So, you've decided that your company needs a web site. Now what? Since we are ultimately talking about your "online business image", unless you yourself have web design experience, finding that perfect web designer to create your company site is a very important next step. If you've never had a web site created before, you will find that there is quite a lot to consider if you want your site to be successful, and you may have to do a bit of homework to find the right person for you.
Regardless of the type of site you want, to be successful, your site will need to do, at least, these 3 things:
- Look professional
- Function properly
- Get good positioning on the search engines
In achieving this goal, there's good news and bad news.
The bad news is that there are all kinds of designers out there, offering all kinds of services, and prices are pretty much across the board. The good news is that there are some simple points you can follow to help make this process easier.
So, how do you go about finding a designer?
Since there are so many different companies offering web design, you might start by making a list of what your specific needs are. Every site is unique so it's a good idea to know what you need before you start calling around or sending in estimate forms. Some things you might need to know are:
- Will you be selling a product online?
- Does your site require a database?
- Do you also need web hosting? or a domain name?
- Do you want to have your clients contact you through a form?
- How many pages do you think the site will be?
- Are there any pages or features specific to your business that you would like to have on your site?
Also, write down a couple of URLs of sites that you like. Or maybe you've seen a specific feature on another site that you would like to incorporate into your own site. Having a rough idea of the kind of site you're looking for will help you find the right designer for your project.
One of the best ways I've found to find the right designer is to get a referral from someone you know personally who has already had their site designed and they are happy with the site, and their experience with the designer. So let your friends and family know that you are shopping around for someone to help you create your online business image. People who have had a good experience with their web design company will be more than happy to pass the information along.
If you do get a referral from someone, go and look at the designer's site and see what else they've done. If you're interested, you can fill out a free quote form on their site, or email the designer with the specs of your project.
There are a number of online sites that will help you match your project with a number of designers who will then bid on your project. The one thing to be aware of is that these sites have all types of designers listed with their service from those with years of experience, to those who just bought themselves the latest version of Front Page and have now labeled themselves "web designer".
Although these job sites do make it harder for less experienced people to be listed as a serious prospect, when they ask for your project description, you can include on there that "only serious professionals need apply". You can sometimes eliminate the amount of riff-raff that will send in proposals for your project.
The biggest problem people have with using these job sites is that potential clients are usually overwhelmed with the number of quotes they receive for their project. Be aware that you may have to rifle through a lot of proposals that are not what you are looking for.
These sites usually offer a Designer's Profile and some kind of a rating system, which can help you learn a bit about a potential designer. Reading the reviews listed from previous clients can also help shed some light on your choice of designers.
Yellow Pages ads are expensive so chances are that you will find professional design firms to successful web design individuals listed there. They will usually list their URL in their ad and it's always a good idea to go to their site and see what they have to offer before contacting them.
What you should be looking for in a designer?
Possibly you have a couple of designers you are interested in. But how do you know for sure? There are a few specific things that you should be aware of when picking your designer.
First and foremost, you want to check out their portfolio! This is the body of work that this designer has recently created and it tells a lot about what they offer. All web designers should have an online portfolio that you can easily access.
Take a good look at their own site and other sites they've created. Do the sites look professional? Is the style of the designer something you would like to have on your own site? In addition, you can contact companies that have had their site designed and ask them about their experience with this designer.
Another thing to consider, although this is not the top priority, is price. Although there is no clear-cut rule as to what an "average" price for web design is, this is one situation where, in most cases, you get what you pay for. This is simply not the time to cut corners. So in considering price, also consider that you are paying for this individual's expertise, as well as their time and experience.
It is more important to create a successful site that has a good position in the search engine and one that you are very happy with the look and function of than to save a couple of bucks. If you get a good site, your site will be able to grow with your company and, hopefully, that's for a very long time!
Search engine optimization
The number one mistake that most first time web site owners make is that they don't know what to do with their site after it's designed. It is very possible to have a beautiful site designed for you and no one ever sees it.
A good designer will not only help you create a professional looking site, they will also ensure that your site gets a good ranking with the search engines so that your site can be easily found online. Make sure that your designer will optimize your site for the search engines and submit it to the major search engines.
Will you be selling your products or services online? Will you need a database driven site? How about Flash or embedded video or audio? Not everyone offers these services; be sure to ask specifically about what you will need for your site.
A couple of other things to consider is web hosting and domain name registration. Make sure if you need these services that your designer can help provide them too.
Lastly, when you are talking to potential designers, it should be someone you seem compatible with. Does the designer seem friendly and are they willing to answer all of your questions? Do they respond promptly to your emails and/or phone calls? Basically, is this someone you "click" with?
Communication with your designer is crucial. You need someone who is willing to answer any questions and keep you up-to-date on the status of your web design. A good designer will keep in touch with you every few days, at least. You don't want to get down to the final days of creating the site only to find out you don't like it!
Most designers will have testimonials from previous clients on their web site. It's a good idea to see what their customers are saying about their services, and again, calling one or two clients regarding this web designer's services is a really good idea.
There are many factors involved in finding and picking the right designer to build your company's web site, but the key is to remember that this is your business image, one that you hope to have for many years to come, so you want to pick your designer as you would pick a real estate agent to find your "dream house". If you pick the right designer the first time, you won't be looking for someone to redesign your site in 6-9 months.