by Jamie Kiley
If you’re in the market for a new website, one of the first things you’ll need to do is hire a web designer. As in any field, there are good web designer and bad web designers, and it’s important to know how to determine which is which. Here are 5 tips to get you started:
1. Don’t judge a designer’s skill solely on graphic design skills.
Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a web designer based on his or her graphic design skills alone. While graphic design is important, attractive images are not the most significant determinant of good design. In fact, they are a comparatively small part of what makes a good website.
Instead of focusing completely on visual image, concentrate on evaluating a designer’s other skills. Evaluate the designer’s portfolio by asking these sample questions:
- Does this designer design with usability in mind? In other words, is the site designed for form or for function?
- Does the designer have good organizational abilities? Look for organization of the entire site as a whole, as well as the organization of individual page layouts.
- Does the designer employ good navigation techniques? Try out some of the sites in his or her portfolio and carefully examine how easy it is for you to navigate around the site and find specific pieces of information.
- Instead of using graphics just for the sake of pizzazz, does the designer use graphics purposefully to organize the page and to direct a visitor’s attention to important points?
- All sites should motivate a visitor to do something, whether it is buying a product, filling out a quote request form, signing up for a newsletter, etc.
- Does the designer do a good job of visually showing visitors how to take action?
- Does the designer design sites that are easy to use?
- Instead of asking, “Does this site look good?” ask, “Would this site make me want to buy a product if I was in that site’s target market?”
2. Talk with references.
Don’t just peruse the sites in a designer’s portfolio. Get in contact with some of the designer’s past clients and question them on the specifics of their experience. Ask how long it took to complete their website, as well as how easy it was to work with the designer.
Also, be sure to ask how effective the client’s website has been. How many visitors do they get? By how much have their sales increased? How well has the site accomplished the client’s intended goals?
3. Have a basic knowledge of good web design techniques.
It helps significantly in evaluating a prospective web designer if you know at least the basics of good web design. This way, you’ll be in a better position to judge good techniques from the not-so-good.
Before you get ready to hire a designer, spend some time browsing the web and the shelves of your local bookstore. If possible, try to get a feel for the basics of usability and online marketing. Also, glean information from a variety of different sources. The experts often disagree, and it’s helpful to hear from a variety of perspectives and understand why they hold particular positions.
4. Don’t necessarily go for the lowest bidder.
Remember, it’s not just about getting a website; you’ll need a website that will actually perform. Price and quality usually have a direct relationship, so you’ll get what you pay for. Designers who are overly inexpensive ordinarily lack experience, are difficult to work with, don’t understand much about online marketing, or don’t truly have a grasp of good web design techniques. A website from such a designer won’t be beneficial.
5. Look for a designer who asks good questions.
Astute designers should probe you for specific answers to such questions as:
- What is your primary goal?
- By what standard will you measure the success of your site?
- Who is your target audience?
- What are the primary benefits of your product or service?
Look for a designer who obviously understands marketing, not just graphic design.
Jamie Kiley is a web designer in Atlanta, GA.