Choosing the Right Web Designer

So, you’ve finally decided that you need a web site for your business? Well, there are a few key-points to remember BEFORE you make one of the most crucial decisions for your business.

Choosing the right designer for your new business web site:

When it comes to choosing the right web designer for your web site, you should always shop around first to check out all of the available options. There are many web design companies out there to choose from. And most of them are pretty good at what they do.

Always ask to see samples of a web designer’s previous work and examine their portfolio. This will help you get a better feel for the style of sites any particular web designer is capable of doing. Most of the time, web designers have their own unique style and you can easily spot which designs they’ve done in the past. I mean, it’s similar to any other artist’s style; you can definitely spot their previous works based on the general layout, color scheme, and over-all visual appearance of the sites.

Experience is also a key factor here. Just like any other craft, web designers get better with experience. So naturally, you’ll be better off by choosing a web designer who has more experience under his or her belt.

Another key point you should define is whether or not the web designer can make you a 100% custom web site. Or will it be just a basic template web design that 100’s or even 1,000’s of people already have across the Internet. Pretty much anybody these days can create a basic HTML web page in Microsoft Word or Publisher and change the title of it to reflect their Branson business. But you must ask yourself: “is this really what I’m looking for”?

Web sites that are truly custom built will stand out more the rest of the basic template web designs that so many people are using these days. A custom web design will catch the eye of your potential customers and show them that you have a really professional web presence and you mean business.

A lot of web designers these days choose to do the template web sites for one of 2 reasons:

It’s cheaper to use a basic template web design. They might be lacking the necessary skills needed to develop a fully custom web site. Whatever the case may be, make sure you go with a designer who is capable of creating a custom web design for you. It will inevitably cost you more for a custom site. But it is totally worth the extra money spent. Trust me, in the end you will be much happier with your web site if it is a site that’s unique and created for just your business and not everybody else’s.

Communication with a potential web designer is also critical in the development of your web site. You need to be perfectly clear and define your goals up-front, before you actually sign a web design service contract with a designer. Make sure you know what you are getting for your money and make sure you get it in writing! I have a 9-page web site design contract that I use every single time I design a new web site. Included in this contract is an itemized list of all work that is to be performed during the development of the web site. Things like the exact number of pages, the exact number of graphics to be designed, whether or not I need to create a logo, the estimated time before completion, whether or not routine site maintenance will be performed after the site is 6 months or 1 year old, etc.

Defining these things will help you in the long run and will also make sure you and the web designer are on the same page.

I also use what I call my “web design planning worksheet”. This worksheet gives “milestones” or deadlines for each phase of the web design project. Things like “In 2 weeks the general layout will be done” and “2 weeks after that, the site will be coded and launched” and then “In one moth after the web site is launched, we will evaluate it to see what needs to be adjusted”, etc. (these are just examples, by the way. the details included in one of my actual worksheets gives exact dates and more specific milestones).

And what about the web hosting for your new web site? Usually, a web designer will provide some kind of insight as to which hosting company they recommend. Web designers in general have a preference for a hosting company that they know will be a good choice for your web site and they should assist you in making this selection.

Fortunately, we have our own web server here at Digital Spiral Web Design so we can do all of the hosting ourselves. This is very beneficial because we can make sure the web server stays up and running and if there is any maintenance that needs to be performed on the server, we can do it ourselves in a timely manner. Plus, we will always cut a deal for our web site hosting services to any new business who chooses us to do their web design.

Will your new web site require any specialized web programming? Well, the answer to that question is based solely on the needs of your Branson web site. What kind of site will it be? Does it need a shopping cart for e-commerce? Will you be implementing any special web applications or online forms for your viewers to fill out? Will it be a web site that requires your viewers to fill out registrations and sign up so they can login? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then chances are you’ll need a web designer who can also program.

Web developers and designers must be skilled in the art of web PROGRAMMING (something that is very different from regular web DESIGN). Web programming involves the implementation of different web programming languages like JAVA, PHP, Flash, SQL, or.NET. All of these web programming languages need highly skilled individuals to code them and develop web programs with them.

