Choosing a Web Designer

Here are some tips in finding the right people for the job and some considerations to be taken into account.

1. Introduction

Many businesses look for a web designer as though they were shopping for a general commodity item such as a light bulb – i.e. All websites are equal and paying the 16 year old student on a computer course to build the site will reap exactly the same dividend as paying a specialist web development agency. Other businesses often feel they have to spend thousands upon thousands of pounds on a website for it to be successful.

Let us dispel these myths

Contrary to what many believe, web design is only one component in the production of your website. Some web designers can talk day and night about how pretty your web site can be, but if it isn’t functional, user-friendly, or capable of helping you meet your online goals, then all the superficial beauty in the world isn’t going to help it serve it’s purpose. The design theme of a website is only one component of building a successful online presence.

Choosing a Web Designer is not an easy task! – Here are some tips…

There is so much more to web design than just making a few web pages look pretty if you want to succeed. You need to consider your target audience, underlying message, content, desired responses, visitor impact, online goals, how you are going to measure the success of the site and more. There is so much more to web design than just making a few web pages look pretty

2. Defining Your Requirements

If you have no idea why you want a website or what you want the website to achieve, it is as well to sit down and think it through, rather than rushing to put up a “White elephant” that doesn’t serve a purpose. Every website must serve a purpose, and that’s usually where many websites falls short. They serve no purpose because the website owner never gave much thought to it. It’s not the website’s fault. A website is inanimate. It is only what you make it. The only life a website has is the one given to it by its designer and owner. If the human element doesn’t do a good job of defining the building blocks, the website will serve no purpose and eventually die a digital death. Every website should have a distinct purpose With that in mind, we’d suggest the first stage would be to define the “Goals” of the website in relation to the requirements and aspirations of the business or organisation involved.

Defining the Goal

Every website should have a distinct goal or number of goals that are measurable. A goal can be anything from communicating with friends and associates through to making profits by selling products or services online (e commerce). Your goal in the first instance may even be to have a web presence so potential clients don’t regard your organisation as being backward! Once you have defined a goal (or number of goals), it’s equally important to define:

  • The target audience. i.e. Who you want/expect to visit your website.
  • The actions you want to result from their visit. i.e. Making an online sale, getting them to make an inquiry etc.
  • What benefits you are giving and receiving from having the website.

Defining the Key Functions (The actions)

Once the goals of the website have been established, it’s important to define the actions required by site visitors to meet the goals. An action is any traceable sequence of events carried out by the end user.

Examples might include:

  • Getting in touch – either by phone, email or via an online form.
  • Disseminating Information.
  • Signing up for a newsletter.
  • Completing a questionnaire
  • Commenting on a Blog
  • Downloading or buying products
  • Using an online tool

Of course, there are other intangible benefits that your website might provide to an end user that don’t result in direct “actions”… i.e. simply providing “peace of mind” to an existing or prospective customer would be considered as such. If you haven’t already done so, then it’s also useful to check out the competition, for ideas, likes and dislikes.

Establishing Your Design & Development Preferences

Once you have formulated the goals and functional requirements for the website, it’s time to start building a picture of how you anticipate the site coming together – with regard to structure and design theme. This doesn’t need to be a definitive exercise – Your web designer should be able to add a lot of input and suggestions at a later stage, but it helps to have some ideas to feed into the requirements you approach the designer with in the first instance.

As follows are a few that we feel should be mandatory:

  • The website should adhere to recognised standards. The site should be written to conform and validate to the standards defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – this will in turn, mean your site should be cross-browser friendly (i.e. Appear the same across various different types of web browser).
  • The website should be accessible. In web terms, this means that it conforms to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).
  • The website should be clean, crisp and fast loading.
  • The website should be easy to use and inoffensive (see below).

Our Tip: Easy to use and Inoffensive – The WOW factor

Webbies often get asked to produce a website with the “WOW factor”. The “WOW factor” is a term that means different things to different people. Often, the person or business commissioning the website have grandiose plans for extensive animation, splash screens, cartoons, garish designs… This isn’t the WOW factor – A bold garish design with “off the wall” colour schemes may seem bold and innovative to some people, but may really put off other site users – Find the happy medium.

