How To Hire A Web Designer
As I sit here helping a new social media client navigate the vagaries of their less-than-awesome web design firm, it occurs to me that I do this a lot. In fact, helping untangle small businesses from a service provider mess has become part of a guesstimated 80% of the work I do with small to medium businesses.
While we do offer web services here, we don’t force it down folk’s throats – we’re always entirely happy to work with the firm you have. This puts us in touch with a lot of sub-par web design firms, and we really feel for the dilemma small business owners face. Here is a post to quickly help you know what you should ask and what you should look for in web design and development (and web design and development friends – please add anything I miss in the comments):
1) Know your budget, but don’t shop by price alone
Much like a good homebuilder, a good web designer will work with you on your budget. Sometimes working with you on your budget means telling you your budget is unrealistic. If they can also explain, in detail you can understand, why – that is a good thing. If they bully you about it – that is a bad thing. It sets the tone for the rest of the job.
2) Have a contract
This should go without saying, but neither of you will have any recourse on a job gone sour if there is no contract to back it up. Your contract should include a variety of things such as estimated time and deliverables, up to and including how to end the job gracefully if it isn’t working out.
3) Have a clear set of deliverables
These deliverables should include all of your site files (You should get a copy, even if the design firm is doing the uploading. This empowers you to work with other designers in future if the need arises due to incompatibility with your designer down the road, or simple unavailability when it’s time to do the future work), FTP access information to your site host, Administrative access to your blog, any relevant passwords to the site or attached profiles (Twitter, Facebook, etc), copies of collateral used (images, etc). It is pretty old-school for a web firm to insist on keeping control of your access to your site.
4) Know where your domain name (that’s the yourbusinessname.com thing) is registered, how it is paid for, and the details to log in should the need arise to move the regsitration.
5) Know your WhoIs info (this is what shows up as site owner, admin contact, etc on the web when folks are looking at domain names)
6) Know where your site is hosted, how much it costs, how it is paid for – this helps you ensure you are getting the best deal on hosting (sites like BlueHost, which is what we use here, are under $16 per month, for example)
7) Don’t fall for bluster, and don’t stand for being treated like a jerk
It is absolutely ok not to know everything (or anything) about the internet and web design. It’s why you need help. You should be treated with respect and kindness by your service providers, plain and simple. If you ask a question and get bluster and bluff in reply, then ask again and the explanation is still vague: shop around.
8 ) If a web designer only talks about meta tags and old style link based SEO and doesn’t include SMO and other social and newer tactics, push the point. Search engine algorithms change every week, and you need a designer that gets that and that makes a site for you that can weather the storm and stay relevant.
9) Check out the designer’s portfolio
Do all of the sites look exactly the same, indicating a heavy reliance on canned templates (or one template that they favor)? Do the designs capture the essence of the businesses they represent? Do they look fresh and new or trapped in 1996? It matters – choose a designer that resonates with you. Extra bonus points for being able to talk to previous clients or see referrals/testimonials on LinkedIn or on their site.
10) Treat your designer with respect as well – it works both ways. You’re asking them to understand you and your business and translate that to a web site – no easy feat.
Designers, what did I miss?