How to Choose a Web Designer

Know Your Designer’s Intentions

The most important thing a designer must know is that your customers aren’t interested in your web site. Your customers are simply using your web site to achieve a task. That task is almost never to enjoy the wonderous design spread before them. Their task is to order a product, to find their way to your office or to sign up for a newsletter. As far as you’re concerned those tasks translate into generating revenue, gaining prospects and building brand loyalty. Make sure your goals are clear and that your designer’s intention is to build support for them.

There’s a saying in the wine business,

Buy on apples, sell on cheese.

Apple shows up the weaknesses in a wine, whereas cheese boosts the flavours. The mind deceives itself quite easily. There’s a saying in the web design business too,

Designers are hired for art and fired for process.

Don’t deceive yourself by focusing too much on a designer’s flashy portfolio. In reality what matters is their fundamental flavour; will they deliver the goods for your business.

Ensure You Have Realistic Expectations

How much do you really know about what constitutes a modern online presence? Have you underestimated the variety of options for an online presence? There’s social media, e-mail campaigns, video production, apps and a host of other options in addition to the traditional web site. Have you underestimated the work involved in creating a web site (particularly if in the past you’ve just knocked up a quick and dirty template site)? Keeping up to speed with this isn’t your day-to-day job so don’t be surprised if you’re a little out of touch.

Crucially, you must not think of your web site as a cost centre. It’s an investment which needs to show a return. If you think of it as a cost your emphasis on its functionality will be all wrong. Every pound you spend on it should be gladly spent. If you’re begrudging the money then either your thinking about it wrong or you’re buying functionality that won’t return your investment.

Don’t Expect to Talk Colours

Initial discussions with your web designer should rarely, or perhaps at most tangentially, touch on fonts, colours, animation effects and the like. Once the business goals are squared away, he’ll probably move onto getting a feel for your business image with a view to producing a ‘feel’ for the web site. Traditional or contemporary? Mass market or luxury? These are questions you can answer.

Which font or colour is best used to represent your business values is, to a large extent, for your designer to decide. He’ll eventually show you some options and you can tweak things from there. Don’t make the mistake of dictating design details. If you think the design is wrong, that’s probably for one of the following reasons:

  • The designer hasn’t understood the values of your business or the goals you’re aiming for.
  • You’re bringing your personal, subjective tastes to the table, thinking you know better than your designer.

Come Prepared

There are a few things you’ll need to bring to your first meeting:

  • Existing branding materials: brochures, logos, marketing copy, slogans etc.
  • Your business goals. This includes your broad goals as well as the specific goals for the web site.
  • Some idea of your budget. This can be a one-shot deal for the entire project or a smaller sum to run a pilot.
  • A list of the things you don’t know. Do you know how domains and hosting work for example?

Always Obtain Multiple Quotes

Finding the right web developer is not like finding the right plumber. You’ll find a huge variety of service levels, and associated costs, depending on who you ask. Starting off at one end of the spectrum you may be able to get your nephew to knock something together for fifty bucks. On the other end you’ll find the top end agencies who won’t touch any number with less than five zeroes after it. Not so with a plumber. Even more reason then, to obtain more than one quote when you’re looking for a shiny new web site.

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