seems like we should be able to just understand this…but there is an inherent block sometimes between the operator and client, no matter how much we think we know our customers. I just did this recently when looking at establishing a price structure for mobile website development. It was really surprising the variety of answers received. Basically, I was just after what would seem to be a fair price and what would be construed as just too much to even consider. Most of the answers were surprisingly similar, while there were still those looking for something for nothing, but overall, I was able to establish a structure that was fair and would cover the time involved while still providing a couple flexible options for different budgets…covering delivering a quality product.
What Browser do They Use?
More advanced users will use a browser such as Opera, Google Chrome or Firefox. Still further, some opt for the more classic feel of the Internet Explorer browser they are used to. Others will be using Safari for Macintosh (or a derivative of it with a smart phone). There are always variations of display between browsers, sometimes these are small, and sometimes more serious. If you know your users will primarily be using a certain browser with certain features, you can place your emphasis towards a particular browser or perhaps focus your content implementation towards some of the bundled features of the browser or more popularly utilized plugins to enhance the browser function.
Updates and Content
What Will You Be Adding to the Site, Who Will Do it, How and When.
Understanding how you will update content is essential…and your platform must support this. You might end up getting a really neat looking website that seems to accomplish your objectives, but upon trying to supply your users with updates and change pages as your business and industry changes, you might find out that this is too complicated. Will someone in your organization be handling this?
What is Your Planned Source of Internet Traffic?
Build it and They Will Come?
The Structure of Your Site Adapted to Where Your Traffic Comes From Will Increase Your Conversion Rates… Will you be sending traffic referrals directly to the site from a business card? Advertising campaign? Are you going to be attempting to gain traffic from the search engines? You may need certain elements to satisfy requirements to be listed on search engines, whereas if you are sending traffic directly to the site, this may not be a requirement and you may be able to better layout the site to contribute to your goals.
Establish a Budget
Are You too Broke to do it Right?
I always ask a client if they have a budget, and if so, what it is. Sometimes people will just provide a figure. Often times, they just don’t know, and still further, some just want to try to be the power negotiator. This question is asked just to understand whether we are all playing in the same ballpark. If not, there really is no benefit for either of us spending time on something that may not come together.
Does Location Matter?
The World is Wired!
Today not so much. There are not really that many benefits to choosing someone in your region unless you are super computer challenged and just need a ton of time for hand holding. I very rarely target recruiting for local clients as I know there is a time factor involved that would become non-compensatable. Quite honestly, I love talking with people, so I would end up in a time management nightmare. It is difficult in itself to manage this sometimes with all of the communication mediums offered on the net. There may be some cases that you might need someone locally, only you can determine the actual importance of this, but to me, it is not a key factor.
What Have You Done?
There should be some samples available for you to look at. I try to keep mine updated simply based upon some of the more recent projects…and provide a wide array of variations with as few samples as possible…so clients can get an understanding overall of what I am capable of. A developer’s own site should also reflect some of their abilities. It is surprising sometimes though that a busy developer may not have time to update their own site. This may not be a good sign…or the ability to do so may be too complex…which can be a warning sign that you might experience the same when updating.
Talk to People if You Can…
There are always going to be happy clients and there will always be the situation where things might not have gone as planned. If somebody is conveying that they have only had happy customers, they likely don’t have enough experience, because such a situation is just not real World. The hope is that they have more of a happy customer base than a negative one. This will be telling both of skill, organization and how the established relationships work out personality wise.