How To Choose A Website Designer

When you're self-employed, choosing a website designer is a crucial decision, as a good website can bring you more business and a bad one can drive away prospective customers. Below are some important things to consider when selecting a website designer for your new site or site redesign.

What Types Of Websites Designers Are Out There?

I don't think there is an "official" definition, so I'll give you MY definition:

? A Website Designer helps you to determine the page layout, graphics, text location and colors of your site, as well as the navigation and how pages will cross-link to one another. He may also do the actual computer programming and graphic art work for the site, or may hire out that work to a programming specialist. A Website Designer is the project manager for your site design or redesign.

? A Website Programmer takes the design from the Designer and creates the code to make the site run. She is also responsible for all the technical stuff that happens behind-the-scenes to make sure the site works properly for your visitors.

? A Graphic Designer creates the graphics for the site, including your logo and buttons. A Graphic Designer may also create the overall look and feel of the site.

? An Internet Marketing Specialist helps you to determine how your website fits into your overall marketing strategy, and how to get more traffic and sales from your website.

Sometimes, if you're lucky, you can get all four of these skills from the same person. You may find a designer who can also help you with the text for your website but don't count on it. Be prepared to write the text yourself, or hire a professional copywriter.

Who Is A Good Designer And How Much Do They Charge?

I don't recommend specific designers, as much of it depends on whether you want to work locally with someone, or whether you are willing to work remotely with them over the phone. Here are some things to think and ask about when hiring a website designer:

? Talk to some of their current and recent clients, to see how smooth the process was.

? Look at sites they've designed to see if you like their style. Is there a certain feel to ALL their sites, or are they flexible in their designs?

? Ask them if they did the actual graphic and layout design of the site, or if they just did the programming.

? Ask them if they have a structured planning process that leads you through the design phase, and if they will document all the discussions that you'll have together. If they have a Website Planning Guide that you'll work through together, it's helpful.

? Ask them what they know about internet marketing and search engine optimization. Be sure that they're creating a site for you that meets your larger marketing and business goals.

? Ask the designer for their fees (expect to pay between $60 - $200 an hour, depending on their skill and their location), and what is the estimate of cost for the site you want. They may not be able to give you a good estimate until you discuss content and features of the site.

? Ask them how they bill you. Will they invoice you monthly, or when certain milestones are reached? Do you have to make deposits?

? Pay attention to how much they ask you about YOUR BUSINESS. They should want to get to know you and your business intimately. How else can they design a site that reflects you and your business, unless they spend time to get to know you?

? Pay attention to whether they'll try to stick within your budget, or whether they keep suggesting new add-ons that increase to the cost of your site. Remember, designers aren't responsible for your budget, you are.

? Ask them whether they will maintain your site after the initial design, and how much they'll charge for that. Some designers want to create new sites but don't want to maintain them. Someone like a virtual assistant (VA) may be able to maintain your site for a lower hourly fee, as long as the VA is skilled in website programming. The more bells and whistles and complicated programming in your site, the less likely that an average VA will be able to maintain it for you.

? If you're going to maintain the site yourself, ask them if they'll design your site in a software package that's easy for YOU to use, like FrontPage. Many professional website designers look down their noses at FrontPage or Macromedia Contribute, but guess what? If you want to maintain your site yourself, then you have to use a software package that's easy for YOU to use, regardless of the website programmer's preferences. (And don't let a programmer tell you that they can't design a good site in FrontPage. There's a difference between can't and won't. I've been designing sites since 1997, and have designed over 40 sites in FrontPage that are clean, modern, visually-appealing, and visitor-friendly.)

? Do you LIKE the designer? Do you believe they'll act ethically? Do you enjoy speaking with them? Do they stay focused to the task at hand, or do they ramble and waste your time? Do you feel you "click" with their personality and values? Do they offer you invaluable insight and advice about your site design?

? Tell each prospective website designer what your deadline is and ask if they can meet it. If you don't have a specific deadline, brainstorm with the designer to create a good working deadline that you can both meet.

By doing extensive interviewing of potential website designers, you're more likely to pick one that can do the work you want, is willing to really listen to you, can create a site that reflects you and your business, and keeps within your budget.

Karyn Greenstreet is a Self Employment expert and small business coach. She shares tips, techniques and strategies with self-employed people to boost clarity and focus, create sustainable motivation, and increase sales and profits. Visit her website at http://www.PassionForBusiness.com

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