If a person wants to buy a pair of shoes online then their mission is basically to find the desirable pair of shoes at the right price in the quickest possible time. They don’t visit an e-commerce site to watch an animation of shoes tap dancing across the screen. Leave cartoons and needless animation that add zero value to those experts in their own field. People watch the Simpsons for that type of entertainment. They likely won’t be visiting your website for (or be impressed by) to be “dazzled” by irrelevant attempts to stand out.

Our own interpretation of the “WOW factor” is a site that is very simple to use, clean, crisp, user friendly, fast loading with great content. Basically, the site that delivers it’s underlying message quickly and concisely is the most effective. Google has the WOW Factor and you don’t see slow loading animation on that website. The WOW factor should mean Winning on the Web and nothing else.

Ok, so you’ve mapped out some goals and requirements… time to start looking for the right guys to go ahead and implement the solution for you.

3. Selecting a Web Designer / Developer

Initially, the best place to begin is by putting together a shortlist of designers. You may choose to do this in any number of ways but here are some suggestions that you may wish to factor in:

  • The location of the prospective designer. This may or may not be a factor for you. Some people are happy to work remotely and others prefer some face to face interaction. If the latter is essential to you, then you will need to focus on designers in your local area.
  • The designer’s portfolio. This is usually a key factor in any shortlisting process. You may choose to favour designers who have worked specifically in the sector you are targeting, or you may simply like other unrelated websites they have developed.
  • Independent Word of mouth recommendation. You may have received glowing reports on particular designers and their after-sales service. Don’t overlook this.
  • The size of the company. Generally speaking, the size of the company provides you with little idea to the quality or work they can produce or the services they can provide. Some SMEs prefer to work on a more personal level with smaller providers or freelance designers with larger corporates preferring the opposite.
  • The cost – Most professional web designers tend to produce work on a bespoke basis, tailored uniquely for each client – and the vast majority do not publish prices. (We do). However, an initial discussion should be able to provide you with a “ball park” figure at least based on your requirements outline. Some designers are also able to provide cost-effective “out of the box” solutions at a fixed price.

Tip: Get a fixed price quote rather than an hourly rate. Let’s face it… an hourly or daily rate is meaningless as a measuring stick when your consider it may take one designer twice as long as another to complete the same job.

Web designers will typically showcase previous work on their own websites, but be sure to consider that they are gearing a site’s design and structure to requirements presented by another party that likely won’t match your own. It’s more important that you are confident that they can implement your solution than perhaps reading too much into other design work that you might not necessarily like.

Another consideration you may should take into account is the attitude a designer shows when you first make contact. You can often gauge whether they are genuinely interested in the project and whether they are going to be proactive – and if they can offer a high level of support. Designers not providing a landline phone number or a business address may be harder to contact when you need them the most. Trust your instincts and exercise common sense.

Tip: Don’t base everything on price and make sure you compare “like” with “like”. Also, don’t be afraid to share your budget with the designers during initial discussions and then see what they can deliver within it. Time is often wasted if you are discussing the project over days or weeks and then end up being miles apart on pricing expectations.

The more information you give furnish the designer with, relating to your goals, requirements and design preferences, the better. Also make sure that you discuss timescales and payment schedules (most designers will ask for a deposit upfront and a final balance payment when the project is completed. There may also be interim payment milestones for larger projects). Additionally, enquire about any recurring charges for support, future amends, web hosting, domains etc. Neither party will want hidden surprises.

4. Questions You will be Asked

It’s always better to be prepared when you approach web designers… they will also have their own queries to establish a the requirements, gauge the work involved and furnish you with a quote.

Typical questions you might be asked include the following:

  • What does your company do?
  • What are the Unique Selling Points that your company has to offer?
  • What is the purpose of the website?
  • How do you see the website evolving in the future?
  • Do you have any existing branding? i.e. Logo, colour schemes or other marketing materials?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Do you require e commerce or an online payment mechanism?
  • Can you provide links to other websites that you like from a design perspective?
  • Can you provide links to other websites that you like from a functionality perspective? (i.e. How they work)
  • What is your budget? Don’t be afraid to disclose a budget figure – it can help a lot.

