Choosing a Professional Website Designer
Once you are finished planning and preparing for professional website design, the next step in establishing an online presence is finding the right company, contractor, or consultant to deliver the custom website design services that you need.
However important a website's appearance is, the performance and results of any website rely largely on what's beneath its surface; that which is not seen or fully understood by most. This article is not intended to be a general how to guide on comparing prices and services, but rather advice from an expert on what you should consider when looking for professional website design, web development, and internet promotion that you may not already be aware of.
Differences between building, designing & marketing web presences
Understanding the differences between designing a website, building a website, and making a website visible online will help ensure that you choose a website developer that can meet all your goals and demands.
Properly developing professional website designs into web pages which perform and operate optimally is a highly technical process. This includes a website's load time, certain aspects of its speed of operation, the ability for the web site to work properly and coherently across the many different web browsers and operating systems, and many aspects of potential online visibility. Each of these factors are dependant upon the build of the website - the way in which it was programmed and created. Properly building a website is something many web designers and online marketers fail to be concerned with or take interest in, and frankly they are often unable to handle the process correctly.
Creating effective and appropriate custom website designs, on the other hand, is more of an artistic and creative process. You want your web site to be easy and intuitive to use and navigate, but it should be enticing and interesting to browse through as well. ou want the mood and emotion your web site portrays to be appealing and engaging to visitors. Not only will this keep your audience's interest - it will enhance your credibility to deliver the products or services you are promising. The design of a website is extremely important, and should be managed accordingly.
Online promotion and marketing of web sites encompasses all aspects of a website's online visibility, including internet advertising, visits from search engines, links from external web pages, and so on. Depending on a website's goals and purposes, market, and competition, internet marketing is often the most beneficial and cost effective form of promotion available to a company. A website that pulls in around 10,000 visitors a month and generates, say, $30,000 a month in income, could possibly generate $100,000 a month if only it had 40,000 or so visitors. The problem is, as a highly technical and constantly evolving area, most websites are not developed with search engine optimization (SEO) or other important aspects of internet marketing for websites in mind. In fact, studies reveal that as many as 90% of all business-related websites currently on the internet are not built or developed with any regard to online visibility!
Evaluating prospective web professionals
It is important for anyone who is seeking website development services to understand that many website designers know surprisingly little about properly building or marketing websites. Likewise, many website developers know very little about design and online promotion, and many internet marketers are not concerned with web design or properly building web sites. Understanding what you need and what you will be receiving is imperative to the success of your web presence, and likely puts you at an advantage over most or all of your competition.
Evaluating web design - portfolios
The only place you should have to look to evaluate a web designer's designs is to their own website's portfolio. Any established website developers will offer a portfolio of web sites they have created for other clients, as well as links to the sites. Depending on what you are looking for in a web designer and developer, the following tips may help you spot your match;
- Is their work generally similar in design, or do their clients' sites look unique and appropriate for their purpose?
- Are their designs and sites consistent and appealing throughout?
- Are any of the sites flashy and largely graphical?
- Are there videos, animation, or custom graphics?
- Are there any e-commerce sites, shopping carts, or other interactive elements?
Evaluating website builds
Unfortunately, the people who can spot a good website creator are usually web site builders themselves. Whereas a website appears to most people as simply presentation and function, the truth is that the elements most detrimental to many online presences' success are factors that most people and even many website developers overlook or are often simply unaware of.
There are only a few things that someone without a website development background can easily evaluate in terms of building websites properly:
- Look for any inconsistencies across pages, odd characters, missing graphics, forms not working, pages not found, or any other technical problems you may be able to identify on the websites. Take into consideration that this does not necessarily reflect on the original designer/developer, unless it's their own website—in which case you know for sure who worked on it last.
- If you have access to several different computers with various operating systems (Windows Vista, Windows 98, Mac OS, etc.) and web browsers (Internet Explorer, Fire Fox, Opera, Safari, Netscape, etc.) you can visit the sites on different browsers and computers and check for consistency of design and functionality.
Evaluating website and search engine visibility
Trying to evaluate web promotion services can easily become confusing. With all the technical terms and fine print, it is often hard to know what you are really getting. For instance, many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies guarantee such things as first page listings with a major search engine. Often, however, they will use technical terms to provide clients with something else - usually a paid advertisement that appears on the first page, which is not nearly as valuable.
The best advice I can give for evaluating online promotion performance is to obtain actual performance results, and preferably references. Evaluate what was promised by the website promoter, what was actually delivered, and the value of the marketing. There are no set limits to the performance of a website; all you can do is try to figure out who can provide you with the biggest return on investment and the service most valuable to your site.
Also, be weary of any companies that make specific search engine result guarantees - as algorithms and competition evolve, no one can directly control their results. No search results are set in stone.
Choosing the right professional website designer for you
There are companies and consultants who specialize in single areas of design, building, or promotion of websites, offering only these services, and others who specialize in the entire aspect of web presences. While choosing the right solution for your particular website depends on your specific needs and goals, having an idea of the various options and knowing what to look for in a web designer allows you to make a more informed and better decision.