It would be difficult to recommend a specific web designer because they all specialise in different areas and your needs will differ to the next person that read this, therefore you should look for a web designer based on their particular skills and if applicable, factors such as locality and price.
Some web designers work with big companies because they’re the best, unfortunately for small businesses, their prices will reflect that. You need to think realistically about a budget, you should spend as much as you can on a great website and its promotion, but be practical.
Whilst reading this website you may make a few notes and write things down so that you can remember them clearly, this method is particularly important with website design because these notes and sketches will gradually develop into the specification for your brand new website.
Before you actually search online for specific web designers, you should make a plan of what you need and what you want from your website. If you’re in a position where you’re currently not sure of what you need, spend an afternoon trawling through the websites of your competitors and through random websites to see what great little features they have, after a while you will have a list of things that you want on your website.
Also, when looking at other websites, you should take note of colour schemes, styles, layouts and fonts because you will be able to show this to your web designer when they start work. Keep a separate list of websites that you like and also make note of a few that you don’t, then give this to your web designer so that can start to get a feel for what you like.
Making a plan
Once you know what you like, what you need and what you want; you should start to structure your notes into a plan that is informative and useful for any web designer. This plan is likely to change once you start talking with a web designer, but it’s good to have a basic understanding before you start. Use the following headings to create a basic plan of your site;
- 1. An introduction to your business
- a. What its aims are
- b. What its ethics are
- c. How big is it
- d. How old it is
- e. What sort of people buy from your business?
- 2. Proposed Domain Name
- 3. Overview of your website, including aims
- a. “We want to establish an online presence for our men’s clothing boutique and operate an online store so that we can expand our target market and increase our revenue…”
- 4. Target Market
- 5. Search Engine Optimisation
- a. “Our website must be constructed so that it can easily rise through the search engine rankings…”
- b. “We would expect sufficient SEO as part of the package so that our website ranks well”
- 6 Site Structure
- a. You should include a rough list of the pages that you want on your website as well as a brief description of each page’s purpose.
- . Don’t forget pages such as About Us, Contact Us and Site Map.
- c. If your site includes an online shop, you shouldn’t worry too much about listing every page for every single product as there should be an easy-to-use site management system that allows you to easily add as many products as you like.
- 7. Style and Layout
- a. You should include details about what you want your site to look like if you know, or just some ideas and web addresses of sites that you do like.
- b. Include details of how you would like users to navigate around your site, i.e. should your menu be along the top or at the side and should it have drop-down features?
- 8. Maintenance
- a. Who will be responsible for maintenance of the website
- i. If it is not a professional web designer, what skills do they have?
- b. Would you like a Content Management System to make updating the site easy
- c. Would you need web developing software providing, such as Adobe Dreamweaver.
- 9. Proposed Date of Completion
Once you have a plan and you’re confident about your basic needs, you need to start looking for potential web designs companies.
You should begin by deciding if you need to hire a local company or if you can look nationwide, the benefits of each ore obvious. If you hire a local firm, you can meet them and you know that they’re close when you have a question or need to check over designs, it can also be easier to check them out beforehand, but it does restrict who you can hire.
On the other hand, if you think that you would be ok hiring a company regardless of their location you have access to a greater amount of talent and you may also find a less expensive option but it might not always be practical to meet if they are based 200 miles away.
Once you have decided on whether or not you have restrictions on location, you need to identify any specific skills or experience that they might need, such as;
- Experience with e-Commerce websites
- High Skill in Graphic Design
- High SEO ability and great success rates
- Experience with Database driven websites
- If you’re website requires specific technologies such as video streaming or customer account areas, they would need experience in this.
Now that you know where you are looking and what you are looking for, you’re ready to go. The best way to start is by searching for web design (or web design “Manchester” if you’re looking locally) on Google, Yahoo or Windows Live.
There are three mains things to look at on a web design company’s website;
- 1. How good their website is
- 2. How good their portfolio of past work is
- 3. How ‘up-front’ and honest they are about their company on the About Us page and the Contact Page
You will soon start to develop a list of potential suppliers, of which you should pick around 8 of the best. Once you have your first shortlist, you should go back and look at their website in more detail, thoroughly read through any testimonials and if there is a link to the customer’s website or a company name, get in touch with them and check out how genuine the testimonial is. You might also like to start calling up the web design companies at this stage for a chat about what they can offer you and what experience they have working with businesses in your market, ensure that you’re making notes about what is said in the conversation so that you do not get confused or forget anything.
Once you have talked to companies and done research into them, your list should start to decrease if you don’t like the sound of some or if you get bad reviews from past customers, try and have a final shortlist of 2 or 3.
Now you need to make a final decision about which web designer to choose, so phone up the companies again and try to arrange meetings with them to discuss your needs further and talk about what they can offer you, then request a full quotation clearly showing all costs so that you’re able to take finance into consideration when making a decision.
Once you have met with each potential designer, you should sit down somewhere quiet away from distraction and think about which option would be best for your business, then once decided let each company know the outcome, even those that you don’t want to do business with, out of courtesy.