Tips for working with Web Designers

A friend contacted me on Facebook to ask if I knew any web site designers for her sister’s newly-opened store. I replied with this, which is probably way more than she asked for. Then I realized I could repurpose the content. I think they’re good tips for anyone looking to find someone to create and maintain their web site.

  • Depending on your business, there could be niche designers. I know there are designers who work solely with race car drivers and teams, or restaurants, so that may be something to look into.
  • Before you talk or meet with anyone, find some of your competition’s sites, see what features they have, list what you like and dislike. Do the same thing with sites you visit regularly. Ask yourself if you are one of those people who hated Facebook’s re-redesign. Why? Why not?
  • Don’t walk into any conversation with “I’m not really tech-y, but…”. You’re already giving them the upper hand.
  • “Web 2.0” doesn’t mean all that much.
  • Make sure they respond to emails within a reasonable amount of time, especially if it’s the only way you communicate.
  • Don’t trust anyone who tells you they can get your site in the top 10 on google. Don’t listen to anyone who is a search engine optimization (SEO) expert. SEO simply doesn’t work, and in some cases will get you worse results than if you haven’t done anything.
  • Make sure you see an online portfolio, and that you like what you see.
  • Navigation and search are extraordinarily important; make sure they work on the sites in their portfolio you visit, and are logical.
  • Don’t use the lowest bidder, but don’t necessarily use the highest either. Pay for experience.
  • In this economy, tons of designers are looking for work. Make sure you like them and are someone with whom you can see yourself having a long working relationship.
  • Give them as much clean, grammatically correct text as you can. Remember, designers generally aren’t writers or editors. They take what they’re given and put it on the page.
  • Make sure you give value back to the customer. Maybe start a blog about your sister’s area of expertise, and make sure it’s updated regularly.
  • Keep the site fresh, too; just like with a designer, you want to start a long relationship with the people who visit your site. You can’t make it look like no one’s minding the virtual store, or no one will come back to check after awhile.
  • Listen to people who talk about content management, content management systems, or CMS. If they use words like Drupal, Joomla, or WordPress (all great CMS), make sure they explain it to you. Ask questions.
  • And remember – it’s not just a page anymore. You can’t just slip some nice graphics on a page and a little bit of vague sales-y text. We call that ‘brochureware’. It’s a site.

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