If you aren’t able to get an immediate quote, request that the designer gets back to you and establish a timescale for this to happen. As you can probably tell, choosing a web designer isn’t necessarily a straightforward process if you are seeking the right fit for your project. The more detailed research and preparation that you carry out, the better.

5. Going ahead

When you make a decision on proceeding with a designer, make sure to get the quote in writing and make sure the it’s clear that the copyright of the website is yours once completed. Ensure all charges (including any future and/or recurring charges) are spelled out to avoid any ambiguity and problems further down the line.

Ideally, once you wish to proceed, your web developer should create a test web address, where you can monitor ongoing development and provide feedback throughout.

Part of a wider strategy

Your website should integrate with and complement your other marketing activities. Promote your site address where you can. Consider putting it on your business cards, stationery, merchandise, delivery vans, carrier bags, customer receipts and on your shop front. Drive people to your website through online adverts, search engine marketing and active offline promotion.

Small Business Online Marketing Tips Explained

There are a number of small business online marketing tips that can be used to help somebody grow their business. These include building website that is easy for the user and actually looks good, maximizing your business exposure with SEO (search engine optimization) and promoting your business using the correct methods. So let’s begin with the website.

The internet in some respects has allowed smaller businesses to contend with the larger players. In the retail parks, we are used to seeing the same corporate names but this is not the case online. By creating a good online strategy, you can effectively compete with the larger name companies. So a website is vital.

Many small businesses still do not have a website. It appears unprofessional when you look up a company, using an online directory, and the company has no website where further information can be gained. If a person is searching online, then give them the information in the same manner. First impressions count and you should think of your website as the entrance to your business. Find a reputable web designer and look at their previous work. Having a poorly designed website can be as damaging as not having one at all. These days, to get a nice site, it costs much less than what it used to. Through increasing sales, it can pay for itself.

There are other small business online marketing tips. Make sure you choose a designer who completely understands the importance of SEO. If not, the impact of your online strategy can be restricted. Website content is important when trying to make your business more visible to potential customers.

If you have a business that makes or sells products, why not offer these online. The internet can help small businesses contend on a national level. It’s important here to consider your website again.

With your website built, there are a number of ways to market your business. There are hundreds of online directories where you can list your business for free. These days, social media is a huge phenomenon and this can be used to promote your business. In any industry, word of mouth is of vital importance when aiming for success and social media can be very useful. E-mail marketing campaigns have changed over time and can still be an effective method to generate new business.

So there are a number of issues to consider. Many small businesses will have budget limitations but in 2010 a web presence is a necessity. A comparatively small injection of money can result in huge gains that can be measured easily. So if you want to increase your business presence, think about the above small business online marketing tips.

Kitchen Design Online Made Easy

Seeing as you can do almost anything using the internet these days it’s hardly surprising you can also design a kitchen online.

The starting point for most kitchen designs is deciding on a theme. Most kitchen companies produce kitchens based on a central idea. For instance, Italian kitchen design, contemporary kitchen design and small kitchen design are all styles you can search for online to get the ball rolling.

Once you’ve identified a theme, use the web to search for inspiration for your new kitchen. Look at pictures and articles on different websites to see what’s available and what you like the look of. Make notes and print things off so you don’t forget and have a stockpile of things to show kitchen companies later on in the process.

Look for kitchen planner software that’s available for free download and play around with it to work out possible layouts and colour schemes. Measure up your kitchen carefully so you can create an accurate image of how your new design will appear once completed.

Most people at this stage of the process would start looking around kitchen showrooms in the high street. There’s nothing wrong with this if you want to get a feel for the products and materials you might invest in. However, you can buy kitchen appliances, furniture and fittings cheaper online and save a huge amount of money.

This is the point where most people abandon their kitchen design online and hand over to professionals. However, it’s possible to carry on if you have the time and courage to do so. You can order all your materials online, save a large amount of money and then simply hire fitters to put everything together. If you’re willing to do this then you can get far more for your money. This is something more and more property developers are doing to maximise their return on investment and they know what they’re talking about.

Logo Design Online Versus Traditional Ad Agency

It is true to argue that logos can be made via many ways. The best way to choose will exactly depend on the financial status of the client who needs the logo and also his preference in terms of the quality of the logo. The other factor that can make a client to choose a coherent logo designer is the size of his business. It is obvious that people operate businesses of different sizes and diversity. We have small and large businesses whereby the client will have to make up his mind the type of the designer to hire for that job and also the benefits he can accrue from hiring him in terms of discounts.

