do it simply - Help and Advice

My web designer has disappeared.

So how do you choose a good designer or web developer?  One that sticks around more then 1 week past, or even 5 years past your website release?

Hrmm, do you choose the cheapest, the most persistent, the one that showed up at your door the day you decided this is it, I’m going to sort out my website?  How exactly are you suppose to decide who will build your website?

There are literally thousands of people out there who say they can design your website.  But can they, will they, and do they offer you anything more?

Here are some of the options you have to build your website.

DIY – You can do it yourself with lots of different drag and drop tools like Wix or Weebly.  Where this seems like a great option to have a little creative control without any technical know-how it will come back to bite you in the end.  Not only do you normally have to sign up to a monthly fee to use, but when you want to make a change you most likely will have to begin again and trash everything you have done so far.  It also gives you a false sense that you have taken that first step into the web-sphere and it will provide a building block for your next step.    This is not true, pretty much nothing built with a diy site builder can be used when you decide to upgrade.

Templates – This is the step up from DIY, you actually have to get your hands a little dirty. You dabble with a tiny bit of what looks like code, you pull your hair out, you get a site up and running and it never quite does what you intended. You forget about it for a few months, come back and realise you have forgotten everything you did to make it, and go our looking for some help. Unless you really love the challenge of picking up a new skill and accept that you will be working at this ‘website business stuff’ for months and months to come… I would think twice about this option.

The cheap website designer – These are the businesses or people that promise you a great site for £500 or less. Let me be frank, the website will not be great, it is unlikely to be mobile friendly, and it will not be easy to update. You also run the chance of the company who has done this for you will disappear as soon as you have your site. You will most likely not be told anything about where the site is registered, the DNS settings, and countless other small details that are needed when you decide you want something different/more. Beware. I apologise for the doom and gloom. There is a small chance that you will stumble upon a friend of a friend, or a student who is just starting out and knows their way around the web design and development. They could possibly give you a great site for a super price just to get themselves some exposure. But this is sort of like rocking horse poo..  mythical.

The big agency – These guys will promise you the world and will charge you for it. I have dealt with many agencies in my career and the most common thing I’ve found is that the agency doesn’t know a thing about web design or development and think if they get your business they will just hire someone (like me) to come in and sort it out for them. Their egos tend to be large, and they believe that they know what is best for you, without asking you first. Not all agencies are like this, but if they seem to say yes to everything you ask, and promise a lot more, please be wary.

The small agency and freelancer – Now this is where I of course get to blow my own trumpet. Many of us in this group are self-taught. Not only because we love what happens on the web but because we love the challenge and the constant need to adapt in the fastest moving industry out there. We like our clients because we have worked to get them and get to know them. We also tend to be honest with our limitations. If we can’t help we will tell you how to find the right/best person to sort out whatever issue you want solved. Of course there are bad ones too. They build you a site that looks good but are using a template that doesn’t allow any change or flexibility in the future. You may be stuck with exactly what they give you with no ability to change or modify.

So, after all of that, let’s get into some of the things you should look for when meeting or talking to a potential web designer or developer.

1. How do you feel about them?

Working together to make your business better needs to be a partnership. This means there has to be mutual respect and attraction. I don’t mean physical (but lucky you if it does..) but someone you connect with. If your initial gut reaction is ‘ick’ then listen to it.

2. Are they curious about your business?

Was your first meeting about the sale, or about their ideas, or about what they are going to do for you? Wait, wait, wait! Have they asked what you want yet? No matter how skilled a designer/developer is, they do not know your business. They do not know your customers until they ask about them.

3. Have they asked what you want to achieve with your site?

It is the job of the person building your site to ask what you want from it. Do you want to gain sales, create a community, get people to subscribe to a newsletter, or even just give you a call. They need to dig deep to find out why you aren’t getting enough of these things now. Ask what you have tried in the past and what has worked and failed. Essentially, they need to really discover what your business needs.

4. Can they create a map of how they will achieve number 3?

Simply asking and understanding what you want from your site is not the same as delivering it. Your designer/developer should be able to map out how their approach to your site and business will give you a greater return then if they hadn’t been involved. This will also give you a clear indication of whether they understood your issues discussed in number 3.

Deciding that you are going to invest in your business is always tough. Deciding who else is going to contribute to it should also be. If you are not willing to spend some time choosing this person, you are also saying you are not willing to spend time on making your business better.

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