How to find a Good Web Designer
Those who know nothing about web design feel lost when it comes to finding a good web designer because there are many so-called web designers ripping people off who know nothing about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Knowing how to design a beautiful website is only one-half the battle. Unless a designer knows SEO and how to market a website the site will never go anywhere in search engines.
This guide was written for those with very little knowledge of web design so they can judge for themselves the qualities of a designer.
Good designers will have the following design skills:
- HTML (how to write the code that displays the website - knowing how to write HTML code by hand eliminates code bloat produced by programs like Wordpress and Dreamweaver)
- CSS (Cascading Style Sheets - controls font colors, sizes, etc. and prevents code bloat)
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization - how to optimize your website)
- Graphic Design (knowing how to design logos, navigation graphics and edit images)
- Marketing (knowlege of getting links, social networking and other means to gain traffic, visitors and sales)
- Setting up a Mobile design.
Check Google's Listing of the Designer's siteGoogle still supplies 69% of Internet traffic so checking Google's listing of designer sites is one way to determine how your site will rank if they design your website.
Use this command in Google site:PutTheirDomainHere.com and look for the following:
Duplicate Titles and DescriptionsLook to see if the titles of their pages (what shows up in search engine results) are all the same and also the descriptions. If they are, then the designer knows nothing about SEO because utilizing unique titles for each page and descriptions that reflect the content of that page are one of the most important keyword ranking tools in web design. If they don't do this then you would be wise to find another web designer.
Very Few Pages ListedLook to see if Google has all their pages listed. You can estimate how many pages they have on their website by running your mouse over their menu and counting links on their home page. If Google only has their home page listed then search engines have a problem surfing their site and it's likely yours will suffer the same fate, so find another web designer.
Does the Site Look Professional?Is the designer's website professional looking and clean cut or is it full of Google ads and affiliate banners or advertising links at the top of the home page? If it's the later keep looking for another web designer because they are attempting to gain a living via advertising instead of their web design skills.
Do they have SEO skills?SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization which means they know what needs to be done to make the website search engine friendly and how to increase keyword ranking. A graphic designer or programmer may be able to set up a beautiful looking website but good keyword ranking won't occur without a good knowledge of SEO. Here is a great article on how to find someone skilled in SEO.
Do they have Web Design Awards?Anyone can apply for a web design award and often get one because these award sites usually offer awards with one goal in mind - getting links back to their website. Emblems from web design guilds may look impressive, however if you check into the means to attain these you will see that most of them charge a fee for membership with minimal requirements, and thus anyone with the most basic web design skills can gain awards or buy memberships and that is not always proof they are quality designers. That can be better assertained by checking their skill level.
Do they Guarantee a Top Listing in the Search Engines?No "Honest" web designer can guarantee a top listing in search engines and especially on Google because they change their algorithyms often (about 350 times per year). What used to work last week may not work next week as Google is preventing any methods that attempt to manipulate their search engine. Some designer sites are SEO Ripoffs and use spam techniques to gain high ranking that will then get your website banned, so be aware of those. Some link submission services can get your website banned also.
Do they provide Hosting?
I have been using Westhost.com for 18 years and highly recommend them as a quality host with reasonable pricing and excellent tech support:
A web designer that also provides hosting is known as a reseller for a large hosting company. This means they have bought a large space on their host site and they host the sites they design in that space, the hosting fees may be higher and they may or may not be your sole tech support.
Sometimes those that build website have a computer they use for a server in their home. Either way this is not a good idea because if they get sick or their computer breaks down--your web site will be down and you may have no way to contact them. Often they do not keep up with expensive hardware or software upgrades to prevent hacking attemps and other problems and thus your website will be more vulnerable than if it was on a real host.
Are they in your country?It's not so important that a designer be in the same city as most all design communication can be covered by phone or email. However is they are in another country you may have problems if they don't complete the job after you paid them (and no legal recourse) so check their contact page for phone, address and email to make sure they are in the same country.
Do they design websites with WYSIWYG or CMS programs?WYSIWYGs are programs like Dreamweaver or GoLive and it stands for What You See Is What You Get, meaning that a web page can be designed by dragging images and text around without no knowleges of HTML at all. CMS (Wordpress and other blog software) is basically the same thing. Designers who use this method may not be able to write, or even read HTML code, or fix it either if something was set up wrong. WYSIWYG and CMS programs also produce massive code bloat and usually don't validate unless the designer is very skilled in using the program but then that requires knowledge of reading and writing HTML. These programs are also also expensive or require frequent updates. So it's best to find someone who can write HTML code by hand.
