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Innovative Web Design and Application Development
PawPrint.net

How To Choose a Web Designer

At PawPrint.net we know that it´s important that the design firm match the project - which doesn´t always make us the best choice for you. To help you make that choice we have created this step-by-step guide that includes some of the most important points to think about, questions to ask, and decisions you must make when choosing your designer.

0) Do Your Research

This is listed as ´Step 0´ for a reason - do not even start to look for a design firm until you have done your research (the fact that you´re reading this article is a good start!) Never start to scope out design firms when all you know is "I need a Web Site" Not only is the design firm going to need more information, it is vital that you understand some basic background before you contract with any firm. Much of your decision making process will rely on you having some background knowledge about what exactly you need - and for that you need to know both what is possible and which of those are easy and which are not.

What to do:
  • Research Online - Everything you ever wanted to know about the Internet - is on the Internet!
  • Find Sites you like - jot down web sites you like, but be sure to look at them as if you were their customer - don´t just focus on how they look, examine how they function as well. Make specific note of what your competition is doing on-line.
  • Be Ready with Branding - most designers will want to match the look and feel of your web site to your corporate brand (logo, colours etc...) make sure you have this ready or are prepared to work with the designer to create a brand prior to starting work on the actual web site.
  • Plan for the Future - develop a long term goal for your web site. How will it be maintained? are you planning to add new features later? Is your business poised to expand into other areas?
  • Know your budget - have a good idea what you can afford to spend and keep this in the back of your mind as you select a design firm.
These are just a sample of things you need to think through

PawPrint.net says:
We are trying to help by providing as much background information as possible - check out our resources page for several other articles.

1) Choose Content Managed vs Static

This is not always as much of a design firm choice as it is a project decision. However, some firms specialize in one or the other and if your project calls for a specific format then the firm you choose should reflect that.

The Difference Between Content Managed and Static:
  • A Content Managed web site is built from a database and allows the site owner to make changes to the site without involving the web design firm.
  • A Static web site is built by the designer and can only be changed by uploading new files to the server.
Static sites, in general, are more costly to maintain but are sometimes the preference of larger companies that would rather pay someone then maintain the site them self.

What to do:
Decide early on if you want to rely on a designer to make changes to your web site, or if you want to make changes yourself.

PawPrint.net says:
We tend to specialize in content managed sites. While we have created (and still maintain) several static sites, we find that content managed web sites are almost always the best option for any business because they are far more flexible and less expensive.

2) Look at their portfolio

Almost all web design firms have an on-line project portfolio (if they don´t that would probably be cause for concern) Look through their portfolio and see if you like their work. The design part of web design is a creative process and therefore is, to a large extent, based on the taste of the designer. If you find that you don´t like any of the web sites in the firm´s portfolio - then you probably don´t share the same tastes as the designer. There isn´t much point trying to force a design you like from a designer with different taste.

What to do:
Look at portfolios - find design firms that create web sites that you like. Look at their structure and form - just like an artist, most designers have a specific "feel" that tends to run as a common theme in their work.

PawPrint.net says:
We provide an extensive online portfolio that includes a live link to most of our web sites. We favour a clean and simple design, which should be fairly evident from the portfolio as well as our own web site.

3) Talk to their customers

As with any professional, web design firms should be willing to share some references. Talk to their customers, find out about how the design process went, how the web site is performing, and what the customer is feeling about value for the price they paid.

What to do:
Talk to at least two references from each of your short-listed design firms. Ask them for their opinion of the firm.

PawPrint.net says:
We are pleased to provide specific references for any project - we try to find customers with similar needs - however feel free to contact any of the customers listed in our portfolio as a reference.

4) You don´t always get what you pay for...

We have been in this business for over a decade, and have seen many web sites  - all too often we have also seen the unfortunate get fleeced by paying sometimes as much as 10 times what thy should have. Usually when a web design firm is charging too much for their service it´s for one of two reasons, the obvious one is that they are unscrupulous and are simply trying to rip people off. However, equally common is that they don´t really understand the technology that they are selling and are charging an arm and a leg for something they find incredibly complex and difficult (because it´s going to take them a long time to make it work) Neither one of these bodes well for the customer.
The other extreme is the free web site built by someone like your brother´s nephew - in these cases you probably do get what you pay for and that is generally going to be something that needs to be replaced before it even gets launched.

What to do:
As with pretty much anything be sure to shop around. Get quotes from several design firms and make sure there are no hidden costs. If you´re getting quotes that are excessively high or low - try to find out why.

PawPrint.net says:
We believe our prices are fair and always write a formal proposal for every design project that contains an item-by-item breakdown for each component of the project in fixed price quote.

5) Get a Contract

Make sure you have a contract in place for your design project. Contracts should protect both parties and a good one will eliminate any confusion about what is included, who owns it, and how much it will cost. You are hiring a professional - and that should always include a contract.

What to do:
Most design firms have a standard contract, get a copy of this before you commit and read it carefully!

PawPrint.net says:
We include a copy of our standard contract along with our written proposal for every project. Depending on the project, it sometimes gets altered slightly but, in general, remains unchanged most of the time.

6) Register Your Domain Name

No need to wait for this, select and register your domain name straight away - then you have it (or them) in your back pocket ready to go, and no one else can get them!

What to do:
There are thousands of domain registrars out there - pick one (We tend to use http://www.domainsatcost.ca ) and search for domain availability. Stay away from any company that charges more then $20 per year (the going rate is about $15)

PawPrint.net says:
We don´t handle domain registration directly - but you may want to have a read through our article on How to Choose a Domain Name
Need More Information?
Contact Us - we are always pleased to answer questions via email or telephone.




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