How to Choose a Web Designer

Many clients have difficulty choosing a web design expert, simply because they aren’t sure what to look for. Here are some things to consider when choosing a professional web designer (and here are some questions to ask):

• A strong portfolio. The sites should be memorable as well as appropriate for each project. For instance, a site directed at senior citizens should not include very small type.

• A strong sense of marketing. The web is filled with “cool sites.” That’s often not enough to reach a business goal. Your designer should be able to clearly articulate the goal of each site and how it reached its audience. Good design communicates and motivates; it does not merely decorate. Designers should be able to tell you how their work translated into higher sales figures, greater attendance at clients’ events, or some other concrete result of their work.

• Formal education or professional background in graphic design or interactive design. Many people who term themselves “designers” are more accurately called “programmers.” They are adept at assembling HTML (the language that browsers read to create Web pages) but do not create effective visual communication. For best results, choose a provider who combines good design with clean programming to communicate effectively with your intended audience.

• Quick-loading sites. On average, web surfers wait eight seconds for a site to load. If there is no imagery or text viewable in the browser within that time frame, many viewers will move on to other sites. Your web designer’s portfolio should include sites which load quickly and can be easily navigated.

• Clear ranking and organization of information. Visitors want immediate access to information and rarely spend time on sites which have confusing navigation or long pages of text. Try clicking through your designer’s sample sites and see how easy it is to find information. Everything should be grouped in logical sets which relate internally and to each other in consistent ways.

• Knowledge of usability and accessibility principles. Great web design is only as good as it is useful. No matter how attractive your site is, if visitors don’t know how to interpret your navigation buttons, they’ll go nowhere. Your web designer needs to have a solid grasp of usability principles in order to deliver a user-friendly site. In addition, particularly for clients with a wide client base or receiving federal funds, your web designer should employ federal accessibility standards that allow your site to be utilized by the sight-impaired or other people using assistive technologies.

• Employment of search engine optimization techniques. In the increasingly competitive World Wide Web, it’s critical for your site to be optimized for search engines. While there are a variety of factors which influence search engine results placement, some of which are outside your designer’s control, your web developer should know how to implement basic search engine optimization techniques on your site.

• Excellent business skills. A good designer stays on top of all the details of your project and makes the best use of your time and money.

• Personable and professional demeanour. Since you choose whom you’ll work with, hire someone you’ll enjoy partnering with and who provides professional service.