Hiring A Web Designer

Friend, author, blogger and all around dynamo, Lela Davidson, put up an interesting post about hiring a web designer.


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.

Seafarer Exploration Corp

Working with the good people at Seafarer Exploration Corp has been a super fun project to be involved in.

Seafarer Exploration Corp

It’s a long story, but it turns out that the State of Florida hadn’t granted any shipwreck recovery permits in many years until Seafarer Exploration Corp came along and forced the issue. Seafarer has been granted the first two recovery permits in basically forever, and have begun exploring the sites.

If you’ll remember your history of the exploration of the new world, you’ll remember that lots of gold was carried across the sea from the new world to the old world.

And, it turns out that there were shipwrecks. Lots and lots of shipwrecks.


With the advances in technology, and the fact that most of those shipwreck sites have lain undisturbed since the date of the wreck, there is a mountain of recoverable artifacts and treasure sitting off the coast of Florida, just waiting to be picked up.

Seafarer is a publicly traded company (SFRX) and I own a small bit of it. When they start pulling treasure up off the floor, I’m going to go sit on the beach for a very long time.

Yoakley Law Firm

Yoakley Law Firm

Yoakley Law Firm is operated by Deric Yoakley in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Yoakley Law Firm represents clients throughout Northwest Arkansas, with a focus on civil litigation, personal injury, civil defense, unemployment compensation, criminal defense and family law.

It is a privilege to work with Mr. Yoakley, who I can personally attest to not only being a fine human being, but also an experienced and outstanding attorney who will represent your interests with dignity, enthusiasm and a high degree of expertise.

The website I built for Mr. Yoakley features a nifty jQuery interface, along with a customized mobile theme that presents his site in a phone-friendly way.

If you are in need of an attorney in Northwest Arkansas, you could do no better than to contact Mr. Yoakley.

Arkansas Children’s Hospital

I recently had the opportunity to work with the good people at Arkansas Children’s Hospital on a specialty project.

Arkansas Children’s Hospital is applying for the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Designation, and in an enlightened move, decided to make their submission as a website. They chose the Patrick Houston Design Studio to design and develop the site.

There are only only 258 of the nation’s 7,569 hospitals to receive the designation, and it is a very big deal.

From the John Hopkins Hospital website:

The ANCC doesn’t just hand out Magnet designations to institutions based on reputation alone, nor is the title bestowed without considerable effort made by the institution in question. Hospitals must take the initiative upon themselves, and the process can take a full year or longer. Furthermore, earning Magnet status once is no life-time guarantee. Some institutions have found themselves stripped of their Magnet title upon re-evaluation, which is required every four years.

There is an astounding amount of data in the site. Printed out, it would be a stack of paper over 15 inches tall.

I worked with Stacey Margaret Jones of Ariel Strategic Communications on this thoroughly enjoyable project, made even more enjoyable by working with the great nursing staff at ACH.

The Red Sari


The Red Sari

I am super proud to be associated with The Red Sari.

I had worked with owner Julie West on some print material she uses to promote her fabulous products last year. A couple of months ago, she asked if I could help her out with her website – it seems the shopping cart wasn’t working anymore. Frustrating for her and her clients to be sure.

After spending some time troubleshooting and diagnosing the problem, it became clear that starting from scratch was the better option, and together we embarked on a website  redesign and redevelopment project.

The timing for this was good, as she was in possession of an entire new line of products for 2012, and it seemed a natural time to redesign the site, add new social media features and install a modern shopping cart.

I wish I had thought to get a screen cap of the old site so you could see the differences. It wasn’t badly designed, but did look somewhat dated and was pretty far behind the curve from a technology standpoint.

The new shopping cart is working like a charm, she’s connected to the major social media platforms (including Pinterest) and the site has a fresh, clean design that will stand up for years.

Besides being a wonderful person to know and work with, Julie has a passion for social responsibility. From her About Us page:

The Red Sari is a socially responsible fashion design company with a mission to create and sustain jobs for women in Nepal.

For the women in this small South Asian country, jobs represent more than income – working liberates them from lives of isolation, builds confidence, and bestows status within their families and communities.

And on top of that, her products are stunningly gorgeous.

Red Sari Scarves

Visit her site and make someone you love happy with a new scarf, and help out the women of Kathmandu at the same time.

What could be better than that?


Thea Foundation

Thea Foundation

The Thea Foundation

The Thea Foundation is an amazing example of turning an unspeakable tragedy into something beneficial to everyone.

Paul Leopoulos lost his daughter Thea in a car accident. Thea was 17. He used that as motivation to start the Thea Foundation.

They provides art materials, support and resources to public schools across Arkansas for the visual arts, the performance arts and more.

In an era where the Arts in public schools are being de-emphasized, the Thea Foundation steps up.

It has been my very great privilege and honor to assist Paul and his son Nick in the redesign and redevelopment of the website.

Working with Mike Mueller of Copeland Search Marketing, we have redesigned and redeveloped the Thea Foundation website, transforming what was a sprawling, unorganized website into a neat, clean and organized website absolutely bristling with SEO.

The Thea Foundation is a very well-run organization and is very worthy of your support. Please consider a donation.

The PHDS Studio

Welcome to the Patrick Houston Design Studio website

The Patrick Houston Design Studio

In what has become a Christmas tradition, I’ve redesigned Patrick Houston Design Studio website.

I’m calling this one version 4.0. It’s my little Christmas present to my business.

This site is built on the WordPress platform. I’ve been working with WordPress for a while now, successfully using it to build sites for clients large and small.

It is a sturdy and flexible platform with excellent basic functionality that is expandable and scalable to virtually any need.

The Content Management System (CMS) that runs underneath the site is robust and seemingly bulletproof [crosses fingers].

Once designed, developed and deployed, a WordPress site is easy to add to and manage content with, allowing clients to take over much of the management of their website themselves, instead of paying me [hits forehead with hammer] to do it.

In the days and weeks and months to come I hope to do what I’ve never seemed to manage to do with PHDS versions 1–3 – namely, to keep the durned thing updated with all the fabulous work I’m so fortunate to do on behalf of a really great bunch of clients.

So, welcome to the Patrick Houston Design Studio website and I hope you’ll check back every so often to see what we’re up to.