13 Jun 06
29 Oct 07 9:07 pm
It really helps if you've at least attempted to make a website yourself first, so you can kind of know what you're wanting. There are a couple of things to watch out for when getting a site developed for you, but they're things you wouldn't think about unless you're already a web designer. So I got one of my designers to put together a "wish list" for hiring a designer. Be aware that this is from a designers perspective, so might be pickier than normal :)
1) Will it need ongoing maintenance?
A lot of web designers will do things like creating menu buttons out of images, instead of just using styled text, or text with a background image. This means that if you ever want to change your menu item or add a new one, you either need to master an image editing program and learn how to create it yourself, or you need to get the designer back on board to make the button for you.
Recommendation: Ask your designer to create all menu items as text with a CSS driven background image (if necessary). Ask to be provided with the PSD (photoshop file) for any header images etc so that you can alter them later.
2) Is the layout flexible?
You might see this cropping up in the forum here occasionally, but it's really, really easy to get spiffy looking layouts using certain techniques like absolute positioning, but these layouts can break as soon as you add one more word of text than the designer allowed for, or if you add more menu items or images.
Recommendation: Stress to your designer that the content of your site will be changing and ask that the layout is created to be as flexible as possible.
3) Are they actually any good?
Without knowing what you're looking for when you look "under the hood" of a website, this can be hard to judge. What you're hoping is that they know how to create websites that are compatible with the future, so that later down the track you can make changes to your site (images, colours, layout) without having to completely remake the whole thing.
Recommendation: Look for designers who create sites that are CSS driven with minimal use of tables, minimal use of scripts, minimal use of "inline" styles or tags (like <font face="arial, verdana, helvetica" size=0 color=#ff0000> ... if you start seeing those it means that if you ever want to change your site you'll have to go through and delete EVERY SINGLE ONE of them!). Look for designers who create sites that use "global stylesheets" to drive the layout and style of the site. If you see lines and lines of CSS at the top of every page... that's not a global stylesheet. If you want to change the site you'll have to go through and change that stuff on EVERY SINGLE PAGE. Look for something like <link rel="stylesheet" href="/css/style.css" type="text/css"> in the head info of the page. This is referring to the external stylesheet.
4) Are they actually going to put the whole site together for you, or just provide you with a template?
If they're just going to give you a template, you'll almost be better off getting yourself a free template (see below) and saving yourself some dollars. If they're putting the whole site together for you, you'll have to do a lot of up-front preparation to figure out how the whole site is going to slot together and flow between sections, and then you'll need to tell your designer that. (Or they should ask.)
Recommendation: Figure out whether you just want a template (or maybe a front page and an internal page), or whether you want the whole site created. Bear in mind that you're going to be adding more content to your site all the time, so you're going to have to learn how to do it eventually :) If you're just wanting a template, have a look at a site like http://www.oswd.org first. You can edit these in much the same way as you'd edit a design you've had created for you by a designer, and it's a good way to start to learn what good HTML looks like. If you can muddle through with one of these you'll save yourself a pretty penny.
All the best,