Friend, author, blogger and all around dynamo, Lela Davidson, put up an interesting post about hiring a web designer.
Lela’s 3 Things You Must Discuss When Hiring A Web Designer outlined three critical points of up-front discussion in working with a web designer.
It’s an excellent post on Hiring A Web Designer from a client-side perspective that hits three major points: Customization, Responsiveness and Branding Aesthetics. The post is specifically about web development in WordPress and I thought that to complete the circle, I would respond from a designers perspective.
Content Is King
The biggest issue that I encounter is that clients first begin thinking about what they want the website to look like, without putting much thought into what they want it to say.
So my #1 question is always “Do you have content or are we starting from scratch?”
For clients with existing websites are looking at hiring a web designer that want a redevelopment job, this isn’t an issue. It is far easier to plan the navigational structure and begin working on a design if there is good content available.
If we are starting from scratch however, good planning is essential. A proposed site map is where we would begin. We’ll discuss the various pages you’ll want and how to configure the navigational structure so that your readers can easily find what they are looking for. Most begin as a simple flow chart or organizational chart. A good web designer/developer can provide guidance and keep you from making rookie mistakes.
A site map will provide your web designer with critical information to begin the design process, reduce development time, and give focus for everyone involved.
Once the site map is in hand, I tell my clients “Start writing“.
Form Follows Function
The #2 issue to discuss is “What do we want the website to do?”
WordPress was originally designed as a blogging platform and that is still at the core of what it can do. However, it has evolved into a dynamic Content Management System (CMS) that is stable, powerful and easy to use. The WordPress software is 100% free.
In addition, virtually any feature or functionality that you could want for your website is available as a WordPress plug-in. Most of them are absolutely free. There are instances when a premium plug-in is needed, but deciding on these features and functions up front allows a designer/developer to include those costs in the quote.
Features and functionality questions like “Do you want custom forms, in-line video or audio, a shopping cart, live-blogging, events calendars, social media integration, etc., etc.” should be answered up front before any design or development work begins.
A complete list of features and functions your website needs allows everyone to be on the same page with expectations and costs.
Your Hard-Working Website
The #3 question that should be discussed is “What happens once the site goes live?”
Managing a working website takes time and work. Making sure that everything is working, monitoring web servers and web hosting, managing database optimization and backups, updating themes and plug-ins, and a host of other un-glamorous tasks on a regular schedule are necessary.
The days of putting up a website and expecting anyone to see it are long gone. Some degree of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is critical. Social media integration is an important part of website management. Keeping content fresh is crucial. Your website has to be worked on constantly or it simply gets buried under a mountain of similar sites.
Web designers and developers have a couple of ways to price on-going web maintenance. Monthly maintenance agreements are the norm, but a by-the-hour approach is an option.
Anyone with good basic computer skills can add content to a WordPress site. I have had a lot of success in teaching clients how to do the majority of the work themselves if they wish. This allows them to pay me on an as-needed basis rather than setting up a maintenance agreement. My web design and development friends think I’m insane for favoring this approach, because a maintenance agreement is good for cash flow. But I find that it improves client loyalty and fosters an agreeable long-term relationship.
Hiring A Web Designer
I hope that this post has been helpful if you are thinking about hiring a web designer, and that it compliments Lela’s excellent advice for those considering hiring a web designer.
Having a conversation about these topics can lead to a happy web development experience where expectations are harmonious, a firm price is agreed upon, and the end result is one that all parties are proud of.
I also hope that you will give me a call if you are looking for a web designer or a web developer. I have lots of happy, long-term clients who would be happy to vouch for my services.