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August 30, 2007

How To Identify Fake Web Designers — And Choose A Real One

Like going on a blind date, choosing the right web designer can be an adventure fraught with false hope.

Unlike a big corporation, a small business generally has a tight budget–especially when it comes to advertising and promotion–to engage a big web design agency to serve their online marketing needs.

With the understanding that a cheap-looking website is not the best way to represent your business–or that you do not have unlimited funds to throw at web designers on the off-chance that you’ll get something that resembles what you want–there exist good small design studios and professional freelance web designers with reasonable rates, fortunately.

Here are some tips on how to choose the right one to meet your small business needs.

Identify the Fake Web Designers

Check out their portfolio!

Do they look professional? Is the style of the designer something you would like to have on your own site? Are they logical, easy to use, and provide what’s needed to help customers achieve their (and the clients’) goals? That means that a lot of business development has gone into them.

Web Designers vs Web Programmers

There are many web designers who are actually programmers who know little, if at all, about design. They use templates that are created by other professional designers. Unfortunately, templates aren’t customized to your unique business.

Moreover, with advances in software applications, it is easier than ever to create and build a website. These software can help anyone build a website without knowing a thing. However, there is a distinct difference between creating and designing one.

Design, be it web or print, is about communication. Without the necessary design knowledge how could the programmers do an effective job communicating with your prospective customers?

How Can Good Design Help Your Business

Design is about you–what you know, what you see, and what you have to say. Behind every design is a vision, a purpose, a reason to be. Web design is not about decoration but communication; about making your words and vision visible, giving it form and body for all the world to see.

While the sales copy of your website remains vital for the effective selling of your products or services, the use of typography, color, graphics and layout help lead your prospects read and navigate your website.

This makes your page a pleasure to read and increases their overall user-experience.

A professional, well-designed website has been proven to increase sales!

Web Design Process

The web design process is also a matter of planning, what to include and what to exclude, good design, appealing text, how to sell, what business plan to follow, and more.

Like any other marketing medium, it requires a lot of work by individuals who understand what visitors and the search engines like to see: properly organized text. Combining a nice layout with SEO isn’t easy, make sure the designer understands both the human and search components.

The result is pages that perform well for visitors and rank high for specific keywords.

No doubt, there are many who can turn out professional websites, but few who will volunteer to spend dozens of hours consulting with a client, designing a clear and unconfusing website, and sweating over ad copy, pictures and all the major and minor details — in essence, creating a online marketing vehicle.

Online Marketing

The number one mistake that most first time web site owners make is that they don’t know what to do with their site after it’s designed. It is very possible to have a beautiful site designed for you and no one ever sees it.

A website is merely another means of marketing your products or services. With hundreds, if not thousands, of websites sprouting out everyday, competition is fierce. Having a “web presence” for your business has virtually become an understatement.

A good designer will not only help you create a professional looking site, they will also ensure that your site gets a good ranking with the search engines so that your site can be easily found online. Make sure that your designer will optimize your site for the search engines and submit it to the major search engines. Your website need to rank reasonably well in search engines.

Moreover, small business should seriously look into harnessing the power of the social media and sound web marketing design to increase the exposure of your services and products to extend your reach.

Is a Website Just a website

In the online world, traffic and targeted prospects is the life blood for you website. A pretty website becomes a white elephant if no customer visits it.

Does the web designer practice what he preaches? How much traffic is his website receiving?

To get an estimation of the amount of traffic, go to www.alexa.com, enter his URL to get the traffic details. You’ll see the Traffic Rank for his website. As a general rule of thumb, if the traffic ranking isn’t within the 1st Million globally (e.g. Yahoo ranks no. 1), then his online marketing effort certainly has much room for improvement, even for his own business website.

Offline Marketing

Small businesses exist in numbers far larger than big corporations.

It is ever more important for your business to stand out from your competition with a professional, consistent image–your corporate identity, namely from your web design, company logo, to the offline marketing collateral such as business card and flyer designs etc.

Having the same company to design both your online and offline marketing collateral have significant advantages of consistency and cost.

Word of Mouth and Testimonials

Word of mouth is a good indication of someone who knows his stuff.

If he comes strongly recommended by trusted friends or family members, chances are he’s created design solutions that work for their business quite well. Ask them whether it was a good experience or not.

Most designers will have testimonials from previous clients on their website. It’s a good idea to see what his customers are saying about his services. Follow the web links and try contacting some of them. You should have a feel after talking to one or two. This also ensures the testimonials are not fake ones that were simply “made up”.

Chemistry is Key

You are going to have to share aspects of your business, from visions to operations to preferences to competition, with this person.

So it’s important that you feel comfortable enough with him to be honest about your business details and goals, as well as ask as many questions about his advise as you need to. Does the designer seem friendly and are they willing to answer all of your questions? Does he respond promptly to your emails and/or phone calls?

A good designer will keep in touch with you every few days, at least. You don’t want to get down to the final days of creating the site only to find out you don’t like it!

Look out for his modus operandi during the first meeting. He should be asking you extensive, detailed questions about your requirements and goals, in order to analyze your needs.

Someone who is more interested in telling you the different design packages he can offer you is probably more concerned about making a quick buck.

Website Maintenance

A common issue with most small business is a lack of technical skills. What happens if you want to update the content after the project has been completed? Can you update it yourself without any HTML knowledge?

Content Management System

Would your website be built on a content management platform such as WordPress or Joomla? This will allow you to update, edit and add pages on your own without going back to the web designer. Thus saving time and cost.

Engage Your Customers Via Blogs

If you are marketing your business on the web and you don’t have a blog, you will always be beaten down by your competition.

A Blog platform allows you to do things no one else in your market can do with static websites. This means you don’t just have a web site, you have a search engine magnet and an interactive community builder that will drive targeted, willing-to-buy visitors to your site.

Price

This is an important factor for any small business to consider.

Although there is no clear-cut rule as to what an “average” price for web design is. In most cases, you get what you pay for. You are paying for this his expertise, time and experience.

Be realistic about your budget. You may not have all the bells and whistles such as animation and special effects.

It is more important to create a successful website that has a good position in the search engine and one that you are very happy with the look and function of than to save a couple of bucks. If you get a good site, your site will be able to grow with your company and, hopefully, that’s for a very long time!

The savvy, experienced web designer can implement your ideas and enhance them, spotting possible pitfalls and making recommendations along the way–and he’ll help you to understand the procedure and give you the benefit of his experience and understanding of the Web, so that you come away not only with a website, but with an enhanced understanding of the Web and online business. In short, he’ll work with you and be effective.

Author:  Pagethinker is about web design for small business. A small singapore web design studio specializes in designing effective websites for online marketing. For tips on how to design to attract both customers and search engines, and ultimately, sell your products & services, visit http://www.pagethinker.com

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