I personally love PHP! I use it for pretty much everything. I won’t go into the details of PHP in this article (I would have to write an entire book about it to cover all of it). But with PHP, I can create pretty much any web application that is logically possible.

So, make sure you choose a web designer who is also capable of coding any special functions that your new web site needs. This decision needs to be discussed and gone over by any potential web designer you might use to create your Branson web site.

And finally, you should always check with the potential web designer’s previous clients to make sure they give him or her a good reference. Remember: it just like any other service. You need to verify a web designer’s references and make sure they can do what they say they can do.

So, just to summarize all of the tips I’ve mentioned:

Ask questions, questions, and more questions before you choose a web designer. Clearly define your goals from the beginning. Ask to see the web designer’s portfolio and samples of their previous work. Make sure they can help you with choosing a web hosting provider. Get documentation to show exactly how many pages will be included in the project and the estimated time before completion. If your Branson web site requires special web programming, make sure the designer can handle it. I hope this article helps anybody who is getting ready to have a new web site designed. A good web site can really do wonders for your business!

How to Hire The Right Web Design Firm

Regardless whether you manage a small business, charitable organization, or Fortune 500 company, choosing the right web design firm can quickly become a full-time research project. With thousands of design firms to choose from, what factors truly determine which design firm is best for your business?

The primary considerations for choosing a web design firm are:

* Price

* Customer service/access to support

* Credibility indicators of the design firm

* Portfolio and design experience

* Other services offered (domain renewal, hosting, SEO)

* Turnaround time

Let’s take a closer look at each consideration in detail, and explore how to identify and qualify the right design firm.

Price

Like many products and services we purchase, both personally and professionally, deciding on a web design firm can often come down to price. But the value of the services rendered is really what’s important. A $200 web site usually turns out to look, feel and perform like a $200 web site.

The price of your site’s development will depend on three factors: the features of the site, the amount of content, and the service options included with the design package, such as hosting.

Because pricing varies by firm, here are several principles to use when determining the validity and value of a web design quote:

* Does the quote state one all-inclusive price for the entire project?

* Is there a reoccurring monthly fee for hosting?

* Is the site custom-built, or is it customization of an existing template?

* Is there a separate fee for content development, such as writing sales copy?

* Is domain registration/management included in the package?

* Will the firm provide multiple design concepts, prior to actual development?

It’s important to compare quotes from at least three firms to, determine the value of the services offered. Looking for the best value is important in a competitive service market.

Customer Service

There’s nothing worse than signing with a firm that offers a great product, only to find out they are impossible to contact. Consistent, open contact with your web design firm is important for ensuring success before, during, and after your web site is developed.

Throughout the design process, you may identify text, photos, or contact information you’d like to change before the site goes live. If you have immediate questions regarding your site’s development, you’ll be glad to have immediate contact with customer support staff by e-mail, telephone, or live chat.

If you are limited to e-mail technical support, consider other firms that offer a wider range of customer service options such as telephone and live chat support. E-mail is great for convenience – when it’s convenient.

Credibility Indicators

Identifying “credibility indicators” can help ensure a firm is trustworthy, and will be around after your deposit or full payment is sent. Credibility indicators include, but are not limited to:

* Toll free telephone support

* 24 hour customer service

* Better Business Bureau affiliation

* Human e-mail address contacts

* Google PageRank of 2 or above

* Presentation of a hard-copy quote/design contract

Design Experience/Portfolio

Does the design firm have experience in working with similar types of businesses? Even if a designer doesn’t have a web site in their portfolio related to your industry, the firm you select should have a strong working knowledge of how to develop an effective site for your business type. Product and service web sites are not the same. Your designer should have a plan of action for developing a site that reaches the maximum number of prospective customers in your target market.

A few good questions to ask about a firm’s design experience include:

* Does the firm offer a number of diverse, finished web sites available for review?

* Will the firm conduct research regarding my competition?

* Will my web site highlight the features, benefits and value of my product or service?

* Has the firm outlined a plan of action for creating an effective site, start to finish?

Design experience need not always relate to the type of web sites the firm has previously developed. If you have a specific look in mind, ask the firm if achieving a similar design is possible. The ultimate goal is to know you’re going to get a tangible benefit out of your site through effective, affordable web design.

