10 Tips For How To Choose The Best Web Designer

college of design

image credit: amayzun via flickr

What I work best with as a marketing professional are finished web products, blogs and web sites. And, when it’s something which has been designed properly, logically and cleanly – all the online marketing/PR/advertising and social media promotions really compliment a product that has been created with usability and SEO in mind.

Without a properly designed site, however,you are already at a huge disadvantage with trying to grow your brand on the web when compared to your competitors who are doing it better.

Everyone is talking about new forms of marketing. But, trying to grow a web property that wasn’t built properly from the beginning through things like social media marketing is like trying to put a jet engine on a car. Yeah, it might go a little faster, but it’s still not going to fly. You want sustained growth, return visitors and subscribers – not one off visitors. And, your site needs to be setup for this.

If your competition implemented a strong, search engine friendly CMS, for example, and consistently adds new, relevant content which builds links and traffic from the social web, blogs and other sites, you can throw all the promotions and ads in the world at your dated design and you’ll never see it grow.

With that said, there are plenty of designers that understand clean, effective and beautiful web design as well as how to properly lay the groundwork for you to build upon.

So let’s go ahead and clear a few things up. Here is the basics of what a good designer needs to do for you:

  • Create your site’s design
  • Setup your CMS
  • Lay down the static pages for you
  • Setup a publishing page where you can add fresh content and build subscribers/return visitors and accomplish your SEO goals
  • Give you the login/password to the CMS so you can make your own edits
  • Teach you the basics of how to use the CMS if you don’t already know

That is all I see necessary. Don’t over complicate this and treat your web designer like a Swiss Army Knife of the Internet. It isn’t the designers job to get you to the front of Google, for instance – that isn’t what they do. Good designers create something which is both human and robot friendly, and then hand the keys to you.

When the product is created properly from step one, it is something that you build upon and get a steady upward trend of sales/visitors/clients/subscribers.

image credit: scorp84 via flickr

So, I’m going to let you in on 10 tips on how to choose a web design company to design your .com for your online store, business, blog, or whatever it is you’re creating a professional site for:

1) Check out some of the other sites the designer has created

All creative designers have a unique style to them and certain elements common to .coms they develop. Browse through the sample sites on their .com’s portfolio and be sure their style is in line with how you view your brand.

2) Talk with the designer, tell him/her what your needs are

A good designer will be completely honest with you and be happy to tell you exactly his/her capabilities. The sign of a great designer is one that will ask what your current .com is, talk to you about your company and its goals and really get to know you. This is above and beyond, and what separates the good from the great.

3) Don’t choose a designer that promises to get you to the front of Google

That is not your designers job. It is their job only to set you up with the tools so that your site can potentially get to the front of Google and your site is coded properly with SEO in mind. Any designer who promises this up front for a popular term, I would be extremely weary of.

Organic search engine traffic is grown by a sustained addition of content and usefulness to your .com over time. A blog is a fantastic way to accomplish this without bloating your site’s content.

Darren Rowse at ProBlogger explains clearly how to grow search engine traffic, and to do it properly it takes time, effort and dedication. See the chart below for growth to one of Darren’s blogs (Digital Photography School) over more than one year:

image credit: digital photography school

4) Don’t hire a design agency who will charge you even a cent to make minor tweaks to copy on your .com

Every great website is a work in progress. There is no such thing as a finished product in this space, all companies grow, change and update. The tools exist now so that someone internally at your organization can easily make desired changes and additions to a .com. Following the steps I have above, a good designer will spend some time (or at least give you documents) on how to work your CMS. It’s really easy with most modern ones, and something you can learn without much effort. If you are paying money to make minor text tweaks to your .com after everything has been setup, you’re being ripped off.

5) Hire a designer who blogs, designs and uses the web in their free time

I may be biased in saying this, but these are the type of people with true passion for the web and for what they’re doing. The end result you’ll get will be better when you work with someone who spends a great deal of their life on the web. They simply understand this space and understand usability better.

6) Don’t separate the design and coding of your .com

You want one person or company conceptualizing, designing and implementing your .com. Splitting this is never a good idea and you will never get as good a product as you will if everything is done with one person. Logically and to get the best final product, keep everything done by one person who understands your needs.

7) Do separate the web design and the external marketing

Again I may be biased, but I never think it is a good idea to let your design agency to do things like implement your AdWords campaign or create social media campaigns for you. There are agencies that specialize in that, and if you have the right web product, the right marketing team can really make it pop. From personal experience, I have not seen many design agencies really nail the marketing/PR end of things.

8) Don’t hire a designer who creates sites in all Flash

We’ve all heard the news that Google can search Flash now. I still don’t like it, and most people using the web dislike it as well. It increases load time (one of the most important things for your .com is quick load time), doesn’t work on all browsers (especially mobile) and Flash sites generally aren’t very usable or clean.

9) Got a web addict at your organization? Bring them into the process!

People who view thousands upon thousands of web sites, blogs and social networks have a keen eye for what works and what doesn’t, what looks spammy and what is authentic, etc. If there’s someone on your team who is passionate about web stuff, they’ll want to get involved and help you make something exceptional. They will also be able to interact well with potential designers and make sure they’re able to create the right .com for you.

10) Hire a designer who is recommended/referred by someone who is web-savvy

There is a reason I only link to certain designers on this blog. I either have worked with them in creating successful .coms, or I have been incredibly impressed by their work. The best designers are in high demand due to strong referrals for being at the edge and creating the very best web sites in the world. Finding a web designer, through a referral by someone you trust is probably the best way to find the right one for you.

Again, having proper design is just the first step. It is a solid commitment to dominate Google and to get your site a decent amount of steady traffic. It is an ongoing process from your team for a time long after your designer finishes their work before you’ll see big results.

Related content – always recommended personally by me, never automatically generated:

From The Future Buzz:

What Defines A Good Small Business Website?

On Being “The Web Guy”

Creating Buzz Online: A Short Guide

From Around The Web:

7 Essential Guidelines For Functional Design

5 Critical Questions To Ask Before You Hire A Web Designer

Are You Familiar With HTML And CSS? Six Reasons Why You Should Invest The Time To Learn