Do they offer you the option of updating your own site?These kinds of sites, usually called CMS programs (Content Management Systems) are designed for those with no knowledge of HTML and due to the nature of the program the code rarely validates and will produce massive code bloat and slow load times and thus your site may never do well on the Internet causing you to PayPerClick for the life of the site. You would be better served in hiring a designer who can update the site for you.
Check out their PortfolioLooking at a designer's own website is not always proof of their ability because they may be too busy to keep their own website updated (this is the case with LWD managing over 50 client websites). Looking at their mobile web design portfolio will give you a better idea of their skill level.
Do you like the design?In the case of most website redesigns often the owner of the website wants to keep the original design so that isn't always a good reflection of their design capability. In that case look for custom designs by that company but keep in mind that the owner may have requested a design that the designer didn't necessarily approve of also.
Are they a FreeLance Web Designer?A FreeLance web designer is self-employed. If you want individual attention then getting a freelance web designer is the way to go rather than a large web design firm.
Is important text in Images?Check to make sure that important text isn't in images or Flash as search engines will never see the text. If your computer has drag and drop capability you can determine this by clicking on text and dragging it . If the text comes with the image, and it's important keywords not found elsewhere on the page, then their keywords will not rank well in the search engines. It is especially important that menu link text not be in images so search engines can read the keywords in the link text.
Do you like the graphics?If their graphics are fantastic that is good from a visual standpoint however not all graphic artists understand web design or SEO so check all the other features before you decide.
Is there anything about the design that annoys you?Do they use too many Flash presentations or animations or graphics or backgrounds that make the text hard to read? Does the display of the web page appear broken up. If so look elsewhere.
Browser CompatabilityLook at the website in different browsers to see if they have made sure it looks good on all of them.
Do the pages load fast?A web page should load within 5-8 seconds. If a web page takes too long to load then visitors, and most importantly search engines won't wait and will go elsewhere. This is usually caused by too much code bloat due to using a WYSIWYG or CMS program such as Dreamweaver, WordPress, GoLive, etc., to design the site. Using too many images or a large Flash presentation or too much text or links on one page will also increase download time.
Do they design websites with content in framesIf a website is designed in frames then the main page content will scroll up and down with a separate scroll bar while the header and menu on the side of the page will stay in place controlled by another scroll bar. Search engines can't read the content in frames so this is never a good idea and you should find another web designer.
Do they offer templates?A site that offers templates takes very little time to put together because all they have to do is enter data, thus they had better be offering their services at a very low price. It's not likely you want a cookie cutter design anyway so best to avoid those.
Is their text full of repetitive keywordsIf so, they may have the keyword density too high and this can incur a penalty if it's overdone. A well designed website will be written for the visitor's ease of reading and will draw the visitor from one page to the other.
Do their pages Validate?Check the portfolio sites to see if the code validates on those websites. A lot of broken code can cause the site to not display correctly in search engines or cause a search engine to not be able to gather information on the page. However links to some social sites will not validate so ignore those errors. You can check the code by inserting the url for the site in the official HTML validator W3.org.
Do their drop down menu's work in all browsersIf they have drop down menus check the site to make sure the menu works in all browsers and both Mac and Windows machines.
Do they provide testimonies and referencesIf they provide testimonies and references then it's a sure sign they are proud of their work. Call a few of the website owners and ask about the designer's skills and the service they provide. If they don't offer testimonies and references then keep looking. Even a new designer can get references if they build websites for free when starting out.
Check out their Web Design RatesI listed this last because there is no standard rate for web design. Some designers with mulptiple computer and internet degrees need to pay college loans and will start right off with high rates, and very little experience.
Some designers come right out of college, buy a WYSIWYG web design program like Dreamweaver, check to see what other designers are charging and set up shop claiming to be an expert in SEO with no SEO experience at all.
And there are others (like LWD) who went to college, took adequate internet classes, worked in computer labs, earned a degree in other areas, started out in web design as a volunteer and learned from the ground up with years of experience with a keen interest in SEO, kept their rates low and raised their rates as their skills increased.
So price should be your last consideration. Choose the web designer with the best skills and knowledge.
Lori's Web Design is a professional web designer exhibiting all the skills above. See my web design rates page for prices and the experience page for web design skils and testimonies.
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