How to employ a web designer and achieve success

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Summary

Finding a good web designer, developer or a competent person to maintain your website can be a difficult task. This guide contains advice which will help reduce the chance of you employing the services of an unreputable company or freelancer who isn’t up to the job.

Together we will focus on your goals and prepare for the design process. Reduce the chances of making a poor decision and have a much more intuitive feel of what will contribute towards the success of your project.


By Paul Edwards

Hiring a web designer is a journey

The process of hiring and working with a web designer is a journey (bear with me on this). Like any other journey in life in order to be successful, we need to have a firm understanding of what we want to achieve and where we want to get to. When we know our task and destination we can easily select the most appropriate route to get there.

For your web design or digital project journey,  you will need to ensure you have some basic information:

  1. Knowledge of where you currently are and what resources you have at your disposal.
    This should be considered in terms of not only the budget but also the time you or the responsible person will have to dedicate to the project.
  2. An understanding of where you want to get to, and when you want to get there by.
    Quantify everything or you or your web designer will never know if you have succeeded in your goal.

Understanding points 1 and 2 will help you plan how to get to your destination in a way which will please the people you want to without wasting resources.

I know how simple this sounds but believe me when I say that a surprising number of businesses don’t really know who their clients are, or what motivates them. A really good agency or freelancer will guide you through this process but it takes time and costs money. You can greatly assist the process and potentially reduce costs by having done a bit of deep thinking prior to talking to a web design company or freelancer.  Do you know what assets you have? What wasn’t working out for you with your previous website or web designer? What goals were you failing to reach?

  A surprising number of businesses don’t really know who their clients are, or what motivates them

Without a sound understanding of location, destination and route, as an employer, you are seriously handicapped in your ability to employ a web designer. Fortunately, there are web consultants out there who can assist you with pre-project consultancy should your firm not have the knowledge of expertise to do its own research.

If you avoid pre-project research and employ without any knowledge of what you are trying to achieve, success becomes a matter of luck than judgment. Fair warning now, if you ever ask a web designer to cut costs by cutting out the research phase and they agree, run away very quickly. No project will ever succeed without the due diligence and research and no reputable designer or agency would agree to this because it is not in the best interests of you.

Where are you now?

The goals that you want your new web designer to help you achieve will vary tremendously upon your role in your organisation, how long you have worked there and also the kind of role you occupy. It is important to remember that different stakeholders may have different goals and exposure to different elements that you will need to consider. Try and ensure that you poll these stakeholders or at least let your new web designer know that they exist and how to contact them so that they can do this on your behalf.

It is important to remember that different stakeholders may have different goals and exposure to different elements that you will need to conside

You may be self-employed or the owner of your own business. If that is the case you will likely have a handle on everything. You know all about your website, whether it works, whether it doesn’t, who made it, when they made it and what your reservations were at the time.

You know if it has performed and you will know why, if it hasn’t.

The same isn’t necessarily true for those in larger organisations. You may be an employee who doesn’t know where the IT department is, let alone who was involved in making the current website. Its purpose may be difficult to fathom if not impossible. You may be in the unfortunate position that you do not have the big picture of what your company does. In such a situation not only would we recommend pre-project consultancy but we would also recommend a full digital asset audit prior to the commencement of the main web design project.

It is important to take stock of thinking in your organisation:

  •  What are the goals of the company/organisation/department?
  •  What are future developments in the pipeline?
  •  Do you have a corporate style?
  •  Does your organisation have a particular work ethic or moral code?
  •  Who are your customers? What are their values? (this will be featured in another guide)
  •  What marketing assets does your company already have in place?
  • Will your web project be servicing any particular country or community that may have its own needs, requirements and sensitivities?

This list is by no means exhaustive and each point you will think of is too big on its own to be dealt with here. Some items such as defining who your customer is can be addressed during pre-project consultancy or you can locate on the web and download ‘persona profile’ templates. Filling these in will help you greatly.

Defining your customer is perhaps the single most important thing you can do and should not be underestimated. Where you are going and how you get there, will be affected most heavily by this one factor.

The purpose of this section is that after considering the above, you should be able to produce a list of requirements and considerations which are important to this project and that will shape its growth and direction

Make a point of writing such a list or pinning a large piece of paper on the wall to map important factors. If you would like further guidance on this process please do contact us and we will be able to walk you through a pre-project questionnaire which will ensure you don’t miss out anything important. Call us on 01903 527927 or fill in our project planner for assistance.

Where do you want to get to?

Your mind map or pre-project consultancy with stakeholders will suggest potential destinations, the things you added to the list will give you an idea of what your customers and therefore your company want, when by and whether they have moral and legal obligations about how they can achieve it.

Your mind map is going to be reflected on the website that you will be making. You would be amazed at how many companies embark on designing a really important asset like a website and then months later totally change their corporate style. Such a big change is likely to be known about by some of your colleagues for months and months. Seek them out before investing time and budget. Don’t forget that once a style does change that all your digital assets will need to be audited to ensure continuity of tone, message and style.

You would be amazed at how many companies embark on designing a really important asset like a website and then months later totally change their corporate style.

The goals of your organisation, what it wants to achieve, when fully understood by you will be an amazing tool in selecting a web designer or design company. You will come to know quickly if the personalities that you meet share your values, have experience in delivering the solutions you are looking for and whether they are capable of projecting your company in a way which will meet your goals.

What route are you going to take to success?

OK, time for the gritty part. Remember we discussed customers? Well, whatever your organisation type, Limited Company, Self Employed, Academic Institution, Charity or NGO (we work for all of these). You will all have customers or end users of some sort.

Let’s take some time to think about your customers or users

Just who is your customer? It helps to imagine your average customer as a single person, give them a name. Think about what they like, what they don’t like. What are the things they insist upon? What are the things they will run away from screaming? Add all these details about your customer to your mind map, or if you prefer, make an additional one.

Your new site or the re-alignment of your existing website is all about them. Your website serves your clients. Whoever you choose to make your website must design it for your users, and not for you. This is a major stumbling block for many employers. They start to impose personal taste upon a site which is not designed for them. Try to think as your customer and dare I say it, trust your designer. He or she will design function and form that is tailored to your user, their needs and the tasks they want to complete.

Your ethics and moral standpoint, as well as other factors like the size of your company and what your customer likes will probably have determined by this point whether you are looking to employ a company or a freelancer to do the work for you.

Do you want the personal service and lower cost of a freelancer? or do you want the perceived benefits of employing an agency? Both have benefits but one will likely fit more with your brand or organisation ethics. For example, as a virtual agency, we have lower costs than bricks and mortar agencies but deliver a huge amount of expertise across a number of digital disciplines.  Using our tools you can check on our progress 24 hours a day, collaborate and share files, see edits in real time and make suggestions, conference call with us using Skype and much more.

Each company or freelancer will have a profile or personality. For example, we are known and recommended for being quite blunt and to the point, not in an effort to be rude but to be efficient and to be absolutely honest and truthful with you. It’s a matter of selecting the right shaped block to fit in the right hole. And please, don’t be secretive about a budget. A good agency or web designer will ascertain your budget quickly and give you the best solution you can get for your investment.

If you have found a good fit then whoever you are speaking to will give you an indication of what you can get for your budget, what they would do if you had more, and what they would recommend if you had less. They will discuss with you the best way to split your budget and what work will take precedence. If this doesn’t happen, then, perhaps you should consider looking elsewhere.

Some final thoughts

The personality of your chosen web designer will have a big pull in how your website is delivered. Each company or designer will have their preferred methods of creating and styling a web site. Your site will need to be delivered in a way which your client feels comfortable with, has the technology to view and the knowledge to use.

Let’s imagine for a moment that your end users are predominantly in developing countries. Your clients may not have access to computers in the traditional sense at all and may only have access to the internet via smartphones. They may be older models with lower screen resolutions and more limited processing power. Ensure your designer knows how to meet these unique challenges.

Alternatively, your clients may all be web designers who will be impressed by nothing less than bleeding edge technology. However, a relevant point is made, and who you employ will impact heavily on end result and total cost.

Conclusion

Know yourself or your firm. Know your customers. Learn the limitations and specialisations of your prospective web designers or web consultants and you will naturally pick one who shares your values, understands your customers and knows how to convert their interest to sales.

This guide has given a really brief introduction to what there is to consider in picking a web designer and indeed the work that has to be done before you get that far. Thank’s for reading it and please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions you would like answers to by calling 01903 527927 or by filling in our contact form.

Paul Edwards
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Paul Edwards

Web consultant and Front end developer at ICW Digital
12 Years designing, building and maintaining websites and ecommerce. I am so much more than a web designer, I am an enabler. I provide strategy, direction, mentoring and websites that make a difference.
Paul Edwards
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