Find Web Developers
Find Web Developers

Choosing a Web Designer

August 18th, 2018

Many small business owners struggle with deciding on how to make the right choice for designing their website. They search the web for help with their website and find that the choice is harder than they thought. Currently there are (literally) millions of websites who claim to be professional web designers. However, one must be careful in choosing the right person or people in which to trust their company image. In this article, I will attempt to categorize web designers into manageable groups, and teach the reader the difference between the types.

Web designers fall into four general categories: freelance amateur, freelance professional, Web Design Company, Web Development Firm.

Freelance Amateur

The majority of web designers you will come across, especially searching the Internet, are freelancers. That is, individuals who do web design but are not employed by a web design company. Some are self-employed professionals but most of these freelancers are amateur-hobbyist types. They find a copy of FrontPage™ came with their MS Office™ Suite. They discovered how fun it could be to make web pages so they started telling their friends that they could “design” web pages.

The “pros” of using an amateur is that they are very cheap. The “cons” are too numerous to mention, but I’ll point out a few. They have no training; they have little knowledge of what makes a good website work; they do not understand HTML code or CSS but only FrontPage point and click; they do not understand general design and layout concepts and they have little real experience. The biggest reason they should be avoided for the serious businessperson, is that their work looks amateurish, which makes your company look amateurish. Who wants that?

Freelance Professional

A professional is often defined by simply being paid. People think that if you are paid for something, then you are professional. Maybe that’s true in the Olympics, but for the business services world, you are not a professional until you are established and respected as one by your clients and peers. Freelancer professional web designers are a giant leap from the amateur in that they have established a portfolio of respectable work. They have some sort of qualified training and experience and they have credentials that can be verified by contacting references. They have a good reputation with their clients and other professionals. In general, a good freelance professional web designer can be good person to have doing your site. But they are hard to distinguish from the amateur when you are just searching the web.

The upside is, if you find a good one they are significantly cheaper than a web design company. But that is usually the only upside. If the budget limits you, then a freelancer will do for a small project. But anything seriously important should be left to a professional company.

Some downsides to using a freelance pro are that they are usually part-time, meaning they are limited in how much time they can devote to your project. They are also limited in what they can do for you. Most freelancers are specialists in one area and generalists in everything else. Some have no skills in anything except their one specialty and often you will have to find others to fill roles. In addition, freelancers are not always cheap although many of them are aspiring to create their own company; some are highly sought after and charge $100 per hour or more for their work. My advice here is, if you have that much to spend, go with a company that has a team of professionals to get the job done in a timelier manner.

Web Design Company

This is the next step beyond a freelance professional. The web design company offers the “whole show”. They provide real project management and have pulled together a team of web experts to get a wider range of jobs done. A company can provide a much higher level of expertise in web design, programming, content development and more.

Such a company is usually very small, yet large enough to handle larger scale projects. Compared to the most highly qualified freelancer, a company has a diversity of talent and collaboration working for them. The end-result is usually a much higher quality product.

The only real drawbacks are on the one hand, the web design company is more expensive than a freelancer because there are many more people on the job. However, you get what you pay for rings true. On the other hand, for very large projects or long term development, web design companies may be too small and usually do not have the human recourses to accommodate that $500,000 contract. In the end, for serious business people looking for quality and professionalism and who can’t afford the big firm, this is the way to go.

Web Development Firm

As the title implies, a web development firm is like any traditional company. They have a staff of office workers, they have owners and officers, and they have a team of talented professionals who are paid a good salary for their work. They often have a sales force that do inside and outside sales. The quality of their work goes without saying, as you could not be so well-established by doing shoddy work. These firms offer teams of very talented professionals who work on your project and get the job done in a timely and extremely efficient manner. Additionally, they usually cover all aspects of website development including marketing and advertising. They may have teams of specialists that they can deploy to your location and work in-house under a temporary contract. The possibilities are endless.

If price is not an issue and the highest quality work is necessary, then this is who you want to do the job. For smaller budget businesses, a quote from an established web development firm might knock you off your chair, but know that companies who have project requirements that reach hundreds of thousands of dollars know the score. Thus, the only real drawback for a web development firm is that they are usually very expensive. Then again, cost is relative and bigger companies like to work with bigger companies.

