With so many website builder options available, many graphic designers as well as marketing consultants and even photographers have added website design to their services. While they may have learned to work with a website builder (examples include: Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Godaddy’s website builder) or even have a basic knowledge of WordPress; they may not have the skills or experience to develop and maintain a search friendly website that will grow and change along with your business.
Here are 5 important questions to ask that will help you determine their level of expertise in web design and development; or if they are graphic designer that has learned to work with a website builder:
1. Where can I find current and past examples of your work?
Ideally they have a website with a portfolio and links to current clients and sites they’ve designed. Carefully examining their portfolio and work samples can help you assess their overall style and skills. Their work samples also can be a jumping off point to discuss their more technical skills, including how they built their own website. If their own website was built with a website builder, or with WordPress using a theme designed by someone else, that is an important indicator their web design and development skills are not as strong as would best support your business.
2. Which publishing, design and content technologies would you use to build and maintain my site?
Even if you’re not tech-savvy, they should be able to present you with clear options in a way that you can generally understand. For example, if you want to be able to update the text and images on your website yourself, will they use a website builder product or a content management system such as WordPress?
If they will be using WordPress, ask how knowledgeable they are about using WordPress. Do they know simply know how to do the basics of using the hosting provider’s automatic installer and how to work with specific pre-designed themes and plugins? Will they be able to design a custom theme? If so will they be using a drag and drop editor for WordPress?
Be wary of drag and drop editors and website builder products
While both drag and drop editors for WordPress and website builders make it easy for people not familiar with web development and how to work with the behind the scenes code that powers a website, they both have drawbacks.
Drag and drop editors for WordPress add code and scripts that will slow down your site, while often removing the built-in SEO features of WordPress. These editors can also make it more difficult for the business owner or staff to be able to update the text on their site without mistakenly changing the look or layout of the site too.
Website builder products often have limited options and flexibility with the provided templates; and the scripts that are used with these products often hinder the search friendliness of the site. Also, while you own the content that you added to the site (the text & images), you do not own the web site files. This means that if you want to move away from that website builder in the future you will need to create a new site.
A skilled web designer & developer’s website will be hand-coded or have a custom theme
Ideally you want to work with a web designer with experience in hand-coding sites, as well as a solid knowledge of how to work with the code that WordPress uses. They should be able to install WordPress manually, using security best-practices, and be able to build a custom theme and/or functionality for your site that best suits your needs.
3. How will you optimize my website for search engines?
Ask them to explain which strategies and methods they’ll use to boost your rankings in the major search engines. Will they simply be using a third party service to accomplish this? Do they have knowledge of the basics and best practices behind a search friendly website? You want to make sure they’re knowledgeable about the way the site is structured, the code behind the scenes as well as how the website content and organization affects overall SEO and the search friendliness of your website.
Be wary of those who use lots of buzzwords and yet are unable to explain their skills and expertise and how they can help you in a straightforward manner.
4. What kind of special features can you integrate into my site?
Will they be able to add such features as a custom contact form, email list signup form, blog, shopping cart? Will they be able to go a step further and customize your site? For example, if your site is built with WordPress you may want your site to have a unique look and layout that matches your branding instead of using a pre-designed theme. Will they be able to work with the code to make changes or create a custom solution for you? Will they be doing the work themselves? Do they have someone on their team that will do the work? Or will they be outsourcing the work?
5. What is your approach to security issues and other potential website problems?
It’s essential to know how they would respond should your site crash or get hacked — and how quickly. Find out how often they would back up the site and all of its content and how they would protect your site against phishing, data theft and malicious file execution. When your site is built with WordPress, security measures should be in place from the beginning: a combination of how WordPress is installed, the themes and plugins that are used is very important. Read more about WordPress website security here.
While graphic designers often have beautiful websites filled with wonderful graphics and may be a great choice to design your logo or graphics to use on your site; they may not be an expert in web design and development, and therefore not the best choice to to build and maintain your business website.
Are you looking for a creative resource to design or rebuild your website? Webb Weavers Consulting based in Ventura, CA can help!