So, you're going to hire a designer or design company to build a website for you. You've made the right choice (but since I'm a designer I would say that wouldn't I) - however like most trades, there are a lot of so-called "professionals" out there who are far from it. Some simply don't have the technical knowledge to back up their design skills, most don't have any type of marketing expertise - they'll build you a website that looks fantastic, but won't bring in a red cent because it takes 10 minutes to load that bandwidth-sucking Flash animation they did for you.
By that time your visitor (who's on dialup) has decided they're not going to wait and have left your site. There are some "web designers" who'll take your money and not complete the project because they don't have the expertise or the time/inclination - or worse, just blatantly rip you off and not do the work at all, quickly changing their phone number so you can't get in contact with them. And worst of all . some designers work is just plain crap.
Sorry for being blunt . but it's true! So, how can you protect yourself when hiring a web designer or company? When it comes to web design, qualifications aren't worth diddly squat! There are no recognized industry-standard qualifications in web design. If someone wanted to go into the computer support/networking field they know they need to aim for becoming a Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE) or a Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA). These are qualifications created by software and hardware companies to make sure people using their products know what they're doing.
And to make more money for the company, of course! The problem is, there are no overriding organizations when it comes to web design. The nearest you could get would be qualifications from Microsoft on using FrontPage (their web design software) or Adobe on using Dreamweaver (their web design software) as these are two of the biggest "players" in the market. However, having a qualification that says you know how to operate a piece of software doesn't mean you can design a website. For instance, I'm a successful web designer and have been for 4 years, but I don't have a single web design qualification. Another thing to note is what does the designer's website look like? Does it look like they've spent some time designing it or does it look like a standard template from their software? Also does it look like they have the skills to create your website? Obviously, this may be difficult to determine if you have no technical background in HTML, etc. but what is your "gut reaction" about them? Can they explain in simple language exactly what they will do for your project? If they start bamboozling you with techno-jargon and geek-speak and are unable to talk to you in a way that you can understand, walk away.
What is the standard of their work portfolio? Do you like any of the website designs listed there? If they don't have a portfolio, are unable to show you any of their work for aren't able to refer you to previous clients, walk away! Don't risk your project on an unproven designer. Let someone else take that risk. Are the websites they've built easy to use? There's no point in building a website with a beautiful looking navigation system if it's difficult to use - visitors will simply go somewhere else. Ask them questions like "Will my website be 100% compatible with all the major browsers?" (They should answer "Yes!") Setting Your Budget Before you start looking for web designers, you need to know how much you're going to budget for the project - and stick to it. By all means allow another 25% as a contingency against potential problems (but don't tell the web designer you have this, or they may try to get you to spend it.
) Make sure you tell the web designers you've short listed; you want a quote for the job as a whole - not an hourly rate. Don't ever take on a web designer (or programmer for that matter) for a major project and pay by the hour - you'll end up broke. Make sure you draft a "Work For Hire" agreement which details everything the web designer will do for you, any deadlines you've agreed upon and the price you're going to pay. If you don't have a "Work For Hire" agreement on file you can use, contact your legal advisor or you could purchase a "legal letters" software package.
You'll soon notice there are web designers charging ridiculously low figures and designers charging the equivalent of a small nation's GDP. You could post a bid on a freelance site and get quotes for $100 from designers in India or Eastern Europe or contact a high-flying web design company in your own country and get quoted $50,000. Personally, I'd avoid companies or designers at both ends of the spectrum - you'll probably be fairly safe price-wise somewhere in-between.
At the end of the day, (like most things) you pay for what you get. So if you want a professional, experienced web designer who also has marketing knowledge, you'll have to pay - but you'll soon find out, it will save you money in the long run. Package Offers Lastly, under no circumstances buy a package deal with a web designer or company that contains the domain name, web hosting and other accounts. Should you fall out with them for any reason, they will have complete control over your website and can do anything with it.
Also since they're doing everything as a package they'll want to minimize their expenses and so will usually purchase the very basic, cheapest options to make sure they keep hold of the most money they can. And it will almost certainly come back to bite you on the . erm . hand.
Purchase your own domain names, web hosting, credit card processing and autoresponder accounts, so they're all in your name. Once the project has been completed and the web designer isn't on a monthly retainer, change all the passwords so they no longer have access. Follow these guidelines and you'll get your website, when you want it at the price you want to pay.
Nick Smith is the UK's top direct response web designer and has worked with some of the biggest Internet Marketers, including Yanik Silver, Jim Edwards and Michael Holland to name a few. His UK web design and development consultancy, Instant Super Sites, regularly creates websites that make their owners thousands of dollars every month. (His record for a client is $179,940 in 30 days.)