Being a web designer is hard work. Sometimes, being the customer is even harder. Your website is the lifeblood of the online iteration of your business. If your business is conducted entirely online, then your web designer is essentially a top executive in your company – even if he’s actually only hired out as a contractor. If you mess this up, you might as well close shop and start submitting resumes to anyone that’s hiring.
Web designers are building your "face" on the Internet. While you might be concerned about the price you pay for the work, you absolutely cannot afford to ignore the designer’s integrity, honesty, communication skills, his technical competence, and his design philosophy. Basically, you should be looking for these 10 things in your designer to the exclusion of everything else:
1) He Should Be Customer-Oriented
Sometimes, IT professionals and web designers aren’t known for their friendliness. They may be short-and to to-the-point, lacking any inkling of what constitutes "customer satisfaction." Make sure your web designer understands your needs and designs his service to meet those needs.
2) She Should Put Form Behind Function
Websites have to look pretty but they also have to function well. Sometimes, web designers focus too heavily on the design and don’t pay enough attention to how well the site loads. This can become a huge problem later on down the road. Bad, or messy, code only makes things harder to fix later on. Make sure your web designer puts function ahead of form.
3) He Should Be A Usability Expert
Usability is a must. If he’s not familiar with Jakob Nielson’s principles of usability, don’t hire him (or introduce him to them). Those usability standards have solid research backing them up. If you want to keep visitors on your site, and keep them coming back, your website has to place usability above everything else.
4) She Should Be Familiar With Your Industry
Your web designer should be somewhat familiar with your industry. Some industries have special requirements that must be included into the design. For example, insurance professionals may need to have special disclosures and a special privacy page for users. Also, some industries are expected to have certain kinds of designs. Where a coffee shop could get away with a more casual design, a law firm needs to look more professional.
5) He Should Include You In The Design Process
Getting involved in the design process ensures that you get everything you want. Some designers exclude clients for some reason. Often, the result is something that the designer likes but the client is either apathetic about or doesn’t like. Choose web designers that actively engage you about your ideas for the site.
6) She Should Have Good Communication Skills
Communication is a must. It’s also pretty rare to find a web designer that is also a good communicator. You should be able to exchange ideas and keep the flow of ideas moving back and forth between the both of you. If you can’t, consider changing designers. Often times, it’s difficult to judge how well of a communicator they are until after the project starts, but referrals from other people (or engaging past clients of the designer) can be very helpful in sorting this one out.
7) He Should Make And Keep Deadlines
A designer that doesn’t give you deadlines and milestones for your project is not worth hiring. Without deadlines, the designer can take as long as he wants to design your site. The arrangement is very open-ended. Fortunately, you can figure out how your designer handles this problem by just asking openly how he works. If he doesn’t mention deadlines or an outline for the process, move on. If you have to prod him to make a deadline or milestones for your project, move on. He’ll be more trouble than he’s worth.
8 ) She Should Design Your Site Using The Latest HTML and CSS Design and techniques
You should hire a designer that can showcase the latest HTML CSS design. If your web designer doesn’t know how to separate design from content, then you need a new designer. Most competent designers understand this, and will not give you any issues here. Choosing a designer that can design with the latest HTML and CSS will keep you out of the "gutter" of the design industry.
9) Your Web Designer Should Have A Good Imagination
You need your designer to have a good imagination. While your ideas are important, you need to rely on your designer to have a good imagination that can translate your ideas into reality. Sometimes, your ideas will need to be modified to work for a website. Only a creative web designer will be able to come up with a way to creatively implement just about any idea you throw at him.
10) Your Web Designer Should Be Efficient
Making deadlines isn’t good enough. Your website designer needs to work efficiently. Ask her how long it takes, on average to build a site. You can safely ask this after you have given her a general idea of what you want from the site. If she meets you with nothing but vague answers, move on.