A lot of the work we do building websites and improving website rankings, is not the customers first experience of hiring a web designer to work for them. Finding a good web designer in New Zealand can be harder than it seems, and much of our work involves rescuing our customers from the damage their previous web designer or SEO has done. Doing a little research before jumping in and using the guy down the road could save you a lot of time and money.
What skills should a good web designer have?
Good web designers come in many different forms and have strengths in different areas. Here are some things to consider;
- Graphic Design
Viewing the web designers portfolio will quickly tell you whether or not the style of their graphic design work is to your taste. While it may not be the most important aspect for many businesses, the appearance of your website should be professional, appropriate to your business and not deter customers!
- Programming Skills
A wide range of programming knowledge is required to effectively build a website, trouble-shoot problems and customise features. Expecting a hobby web designer or a young relative learning web design at school to have the skills to do this is unrealistic. On the other hand, someone who is a programmer but not a web designer will probably build a really ugly website!
- Search Engine Optimisation
Even a nicely designed, well-built website won’t achieve everything you hope if no one can find it. Ranking your website highly on Google is extremely important and a skill that most web designers SAY they have but in reality, do not. Ask for multiple examples of highly ranked clients that they have completed SEO work for.
- Business Acumen
There’s an old saying that goes; “Never ask a poor person for financial advice”. I think the same rule applies to marketing your business online. If the web designer you’re considering doesn’t make the effort to understand your business or doesn’t have any grasp of business in general, how can they hope to help you with marketing it?
- Communication Skills
Aside from the above practical skills, you need a web designer who you can communicate with. If they talk over your head or can’t explain things clearly, it will be a struggle all the way. You’ll need them to keep you updated on new developments in the industry and be accessible to help you with updates. Read the web designers reviews and make sure that you are happy working with the individual you’re dealing with, because it could (should) be a long term relationship.
How much should you pay for a good web designer?
This is one of those “piece of string” questions! You could spend a few hundred or tens of thousands of dollars on website design. It depends what you want your website to do for you. Cheap websites will inevitably have limitations, whereas a $5000 website should have many useful features. You wouldn’t believe how many people approach me with a “brilliant idea” that will make a fortune (“Like Facebook but better!”) with a budget of 3 bottle tops and a share of the “profits”!
Realistically, you should set a budget that is in line with the ambitions you have for your business. If it’s a “just for fun” business, then don’t spend much at all. If you want to make money, you need to take the website seriously enough to put a decent budget into it.
If you use a web design company outside of Auckland (like us), you’ll probably get a better deal and something more personalised on a smaller budget. We have many clients throughout New Zealand that we have never met face to face. The power of the internet!
We’ve seen people lose a lot of money by using unproven, inexperienced web designers who have the best intentions but lack the skills to give the customer what they need. They then come to us looking for a fix and end up spending more money than if they had just come to us in the first place. Here’s a few questions that will help you to choose a good web designer…
Questions you can ask to find a good web designer
Asking the right questions will help you make a good choice when looking for a good web designer.
- How long have they been in business and how many websites have they built?
Like photography, web design is one of those industries where the barrier to entry is relatively low. All you need is a home computer. We’ve seen lots of web designers start up and disappear within a couple of years, leaving their clients in the lurch with dysfunctional websites and no access to them.
- Is web design what you do full time and is it your core business?
Especially in small towns, most web designers seem to be either part timers, hobby designers or an add-on to their core business, such as a photographer, printing or graphic design company. None of these people spend all day working on websites, so why would you choose to use them? Would you be happy using a hobby dentist or plumber that did enemas on the side?
- Where do your customers websites rank on Google?
A good web designer should be able to show you high rankings on Google for several different websites using keyword searches that are NOT the name of the customers company. Simply being found for your own company name is not an achievement!
- Do you undergo training with Google?
We are part of a Google training programme and attend personal training sessions with Google representatives on a regular basis to learn more about the latest website optimisation and Google AdWords developments.
- What happens after my website is finished?
Most web designers do nothing more after your website is finished. We can help you with ranking on Google, tracking your competitors, email marketing to your customers, social media, writing articles for your website and managing online advertising.
- Do you build websites using pre-designed templates?
Sadly, a lot of web designers don’t even design their own website templates any more. They buy pre-designed templates or “themes” cheaply and add your logos and images and present it to you as if it’s their own work. Some of these people even have the audacity to advertise themselves as “experts”. What you’re getting is a website that looks like everyone else’s who bought the same theme. Aside from the ethics of this, themes may contain malicious code or be built in a way that is detrimental to your website. Be wary.
- Will I own the finished website and can I move it to another web designer?
You’d expect to wouldn’t you? But many web designers build your website using systems that are owned by them. If you fall out with the web designer, you might own the graphics and the content of the website but if they use a content management system (CMS) that is proprietary, you can’t move it to another web designer as a functioning website. It would have to be built from scratch. One of the biggest web design companies in the country, Zeald, do exactly this. Don’t pour thousands of dollars into a website you don’t fully control.
- Will my website be responsive?
At the time of writing, most web designers are still not building websites to work on any browser. You website should use responsive web design that will reformat your website depending on what the viewer is using to look at it, from a smartphone to a tablet to a desktop monitor.
- Where do you host my website?
Most NZ web designers would host websites in New Zealand. If they host overseas, you should probably pass. If something goes wrong in the host company, it makes the situation more difficult if you’re havign to communicate with an overseas company. Also, ask if they use VPS (shared hosting). If they do, your website could be sharing a server with thousands of other anonymous websites your web designer didn’t build and has no control over. This can make your website slow and affect rankings negatively. Energise Web have a private cloud server that only our clients websites are hosted on.
Something we consider important is a holistic approach. We’ve been building websites since 1999 and we look at your website as an extension of your business, not as an advert. There is much more to consider other than just the website. Without sourcing this knowledge, either by using a professional or spending a lot of time learning it yourself, a website is like a race car driven by a learner driver. It doesn’t matter how good the car is if there’s no skills behind the wheel. Contact Us if you’d like to find out more!