Additional Services

Many web design firms offer design, but do not provide other required services such as hosting and domain name registration. Ideally, your web design company should be a full-service firm, offering at least basic hosting, domain registration and search engine optimization services tailored to your needs. Research each firm to determine other key lines of business, so that any future expansion of your site will be seamless as your business grows.

Turnaround Time

An effective website should take 30-60 days to go live, from the start of production. Unless you’re offering hundreds of individual products or services on your web site, the entire development process, start to finish, should take no longer than 60 days. Turnaround time should include:

* Upload of your web site to the hosting provider

* Configuration of any scripts or forms on your site

* Domain propagation (accessing your web site and e-mail via yoursite.com)

Hiring the cheapest, fastest, or most elaborate web design firm does not always equate to hiring the right web design firm. A limited amount of front-end research can save time and money in the long term, and maximize the sales revenue from your web presence.

Choosing the Right Web Designer

Creating your web site can be a tricky process. Choosing the best web design company for your site is extremely important. Unless you run a web-based business, you probably do not have web design experience within your company. Building your web site will take time and a little homework!

To create a web site for your business, follow these 4 simple steps:

Establish your goals
Determine your budget
Pick a web design company
Pick a web hosting company

Establish Your Goals

Before you begin looking for company to help you design and build your web site, take the time to understand the goals of your web site. This will be extremely important to help set expectations with the web design company you choose.

In order to set your web site goals, ask yourself the following questions:

Why do you want a web site?
Are you selling something?
Do you have a catalog of products that changes on a regular basis?
Who is your target market?
Do you already have a brand?
What is your industry?
Who are your competitors?
Do they already have web sites? If so, what do they look like?
If you’re selling something, will you accept credit cards over the internet?
How soon do you want your web site?
What happens if you never create a web site for your business?

Take the time to answer each of the above questions and if you have time, write the answers down on a sheet of paper. These are the same questions most web design companies will ask you before they begin to create your site. If you have these questions answered up front, you will have some criteria for choosing the right web design company. For example, if you are a real estate agent, and want to publish listings on your web site, you should seek a web design company that knows about the real estate business and has created web pages for other real estate agents.

Determine Your Budget

How much do you want to spend on your web site. Web sites can cost you anywhere from $100 to $100,000 depending upon what you want it to do. Know your spending constraints before you begin negotiating with design companies. Whatever you do, do not tell a web design company what your budget is!! Always get pricing based on your needs, not you budget.

Pick a Web Design Company

Your choice of a web design company is a very important step. Take your time to investigate all of your options. Here are some important items to consider.

Design vs. Build

Depending upon the scope of your web site, you may need to choose two different companies. Building a web site is a highly technical process. Designing a web site is a highly creative process. Many advertising firms specialize in web site design which does not necessarily require any web development skills whatsoever. The process of creating a web site is similar to the process of building a new home. Before you ask a construction company to start building, you first seek out an architect who creates a blueprint of your house taking into account what you want (number of stories, square footage, etc.). Creating a detailed blueprint before construction begins can help you accurately estimate the final price. Without the blueprint, you may end up paying a lot of money for a house that does not fit your needs. Creating a web site is exactly the same except most web site “builders” also claim to be “designers”. The good news is that you can look at other sites a web design company has created (like looking at other homes that a home builder has made). Make sure you ask the web design company what their process is for designing a web site vs. building a web site. They should understand the difference between these two concepts. If they don’t, they’re probably builder that think they can also architect.

Evaluate Experience

Has the web design company created web sites similar to yours? Do they have relevant industry experience? As with any services company, choosing someone that has relevant experience. If you want to sell products through your web site and accept credit card payments, does the web design company you are considering have experience doing just that?

Review the Portfolio

A well established web design company will have a solid portfolio of web sites that they have created for other clients. Ask for links to other site the design company has created and review each one. Do you like what you see? Do the sites have a style that appeals to you? In addition to reviewing web sites, ask for customer references. Contact their clients and ask them about their experience with the web design company. Were they happy with the results? Did they get what they paid for? How much did they pay? Would they recommend them? How long did it take? What didn’t they like about the company? How responsive was the company when they had questions?