To start with, the online logo designers are mostly preferred by small businesses where clients hire logo designers online who work with certain logo companies online. The advances in technology has necessitated the introduction of the logo online companies that have really made many small businesses to prosper due to offering efficient services in logo designing. In logo designing online, the client is required to fill an online questionnaire whereby he describes fully the type of the logo he wants. In that particular questionnaire, the client is supposed to tell the logo designer who exactly the target customers are and also list down things like colour preference in the logo together with detailing the items he want to see in the logo. With this online logo design, the client can be able to select the most talented designers.

On the other hand, Traditional Ad Agencies are preferred by the big companies which are intended to large advertising campaigns. It is not advisable for the small business to use this way of designing their business logos. The agency is required to take the big companies through that process of logo designing right from the start till the end. Their major advantage over the online logo designers is that they can assign an account manager to service each client hence acting as an intermediate between the client and the logo designer.

Small Business Online Marketing – Attract Visitors With A User Friendly Website Design

Do you have a website for your small business? If you do have a website you are ahead of many other small businesses in your area.

How much control do you have over your website? What type of website is it? A static e-commerce website, one on which the content rarely changes? Do you have the ability to make changes and updates regularly, or do you have to wait for your webmaster? The answers to these questions determine if you will attract visitors with a user-friendly website design.

Your Website is an Extension of Your Business Online

Regardless of the type of business you’re in, if your business is at a physical location, you know the value of creating an atmosphere that makes your customers and clients, as well as potential customers and clients, feel welcome. It may the actual setting of your establishment, or it may simply be the warm, welcoming smile that they are greeted with.

The same is true for your online portal – the door that opens to your business online. Your small business online marketing strategy requires that your online portal or website attracts visitors and encourages them to stay on your site, and later return.

Create a User-Friendly Website that Attracts Visitors

Your website must be designed to attract visitors and make it easy for them to navigate from one page to the next so that they will enjoy the experience and want to return time and again. Furthermore, your website should reflect your brand, the brand you want people to remember after they’ve moved away from your site.

Here are some basic points to attract visitors with a user-friendly website design:

1) If you have a logo for your offline business, it would be wise to have that logo on your website for continuity. Your visitors will more readily make the connection between your offline and online businesses.

2) Your brand may be just reflected in a photograph with a warm smile or perhaps the lettering of your website’s name, which would likely be the same or very similar to the name of your business.

3) Your concern should be about your customer’s or visitor’s experience when they visit your online portal. It should be a pleasant one, and one of the things that will help is to organize your tabs in a clear and consistent manner so that your visitor needs only the minimum number of clicks to get to a page or retrieve the information they’re looking for.

4) Keep your overall design simple and uncomplicated.

5) Make it easy for your visitors to contact you. This may mean the difference between a one-stop visitor and one who becomes one of your best clients or customers in your local business. Although you are marketing online, your business is offline, therefore make sure that the physical location of your business is also listed on your website.

Domain Name – The Importance of a Keyword Rich Domain Name

1) Every website must have a domain name, and by selecting a domain name that reflects, to some extent, what you do or what you offer to your target market, you will be setting the stage to attract visitors to your website.

2) Another point to note is that your keyword-rich domain name may not necessarily be the same as the name of your business. For example, the name of your business may be “Tim, Your Friendly Handyman.”

Your prospect will be searching in Google or one of the other search engines using keywords, and in order for your business to be found your domain name will need to reflect that. Also, because your business should be found in local searches, the name of your town or closest city should be included. In this case if you were in my town your domain could be simply handymanservicesportstlucie dot com or handymanportstlucie dot com. It’s always better to use a dot com. For one thing dot coms reportedly rank higher in the search engines, and secondly, that’s the most commonly used extension. You could lose business if yours ends with.info or.biz and people are typing in.com.

More and more local small businesses are recognizing the importance of having an online marketing strategy to increase their visibility and attract customers and clients. The first place to start is with a website, which will be the door to your online activities. There are many other aspects of online marketing that can have a positive effect on your local business.