How to Hire a Web Designer

I have been designing websites for 5 years now, so I take this matter personally. Although I have designed for myself most of the time until now, I am venturing into small business web design. In more recent years friends and family knowing my background in design, have shown me their companies websites to see what I think of them. I would say that 90% of the time I see minor but serious flaws, the kind that will hurt them immensely, but would only have taken 5 or so minutes to do properly.

I would love to give you all examples of these sites and the specific problems, but I feel it would be unjust to point out these company website flaws when it was their own simple ignorance in hiring a designer that caused them. I do not mean these people were stupid, I simply mean they did not have enough background on the topic to ask for the right things at the time of negotiation. So here are a few simple tips about things you should make sure your potential web designer understands that you want upon completion of your new website.

1. Make sure your website design is properly accessible in all browsers. All too often I see websites that look amazing in Internet Explorer, but in FireFox they are a disaster. A common comment from an inexperienced web designer would be something like; “80%-90% of web users use IE, so that is what we optimize for.” This is complete nonsense. For one, if you design correctly, then your site should look perfect in any browser. Secondly, even if only 10% of your users are running a browser other than IE, are you willing to not reach those users? If you company can produce 10,000 visitors a day are you willing to lose 1,000 potential customers?

2. Make sure your website will be entirely valid code upon completion. If your designer knows what he/she is doing, then in the end your design should validate no problem. There are many online resources to check to see if your XHTML and CSS is valid, such as w3c and jigsaw. Although this may not be totally necessary in your website displaying correctly now, it very may well be a problem in the future. With all the browser providers leaning towards these new founded web standards, it is a good idea to make sure you company is prepared to look good today, tomorrow, next week, and next year.

3. Make sure your designer understands basic search engine optimization. What good is your amazingly designed online presence if no one can reach it? Even if you are looking for a redesign after a few years with an old version of coding, make sure your designer updates your heading tags. What was good for Google and other search engines a year ago is not necessarily good today. Just the other day I was pointed to a great new design that was totally state of the art 2005, but the heading tags were something straight out of 1998, full of repeated words (spam), too many characters, and unrecognized characters. It was sad to see that this site ranked around 10-15th for its targeted keywords knowing that one minute of time could have made it 1st or 2nd. Simple overlooked coding like this could easily be costing you thousands of potential customers and even more in lost revenues.

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