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7 Ways a Non-Designer Can Tell if Their Web Designer is Any Good

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Just as with hiring a plumber or electrician, it is often very difficult for non-web designers who would like a website to quickly figure out whether their web designer is cutting-edge, or at a minimum, passable. So to help you out, we’ve come up with 7 simple rules of thumb that you can use to quickly and simply figure out whether your web designer knows what they’re talking about, and thus whether you should trust them with your project.

When the average mind thinks of website design, the only aspects that strike immediately are the layout, colors and background. But the truth is, there’s more to designing a website than meets the eye, literally. The very purpose of establishing a presence on the Internet is to entice visitors to stop by, stay for a while, and keep coming back for more – and for this, you need to do much more than make sure that your site is visually appealing. So before you hire just anyone to design your website, make sure they know their onions, not just about the rudiments of web designing, but about the principles that drive the search engine mechanisms. And here’s how you can go about doing that:

  • Tables are out, CSS is in: Ask how your designer feels about tables? You don’t want pages that take ages to load because they’re based on the old table format. It’s best to go with either an XHTML or a CSS design for a site that is quick to load, designed cleanly and with optimal code so that search engines take an affinity to it, compatible with other Web-friendly gadgets like cell phones, smart phones and PDAs, and easy to update and maintain.
  • Content is the key: Ask about the role content plays in a well designed site? No matter how fancy your design, colors, background and templates are, if your text is not relevant to the theme of your site, the search engines are never going to stop by and pick up your pages. Don’t ask your designer to double as a content writer too, because these are two completely different skill sets and require two different people to work as a team. Hire a writer who knows the ins and outs of search engine optimization, keywords, meta tags, and title tags, and the best ways to link your site to other sites without overstepping the boundaries of spam.
  • Originality pays: Ask if your designer will be using free templates? If your designer is worth what you’re paying him, you must be left with a site that’s original and not based on any old template that’s retouched and refurbished to sport a new look.
  • W3C compatibility is a plus: Make sure your designer works with the World Wide Consortium’s (W3C) guidelines and standards in mind – links should be the right colors and your site must be easily navigable.
  • Browser cross-functionality makes a difference: The number of browsers around, each of them designed according to different standards, make designing a website a more complicated process. To achieve a common view no matter which browser is used to access your page, your designer needs to steer clear of browser-specific functions; besides this, they must check your pages with different versions of all the browsers that are in vogue to see that they are viewed uniformly across all of them.
  • Updates and maintenance are important: It’s important that you keep in touch with the latest in the web world, and for this, you may need to update and maintain your site on a regular basis, especially in the initial stages as you iron out the details and strive for the perfect design. You could talk to your designer about including a certain amount of maintenance work in the original price or reach a mutually satisfactory price for regular updates and maintenance work.
  • It’s best to differentiate between designer and host: Your web designer is not your web host too, unless they are into the reselling business. If you’re going in for a shared hosting solution, you may as well choose your own host rather than go with a reseller who also happens to be your designer. If you think it’s best you combine the two, at least make sure your domain is registered in your name rather than that of your designer. You and your designer may be the best of pals now, but this hunky dory situation may not last forever. Before you stop seeing eye to eye, prepare for the worst and ensure that you get to keep the domain name you worked so hard to popularize. Get the address and contact details of your reseller’s host so that you know whom to contact in the event your reseller disappears without a trace. Unplanned downtime is one of the worst killers of popularity.

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