Questions to ask a Website Designer

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In the modern world a well designed web page can make all the difference between your company’s success and failure. It can work as a reception lounge, where the customer can feel at ease in familiar surroundings and flick through the company brochure. Or it can steer the customer towards the shop window, where all of the products you offer are on display to browse through. It can be a till, where customers can purchase products or a customer services desk, where inquiries can be answered and information given out. True, a web page can’t greet you when you enter and thank you when you leave, but it can do almost everything else.

What if you are new to web page design, though, and unsure exactly what it is you are looking for and what questions to ask of any potential web designer you are thinking of employing? Well, just like other service industries, the critical questions relate to issues of experience, reliability and compatibility. To put this into plainer English, imagine if you are in the market for a bespoke suit. Probably the first priority will be comfort and style. You’d look for a tailor with experience and ensure that he took down your measurements accurately and efficiently, and of course you’d have to provide your own body for this; nobody else’s measurements would do!

Exactly the same issues apply when approaching web designers. To begin with you, would have to give a clear outline of what kind of web page you want and what kind of audience you are looking to attract. A clear outline of this will lead to discussions with the designer about how frequently the site needs to be updated, how large it needs to be and whether any other features, such as a search function and user registration, are required. In other words, you have to go through a fitting to ensure that you come out with the perfect match at the end of the process.

Once the web designer has a clear idea of what it is you hope to achieve with the web site, you are in a position to ask the following key questions:

1. How much experience do you have with my industry? Are you familiar with the sorts of services that are required on the site and the expectations of those who will be using it?

2. What is your design sense? Are you confident that what you do will make an impact? How can you be sure of the impact it will make? What ingredients make a successful web page for you?

3. It is also useful to ask any prospective web designer to step into your shoes to assess the extent they share your vision. If it was their site, how would they arrange it to ensure the maximum impact and most effective communication of your key ideas? And how would they insure the highest standards of customer service?

In the answers to these questions, another critical element arises: the extent to which the prospective web designer communicates in a language that makes the often complex jargon used in technology comprehensible and transparent? Is the web designer talking in a language you understand? Do you follow what they are saying? How quickly are you able to grasp their meaning? In a field where you are employing a designer to create something for you, it is important that you understand what they are doing.

And then, with a bespoke service, what happens if something goes wrong at a later date. Do you have the expertise to make the alterations yourself, or would you have to bring in somebody to do it for you? In light of this, it is advisable to determine the following:

1. How much of the web site will I be able to manage myself? Or will I need to hire a long- or short- term contractor?

2. What is your record with meeting deadlines? Is your company flexible, adaptable and responsive enough to cope with any major disasters of set backs that might occur during the development of the site or when the site is up and running?

3. Equally, if you are a large firm, how can I be sure that you offer me a personalised service that fits my needs?

4. And if you are a smaller firm, how can I be sure that you will meet my needs? Are extras such as copywriting and marketing dealt with in-house or contracted out? Should any problems arise, will you be able and available to fix them?

5. Will the contract include long-term guarantees regarding any unforeseen hitches that might arise at a later date? And, while we are on the subject of payment, do you accept the payment in stages or up front?

This article has pinpointed eight key questions to ask of any prospective web page designer that should give you a clearer idea of the kind of service they offer and whether they are the kind of agency that will match your needs. All that remains now is to draw up a short-list of agencies to approach with your questions!

By Gary Preston