by Terry Young
What you should ask before contracting a web designer
Over the last 19 years, I have spoken with many business owners who have contracted a website designer, only to discover that the things they need either can't be done or are expensive extras. To avoid potential issues after it is too late, here are some tips on what to look for, and what to ask the designer before signing anything:
1. Gauge their experience. This is so very important, especially if you're going to trust them with your online business image and reputation. You need to know how long they have been around and what their professional background is. Someone who has only been around for a couple of years and used to be a florist will most likely not be able to provide what you need to be successful online. Also, if they are simply reselling free websites like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, you will have ongoing costs and security issues to contend with, as I have covered before.
2. Go through their portfolio. If there are only a handful of sites in their clients list, they will not have the experience you need. Also, note the following: if their clients' sites are only pictures of web pages, they may not be real websites. Look in the address bar; if the sites are just folders on their site (e.g. designsrus.com/clientname), they are not real, functional websites.
There are a few unscrupulous designers out there who claim to have created sites that they have not. Always look at their clients' sites for copyright information (usually at the bottom). If the 'designed by' information doesn't match the web designer's business name, they are probably hiding something.
3. Have a list of questions pre-prepared. Think about how your business works and what you feel you will need the site to do. Most businesses have particular needs that free website templates may not cover.
4. Verify their Google results. Don't just take their word for it when they say they can achieve good placement on the search engines. A quick test is to Google search the designer. See if they are on the first page. Also, go through their client list and Google search each of them. For example, if they have a client who is a dentist in Chesapeake, simply Google 'dentists in Chesapeake', or 'dentists in hampton roads' and see if that client shows up on the first page.
5. Get your own testimonials. Many sites have testimonials on them from their clients, but it doesn't hurt to go through the client list and contact a few of the companies by phone or email. Have a list of questions ready to ask, especially things like: 'How happy are you with the service?' 'Are you happy with your search results/call-ins?' 'Did quoted prices change during or after the site had been designed?' 'Are you having to pay extra each month to get visitors?'
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Terry Young is the founder and CEO of Internet Marketing and Design. Since 1997,