Choosing A Website Designer

As you have undoubtedly noticed by now, when it comes to website design you have more choices available to you than if you were looking for a gas station.  As is the case of any "new" development in the world, with new technology comes a barrage of people convinced that they can make a quick buck off of it while spending as little time and money as possible.  This is especially true in the case of website designers.  How can you tell which firm to entrust your website design and marketing to? Here are some common scenarios, and what to watch for:

Really Really Qualified and Certified – These are the people who have all of their "certifications" plastered all over their website. To be honest, being certified as a "Webmaster" requires no more than completing a short HTML course at the local tech school, and in and of itself does not qualify the holder as an Internet marketing expert (see below). These certificates are easy to obtain from hundreds of different schools, including the "mail-order" variety. Past that, being certified as a "Microsoft Systems Integration Partner", a "Novell Network Professional", etc. really has no bearing on the quality of website design, any more than having a bachelor’s degree in accounting would qualify you to shoot a TV commercial. 

Graphic Design Studio – Would you hire Rembrandt to paint your house? Of course not… he would be a bit overqualified and rather highly priced. Web graphics are a completely different animal than the high-resolution graphics produced for print media. Due to limitations in the ways that computer monitors display graphics, a person could not tell the difference between a resolution of 600 dpi and a resolution of 72 dpi. (However, they would definitely take note of the fact that the higher resolution graphic would take longer to download).

My Kid Knows All About Computers or My Daughter Took an HTML Course in College – This is akin to taking a semester or two of German. HTML is a "language", just like any other language, but taking a year of German would not qualify a person to write a book on German sociology. The HTML programming language is a tool to aid in website design, but understanding it will not qualify a person to design an effective website in and of itself. There are many other factors to consider, such as visual effect, search engine optimization, and ease of navigation.

Web Sites for $59.95 – Watch for these "bait-and switch" techniques. Unless you go with all of the "upgrades" at additional charges, you will get exactly what you paid for – a website that is worth $59.95. It will most likely be based on a "template" and closely resemble every other website the company has developed, with little or no customization. A quality website design firm will be upfront with their pricing and customize a quote for you based on what your needs are.

Website and Internet Access for One Low Fee! – This is a situation where ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) assume that, since they have all the "equipment" and "resources", they are qualified to design a website for you. Once again, there is much more to designing an effective website than just "knowing the language". These sites also tend to be of the "cookie cutter" variety. As an analogy, let’s assume that you are in need of (1) a new television set and (2) new tires for your car. While it is true that you could go to Wal-Mart for both, I am sure that you would agree that you could get much better service (and probably a better product) by making your purchases from stores which specialize in each.

Part-Time Web Site Designer – This can be a combination of several of the above factors. These people have full-time jobs in unrelated professions and decided to design websites to "earn some extra cash". They are either unwilling or unable to commit to design as their career, and this lack of commitment can carry over to the sites they design. Because it is not their primary source of income, the website design business takes a back seat when other, more pressing matters come up.

December 1, 2000

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