24 January 2013

building a new website - choosing a web designer

In between everything else going on, I'm continuing on with the rebranding of my business to Smudged Textiles Studio.  As promised, I'm taking you along with me through the process.

I'm still at the designing a new website/blog stage. Last time we talked about websites was here. The debate was about whether or not I actually needed one. (I guess the title of this blog post is a spoiler since I'm talking about choosing a web design).

Today I'd like to talk a little bit about choosing a web designer. Because truly, I think this is the hardest part when it comes to deciding to have a site professionally built. Even though I'll be involved in the entire process, I'm giving up a lot of control by allowing someone else to create it. So the decision cannot be taken lightly.

Let's face it, everyone and their brother claims that they can design sites these days. Which makes it hard to tell if you'll be happy with the job that someone does for you. Add to it a couple of horror stories from people who have had bad experiences and it's pretty difficult to persevere in the search.

I decided that I would look for certain elements when I was shopping around. Here's my list:

1. An extensive portfolio of sites that he/she has already designed. Sites I could visit, not just snapshots showing the front page. I want to visit examples of current work so I can spend time on the sites and see if I like them.

2. Variety. I want a designer with a portfolio of sites that all look different. Why? Because to me it means two things: (1) He/she listens to the wants of the client and (2) I'm getting something unique. I don't care for web designers that use templates because I feel that if I'm paying for it, I'd like it to be custom.

3. A general sense of price. I'm wary of anyone who gives a blanket price without knowing my needs. I'm equally cautious of anyone who doesn't offer any kind of pricing at all. Makes me worry that I could be paying more then someone else.

4. A questionnaire. Web designer is not another term for mind reader. I want to be asked what I want - extensively. And not only that, I want to be asked what I dislike. It not only helps put me at ease regarding the not-entirely-in-control thing but also let's me know that my opinions will be respected. Important stuff.

5. Good communication. I don't want to wait a month in between emails. I'd like a realistic time frame for when things can be done and if I've asked for something that will take longer to build, I want to know. No promises that can't be kept just to give me an answer I want to hear.

6. Being able to do some updates myself. I know, might sound contradictory but I want to be able to add photos of new work on my own. I've no desire to learn to alter the site (which is why I'm hiring a pro) but simple details like a couple new pieces of artwork or changing text is something I'd like to do.

7. Testimonials. I want to talk to people who have worked with him/her and can give me specific examples of what they liked and disliked. If I don't know anyone personally in the portfolio, then I'll email someone in there who's site I like. Might sound forward but a polite email is perfectly okay.

I started by looking at sites of other textile artists and keeping a list of ones that I liked and who designed them. Does it sound like it took a while? Well yeah, it did. This is like shopping for a house or a car or even dating. You don't just randomly pick someone and hope for the best. I decided to take my time and really think about who I wanted to work with.

In the end I was down to two designers. My final choice is Holly Knott.

She ticked every box on the list.

There are many other designers out there and I'm not thumbing my nose at anyone at all. Holly and I are working through my wants for the site right now and I'm really impressed with her professionalism. I'm also impressed with her portfolio. You can tell that she is the designer for all the sites but if you visit the sites, they vary. That means she tailored it.

She also offers something I hadn't thought of - training. What a great idea!

Did it matter to me that Holly is also a textile artist? I'm not sure. I looked at all styles of designers but I did notice that I kept gravitating back toward textile artists who also did professional web design. To be honest, it's really appealing to work with someone who gets what I do.

So there we are. My thoughts on how to choose. It might sound a little general but it took me a while to figure out that those things were my top wants in a designer, I'm hoping that if you've been considering working with a pro that they will help you decide too.

In the next post about this topic I'll go over how to decide what will go on the site.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

A very extensive process, but very necessary in order to get what you want. Those horror stories of bad experiences really make you cautious. Can't wait to see the finished product. Have only heard good things about Holly!