How to Choose a Web Designer
Note: This page assumes you are looking for someone to create a serious website rather than a non-critical hobby site.
Be wary when choosing a designer — there are many who claim to be qualified but have no real experience. Obviously you should ask to see some examples of previous work. You should also ask if the designer is able to do the following:
- Manually write HTML code.
- Create meta-tags and optimise for search engines.
- Create forms and other interactive content.
- Work with websites in a secure server environment.
Even if you don't need these things for your website, any half-decent web designer will have these skills so it's a good way to make sure they are competent. If they are lacking in any of these areas, they probably aren't qualified to work on your website.
Ask what programs they use to create websites. Although it's true that good websites can be made with cheap software and good software doesn't necessarily mean good websites, there are a few guidelines which can help create an impression of the designer's skill level:
- Very few professional designers use Microsoft Frontpage for web design — this would be a warning sign.
- Some web designers work exclusively with plain text editors. In theory this is a good sign — it means they write all their code by hand which shows a thorough understanding of the medium.
- Adobe Dreamweaver and other similar programs are very good and correspondingly expensive. Although owning one of these programs doesn't mean a designer knows how to use it well, at least it demonstrates good choice and a financial commitment to having the best tools.
Remember, don't get too hung up on what software they use — it's just an indicator.
Ask what they will do to optimise the site for search engines. If they don't know, or if they say that choosing good metatags is all you need to do, then they don't really know what they are doing. (See SEO basics for more on this topic).
Ask how they approach the construction of your site. How will they go about determining your needs? Will you be consulted during construction? How often? What happens if you don't like their design?
Be clear about who owns the site. Some designers like to retain copyright, but in our opinion the site should belong to you no with conditions at all.
Last but not least, ask about cost. Don't be sucked in by cheap quotes — they usually mean that something is missing. On the other hand, if you are quoted more than a few thousand dollars you should expect a stunning result — most websites can be made for less than this. Also ask about the cost of upgrades.