(originally published in The
Jerusalem Post, February 2003)
Choosing a Web Designer
Good news: now more than ever, there are many Web design
firms trying to attract your business. It's truly a buyer's
market. But with this abundance comes the difficulty of choosing.
Go to the Google search
engine, type in the keywords “Web site design Israel” and
you’ll be given a list of 223,000 sites. So how do
you find the designer best suited to you? Design shops vary
widely in price, quality, and services offered. What follows
is a checklist to help narrow the field and find the best
match for your company or organization.
Web design is a collaborative effort. When purchasing a
commodity, like a sofa, you plunk down money, take it home,
and the transaction is finished. But attaining an effective
site is a process, not a purchase, and this requires ongoing
communication between you and your designer. Make sure there
is rapport. Does the designer take the time to understand
your company's character and needs? Does he explain Web matters
well, in terms you understand? Furthermore, can he advise
you on aspects of site design that you may not have considered?
Make sure that the firm you're contemplating doing business
with is reputable. Look for a proven track record and satisfied
customers. As with all services, start by asking for referrals
from family, friends, and business associates. Read the text
on the designer’s site. Does it show a strong customer
care attitude or is it simply self-promotion? If the design
project is to be conducted entirely via electronic communication,
check for a verifiable address and phone number. You don't
want to make a down-payment only to have your designer vanish
into thin air.
Can you reach the designer quickly and easily? How much
time elapses before you receive a response to questions?
Can he complete your project within a reasonable period of
Design houses tend to specialize in particular markets.
Look for one whose portfolio shows effective sites that are
appropriate to your business regarding the following features:
- Appearance. Some designers
stress whiz-bang effects, others a minimalist look, while
many run the gamut between these extremes. Choose according
to what would most appeal to your target audience.
- Function. On-line shopping,
interactive games, database integration, etc. -- all come
with a hefty price tag and require proven programming ability.
Building a mega-site with information that changes on a
minute-to-minute basis (think of Ben Gurion airport, with
constantly updating flight information, or Amazon, with
its fluctuating stock and ability to securely handle credit
card information) demands keeping a large number of employees
with varying skills on the payroll, increasing overhead
and therefore prices. If you need a similar heavy-duty
site, these prices are totally justified; you should not
try to "save" money by having such a site designed
by someone who may be unequal to the task.
- Size. Often large Web design
firms cater to huge companies with deep pockets. But what
if your mid-sized business needs a simple "brochure
site" of less than 20 pages? You may find that a smaller
Web design firm or individual designer can give you equal
quality for a lower price. Consider, too, whether you want
to be treated as the smallest fish in a very large sea--or
whether you would benefit by the more personal attention
that a smaller firm can supply.
Ideally, your Web site should be one element in a comprehensive
marketing plan. Look for a designer who can provide these
- Visual identity. Coordinating the site with the company
logo and printed collateral is very important for branding.
If you don't yet have a logo, look for a designer who can
produce an effective one.
- Graphics. If you don't already have appropriate photos
and artwork, choose a designer who can supply them.
- Search engine optimization. When done correctly, a site
is not merely registered with search engines, but is structured
from its inception to conform to very specific -- and constantly
changing -- rules.
- Maintenance. Sites have the shelf-life of milk; content
must be continually refreshed. Make sure that the site
is planned for ease of upkeep.
Your designer should be able to advise you on planning for
all these services.
Odd as it may sound at first reading, this may be the *least*
important factor when selecting a designer. While an effective
Web site is not cheap, it will eventually pay for itself by
boosting sales. On the other hand, a poorly designed Web site
will make your business seem unprofessional and can actually
turn potential customers towards your competitors.
Once you've narrowed down the field to a manageable number
of designers, contact each of them and give them a description
of what you want. Here are a few more things to consider
before making your final selection:
- Make sure that you'll be able to keep a paper trail
of all agreements, deadlines, time schedule and payment
- The designer should certainly listen attentively to
what you want, but should also be capable of advising you
about adding (or omitting) site elements in accordance
with what is most suitable for your target audience.
Be willing to invest in quality. Look for a good match between
your particular needs and the designer's skills, but don't
overlook the element of rapport. Choose someone who you feel
confident will be willing to give your project the time and
attention it deserves.
Do you have any questions? Contact
me and I'll try to answer them in upcoming articles. Also,
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