Choosing a good web designer is not just about getting some guy to build you a good-looking website. Many factors can and will affect the success of your site. For you to know what qualifies as a good designer/developer, you need to be educated. That is the intention of this article.
I believe that your website development begins with a plan. A solid plan that incorporates search engine optimization (SEO) and usability at its foundation. Building your website in this manner will enable your SEO to be much easier with just minor tweaking and updating. At the time of this writing, it is still not yet possible for search engine spiders, a.k.a: robots, to make sense of everything you have on your website.
So what does all this mean to you in your search for a web designer or web developer? In case you’re wondering why I refer to designer and developer as if they’re two different things, the fact is, is that they are. (if you want to be technical). Web designer seems to be the general term thrown about as one who makes or builds web pages. However, this is usually the person who designs the physical appearance of the website. He usually works with images. Since there’s more to building a functional website than just pretty pictures and fancy moving graphics, it may surprise you that a web page can, in fact, also be a computer program, or more appropriately, a web application. This is the behind-the-scenes code that gives the site its intelligence, so to speak. Some web designers are only responsible for completing a physical design for your site. If they don’t code in HTML or CSS, the design is usually photoshop or fireworks, then go to the coder, who actually puts it all together using HTML, CSS, and in some instances, scripting languages like PHP, asp.net, or Ruby for back end programming. The result is a web page that renders in the user’s browser and, depending on whether some scripting was included, also allows the user to interact with the page and make choices and decisions. This is an abridged version of a somewhat complex subject.
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The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines standards and best practices for web design and development, and you should make it a point to ask your web guy whether they will be designing your website with standards-compliant code. This means adhering to the W3C standard. If they say that they intend to design the layout of your web page using tables, insist that they don’t. For two reasons:
Using tables for layout is not standards-compliant and could adversely impact page loading times. (not good) The more code on your page, the larger the file, and the larger the file, the longer it takes to download. Updating and maintaining web pages will be much harder and could take longer, translating more being more expensive. When you think of your website project, try thinking ahead and plan for the long term. You want a site that is extendible and can be managed more easily. Best practices are not called such for no reason. I stress this point because it’s an important one.
A portfolio will give you a glimpse of what the designer/developer can use to see the design style. Any web designer with sense won’t include customers in their portfolio who were not happy. It isn’t good for business. Searching for a good designer in reputable online listings is a good place to find a web designer or any other service for that matter where the company or individual will be rated by the public.
It is of greater importance to that firm that they perform well since their rating is available for the public to see. An example of such listings would be Yahoo’s Local Search listings or online Yellow pages. A good source for finding a good web designer is to speak to people you know who have had the first-hand experience and built their websites. If people have been given good service, they usually don’t have any problem recommending their designer to you.
It is OK to ask for a mock-up site. Usually, designers will tend to make 2 mock-ups for you to compare, and sometimes they may even show you an array of various web styles and templates before commencing. This is a way of narrowing down the style and how many columns, colors, and themes he will need to design.
The web developer needs to advise you on every aspect of the design process. He should educate you and explain in very plain terms the reasons for doing things. Don’t just take his word for it. Ask why. He also needs to give attention to what content you intend to put on your site because SEO is all about content, keywords, and relevance. Obviously, the content decided on is ultimately the client’s decision, but a responsible designer should inform you of optimizing your content. It is important to note that some web designers are usually not SEO experts, and specific SEO companies or individuals do just that. However, it is best if they work hand in hand with the designer of your website. If you find a web designer that can do a good SEO job, then you stand a better chance of your website being easier to market and rank.
So here are a few points I believe would make an overall good choice in a web designer/developer. Expresses the importance of planning your site for user-friendliness Understands good web design that is standards-compliant Can think through the eyes of the potential visitor of the client’s site Uses colors well and researches the target audience. Educates the client and explains web terminology in layman’s terms. Plans a site from an SEO perspective, with attention to file structure and naming schemes. If doing any programming, all the above applies and the strong focus on usability of the application. The easy user interface, secure, and full-featured, to name a few. These points are by no means the hard and fast rule; it is just a guide. However, I believe most importantly above all; you should get good service. Good quality service is the best marketing tool for any business, and you should expect it.