So you've decided to take your business online. You are not alone! Based on research data found at Netcraft, provider of internet research and analysis, the number of web sites grew from 29.4 million in October 2000 to 97.9 million in October 2006. It appears the world wide web is not going away any time soon!
Whether you are going to have a simple, informational web site, an e-commerce shopping web site or something more complex, there are several important elements to look for when hiring a web designer. We will review each one in detail.
Portfolio - Be sure to ask for the web designer's portfolio of web sites they've designed for their clients. A diverse and creative portfolio would typically indicate that the web designer can build your web site with the right look and feel for your business, whether you are selling pet supplies or pet rocks. Don't just look at the web sites this web designer has created, dig deep inside of them! Make sure the web sites flow smoothly. Make sure page links are all working properly. If pages are marked "under construction", find out why. By doing this you help ensure that if the web designer's other client sites are attractive AND functional AND user-friendly, chances are, your web site will be also.
Communication Skills - First, unless you can "talk tech", make sure your web designer can communicate to you in easy-to-understand non-technical terms. If you are not sure of something they've mentioned, ask them to clarify it. Second, make sure you feel comfortable with the general lines of communication. Look for feedback from the web designer. Make sure they understand what you are wanting and make sure you understand what they can provide. An unhappy customer with a new web site is typically the result of poor communication between the customer and the web designer.
Online visibility - How important is it that your new web site be displayed in the top rankings of major search engines such as Google, Yahoo or MSN? If it is important, be sure to discuss this with your web designer and find out what they can do to help make that happen. (Note: Contrary to popular belief, a new web site doesn't just appear in the search engines. There is work that needs to be done to help make this happen!) A good web designer will be able to share those techniques with you or, minimally, recommend a search engine marketing firm that can help you.
Pricing - Pricing is always important no matter what you are purchasing. Many web designers charge by the hour, some by the page, some by the entire site as a whole. Others charge ongoing monthly fees. Find out all the pricing details up front. Provide specific details about your web site and expect a detailed estimate in return.
References - Before hiring a web designer, ask for references -- as many as you feel comfortable with. When calling references, be sure to ask about the web designer's communication skills, timeliness in completing the web site and knowledge of web design. An important question to ask the reference: Would you hire this web designer again or refer him/her? Make sure the answer is yes!
Having an online presence can greatly increase your business exposure when done properly. The right web designer can help make that happen!