Top 10 Tips for Choosing a Web Designer for Your Business Web Site

How to Choose a Web Design Firm

Simple. You do your homework on them. Then, you start asking questions and taking notes. There are plenty of web designers available. You want to go with the best because, in fact, your web designer is in essence your partner. You want to choose a designer that takes YOUR business seriously.

What questions do you ask?

There are several important questions to ask when choosing a web designer for your business web site.

Creating your web site can be a tricky process. Choosing the best web design firm for your business web site is a very important decision. And if your company is like most small businesses, you probably do not have web design experience. Building your web site will take time and work. And working with a web designer is no easy task. So choose the right web design company from the start and avoid do-over’s, which can be costly and time consuming.

1. What kind of web experience do you have?

For starters, find out what kind of design experience your potential design firm has. Do they have experience with content management systems such as Joomla or Drupal, do they have experience working with “raw” HTML? Has the web design company created web sites similar to yours? Do they have relevant industry experience? If you want to sell products through your web site and accept credit card payments, does the web design company you are considering have experience with ecommerce hosting?

2. Do you have a portfolio that I can review?

An experienced web design company will have a solid portfolio of web sites that they have created for other clients. Ask for links to other site the design company has created and review each one. Do you like what you see? Do the sites have a style that appeals to you?

3. Do you have any references?

In addition to reviewing web sites, ask for customer references. Contact their clients and ask them about their experience with the web design company. Were they happy with the results? Did they get what they paid for? How much did they pay? Would they recommend them? How long did it take? What didn’t they like about the company? How responsive was the company when they had questions?

4. What are your prices?

The most important step in pricing is to make sure the potential design company outline all of the prices associated with the work and puts it all in writing. Never enter into a deal unless all of the costs are well understood up front.

Ask them a bit about how they manage payments. If they respond in a very business-like and professional manner, this is a good sign. If they throw out answers like – “Don’t worry, we’ll manage” or “Whatever you are comfortable with”, don’t be fooled. This is trouble waiting to happen. Get the price in writing before you begin the project.

5. Do you have experience with search engine optimization?

Most small business owners do not have it in their budget to hire a separate marketing firm to work on search engine optimization (SEO), so it imperative that your web designer have experience in SEO. A good designer will know that design and SEO go hand-in-hand. Designing a web site for search engines with “clean” code that utilizes cascading style sheets is essential to getting your content indexed in the leading search engines, such as Google and Bing.

6. Do you have experience with social media marketing?

Many marketing firms do know the first thing about social media marketing. These firms are stuck in the past and are not as effective as they pretend to be. Be sure that you work with a designer that knows how to setup a Facebook fan page for your business and design a customized Twitter profile. This is important because you will want your social media properties to mesh with the design of your web site. The web site and social media pages should complement one-another.

7. What is your process for designing or building a web site?

Make sure you ask your potential web design company about the process that they use? Do they design a web site or do they build a web site? An experienced Internet professional should understand the difference between these two concepts. If they don’t, they’re probably not as experienced as they claim to be. Building a web site is a highly technical process, while designing a web site is a highly creative process. Many advertising firms specialize in web site design which does not necessarily require any web development skills whatsoever. At the same time, many firms design web sites, yet out-source the creative portion of the project. Find out from the beginning what the process if for the firm that you are considering.

8. How long will it take?

Perfectionism can be a huge stumbling block in the fast paced world of the Internet. Some designers are unable to compromise between quality and time to market needs. Test: See how long it takes until you receive a proposal.

9. What type of support is offered after web site launch?

If your design firm does not offer web site maintenance, you might want to continue looking. Most reputable design firms will offer “post-launch” maintenance for companies that do not have an in-house webmaster.

10. Which web hosting providers do you work with?

If your design firm does not know the first-names of the contact at their favorite web design firm, then this should raise a red flag. Most reputable web designers know not to choose a web host simply because they are the most popular or because they offer the cheapest web hosting. A reputable web design firm should know who to call and how to get results! Does your web designer work with a green hosting company? Environmentally-friendly web hosting is becoming more and more popular for business web sites looking to implement an eco-policy.

