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Hiring a Professional Web Designer

Posted on 12.09.2007
Three Basic Questions - Part 1

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Exceptional website design is a perfect balance between art and science. Not only does it need to look like you (the website owner) know what you are doing, but it needs to perform the same way. If you've got a great idea for an online business and want to get started, you will find that you need to hire a designer. Finding the right designer however (one that understands your aesthetic vision and complies with your technology requirements) is challenging. While each designer will have different skill sets (and pricing structures), understanding what you need before you walk in the door will go a long way to getting exactly what you want and pay for.

Below are a few basic questions to ask when hiring a professional Web designer:

1) What is the designers area of expertise?
Reviewing samples of work will get you about three-quarters of the way to the answer of this question. But asking designers what they most like to design (WordPress templates, open-source shopping carts, brochure-style websites in HTML, membership sites, etc.) will give you a big picture of the designers skill set and take you the rest of the way to choosing the right individual for the project. If the website requires more advanced development, it is essential to review and test the systems the designer developed in the past and understand what programming languages (ASP or PHP) the site will be built in to see if the designer is a good fit for you project.

2) Are you a full-service design agency?
Understanding what the process is before you sign a contract is important as you need to understand the depth of the service you are paying for. Will the designer work with the hosting company to make the site accessible or need to buy a domain? Will they begin basic SEO work on your behalf (create meta-tags, use H1 tags in their design)? Is the designer also a web developer (do they create applications)? How about taking offline content and bringing it online (copywriting)? Some other questions in line with the expertise issue include determining what (if anything) will be outsourced and how long they have been in business.

3)  How is support handled? Are there guarantees?
Nothing in this world is perfect, so don't expect your design to be what you want right out of the gate. Ask the website designer (before you hire them) how initial design changes are requested, how ongoing client support is handled (technical or otherwise), and most importantly, how web design changes will be implemented and billed after the fact.

I consider these the most basic questions you could ask a group of website designers to narrow down your list. Once you have three to five designers you are confident could handle your project there are a whole host of other questions that need to be addressed which we'll cover here at Website Magazine in another post.

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