I have the questionable honour of being able to say I was one of those web designers who got caught up in the frenzy of the dot.com bubble and taken for a ride. In the course of a single year I went from designing and building boutique sites for local restaurants to being paid thousands of dollars a week by international conglomerates to ‘stand by’ in case my services were needed.
With dozens of clients for each competent designer we were the rock stars of the new millennium – complete with first-class, all-expenses-paid trips to visit potential clients – until the rug was pulled out from under my kind in March of 2000. A year later I was competing with 50 other out of work designers to make a couple of banner ads for a local car dealer.
The aura (stain?) of that time has followed me ever since and even though I’m no longer directly involved in the business I still get asked by people if I can recommend a good web designer or design company to build or manage their site.
Elvis Has Left the Building
In a way I’m flattered that people still think of me as some sort of expert. The reality, however, is that the web design landscape has shifted so dramatically in the past 10 years that I can no more tell you who the truly competent designers are today than I could tell you why Elvis always left the building without doing an encore.
Still, I understand people’s quandary when it comes to finding a web designer. With giants like Google now basically dictating the rules of engagement you need someone who is proficient in all facets of SEO as well as in what constitutes clean, intuitive design or you’re throwing your money away. How do you find such an individual?
Start By Asking the Right Questions
I can’t tell you exactly who the best people are but I can suggest some ways that you can weed out the frauds. Start by posing some direct questions to your prospective designer.
· How did you become a web designer?
· What was the last website you designed?
· Have you ever designed a website for a company in this sector?
· Do you design from the ground up or use a template?
· Who owns the website when it’s finished?
Follow By Giving Examples
If your designer made it through the first round of questions show them examples of websites you’d like yours to emulate. You’ll never wind up with the exact same thing but it’s a better way to get the conversation going than saying “I want a website. You know, to do business.”
Be Clear About Your Web Design Objectives
· This is our budget
· This is what I want from the website (subscribers, sales, traffic)
· I want these special functions (use example websites to demonstrate)
· I want our in-house staff trained to update the site (or not)
If you’re clear about your objectives, can provide examples of what you want and vet your designer or design company thoroughly you are likely to wind up with a website that delivers on your goals.