Tuesday, April 20, 2010

So, you need a website, but you don't know where to start

44 odd million results to your Google query for a “web designer” have done
very little to clarify the mud puddle. You call a friend only to find
out the guy that did their site made 100 promises and delivered on two
and a half of them. How about trying the yellow pages – 100 ads filled
with technical jargon and photos of happy smiling tech support people!
Right now you are finding more questions than answers. Face it, you
don't even yet know what you don't know!

Let's try and change that, shall we?

Let's start by making a few assumptions about you and your business:

* You either own or are part of a small business.
* You're not trying to do this on the cheap.
* You're looking for an experienced professional or organization. Your
nephew or your neighbour's daughter isn't going to cut it.
* You care enough about your business that you're willing to invest
some time and money to get the job done right the first time (see the
above two points).

Know what you want, and what you want it to do

You wouldn't start building a house without a full set of plans drawn
up by a qualified architect, and you need to follow this same approach
when building your webiste. Having a clear set of goals and objectives
means your chances of succeeding first time are tenfold.

Forget about PHP, ASP, CMS or any other strange acronyms you've heard.
The right web designer will figure all that out for you. At the end of
the day there are 1001 ways to skin the cat and any competent designer
will know which is the right one for you!
Create the wish list from the perspective of your business. Do you
want the website to help sell your products or services? Recruit new
employees? Stay in touch with clients?

Define the challenge and let the web designer propose the best

You want to compare apples to apples. Following the process outlined
below can help you weed out the oranges.

1) Geography.
A local designer/company may try a bit harder make sure that you're a
happy customer since it's easier for you to walk down the street and
slap them silly if they don't deliver. That said, a web designer who
has a good reputation or comes to you through a referral shouldn't be
overlooked even if they are located in another town or country.
Instant messaging an other technologies quickly bridge the
communication divide.

2) Locate Designers.
This is easy thanks to Google. Simply search for 'web design city'
where 'city' is your city. Pay attention to two different areas of the
search results:
a) the first three to five listings in the natural or 'organic'
results, and
b) the top three to five paid advertisers. Create a list of between
five and ten possible candidates.

3) Go Surfing.
Visit each candidate's website and look for the following:
Quality content. Does the writing make sense to you as a consumer
rather than a geek? If yes, good.

Do they offer up their services in 'packages' based on number of web
pages and whether you want fries or a side salad? If yes, bad. The
right web designer will be someone who understands your unique issues
rather than trying to jam your business into a bronze, silver or gold

Presentation. Do you like their site? Is it well organised? Does it
make sense to you? The design and layout of a web designer's
website will usually tell you a lot about their 'style'.

Happy clients. Look for testimonials, a portfolio, case studies.
Ideally their testimonials will include full names, which means
they're not trying to hide anything. Web designers without some sort
of portfolio or client list are either bad or lazy; either way,
they're not for you.

4) Revise Your List - choose your top three candidates
Pick up the phone. You want to ensure that you're dealing with a
professional, so call them up and see how they respond. A good web
designer will get you talking about your business, your challenges and
goals. They will listen to your problem, try to assess whether or not
you're good

Take things to the next step, which is:

Meet with them - A face-to-face meeting is the best way to ensure that
you are comfortable with them, and also give them enough opportunity
to ask questions about your business.

Proposals. Always get Get three of them! Any fewer and you're not
exploring your options, any more and you're wasting your time. Three
is the magic number. Ensure that the designer gives you the proposal
within a week of your meeting.

Assess the proposal:
Problem solving. Did they propose a solution to your problem that
makes sense to you?

Comprehensiveness. All the issues covered?

Follow up. Will they help you market it? Train you? On-going
maintenance? Guarantees?

Ideas. A good web designer might demonstrate creative, out-of-the-box
thinking and have some really good ideas that you never considered.

Timeline. Ensure that they tell you how long the project will take,
can live within that timeframe?

Budget. Make sure it fits within your budget!

Web design as an industry is still very much in its infancy, so
unfortunately this is not like shopping for a car or a pair of jeans.
You'll need to do a bit more homework to ensure that you find and
choose the right web designer for your business. Good luck!


No comments: