Your website is the public face of your business but a lot of people don’t pay much (if any) attention to the question of how to choose a web designer. For most people, the choices fall into one of the following options:
Use a friend of a friend as your web designer
This has the advantage that it’s often a free option but it has the major disadvantage that you aren’t given the person’s full time attention. Quite often, changes to your website will be done “tomorrow”, where tomorrow is always in the future. And because you’re not paying for the job, you put up with this. Even though your site may not be live yet or it may be broken.
Using a friend of a friend as a web designer also puts you at the mercy of whatever program they want to use to design your site. It doesn’t matter to them that they’re maybe the only person in your town or county who knows how to use the particular platform they’re using. But it should matter to you as it means that in the future, you’re beholden to them for every aspect of your website design. Even if you are no longer in touch with them.
So either you’re stuck with a broken and obsolete web design or you’ve got a website that you have no access to or you need to bite the bullet and pay to have a replacement site.
Other web designer choices
Free online website designers
There are lots of sites out there which will offer to build a website for you at no cost (apart from all the added extras they try to sell you once you’re hooked into their program).
These have a number of disadvantages:
If you want to do something even slightly different with your web design, you’ll often encounter a “computer says no” response.
A lot of free web designer sites use systems such as Flash to make the design process easier. This works well for you designing the website but works badly for Google – it’s the equivalent of hanging a great big “no entry” sign on your website as far as Google are concerned and you’ll struggle to get your website found in the search engines.
You’re at the mercy of the company providing the free service. They need to get money from somewhere, so there will either be adverts on your site or anything beyond a very basic site will cost extra. You are also at their mercy as to whether or not they stay in the web designer business at all. So you could wake up one morning and find your site has disappeared or that you’ve been given 14 days notice of eviction.
You’re at the mercy of their terms and conditions. You know, the things you never read before you press the “I agree” button. These may be broad or restrictive. They probably allow the web designer company to change terms at a moments notice. Or they could ban you from doing certain things – if WordPress host your site (but not if you run WordPress on a domain you own) then you’re not allowed to use it for commercial purposes; if Blogger host your site then you’re not allowed to use it to boost your position in the search engines. And if you break any of the terms and conditions on a free web designer host then you could find your site banned or suspended at a moments notice with about as much chance of appeal as a life sentence prisoner has.
Pay a mate’s rate for your web designer
This is close to being the same as using a friend of a friend except you pay for the privilege.
Before you go down this route, check whether the mate’s rate really is the bargain you think it is. I’ve often come across situations where the so-called cheap mate’s price is actually more expensive than a commercial rate.
Use a professional web designer
They may well use the same tools as the cheaper options above but they will be using them day in, day out. So they’ll know what is best for your business and what actually works in real life. So your web designer won’t be using your website as the guinea pig.
If you’re moving from another website host or from a free option to a proper website, a professional web designer will know how to schedule the job so that your site is always available. Your new website design will be made behind the scenes and only switched on once you’re happy with it.
Chances are that you’ll also pay less for your hosting than you would with some of the free or supposedly cheap options. A lot of template based web designer sites will offer upgrades to hosting which may sound cheap – a tenner a month or whatever – but is actually well over priced if you’re not doing the kind of business that Amazon is. So over the course of a year or two you’ll actually save more than your web designer costs in reduced charges elsewhere.