Choosing a Website Designer is a challenge even before you even start to think of design and styles of websites. Firstly, you and the designer have to be able to communicate in a clear, direct manner so you can establish a meaningful business relationship to get the project completed. Too often personality and ego can sidetrack a small business website from the primary goal - which is after all making a website - and the focus is lost in confusion and accusations. So to help you prepare, here is a handy checklist of questions and suggestions for you so you can run by your potential website designers so you are at least familiar with their style.
Firstly, I would ask about the website designer's previous experience and work history. Web Design is an unstructured industry and it is best to assess the portfolio to see if you like her style of work. Further, have good look at the existing sites and see how the sites work. Are they easily found on search engines? Do the sites load quickly? Are the sites updated often? Does the site owner have access to the site? These sort of questions can go a long way towards eliciting very insightful responses from the web designer.
Whilst you are talking with the designer, as about her graphic design background and if she takes her own images for the sites. Often a photographer can take her own images and manipulate them on software so they make a good fit for the website. This saves you money in the long run. Similarly, designing the elements of the website can become very expensive if it is outsourced - like the logo or the buttons. Make sure you get a definitive answer on whether the designer has access to the full creative suite of graphic design. Again, it will save you money.
Another important thing to consider is the access the designer has to support and who will be collaborating on the project. It is very rare these days for a website designer to be a complete one stop shop for everything related to a website. There is usually some amount of outsourcing at some point of the workflow. It is always reassuring to know that your selected designer is open and honest and discloses who what and where she uses outsourced assistance to get your job done. After all, they will have access to your files and to some extent your business insights so it is worth keeping privacy in mind.
Looking forward, it is also wise to consider what amendments and adjustments and updates to the site will cost. Is the site easy to edit and are you able to do most of it once trained? Or will the designer be solely responsible for updates? Being aware of the ongoing editing costs for the website can play a huge factor in deciding which designer to go with. For best value over the medium term, choose a designer who uses a content management system that has provision for back end user access. That way, you will be able to edit and update the site yourself.
Having a website can be a once off engagement where the web designer does an install and leaves you to it, or it can be the start of an ongoing relationship online. Your business circumstances will dictate which model you adopt, although it has to be said that increasingly it is the dynamic, regularly updated sites that are smiled upon by the search engines. Seek out a site you can edit yourself and agree to reasonable terms for assistance and call out fees from the designer when the need arises. That way, you will foster a brilliant working relationship with your website designer.