In summary, the choice is yours. I would recommend for the serious businessperson, that you budget a decent amount of dollars to properly design and execute a professional website. I would avoid the amateur and outsource to an individual or company with good experience and reasonable rates to create my web presence. If money were no object, then I would only deal with established firms and pay the big bucks to get the job done right and done well.

Five Red Flags For Hiring a Web Designer You Can’t Meet

August 17th, 2018

The marketplace for web design is a global one: a company in Dallas can find a web designer in Mumbai and complete the project without ever meeting the designer. In many cases, the internationalization of web design services is a good thing, as it allows for businesses to source their projects according to their design, technology and budget needs.

There are, however, huge risks for companies that source their projects out or state or country. A worst case scenario is paying a deposit and never hearing from the web design company again. It happens much more than many are willing to admit.

Here are five “red flags” that should steer you away from a web designer you can’t meet:

Template Website
We have seen a lot of “web developers” with websites they did not make. This should be a very big red flag. Scammers will often set up template web sites with the hope of luring customers. After taking deposits, they disappear.

Suspicious Portfolio
Take a very careful look at the online portfolio of any web designer you are considering. Check if the sites are actually online. Ask the designer if the complete website made by the designer.

No Contract or Project Specifications
A scammer will promise anything (and deliver nothing) to win a web design project. If the designer does not come up with a sitemap, project plan and a contract, look elsewhere. There are, of course, no guarantees when working with someone outside of your legal jurisdiction, but to at least have someone on paper shows a deeper level of commitment than vapid promises about being able to do everything.

No Available References
Insist on being able to contact past clients of the web designer. A trustworthy web developer will be able to provide the names and contact information for several clients. Call these people and ask questions about aspects of web development that are important for you.

Large Percentage of Project Costs for Deposits
It’s typically to require a 50% pre-payment for web design projects with the remainder due when certain benchmarks are reached. If your developer wants 75%+ before work begins, reconsider using this developer. It’s just too much risk, especially if the developer does not live close to you.

Any web development project has risks. These risks are magnified, however, when your web developer lives in a different state or country. Your chances of solving any dispute in a court system is difficult when you do not share a common legal system. The items above are some basic steps you can take to ensure that your web designer is trustworthy and professional.

Does Your Web Site Give You Flexibility, Control and Freedom?

August 16th, 2018

Flexibility, control and freedom are three of the biggest business needs for web sites, yet, so many senior managers do not know how to achieve this unless they design their own web site with the expertise of their own web development team. If your organisation is not in a position to hire it’s own design team then be sure know what to ask for to obtain the flexibility to have your web site reflect the feel of your business, to have control over who develops the site and implements updates, upgrades and other changes for you as well as the freedom to adapt your web site’s capability to meet your business’ developing use of technology.

When you look at your list of developers there are some important questions to ask about the production of web sites and the contractual agreements that are associated with them. Perhaps, today, the most important question to ask is how much of their work is based around open source technologies and who retains ownership over any works that are not based on open source technologies.

Open Source is a term used in the Information Technology industry to describe products or ‘code’ that has been licensed in a manner that allows the free use, modification and, usually, also permits re-release under the same license conditions (though this is not obligatory). One of the most thorough Open Source licenses is the Gnu Public License or GPL. Many very well known web development products are licensed under GPL including Joomla and Drupal, both web site content managers that have active development communities; WordPress and b2evolution, content tools to assist in web sites for bloggers and education content managers including Moodle. Databases that power web sites such as postgreSQL and MySQL are also available under GPL.

These tools are all very powerful because they are supported by a significant number of developers around the world. By using open source tools you are taking advantage of products that have already been purpose built, yet, have the flexibility to be customised to the suit the look and feel of your business and to present your core branding messages directly to your target audience.

It is important to find out from your short list of web developers what licensing is applied to the work that they perform for you and who owns the intellectual property, copyright and any third party sourced materials that are not from the open source community. This can greatly influence your decision, as if you own all work that they complete, then you are able to maintain full control over all aspects of your web site and, should something happen to your developer, you will be able to easily locate another directly from the open source community of developers and designers.

Another bonus of open source products is that you can ask your developer to not just customise the appearance but to also add functionality to the site that was not available previously. This allows the full customisation of your web site so that it can serve your business in an effective manner and can be reflective of your strategic goals as well as your work flow management. So, before you decide on a designer ask about their use of open source and how their own ‘coding’ fits into the licensing arrangements.