How to Pick a Web Designer

You have a business, you need a website.  Where do you go from there?

Prices for web design vary wildly.  You can get a website for a few hundred euros up to several thousand. So who should you pick and why?

Website design is about much more than just design.  Your site needs to sell your business.  To do that it has to be found.  So you should budget for some SEO work as well.

The wool can be pulled over your eyes in many ways.  A good website design will incorporate many elements that come under the SEO heading too.  There are far too many website designers that are happy to knock out frankly substandard work and charge handsomely for it.

Picking a web designer is a quagmire.  Here are some points that may help (or scare you off completely)..

  1. Your Website should conform to standards. Use the W3C standards checker to assess sites previously done by prospective designers of your site.  Your business has standards.  So does the Internet.  Unfortunately, because most customers are unaware of those standards they are ignored by many designers.  If a designer tells you this is not important, remind them that Google webmaster guidelines say that it is important.
  2. Qualifications don’t really count.  Even in our universities web standards are not top of the priority list when teaching web design.  Previous work that includes designs you like and are standards compliant are the best gauge you can use.
  3. Do you need a CMS (Content Management System).  A content management system allows people with no web experience to write and edit their own content.  If you do not have personnel in your organisation that can edit a web page then this is really a must.  Otherwise you are stuck with having to get your web designer to change your site every time you need to update it (and it should be updated often).
  4. Word of mouth referrals are not worth a damn.  Lots of business customers are very happy with their websites and should not be.  The site looks good to them and they have been told by the designer that it is great.  The reality may be far from that.  Looking nice and performing well are not synonymous.  Many even have basic errors like not working properly on all web browsers.
  5. A web designer should not be charging extra for some forms of SEO.  SEO is essentially following standards guidelines and link building.  A good web designer will include good practice in the design.  There should be as little code on a page as possible (javascript, ajax and css all kept off page).  In english: There should not be any code on the page that does not absolutely have to be there.   There are “designers” that are still making websites in tables (It is now done through <div> and Css (Cascading Style Sheets).  That does not mean that there should be no tables on your site, just that the structure should not be made up of tables.

When you approach web designers you should find out exactly what they are offering for the money.  Get them to write out a proposal for you.  Then when you have several you are in a better position to make a choice.

Remember, Cheap is probably just a template that has been used on other sites and with no CMS or some flaws in the coding.  But… Expensive does not necessarily mean better.  You could pay over five grand and still end up with a pile of poo as far as SEO or usability are concerned.  Just make sure you know exactly what you will be getting for your money before the project commences.

The proposals are not the end of the line.  You can still go back to each company/individual and ask questions.  If you don’t understand something get it explained.  If something is included on one proposal and not the others ask the others about it.  I hope this was useful to some of you.

About Ian Wortley


Ian is one of Irelands leading SEO consultants with over 8 years experience in the Irish market. Ian discovered his love of all things internet related in 2005 and has been living nearly exclusively online since then, causing much worry to friends and family, but getting great results for clients. Contact Ian: Phone: 01 6854806 Mobile: 086 3817149

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