Getting a little recognition on the W3 is hard, even in a niche market (especially in a niche market). You have less than 10 seconds to convince a site visitor to stick around long enough to learn about the quality of your services, your products or your message. Web surfers are jagged out on information overload. If they don’t see what they want to see on your home page or a landing page, they bounce. So, making a statement about your corporate culture and your business’ core values has to happen in the blink of an eye. Visitors will never even see the “About Us” page if you don’t create a good impression – in 10 seconds. So, go green! An emblem or banner proclaiming that you employ green hosting makes an immediate statement about your on-line business. It says you care about the environment.

Do your homework when choosing a web design firm.

Good designers are creative people that need to think out of the box. Finding a good web designer is getting harder and harder. The good designers are being snatched by agencies and large projects. They are overloaded with work and often, you won’t know about them because they don’t have time (or need) to market themselves. Doing your homework and asking the right questions is important to decide if they are right for the job.

Web Design in 2010-2011 – Analysis

As we’re coming to the middle of this year, everyone is trying to analyze the recent trends in web designing and web development. However, in this article, we’ll see what web designers and developers are trying to utilize with the new features to create impressive designs. We will also try to look into the factors that are driving this change.

1. The days of static design visuals are dead
With the online technology that is available today, web designers are coding websites more creatively than using simple images and html/css. Clients have come to expect a higher level of functionality and interactivity as they visit more and more websites that utilize things like Ajax, and JavaScript. Whilst CSS3/HTML5 has started to step on the toes of JavaScript, JavaScript itself has started to inch into the territory of Flash. JavaScript has just finished a major revision of its specifications for the language. Once browser companies adopt these standards, web developers will be provided with more tools to improve their capabilities in creating web applications.

2. Grid-based designs, Mobile Designs, Retro Designs are gaining popularity as well.
But Grid based is used mostly in portfolios, product pages and big blogs; they almost never appear on corporate websites or in online shops. With the huge amount of data present, classifying information based on context rather than content will be paramount for companies which handle large amount of data (financial, social, etc).

3. Print Design influence
Traditional techniques from print design are increasingly being applied to the Web, be they layout techniques or rich versatile typography. Web Designers are taking layout and design inspiration from print. This includes lots of whitespace, large type,use of a grid and clear hierarchy of elements. The layouts of these websites often resemble those of print magazines or posters, with striking headlines, multi-column text, highlighted quotations, indented text, supporting imagery, side notes and footnotes.

4. Faster and better Web browsers
Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera has offered more choices to web users. But, well, it is part of a web designer’s job to make sure that texts are easy and nice to read on all major browsers and platforms. With browser wars is in full force, Techniques for progressive enhancement are more commonplace than before, giving users of modern web browsers a better web experience than those who will not or cannot use them. This has surely drive competition in web designing.

5. Growth of community-oriented Platforms
In many ways, the growth of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook has led the web to be much more community-oriented. Along with these changes will come increased focus in getting information in real-time. Twitter is one of the examples that give immediate and breaking information on the sites. With more and more growth of such social media platforms and more people participating in the creation of information on the web, the way in which we obtain information has shift from being from a singular source, into a more community-created source.

6. Interactive Designs
Web designers of Web applications are paying significantly more attention to the way in which functionality is presented and are trying to improve the user experience with more interactive and responsive solutions. There’s a lot more emphasis now on site usability and creating sites that are minimalist in design and easy to navigate (perfect use of CSS and a grid based layout). Horizontal scroll bars have been out there for a decade, but today it feels that they are gaining a new context. The move to horizontal scroll bars is probably an attempt among some designers to provide a more distinct user experience. One way to make websites more responsive is through “keypress navigation,” which hasn’t been widely adopted so far. But lately we’ve observed more designs implementing this effectively. Web designers of Web applications are paying significantly more attention to the way in which functionality is presented and are trying to improve the user experience with more interactive and responsive solutions.

7. Slab Typefaces
These are relatively new as in the past logos and headers were smaller and more understated by web designers. However, combined with the trend toward larger headers, slab typefaces demand the reader to take notice.

8. Rich and strong Typography
It has played a major role in Web design for years now. Bold, strong, heavy headlines can effectively convey the purpose of an e-commerce website or portfolio, while subtler headings help structure content and improve legibility. Obviously, the big change we’re seeing today is richer, more versatile typography. Oversized logos on an equally oversized header and Footer. We’ve further noticed that Web designers are extending their font stacks, adding increasingly more fall-back fonts in case a specified font is not available.