Compare Prices

Pricing for creating a web site can vary. Typically, web design companies will charge one of three ways:

Time and materials: price is variable based on the actual number of hours spent working on your site. For example, a web design company may charge you $75 per hour. If it takes 100 hours to create your web site, your price would end up being $7,500.
Fixed Price: some design companies will charge you a fixed fee based on a fixed set of requirements. If you outline your requirements very carefully, many web design companies will quote you a single price.
Component Pricing: some design companies will charge “by the page”. By creating a price based on the number of pages, you can control the cost by designing a specific number of pages. Buyer beware: some design companies will charge by the page but will have “special pricing” for components such as custom graphics, animated images, and the like.

The most important step in pricing is to make sure the potential design company outline all of the prices associated with the work and puts it all in writing. Never enter into a deal unless all of the costs are well understood up front. Also make sure that you understand what “done” means. Try and structure the payments such that a significant portion of the fees (20%) are not due until you “accept” the final web site. Include the agreed-upon dates in your contract and provisions for what will happen if these dates are not met.

Solicit bids from multiple web design companies and compare both the pricing models and the prices themselves.

There are thousands of web designers across the country and they should all fight feverously for your business! Be picky! If a web design company dismisses any of your questions regarding their design process, pricing, or client references, take your business elsewhere!

Earn On Offshore Web Design and Development

If you have some experience in web site design and want to make good money you can try acting as IT-outsourcing partner. Learn more what you should know and how to start.

Why offshore web design and development?

Offshore web site design and development help to keep prices at least 3-5 times less, for example, average hourly rate of web development services in USA is $35-75; in UK – $25-50, in Ukraine – $5-20.

How it works?

Typical plan is like that:

  • You find a client who needs a web site, ask his/her requirements for the project and send to your offshore partner company.
  • The partner makes a proposal and gives you the project estimation basing on his hourly rate, for example, $10.
  • You mark up the rate $10/hour as high as you wish (and can – taking into consideration competition in your region, level of demand for web design services, and other marketing factors), for example to $30/hour, and sends the proposal to the client. So if the web design project is estimated on 50 man-hours of work, you charge the customer $1500, from which $500 you pay to your offshore partner company, and $1000 is your profit.
  • The partner company works on the project and delivers it to you along with copyright for the work.
  • You deliver the site to the customer.

Result – you have a satisfied client and good profit from the marked up price.How to start?

The first and most important step is to analyze market in your region and decide if it’s worth to start this business.

If you already have your own web design company it is easier for you because you already know situation in the market, gain certain reputation, have clients list, etc.
But don’t be afraid if you are new to web design business. Believe in yourself and work hard and finally you will be rewarded for all your efforts. As in any type of business, starting the one in web design area, you must ask yourself general marketing questions:

1. Who will be your customers?

2. Why they will order the web design services exactly form you?

3. Where and how they will get to know about you?

Without having clear answers to these questions you shouldn’t try to start anything.

The second step is to find trustful and reliable partner – offshore web design company – that will work as “development center” for your business. This company must have good experience in web design and development area, good reputation, top level of customer care and communication. There are many resources in the Internet where you can find necessary information – search engines, web design directories, outsourcing portals.

For example, you can try searching in search engines for appropriate key phrases “offshore web design”, “offshore web site design”, “offshore web development” and analyze sites of your potential partners.

Also here are several sites where you can find lists of offshore web design companies sorted by country.

http://web-designers.bluegeckonetwork.com/

http://www.theoutsourceguide.com/

http://www.1234-find-web-designers.org/

How to choose the right offshore web design partner company?

There are 2 main factors that determine your choice – cost and quality of web design work.

Cost

Basing on the average web design prices in your local market and your competitive abilities you set prices that you will charge to your customers. There are several methods of web design price calculation, most used are flat price for fixed web site packages, and price based on man-hour rate. Most web design companies operate with both and choose one depending on each project type and requirements.

Then you decide which profit you want to have and narrow down your search choosing companies with appropriate price range.

