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10 Things To Ask Your Web Designer

If your business or organisation is looking for a web designer, whether for a brand new website or to refurbish or replace an existing one, there are a number of considerations that are well worth spending some of your valuable time on. Because in order to achieve the most effective results, both from the perspective of obtaining a website that delivers exactly what you are looking for from your online presence, and also in terms of meeting your budgetary constraints, it is important to give some constructive thought to a range of questions.

Here are a few tips and some 'insider' information which might help you to sort the wheat from the chaff when making a decision on who to employ for your web design:

1. You should firstly ask yourself a question: what do I want to achieve with my website? This should really be the first question your prospective web designer should ask you, because unless they understand this they cannot possibly advise you correctly or interpret your brief effectively. The conversation should cover a broad outline of your business or organisation, what it does, and what your aims are for it. Which should lead them on to ask how the website is intended to fit into your overall plans.

2. Ask them to explain the range of approaches that they might take in delivering your requirements. Because a website that is a triumph of style and sophistication might be completely invisible to Google and the other search engines! That would be a real shame if you are looking to bring in new customers. On the other hand, you may be simply looking for an online 'brochure' for a clientele that would never even look for your services through a search engine.

3. Most businesses do fall somewhere between the two, so whether you need an internet 'brochure', a marketing tool, or an ecommerce site for your clients to buy or book online, if your investment in the necessary time and money in bringing together your website is to pay its way, you should find that the advice you get does lean towards effective search engine positioning. However, whilst a web designer can assist towards Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to some degree in the fundamental structure of the website they build for you, be very cautious of suggestions that you will soon be automatically appearing in high positions on Google and the like.

4. SEO is a whole industry in itself and the 'holy grail' of a high position of Page One on Google is never easily obtained. Ask your prospective designer exactly what is entailed in getting there! Expect to be advised about 'keywords' (they should explain that these are the actual phrases that people type in to Google!) that it is individual PAGES in your website that are 'ranked' NOT the site a whole, although there are three key aspects of the site as whole that do affect the position of the page itself. These are: the age of the domain name, the 'page rank' (PR) of the main domain home page and finally the number and especially the 'quality' of links from around the internet back to the site as a whole. The quality of the 'backlinks' is a function of their position, how they are structured and the PR of the linking page on which they appear. Every other factor that can be used to help your position is a page by page process in terms of its technical configuration, its content optimisation (ie. the way in which the keywords are deployed in the content text) and also the quality and quantity of the page content. So, for example a few words describing a service that you offer in a sales-oriented manner, will struggle to achieve a high ranking compared to a longer, well written piece of prose. Remember though, that the exact calculations that Google use to determine where a web page appears based on whatever is searched for, is as closely guarded a secret as the formula for Coke! So if your web designer implies that simply following a routine method in building and promoting the site will do the trick easily, you should be quite suspicious.

5. Assuming that the website has been built with SEO in mind (they should ideally suggest a 'keywords analysis' before starting to build the site so they can advise you properly on the page structure etc.), you should be advised that the main thing that will promote your site up the search engine listings is the quality of the backlinks to it, not just the number. So to summarise, you should expect your designer to outline that effective SEO can never absolutely guarantee your position. And that the extent of the work to achieve a good position requires time and skill. Don't be fooled that what seems like good value for getting your site built may only be half the story! You can read much more about SEO and what to ask your designer in our free beginners guide in which you can learn internet marketing yourself.

6. As to the graphic design of the site, you should expect to be asked about your 'corporate identity'. Do you have a logo design? Or a particular colour scheme on your stationery and promotional material? What sort of type-face do you use on letterheads etc? It is really important that your website presents a coherent image or brand for your business on the internet. You should also be asked about the broad colour scheme you would like to use, maybe some suggestions of other websites you have seen that you either like or dislike. If you can agree some of these aspects at the outset of the process it will mean you get exactly what you're looking for up and online much more quickly and easily.

7. You should also expect to be asked about what you would like to say on your website, what images or perhaps videos. How would you like your customers to be able to interact with you online? Your designer should steer you towards a dynamic and changing website. They are building your shop-window to the internet so the goods and services you display there must impress your visitors and ideally be updated regularly. Imagine how it would look if Harrods never updated their window displays. If all they had there were a few cobwebs and a dead wasp or two, not many passers-by would call in! There are so many poorly thought out websites out there that would frankly be better off switched off, rather than left to give the impression that a business doesn't care!

8. Which brings us on to: how do you actually update your site? Modern websites are very easy to manage and your designer should be offering to build you one that you can log in to and add new things to whenever you want. The days of having to pay your designer to do every little update are long gone.

9. Make sure you are really clear on the web hosting for your site in terms of cost and support. You don't want to find that your site is offline and you are losing business. So you need to be able to have a ready source of assistance as and when you need it, but for a fixed monthly fee so you can be confident that your budget is under control.

10. Finally, the development costs: the average prices for web design has fallen dramatically to reflect the latest advances in how efficiently developers can now build and deploy websites using the most up to date tools and techniques. Most people will remember when DVD players first came out they cost hundreds of pounds, a few short years later they can be bought from your local supermarket for A�14.99! If web designers won't admit that exactly the same effect has happened in IT to a large degree, and offer savings to their customers, they are doing a disservice to the local economy!

So that's it. We do hope these 'pointers' have been helpful.