9. Recent trends
like embossing, PNG transparency, rich user Interfaces, Font replacement, Huge Images, Modal boxes(A modal box is like the pop-up’s more sophisticated They serve as a user-friendly alternative to classic JavaScript windows), Media blocks, The magazine look, Carousels (slideshow navigations, in which the content rotates vertically or horizontally), Introduction blocks(place the most important message of the website right there and thus make sure that readers get the message as quickly as possible.) will continue to grow in this year.

10. More Personalization
As web designers look for more ways of attracting users and prospects to their websites and generating business online, personalization is emerging as an important component of managing the web experience for site visitors – and delivering business value. Be simple, invisible complexity, big and bold, art and creativity, bigger picture. Web Typography is going to reach some new heights in 2010-2011. JQuery, Mootools as well as CSS3 are evolving and reaching new levels of quality and ‘interactivity’. Everything seems to be moving forward to larger elements which focus the attention.

If you haven’t checked out CSS3 and HTML5 websites yet ( like http://www.12thi.com ), you should really look into it because they will change the way you design and code. You can take advantage of the new features to create cleaner and more efficient layout.

It is possible that we have missed some other great trends and factors. Why don’t you contribute some interesting information here? Please don’t hesitate to share it with us in comments.

Finding a Job in Columbus in Web Design and Development

Columbus, Ohio is a great city in which to get a start as a freelance web designer or web developer. Columbus is one of the leading technology cities in the US, being the home of such widely renowned technology companies as Accenture, AOL, and the Battelle Memorial Institute. There are also hundreds of small to medium sized web design and web development companies peppered throughout the greater Columbus area.

Being a Columbus freelance web designer can be achieved by telecommuting, so you do not have to live in downtown Columbus, but being close to the city to do the occasional face-to-face meeting is highly recommended. Some web design companies will not give you a job without meeting you and some web development services require a face to face meeting, which is much easier when all web designers and project members are involved. Columbus, Ohio is a great place to live, and has enough web design job opportunities that you will not need to pitch outside of the city. It makes sense to live there. Although freelancing website design may seem like a terrifying prospect, it is not too hard as long as you have the bravery to go out on your own, and the work ethic to stick to it.

Calling web design companies in Columbus is one of the best ways to begin getting web design jobs. Calling companies takes away the potential clients ability to ignore your presence. Emails are easily erased or forgotten and direct mailing gets lost in the shuffle of bills. Write down a short speech introducing you as a freelance web designer, asking whether the company you are calling works with freelancers regularly. Although some web design companies use freelancers, while others prefer to use an in house web design team, you will find a few web design companies in Columbus that will be interested in your services. The secret to success when cold calling companies in Columbus is doing so in numbers. How many jobs you get depend greatly on your pitch and your experience, but expect to get one out of ten. With there being so many web design companies in Columbus, one out of ten is still a large amount of potential website projects.

Setting up a toll free phone number and getting a fax number will help you land more web design projects also. Toll free numbers allow clients who are outside of your area code to reach you free of charge. Prospective web design clients will need the ability to send agreements and documentation to you via fax. You’re right in thinking that most documents can be sent by email, but it is guaranteed that you will run into an old school client that still faxes documents the old fashioned way.

Setup an auto-responder on your email. This will help land more web design jobs in Columbus because people who email you will automatically receive a response. This could be beneficial because you could setup the auto-responder to include sales copy or your resume or both. If you send out mailers or business cards or advertisements with your designated auto-responder email address and get a reply from someone at that email address, that person will automatically receive your resume and sales text.

After getting a website design job, it is important that you stipulate what is required of you and your client. Make sure to draw up a contract or agreement of some sort just so that you have everything down on paper. Include your fee, the work to be done, the time period the work should be completed in and when you expect to be paid and in what forms (credit card, company checks).

Have a look around on the Internet for web design and website development companies in Columbus and write down the ones you are interested in. The best way to find web development companies in Columbus is to Google them. Search for terms such as “Columbus web design” or “web development companies in Columbus, Ohio”. Some day you may just get their attention and become a successful freelancer!