Quality

Consider the company reputation, portfolio of previous works, testimonials of previous customers, level of communication. Pay attention to payment policy and method, conditions of ready projects delivery, warranties, post-development support and maintenance.

If all details are agreed you may start partnership. Sometimes the first project is quite simple to test abilities of both parties and if everything is going well the partnership will bring mutual benefits.

Julia Ramyalg

Marketing Director

IT-Inventors

IT-Inventors is a professional offshore web site design company. We are located in Ukraine and due to local economy we can offer your affordable rate $10/hour for custom web site design and web development services. It’s at least twice less than average Western European rates and more than 3 times less than USA rates.

We have developed more than 130 projects for dozens of satisfied customers, established strong relations with partners from USA and UK.

Services we offer: Custom web site design, E-commerce web site design, Content Management Software [http://demos.it-inventors.com/cms1] integration into existing web sites, Real estate web site design, Flash sites design, Logo design, SEO.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Julia_Ramyalg

Offshore Web Design and Development – Use Great Opportunities

Sooner or later every small or medium business owner realizes that he needs a web site for his business. And almost everybody wants to have great web site for affordable price because usually web site design budget is quite limited.

There are few ways to find the best solution.

Somebody prefers to design the site by himself – but it takes much time and labor, distracts from the general business, and let be frank – you have seen many of such “DIY” – web sites -they lack professional touch and look unfinished or overworked.
Somebody decides to hire a professional web design company but in case of limited budget he has to say “good-buy” to many features he wants to see on the web site, because web design companies are also businesses and they can’t work for “thank you very much” only.

So what to do when you want to have great web site but your web design budget is limited?

Think about IT-outsourcing and offshore web design and development!

There are many web design companies in other countries, mostly of Eastern Europe and East-Southern Asia that operate with small budgets and offer great web design works

How it is possible? There are different economical factors which condition on low internal expenses of the companies in these countries so they can do the same volume of work but for lower price than it costs in USA, Canada, UK, Western Europe or Australia. So offshore web site design and development helps to keep prices at least 3-5 times less.

You can say “Yes, this is cool that I can save my money but how they will do the work if I am here in USA but they are in Ukraine, for example?” Easily! In our age of Internet this is not a problem at all! Practice proves that for web site design project it’s enough to have communication through email, instant messenger (ICQ, AOL, MSN) or IP-phone.

You can say “How can I trust somebody whom I have never seen before and most likely will not ever see?” Actually this question must the web design companies ask, not you, because there are many of IT-outsourcing companies and competition is quite strong in this area, so to get a customer many companies allow the first payment after 30-50% of the project completion, i.e. you pay after you have seen good results and satisfied with the work.

And as in onshore web design you need to pay much attention while choosing web design company: look at their previous works in portfolio, and ask about previous customers’ references. Ideally all this information must be accessible on the company’s web site.

As for the rest there is not much difference between offshore and onshore web site design process. You see the results of work in the progress, make your comments, see changes, agree them. When the project is complete and the site is ready to be uploaded to your server, you make final payment. It’s also not a problem – you can make payment by credit card, PayPal, wire transfer, Western Union, etc.

So let’s resume what you must know when dealing with offshore web site design:

If you are on “tight budget” and can’t afford spending thousands of $$$ for your web site design you should think about trying offshore web site design opportunities.
There are many countries, which take part in offshore web site design; the most well known are India, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Philippines.
To make right choice of offshore web design company for your web site design take into consideration the company reputation, portfolio of previous works, previous customers’ references, quick and competent feedback to your initial request.
To avoid problems you must be attentive and ask exact questions about payment policy and method, timescale and milestones of the project, conditions of the ready site delivery, warranties, post-development support and maintenance.

At your first experience with offshore web design you can see it to be too risky and complicated, but this feeling will be replaced with real satisfaction when you will see your new great web site live in the Internet and you realize how much you have saved on its design.

Learn the Truth about Your Web Design Company by Its Portfolio

When you start building your online business and search for a web design company that will implement all your needs for the web site you must understand that it is a very serious step because you are entrusting your business along with its reputation and future.

