Are you hiring someone to create a professional website that will effectively market your business?
Or, are you paying someone to attempt to learn web design "on the justcauseit.com job" with your site as a guinea pig?
Let's explore some methods to distinguish the professionals from the amateurs and choose the right web designer for your project.
ORIGIN OF THE PROBLEM
As Internet usage increases among consumers, more business owners are turning to the web to market their products and services. This demand for web services has encouraged hundreds of thousands of individuals to pursue career opportunities in this growing industry.
Unfortunately, anyone can call themselves a "web designer." Many doing so have no qualifications and Asthenia little experience. Unlike other professions with established degree and certification programs, it can be tricky for a business owner to "check the credentials" of a potential designer.
In other similar guides, I've seen an emphasis on "Asking the designer about their academic training." Few colleges in the United States offer a web design specific degree that is worth the paper it is printed on. Most institutions of higher learning are going trough a transision period in regards to technology degree programs.
Traditonally, they offered one path for graphic designers which touched upon basic HTML web design skills and another path for programmers headed into software design.
This worked well when the technology of the Internet was simpler. Today, website development requires a more complex skill set. To develop competitive websites in today's environment requires a designer to be knowledgable of graphic design, programming, databases, security issues and other areas.
While many business owners naturally look for a degree when hiring a regular employee, using this criteria when choosing a website designer can be a bad idea. Degree programs teach concepts and offer little preparation with translating those concepts to real world situations. In the end, a designer's experience level is the most important thing to evaluate.
questions to ask
How long have you worked full time as a web designer? Do you have another day job?
Don't entrust your project to someone who views web design as a hobby.
Who's doing the technical work and the actual development of my site?
A lot of designers outsource their development work. It is important to know whether they are a developer, have a developer on staff or rely on a sub-contractor. If there's a sub-contractor, are they located in the U.S. and English speaking? A freelancer from halfway around the world may not be available to fix problems and answer questions during regular business hours.
What services does the web designer offer?
Most experienced designers offer services beyond just building the website. Its certainly a bonus if they have experience with custom design, content management systems, search engine marketing and social media.
The answer to this question can offer insight into their skills and core competencies. Its better to know from the start whether they can provide you the services you will need in the future. A good designer might not be able to “do everything” and admitting this is actually a positive thing. Find out if they can refer you to someone qualified if a task is outside their expertise.
Where will my website be hosted?
Make a note of the company they mention and check its reviews once you are done with the interview (http://www.webhostingreviews.com/). If they use a good company, it demonstrates the designer understands that reliable hosting is an important component of a well-functioning website. On the other hand, if their answer is GoDaddy you are dealing with an amateur. No professional web designer would host with them.
Do I have to host my website with you?
The answer should be NO. There's nothing wrong with them giving you a list of hosting companies they prefer to work with. However, you should be free to purchase, have complete access and control over your own account.
Do I have to buy my domain name through you?
The answer should be NO. A domain name is a business asset that you should retain complete control over. Unscrupulous designers have been known to hijack domain names and websites if they have a falling out with a client.
What is the W3C?
The World Wide Web Consortium has been developing standards and guidelines for web technology since 1994. Professional designers and developers strive for standards compliance in their projects. It's a big red flag if the designer you're interviewing has no idea what the W3C is.
What sized websites have you worked on in the past?
You want to find someone that has experience similar to your own project. Developers who have built large, high traffic sites will have expertise in technical areas boutique graphic designers don't. On the other hand, those who build smaller sites may be better at the fine details and offer more visual creativity in their designs.
Will I be able to update my website myself?
An experienced designer should be able to offer you this option.
Do you offer training on how to update the website? How long have you been training people on the software you plan to use as a platform?
A conscientious developer will at least guide you to online resources and medecine esthetique tutorials. They may charge extra to assemble a custom user manual or to conduct a training session for you or your staff. Hopefully, they have a few years experience with the software. If they barely know how how to use it themselves they won't be very successful at training other people.
How do we communicate about this project?
They should offer you several options such as phone, e-mail, Skype or live chat. Complex sites should have a project management system.
Evaluating The Portfolio
How many sites are in the portfolio?
A portfolio is meant to be a sampling of a designer's work. Experienced designers will have between 20-50 projects in their portfolio (although they may have worked on many more). A portfolio with a handful of sites usually indicates a beginner.
Do all the sites look the same?
There should be flexibility in their designs - good use of color, graphics, variations in layout.
Do the sites look good in different browsers?
Try loading a few of their sites in different Internet browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc.).
Do the sites make use of dynamic features?
You should see shopping carts (not Paypal buttons) and contact forms (not just an e-mail address which will result in spam for the site owner). Also look for interactive features like searchable directories, discussion forums, polls, comment systems, user registration processes and newsletter subscriptions. A complete lack of these features in their portfolio sites usually indicates the designer doesn't possess the skills to implement them.
How fast do the sites load?
Most web surfers will only wait eight seconds for a site to load. If no images or text is viewable in the browser within that time frame, most will leave the page.
Do the sites have clear navigation structures?
Important content should be easy to find.
Compare the web designer's own website to those in the portfolio.
If the sites in their portfolio are of much poorer quality than their own site then something fishy is going on. It isn't unheard of for amateur designers to employ outside help in designing their own website. If this the case, you should look elsewhere.
one last thing
Similar guides tell people the "the personality" or "vibe" of the designer should be a deciding factor in whether or not to hire them. This is possibly the worst criteria you could use to choose a web designer. Thousands of designers are friendly and great at selling themselves but are best described as "all style, no substance." If the individual you're interviewing is truly abrasive or unpleasant they might not be the best person to work with. However, gregariousness and eloquent oratory will not get your site built. Focus on finding a developer with the skills and experience to get the job done.