Choosing a website designer often seems to be fraught and overly complicated. But a bit like a motor car, there is a lot more going on with a website than meets the eye. Use this checklist to narrow down your website designer choice to make sure that you get a good, functional, website design that meets or exceeds your expectations.
1. Check their portfolio
This is the designer's shop window and should show a range of different sites they have designed.
Make sure that the sites they show are still online - if the sites are no longer in existence, the portfolio isn't up to date.
If they show thumbnails, check that the actual site looks like the thumbnail. If it doesn't, that's a possible sign that the new design hasn't been used.
2. Do they use WordPress?
Whilst some website designers will sigh at you asking that question, it's still a good one to ask.
Over 1 in every 5 new websites now use WordPress. And there's safety in that number! It means that if your website designer disappears off the face of the earth or changes direction or you fall out with them, you're not stuck.
If your site is shop based then your designer should suggest something such as ZenCart or Magento but otherwise, unless your needs are especially complicated, they should be using WordPress, the market leader.
3. Will pricing be transparent?
Even though WordPress is free that doesn't mean that the designer's time is free as well. That's fair enough.
The extras that are included may or may not be chargeable. This includes the actual design of the site - if it's a freely available template then your designer should be up front about this. Some less than scrupulous designers have been known to charge thousands for designs that they bought off the shelf for under £100. Make sure you're not caught out!
4. Will the site be search engine optimised?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) isn't a universal skill.
Whilst you shouldn't necessarily expect your website designer to be fully conversant with all the latest tips and tricks, there are some SEO components that have been around since the internet was born.
Check that your website designer has at least a basic knowledge of SEO and that they will make sure that at least the page titles, page descriptions and headlines on your new website are tweaked accordingly.
If they write the website copy for you then that should be reasonably well SEO'd as well. If you provide the copy then make sure that they at least make suggestions if it's not up to scratch.
5. How easy will it be for me to make changes?
You don't want to be going back to your website designer every time you need to change a handful of words or prices.
WordPress is easy to use and your website designer should allow you to make changes or even add completely new pages without going back to them.
Of course, if that doesn't appeal. then the offer of a maintenance package could well be your best option.
6. Who will own my domain name and where will my site be hosted?
It's important that you are the owner of your domain name, not your designer.
Likewise, it's good practice to host your site on the internet rather than use the shared package that your website designer may offer you.
You'll almost certainly get a better standard of hosting, which is important for your site visitors, as well as being less reliant on someone who isn't a specialist in the field. You need the peace of mind that if your website is unavailable, a specialist company will take care of you fast.
7. What happens if we fall out?
Whilst it's unthinkable at the start of the website design process, it's by no means unheard of for people to fall out with their website designers.
You should take care of this while you're still on speaking terms! It's a bit like a marriage pre-nup.
Check who will own the design, whether there will be any exit costs, what happens with any custom code, etc.
It's much better to do this at the start.