1. Crawl the web
Your search for the perfect web designer starts with familiarizing yourself with the excess of beautifully designed and well maintained websites that are out there in the World Wide Web. Check out these well-researched lists of top websites by Daily Tekk, RedFlag, Time and PC Mag. Create a list of the features you liked across all the websites you have visited and arrive at a final wish-list of 8-10 features you would like your website to have. It could be aesthetics, page-load speed, ease of navigation, stickiness (addictiveness), relevance of content, level of engagement, or any number of other features. You should also visit potential designers’ websites. A well-designed and informative website of the web designer projects professionalism. It indicates business confidence and application of expertise.
Now you should have 2 lists, one for web designers and one for your desired features.
2. Talk purpose and branding
The first thing you should do with each of your short-listed designers is to broach the topic of branding and the role of your website in creating the online brand presence you had envisioned. Your website is the face of your brand on the internet!
The design of your website must coincide with your overall brand image and sales goals. Website design differs depending on its purpose. If you are a building consultant, you may only want to list information about you, your services and a contact form for service. If you are a home builder, you most likely will need a gallery to showcase your display homes and jobs completed. If you are a building supplier, then you may need a shopping cart feature. Evaluating the purpose of your website will help determine the features you must have and those you can live without ensuring the best return on investment (ROI).
3. Talk Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
You should seek out web designers who are familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Of course, it helps if the web designer is an SEO expert themselves.
You should always keep in mind that you are building a site to sell a product or a service. There is no point of having the most fascinating site when it doesn’t serve its purpose.
Think of SEO as this example:
‘When you first publish a website, it is similar to putting up your sign beside a busy highway. When you first put up the sign it is only 1meter square, and in a field 1000 meters from the highway. It is there, but hardly anyone reads it.
As you develop your site, the sign moves closer to the highway and gets bigger. To increase the sign's size and decrease the distance from the highway you must get your site listed in the major search engines’
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, refers to all the things you can do to improve your website's visibility in the search engines’ rankings. Search engine optimization techniques focus on increasing the ‘organic’, or natural, traffic that you receive based on your ranking within the search engines.
You can familiarize yourself more with the concept of SEO here: Ten Make-Or-Break Tips For SEO
4. Find out who does the content writing
This is where most website owners go wrong. Website content is generally thought of as commoditized pieces of text that are needed to fill web pages. Your content is what engages the visitor and is uniquely positioned to convert prospects to customers. Some web designers have access to professional content writers to write an optimized content talking directly to your customers. Alternatively, you can provide the content to your web designer
5. Read the inclusions and know what you are getting for your money
Like many builders who have a list of inclusions for each home design, most web designers have 3 or 5 packages with a list of inclusions. It’s very important to know exactly what you are getting for your money.
Watch out for designers who ONLY charge by the 'page or by a certain page length.’ Or even worse have a very cheap package with a high monthly maintenance fee. This could end up costing you much more money.
6. Find out details of ownership and hosting
Enquire about the ownership of the web site and the domain name. Make sure you are given full ownership of the website and access details so you have control of your website for future updates should you choose to do so without having to pay the original designer. The domain name must be registered using your contact details and your ABN on the Australian Domain Registry, not the details of your web designer. This will ensure you can still use your website domain name in the future, even if you decide to deal with another web designer.
Many web designers and development firms also provide website hosting services. This is not only convenient for you in terms of any website’s updates and speed of portability, but can also work in your favor commercially. Ask your vendor for a competitive quote for a bundled service that includes website design, development and hosting.
7. Ask for wireframes
Before you jump headlong into awarding the contract to your web designer of choice, ask for wireframes. These are schematics of how your web pages will look like and the functionality embedded. It is the norm for designers to provide wireframes for the home page and another page, or to show you a sample version of the sequence of actions from one page to another. This will reveal the thought process of the designer as they go about conceptualizing the design for your website.