How to Select a Web Designer

A friend of mine asked me in an email, can you recommend a web designer for me? I paused for a minute… I know a ton of web designers – everything from brand experts, to local graphic designers, to content management systems developers, to social networking experts, to complex integration, enterprise and architecture developers.

I responded, “What are you trying to achieve?”

I won’t go into details on what the response was nor what my recommendations were, but it was really evident that:

  1. The client did not know what they were trying to achieve with their web site.
  2. The web design firms they had connected with were simply pushing their portfolios and awards.

There are more kinds of web designers out there than I can describe, but the best ones will start their conversations with, “What are you trying to achieve?” Depending on the answer, they’ll know whether or not your business is a fit with theirs, and ultimately whether or not they’ll be successful at meeting your objectives. Ask for and follow up with their recent clients to find references for other clients they’ve worked with who had the same objectives as yours to find out how it was to work with them.

Are you a small company trying to look like a big one? Are you trying to build brand awareness? Search engine placement? Is your company trying to build a portal to communicate with clients? With prospects? Are you using other tools and services you’d like to automate and integrate through your website?

Basing your Web Design on a dollar amount and a portfolio is a dangerous game. Chances are that you’ll be shopping soon enough as technologies advance and you find your site isn’t meeting its needs. The best designers typically find a popular framework to build your site on so that it can expanded as new requirements come to fruition. The best designers will look to build a relationship, not a contract. The best designers will utilize the highest web standards and cross-browser compliance.

Get used to web design costs being an ongoing budget rather than a one-time expense. Get used to continuous improvement rather than timely completion of an overall project. I would rather add a feature a month for a year than wait a year for my site to go live!

Choose your Web Designer carefully. I know there are a lot of great designers (and a lot of crappy ones). More often than not, though, I’ve found that a disastrous web design project has more to do with the match of the web designers strengths to the objectives of the organization.

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