A man working on website design on the beach.

5 Things You NEED To Know About Website Design

October 16, 2009

Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you are someone who is interested in hiring a web designer.  If that’s true, then chances are you probably don’t know a ton about the web design world.

That’s ok.  Until now, it wasn’t something you needed to know about, and frankly, it’s a pretty confusing world to try to understand.

As someone who does this for a living, however, I definitely need to know as much as I can about the web design world.  For your benefit, here are the top five things I think that everyone looking to hire a web designer should know:

1) In general, there is an extreme lack of transparency between web designers and their clients, both in the quality of work and in the price paid for it. There are a huge number of websites that are created by independent freelancers, (like myself), and this is a marketplace where it is quite unclear exactly what you’re getting for your money.  Here’s why:

  • First, a large portion of the independent freelance web designers out there don’t really know what they are doing, and the websites they make often fail, for a whole host of different reasons.  The phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know” rings true.
  • Second, those independent freelancers charges vastly different amounts for the websites they produce.  Some of the freelancers that are really good don’t charge hardly anything, while some freelancers charge an arm and a leg to make a website that is complete crap.  Plus, the way websites are paid for generally doesn’t tend to make a lot of sense for either the client or the designer, and there is a better way to do it all.
  • Third, the people contracting for those websites don’t know enough about the nuts and bolts of web design to determine if they’re getting a good website or not.  This point is talking about you, although you are doing great to help alleviate this part of the problem by reading my articles!

2) Moving on from the faults of independent freelance web designers, what’s equally if not more important in this equation is YOU!  That bears repeating: whether the website made for you serves you well, and whether you receive good value depends largely on you.

  • First, your choice of web designer plays a large part.  See point #1.  For the rest of this, lets assume you do your best and manage to hire a good designer who quotes a reasonable price.
  • Second, having a website designed is a process, and if you are an active part of the process, you will get a better result.  If you hire a website designer, and then go run away and hide under a bush, its more likely than not that the website you end up with is not going to be very good, even if your web designer is a rockstar.  I guarantee that giving honest and frequent feedback to the designer will make the end result better.
  • Third, you know your market better than anyone else.  If you have a hand in producing the copy, selecting keywords, and producing the design of the site, it will better fit your market.  If you don’t know your market very well, then you need to do some research on that before you even think about hiring a web designer.
What kind of website do you think he's designing?

What kind of website do you think he's designing?

3) Website design on the surface may not seem that complicated, but to do a good job creating a website is an extremely complex task.

A website is like a car.  To operate it is fairly simple – you turn the key, hold the wheel, and press down on the pedal.  But under the hood, there’s an awful lot going on.  And if something under the hood is held together with bailing wire and duct tape, you can bet it’s going to cause problems later down the line.

  • There are many different skills and knowledge sets that a web designer has to have command of.  A good web designer really does have to be both a jack-of-all-trades, and a master of all of them. This is closely related to the first point in #1 above.
  • Most websites out there fail to contain at least one of the essential features needed to make a good website.  Its hard for any one freelancer to know enough about every core area of a website to even know if they missed something.  Again, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

4) Website design is not art! If people want to see art, they go to a museum, or visit an artists’s gallery. If they visit the site of Widgets Inc, they’ve come to get information about or interact in some way with Widgets Inc, not to be awed and stunned and distracted by beautiful graphic design. On the flip side, websites should not be ugly – hideous is just as distracting as gorgeous.  Simplicity and usability are paramount.  Read more by clicking here:  Website Design is NOT art!

5) Creating a website is only part of the equation – once that website is live, you have to get visitors to it for it to really be of value.  For most people this would mean publicizing their website offline – on their business cards, as part of their e-mail signature, in your store or office if you have one.  But, the other half of this is that you want to make it very very easy for people to find you through search engines.  To do this, you are definitely going to need a web designer who knows at least the basics of what’s called Search Engine Optimization.

If a web designer you’re thinking about hiring can’t tell you what they’re going to do to optimize your website for search engines, then they are missing a huge part of the puzzle, and it probably wouldn’t be worth it to hire them.  Creating a website that isn’t optimized for search is like taking an Ansel Adams original photograph and putting it in a frame that uses opaque frosted glass.  What’s the point?

I hope this list was helpful, and that you’re now more informed about the website design process.  If you have any questions on anything related to website design, please don’t hesitate to ask me.  And, if you are interested in hiring me to make you a rocking awesome website, just send me a quick note using my contact form, or e-mail me if you’d prefer.

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