Creating a website can be a wonderful, overwhelming, and even scary adventure. Finding the right person to do it can be even more adventurous! If you’re like me, you may feel that wading through all the choices to look for the right match seems so daunting that sometimes it keeps you stuck in the mud…especially when you’re not sure of what you’re looking for or what questions you should ask.
Sure, there are always the stock questions that apply to many service providers:
- What are your rates?
- Where can I see some samples of your work?
- How does the process work?
These questions are all good, and by all means, ask them. How you go about selecting a service provider should apply to selecting a web designer, too. However, I’m here to help you find the right person by suggesting a few more simple questions to ask.
1. Do you create standards-compliant websites?
No doubt, if you speak to a variety of designers, you will hear a variety of answers to this question. You will hear designers who proudly use standards-compliant coding, which includes hypertext markup language (HTML) and cascading style sheets (CSS). These designers follow best practices for website design and most likely validate each page they create to ensure that it is truly standards compliant. You will also hear designers who say, quite clearly, that it’s not important.
So who’s right, and why is it important? Well, for starters, while most people use Internet Explorer as their web browser, others use Firefox, Opera, and Safari, to name a few. As browsers continue to be developed, they try to follow standards-compliant codes as closely as possible. If a website does not use standards-compliant design, then the browser has to interpret the code and display the website against no standard. It just has to do its best. Therefore, standards-compliant code will minimize differences in how your site appears from browser to browser.
2. How will you design my site for search engines to find it?
This question is referring to SEO, or search engine optimization. Obviously, you want your website to be found if users are searching through Google, Yahoo, or other search engines. There are ways designers can create and code your site to help the search engines find you. And they can help you write the body copy of your website to include important keywords, phrases, and other search terms.
So while you will have to do your part to help search engine optimization (and a good designer will advise you on your part), designers should also code with search engines in mind. They should use semantic markup, which gives meaning to the code. They should use headings, page titles, and link titles. They should provide a site map. Also, standards-compliant coding helps with search engines. So ask them what their plan is to ensure that their design and coding will help you be found in search engines.
3. Do you design accessible sites for users with disabilities?
This is an area of web design that hasn’t quite made its way mainstream yet, but it is quickly gaining momentum, and for good reason. Some visitors to your website may not be able to see, hear, or move their hands as easily as a majority of people. So will your designer make sure that fonts can be increased if a user needs it? If a user is completely blind, will your site make sense audibly through a screen reader? If someone can’t use a mouse, can that user still navigate through and use your website? These are just sample considerations, but if your designer does create accessible websites, he or she will be able to share with you what his or her techniques are and how they work. (And surprise, surprise—standards-compliant design once again helps users with disabilities use your site a little better.)
4. How will my new site be able to be updated after it’s live?
Will a web designer be updating your website for you? Or do you want to be able to do it yourself? One thing’s for sure: you will want to make sure that your site gets updated regularly. An outdated site can kill a visitor’s interest, and it can sink your search engine rankings over time.
If you want to be able to update the site yourself, you need to know your way around HTML code, or you need to have an interface or program that can help you edit your site very easily. Tell your designer what you want to do, and the designer should be able to provide a solution. It may cost a little extra, but it would be worth it to be able to keep your site current.
Have no fear! Talk to potential web designers, and ask these questions. Their answers will help you choose the best designer for your new site!