Choosing a website designer
There are millions of website designers out there, hundreds of thousands of companies, and thousands of cowboys. Choosing one to build your site can be very, very difficult, and people get ripped off every day – but here are some tips to help you find a reputable designer.
1. Make sure they don’t use templates.
Pre-built website templates aren’t for designers; they’re for people without any technical knowledge or design skills who want to knock up a website in an hour or so. There is no shame in using pre-made templates for personal sites, but a designer should never have to use them – and for a business site to be based on a template is very unprofessional. There could be a hundred other sites out there that look exactly the same as yours – not terribly handy for a business that wants to distinguish itself from the competition. If the company you’re checking out uses templates, you may as well build the site yourself.
2. Make sure they don’t lock you into their hosting.
I went to see some folks in Chester today who’d been ripped off by their designers – they built an E-commerce website from a template, made the customer insert his own products, and charged him £450 for the privilege. Even more obscenely, they then expected him to pay three hundred pounds a year for hosting.
Sadly, this sort of scam is all too prevalent. Get the company’s hosting rates in writing – or, better yet, host the site yourself. If they offer to host it for free for the first year, that’s fine – it’s an accepted industry standard. But make sure that you’re free to move your site to another host, and that your domain name is registered to yourself in case of disputes.
You can find out who a domain name is registered to by running a WHOIS check. Test a few of the sites in the designer’s portfolio, to make sure they’re not registering their clients’ domains under their own name.
3. Always look for testimonials that can be backed up with contact details or web addresses, a portfolio site hosted on a proper domain name (anything that sounds spammy like super-cheapwebsites-4u-2day.me.uk should be avoided) and a good command of written English. If they confuse “your” with “you’re,” or “it’s” with “its,” or “there” with “they’re” or “there,” they will make your company look horribly unprofessional and untrustworthy.
4. Use the W3C validation service to test their portfolio website for code errors. If they can’t make code that passes validation for their own website, how well do you think they’ll write yours?
5. Test their portfolio site, and sites they’ve made for clients, in at least both FireFox and Internet Explorer, to make sure that they display correctly. They don’t have to look exactly the same – they probably won’t, thanks to Internet Explorer’s blatant disregard for Web standards – but make sure that you can at least move around the site and make sense of it, and that it looks half-decent.
6. If the designer uses a Hotmail address, run. If they won’t give you a contact telephone number, run. Mobile numbers are acceptable and normal, due to the transitory nature of website designers, and shouldn’t carry the stigma that they’d be associated with in other industries. Check to see if they’re tax-registered, and that they’ll be able to furnish you with an invoice and receipt, on letterheaded paper.
7. Meet up with your designer in person if you can. Obviously this is hard if they’re overseas, but if you live nearby, ask if they charge a consultation fee.
8. Determine whether or not the designer will charge you for updates to your website, whether or not you’ll be able to easily update your site yourself, and whether or not they’ll still be around in a year’s time to help you out with it. Contact the customers listed in their Testimonials section, if needs be.
9. As a just-in-case, Google their business name (in quotation marks) just to see if there’s any negative feedback left in forums. Don’t ever buy website design services from eBay. Ever. Seriously.
10. Although this may run counter to a few of the things I’ve already said, be very wary of large companies offering website design services. The smaller companies, sole traders and partnerships, always do a better job for much less money.
I hope these tips help to steer you away from disreputable designers, but remember to use your common sense, shop around, and keep your wits about you.
If you’d like to check out my own services, please feel free to have a look at http://www.stainless-design.co.uk (for web design) and http://www.hostingforaquid.co.uk (for web hosting). Please feel free to reprint this article, but do not modify it under any circumstances.
Source by Dan Hall