While not an exhaustive list (I could definitely come up with more!) here are some major things to avoid when hiring a web designer:
1. Don’t let your web designer purchase your domain name for you. Suppose down the road you end your business relationship with your designer OR the designer closes up shop OR moves to another company. Not only is the owner of your domain name MIA, most of the time he has taken the login & password for your registrar with him! If your designer uses his personal name and email address as the administrative contact not only will he receive all notices regarding domain expiration (you’ll be unaware), all changes in ownership will have to be validated through that email address. If the email address no longer exists it gets even more complicated. Bottom line… Make sure you own your domain name!
2. All in one packages purchased from web hosting companies that include hosting, web design and web design maintenance are not always a good deal. Some of the pitfalls can include:
– Paying a monthly maintenance fee even when no updates are required for the month.
– In some cases the web host may retain ownership of the site, so if you change web hosts in the future you will not be able to take your site with you.
– Some web hosts require that updates be made through their company, leaving you subject to the company’s (some time excessive) time frame.
– Most “all in one” companies use template systems so your choice of design may be limited.
– You may pay extra for features that you never use.
Many times it is more economic to find an affordable web host and hire a web designer that charges for updates only when updates are required. You will generally have more flexibility with your site’s design and you can request only the features that you intend to use.
3. Don’t use a web designer that insists on his own design. It is one thing for a web designer to advise you regarding site structure, accessibility, color theory and organic search engine optimization – that is their obligation as a professional and what you are paying them for. It is another for the designer to insist on a web site “look” based solely on their personal taste. It is not unheard of for a web designer to provide a draft to their client and if the client expresses unhappiness with any aspect of the draft for the designer to become offended. This is a sign of immaturity and unhealthy pride. A good web designer should always take your vision and likes/dislikes into account. The perfect website should be healthy, perform well, attract the appropriate customers, AND make you proud.
4. Remember that a web designer is not necessarily a search engine optimization specialist. While a good web designer should be educated and incorporate healthy organic SEO techniques into their design, a web designer cannot be held responsible for the ongoing performance of your site (especially in a competitive market) unless you have specifically contracted for those services. Web design and SEO are two distinct industries that compliment and build upon each other.
5. If you already have a website and are looking for a redesign you do not have to move your site to your designer’s recommended web host. Many times web designer’s resell web hosting and are looking to make a little side money. Though it sounds easy enough, moving a web site is more complicated then you think. First you need to take the “if something can go wrong it probably will” law into consideration. There will be at least 48 hours of downtime, and forms and email links have to be reconfigured and retested. Unless you are using an exchange server, there is a chance you will loose all emails sent during the transition time. It gets even more complicated if a site is running an online store. In that case, configuration files have to be edited at the server and gateway levels, the database reinstalled, and the store retested. You should only switch web hosts if you are unhappy with your current host.