Choosing a web designer can be a minefield.
Make the wrong choice and you’ll regret it for years to come – right up till the day that you tear your site down and start again!
So it amazes me that so many websites get commissioned on trust. All too often, scrutiny ends with “You know how to get something up online, so yes, you’ve got the gig!”
Reality check: there are some phenomenal web designers out there. But…
It’s not an accredited industry, so anyone (literally anyone) can wake up tomorrow morning, decide they’re a web designer and hit their local business network, promising the earth.
So, before you hire a web designer, take a long hard look at their website – and ideally, their portfolio. And look for these seven web design sins:
Web Design Sin #1: Flash
Flash is the web’s answer to chronic self-indulgence. It’s a great tool when it’s embedded, for product demos and the like, but a site that’s built entirely in Flash has low user engagement and offers very little for the search engines to work with.
In other words, a Flash Designer is all about showcasing their design skills, at the expense of giving you a return on your investment. Run away, quickly!
Web Design Sin #2: The Splash Landing
A similar sin to the Flash page, because it puts swanky design ahead of common sense usability. A splash page that fades away to reveal the home page isn’t great, because it starts the user experience with a big fat “Get on with it!”…and a splash page that just sits there, insisting that you click to enter the site, is several hundred times worse.
Every time you make the user click, you lose around half your audience. So posting a splash page is nothing short of emptying your wallet and flushing half the contents down the toilet. Not a great strategy.
Web Design Sin #3: No Site Map
A great way to spot the “fresh out of art school” designer, who can blow your socks off visually but hasn’t grasped the web as a fully rounded discipline.
The Site Map is a trail for search bots to follow, so they can index every page of your site in a logical, linear sequence. Without it, they’ll stumble around in the dark and guess their way from page to page – leaving you to suffer the consequences like low rankings and loss of business.
Web Design Sin #4: Poor Accessibility
Like the Site Map, accessibility is a must-have feature that Z-List web designers will often overlook. W3C Accessibility Standards are there to make sure your site is available to a diverse audience. So check their work against a validation tool, like http://validator.w3.org.
Web Design Sin #5: Non-Responsive Design
Responsive design is about adapting the site’s appearance for tablets and mobile devices – and with desktop searches giving way to surfing on the move, this is not a feature that you want to overlook!
So test their work on different devices and see how it stacks up. If you don’t see an adapted design with browser-friendly navigation, then quite frankly it’s game over. Nothing more to discuss.
Web Design Sin #6: Low Browser Compatibility
Check the designer’s work in Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, and any other browsers that show up in your current site’s Analytics. Keep an eye on text and images and see if anything goes missing, suffers in resolution or changes in shape or size.
If anything is awry, quiz the designer and beware of their defence: either they’ve overlooked something, or compatibility falls outside their offering. You’ll need to know which.
Web Design Sin #7: The Awkward Journey
Every good web designer thinks in terms of the message, and how it flows inside the wireframe. But there are still designers at large who haven’t grasped this principle, and they’ll generally put aesthetics ahead of usability.
Their failing (not too strong a word) is that they’ll see the entire page as a picture. So instead of mapping a journey for the visitor, they’ll focus on creating an ‘at a glance’ effect – placing key elements wherever they “look best” instead of where they’ll support the unfolding message.
Analysing the designer’s work for usability will pay dividends. There are tools that will help you, like http://fivesecondtest.com. Or you could conduct a simple test of your own:
Glance at a page for a few seconds, then close your eyes. Which three elements linger in your mind? Are they the main points that you needed to know, or have you taken in something less compelling at the expense of the vital stuff?
How does your web designer perform?
Their work should tick the box on every one of these issues – and if it doesn’t, they should have a thumping good excuse!
If they’ve passed the test, congratulations: maybe you’ve found your web designer.
If not, move on. There are plenty of worthy web professionals looking for their next contract – and now you know how to separate them from all the pretenders. Good luck:)
If you are unsure how to proceed then why not book a new website consultation, it may cost a little in the first instance but will for sure save you time, money, and loss of reputation in the long run.