You’ve seen similar posts on other sites, but here is the perspective from a web designer who has developed sites for others, and for his own business purposes. Me. Whether you’re a domainer looking to develop some of your best names, or a business owner look to launch or relaunch your existing business online, the thought of web design may have you a bit confused. I have identified what I have found to be the 5 crucial questions to ask of any web designer you are considering.
1. Can I see your portfolio?
Seems like a logical first step, but you would be amazed at the number of clients that have come to me from other designers and complain of the quality of their newly developed site. In many cases, they hired the designer without looking at their body of work. This happens as the result of someone referring a friend who “does this on the side.” There is nothing wrong with hiring a part time designer, we all have to start somewhere and it will be cheaper than an experienced designer. Just make sure they can do what you are asking and that you can get a look at other sites they have designed.
2. Can I contact some of your current and past clients?
If the answer is “no”, move on. You want to know what you are getting into. Good web design isn’t cheap. What better way to find out about quality, responsiveness, skill, business accumen and customer service than to talk to those that have used the designer or firm already. If the designer is proud of their work, they will be happy to provide you with references. If the customer had a good experience, they’ll be happy to talk about it.
3. Do you outsource?
Many designer firms outsource. This isn’t a bad thing or a good thing, but it is something you’ll want to know. If they outsource to offshore talent or have an offshore team, this may impact turn around time for changes or updates. If you know that you’ll require immediate responsiveness, you’ll want to discuss this with your designer to avoid any unnecessary stress down the line.
I have had an offshore team for several years. I let my clients know up front that there will be a 48 hour window for any requested changes. If something urgent comes up, I either handle it myself or have an onshore colleague address it.
4. What type of SEO is included?
Most web designers are not SEO experts. Design and optimization are two entirely different arts. Although they need to integrate, they come from different areas of specialization. You should expert your designer to include some of the SEO basics, but if your looking to dominate in key word searches, you’re going to need to invest in an SEO. Consider the web designer the builder of your virtual store or office. The SEO expert is your virtual advertising department, or at lease a portion of it.
Your designer should have at least two SEO professionals to refer you to if you are interested. Any less than that and they are not networking well in their own industry.
5. Who owns the site?
This may be the most important question you ask. If things don’t work out between you and the designer in the long run, you’ll want to know who owns the copyright to the design and coding of the site. Are you free to move the site and hire another designer or are you just licensing the site from the designer? Honestly, there is no reason you shouldn’t have complete ownership of the site. If you are considering a firm that insists on using some proprietary code, ecommerce or back end system, I suggest you move on to another designer that offers the same package but gives you the ownership rights.
Most importantly, read the contract. Everything should be clearly outlined including the scope of the project, ownership, time line and payment terms. Question what you read and be sure you are comfortable before signing.