How to hire a great web designer

It’s no secret, the world has gone to the Web and nowadays, if you want to be in business you need a web site but how do you hire a web designer and should you hire a web designer here in Fredericton or from a big city? Before we begin, lets answer some basic questions. Why Do I need a Web Site?

A Web site is never closed, it never calls in sick, it’s available to people here in the capital region and around the world.

Your website is first place clients will go to find updated information, contact details and product support, it’s a great communication tool for developing member listings, mailing lists or to just share information with the public.

A local charity may want to encourage potential members and volunteers, or provide a newsletters without the expense of monthly printing. Childrens groups may want to post their schedules, offer a message board for parents to co-ordinate rides, and include maps to camps, games for the kids or tips on how to tie knots.

Unlike one-time selling strategies, a website is online all the time and can always be up to date.

Can I Build My Own Web Site?

Sure you can, building a web site is pretty fast, pretty easy and pretty painless if you know what you’re doing but so is doing your taxes, planning your retirement, fixing your car or tailoring a suit … if you happen to have the time, experience, training and equipment to do it right, otherwise you’re best to hire a professional.

How Do I Find a Designer?

There’s a nasty secret to finding a good web designer … before you can find one, you have to know what to look for and by the time most people know what to look for, they might as well have learnt to do it themselves. So how does a small business person find a good designer without being overwhelmed?

Referrals are your best bet, call Enterprise Fredericton, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, look online at the local design group (Fredericton Designers) or take a look at local web sites, many web designers include a small link to their web site on the bottom of each page.

Once you’ve compiled a list of Web designers and/or developers from the sources of your choice, you need to do some serious homework and

Now the real fun begins …

Local vs. Around the World

The wonderful thing about designers is that a good designer is a wonderful thing but does it matter if they’re here in Fredericton or half way around the world? That really depends on what you need, what you want and what they offer.

Don’t rule anybody out at this stage, a great design half way around the world might be able to deliver your needs too. Before you hire a designer, you should have a list of at least ten potential designers at this stage.

What to Look For

Hiring a designer is a big deal and there are lots of things to consider, check out their web sites, talk to them and ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I easily find my way around their web site or the web sites of their clients?
  • Do I like their style, does the navigation make sense?
  • Does their web site have broken links, broken graphics or crazy mistakes?
  • Are the pages consistent?
  • Is the information easy to find?
  • Are things aligned properly?
  • Is the text easy to read, is it spelt correctly?
  • Do the pages load fast and properly?
  • Do links open onto the same page?
  • With any luck, you’ve answered yes to all these questions because if a designer can’t build their own site properly, can you really trust them to build yours?
  • Next, check their portfolio; do you see sites that you like? Can you visit several client sites and see consistent quality, attention to detail and effective use of technology?

Now lets look at their experience, has the business created sites for people in your industry? If so, did they do a good job?

If their web site offers testimonials, read them and find out what clients thought of the skills and services of the Web designer.

Finally, be very careful of designers who can ‘do it all’. Web design is a speciality and while it is possible to be very good at several things, I have never met a person capable of offering all things to all people.

Working with a designer vs. a design firms is a choice you’ll have to make on your own, there are benefits to each and you’ll quickly find that both offer excellent services.

Now that you’ve reviewed your top 10 choices, select the best five and prepair a list, it’s time to put together an RFP (Request for Proposal) and learn more about their abilities.

The Request for Proposal

In order to ensure you get exactly the feedback you want from your designer, there are some basic questions you should ask, information you should provide and resources to include in your RFP.

  • Requests for Proposals shall contain the following sections:
  • Executive Summary outlining your company
  • Client information and target markets
  • Sample URLs of styles you like
  • Your logo, branding, product details and images.
  • A description of your business
  • Your goals, timelines and technology requirements

Do you need hosting, photography, content writing, marketing support, databases, training, design, publishing, ongoing maintenance … let the designer know exactly what you need.

  • Budgets (if applicable)
  • Terms and conditions
  • Reviewing the RFP’s

When you get your proposals back, pay special attention to their pricing and guarantees, prices for services can vary dramatically but you can’t select your designer on price alone, look at the content of their proposal and what they are offering for the money.

What are the designers’ payment schedules? Do they guarantee their work? Are they professional? Does your designer ask for weekly payments or milestone payments?

Review the proposals, ask questions and review the feedback until you are able to narrow your list of five designers down to just three.

Last Steps: Contact and Check References

Ask the designers for a few references and call them. Hiring a bad designer can be easily avoided if you talk to previous clients and ask important questions:

  • Is the designer polite on the phone?
  • Does the designer lend their expertise?
  • Does the designer listen and work with your needs?
  • Did you feel you were well treated?
  • Would you work with the designer again?
  • Did they deliver what they promised?
  • Did they deliver it on time?
  • Are they pleasant to work with?
  • Did the designer talk over your head?
  • Was the designer reliable?
  • Was the designer professional?

Don’t be afraid to contact a previous client directly, each provider probably has a portfolio on their web site, call the former client or send them an email, you’re looking to hire a designer and invest a significant amount of money in a project, you have the right to know if you can rely on them.

Lastly, have a meeting with the designer in person or on the telephone and go walk through the site with them, you can pick your designer from the three you’ve talked to based on references, portfolio and professionalism.

Your Web Site Will Thank You

It may seem like a lot of work but it’s worth it, your designer is building your online presence, you’re spending thousands of dollars and committing to project that will last for years, it pays to do your homework!

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