Web Solutions—Michael Scannell

Making Web sites that work for you

5 things to look for in a Web designer

How to make sure you get what you’re paying for

Is this you? You need a Web site. Maybe you’ve already paid for a domain name. Now you need someone to design the site. What do you look for in a designer? What questions should you ask, to make sure your money is well spent?

(To keep this simple, I say ‘designer’, in the singular. All the same, everything I say here will be just as true for a Web design team or a Web design agency.)

Designer and client at computer

A good Web designer helps you
spell out your requirements

1.Does the designer offer you a personal service? A professional designer will listen to you, and spend time pinning down your own personal requirements.

Where Web sites are concerned, only you know everything you are looking for. (And if you’re not sure to begin with, an intuitive designer will help you put things into words.)

Why this matters
So you make money (if that’s what you want). So your reputation is enhanced (if that’s what you want). So the locals put you first (if that’s what you want). So you spread the word (if that’s what you want). So the match with your stationery is perfect (if that’s what you want). In other words: so your Web site really works for you—whatever your requirements.

Adobe Creative Suite ‘Web Premium’ edition

2.Does the designer use current professional tools? A professional designer will use a range of Web design tools—for photos, for graphics, for animation, for layouts, for coding.

You can ask any designer, “What Web design software do you use?” Now that Adobe has merged with Macromedia, all the necessary tools are contained in the Adobe Creative Suite ‘Web Premium’ edition. So this is the best answer to receive. (Unless, of course, they are able to afford the complete Creative Suite, which includes extra software for print professionals…)

Why this matters
So your Web site can benefit from every creative idea that comes to the designer, without fudge or compromise.

W3C validation icons

3.Does the designer follow current professional standards? A professional designer will be at home with HTML and CSS, and will not rely exclusively on a WYSIWYG editor.

If they use (say) Dreamweaver for page creation, they will be able to use its Code View as well as its Design View, if only to make small critical adjustments. They will also let you know that they validate both their HTML and their CSS.

Why this matters
So your Web site is accepted and fully indexed by search engines. And also so your site keeps current—which means it can be easily modified and updated. The code produced by pure WYSIWYG designers is a mess. It is a nightmare to modify or update.

4 of 7 designs for the same website

4.Does the designer offer different designs? A professional designer will have a set procedure for making sure you get the website design you want, without extra expense.

The bottom line

A good Web designer will give you personal attention—and capture the attention of your Web site’s visitors.

Reliable, experienced designers are likely to submit a series of master page designs to you, asking for your feedback, refining and changing until you approve of one design without reservation.

They will probably follow a similar procedure for each website page cast from the master—often putting up pages in a hidden place that only you can visit, so you can see how the whole Web site is coming together—and only go public when you sign the site off.

Why this matters
So you get a Web site which works for you—and a Web site you can truly call your own.

5.Does the designer’s SEO work? A professional designer will keep Search Engine Optimisation in mind at every stage of the website design and website creation process.

You can check up on their portfolio. Find one of their clients’ Web sites. What are the obvious words people will type into a search box if they are looking for a Web site like this? Try Google, or MSN Live Search, or Yahoo, or whatever. Go to that search engine, and type in the words. Where does the Web site appear?

Try some other search words. Try another Web site, designed by the same designer. Try another search engine. You’ll soon get an idea if this Web designer’s SEO works.

Why this matters
What’s the point of the world’s best Web site if no one visits it?