Choosing a Web Design Professional
If you don’t have the time, interest or ability to design and go live with your business Web site, hire a pro – or at least someone with enough knowledge or experience to assemble a simple site that meets your needs.
One way to get this done, and a good choice if you’re on a tight budget, is to contact your local college and ask how to find a student designer. Many of them already have enough experience to handle fundamental Web site design; some of them much more.
If your budget allows some elbow room, hire an established, experienced and proven pro. Just don’t do it the way old Aunt Gert picked her horse bets – by sticking a hatpin in the racing form. There are resources all over the Web, like DesignFirms.org, that can help guide your research and sort out the field.
But before you hire any Web designer or team, there are some questions you need to answer:
- Do they have experience with business Web sites?
- Can they meet the needs of the plan you carefully laid out in Step 1?
- Will you be working with one designer throughout your project, or passed around by team members? The more personal attention the better.
- Does the designer or firm have references? If so, call them. If not, move on. Ask about your candidate’s record of meeting or missing deadlines, ability to collaborate with clients, work ethic.
- Are examples of their designs at work on the Web? Carefully look over those sites, not just for quality and range, but for styles that agree with your own.
- What payment plans do they offer? Beware of any that require full payment up front. By the time you discover they’re not as good as they looked, it may be too late to cut your losses.
- What are their verbal and written communications skills? Can you understand them when you discuss your Web site needs?
It all comes down to using the same due diligence you would in hiring any member of your business team. If you wouldn’t hire them for a staff job, don’t hire them on contract.
SEO and Red Flags
Visibility on the Web, especially ranking high with major search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN, is essential to online business success. Be sure to look for search engine optimization as part of your Web design package.
SEO is arguably the biggest single challenge in designing, building and maintaining an effective business Web site – or any other sort – because the “rules” keeping changing, the Web landscape never stops shifting, and new technology regularly adds its own wrinkles.
It needs constant tending to stay competitive, and whether you have the time and patience to take on the challenge yourself, or pay a pro for SEO, you should be aware of some warning flags.
- When someone says they’ll “submit” your new Web site to one, 10 or 100 search engines, it’s more sales pitch than substance. As long as your site has solid SEO built into the design, you’ll be found by search “spiders” – automated programs that constantly crawl the Web looking at sites to include in search results.
- If a designer or team promises SEO but doesn’t say which search engines they will optimize your site for, ask. While “submitting” a site is a mostly myth, your SEO must meet the requirements of at least the Big Three: Google, Yahoo!, and MSN.
- Don’t believe anyone who “guarantees” top search engine rankings. Nobody can back up that claim.
- Don’t believe any claims of immediate results. It can take weeks for the spiders to find you and add your site to the search results roster.
Now it’s time to move forward with the hands-on work of building your new business Web site. In Step 3, we’ll explain where and how to begin.