That’s why it’s very important to make the right choice.
There are several factors that must define your choice, and one of them is portfolio of previous web design works the company has done. It can tell you more than all words and promises, just be attentive and try to analyze. I will tell you what you must pay attention to:

1) Presence of portfolio

Yes, it seems to be obvious that web design company must have own web site with portfolio of previous works. But don’t be astonished too much when you see one without it. There can be various reasons for this but I wouldn’t recommend you to tempt fate. Portfolio is like a “face” and it’s pride of web design company, it must be full, substantial, and routinely updated…and IT MUST BE!

2) Total number of works

This can tell you much however there is no standard number that will guarantee you are going to deal with web design guru. Yes, 50 successfully finished projects is better than 5, but their quality is also important. Compare the number with period of time during which the company operates in the market and calculate average number of projects per year, month, or week. Remember that average web site design takes 2-4 weeks to be finished.

What this information can give you? Firstly, you can see that the company has got enough expertise. Then this shows that it has stable flow of works, adjusted schedule of development process, and enough staff to perform it, so if you commit your web site design to the company you can be sure that the work won’t be for them like a bolt from the blue or well-paid but not feasible overloading.

3) Type of works

Look attentively at each work in the portfolio. How many projects are similar to the one you need by type of site, technology used, industry, and look and feel?
At least 2-3? Good!
More than 5? Excellent!!
None? There can be a reason for this – owner didn’t want to make it published, or web site is no more live – so if all other works show professionalism and expertise, you should ask the
company if they have ever done the task you need.

If you need any particular technology to be used for your web site implementation it’s more than necessary to see examples how the web design company worked with it. However sometimes it happens if the technology is not common used and very popular that the web design company hasn’t had chance to work with it for commercial purpose but it might be used for internal projects development, so you will loose nothing if ask the company to show you some examples if they exist.

If you need a web site for exact business, for example dating site or real estate site, it’s also better to view such previous works in the portfolio because there are can be specific features and it’s better to make sure that the web design company is experienced with them. Also some web design companies make demo packages that also can show you the abilities and experience.

4) Quality of works

Learn carefully each live site (or the ones which are similar to the site you need). How long does it take to load the site home page?
A few seconds? Great, the web designer knows how to optimize images.
A few minutes? It’s normal if this is a Flash site because usually the whole site is loaded at one time, not only the home page; or it’s a Flash intro which goes ahead entering the site
and also can load longer because of movie and sound.

But if a simple HTML web site loads more than 2-3 minutes and you can’t see all images or they are shown partially, you must be watchful. Check another HTML sites from the portfolio – if they are also loading for ages, it’s better to search for another web design company because this one is not professional.

All of the aforesaid is correct only if bandwidth of your Internet connection is normal and usually you don’t have problems with loading web sites.

Test the site for user-friendly navigation, pay attention to colors combination, and estimate general impression from the site – all this must reflect professional work. But sometimes a web design company is forced to design a site strictly according to the customer’s wishes, so if the customer lacks for good taste the site also looks tasteless. There can one or two such sites in the portfolio, but not all!

5) Happy owners

Web design business is a highly competitive area and as in any business there are honest and dishonest players. Sometimes it happens that you see the same site in portfolio of two different web design companies and it’s difficult to find the truth to which of them the work really belongs. Some quirky companies place cheap templates in their portfolio with fake owners’ contact info.

That’s why it’s very important to know real references of real owners of the web sites the web design company has made. Ideally this info must be accessible on the web design company site under Portfolio, Testimonials, or Clients sections. Try to contact ALL of the persons listed there and compare their opinions. You may get to know some interesting facts.

6) Own site of web design company

And finally compare the own site of the web design company to web sites presented in its portfolio. Are they similar by quality, technology used, and overall feeling? If the works from the portfolio look much poorer than the own site this can mean that the own site was ordered from another web design company, more professional. Yes, it happens sometimes in web design business that start-up amateur company commits its web site design to “older” professionals. In such case you better to continue searching for another web design company.

So these 6 rules can help you to make the right choice. Don’t be afraid to spend longer time for search and analysis, finally you will only benefit by getting perfect web site that will give new prospects to your business and make it more successful.