.... but are they good value for money?

Eeek. You need professional help with your website, but where do you start?

From one man bands to an experienced design agency, deciding who to trust with one of your biggest assets is a not a choice to be taken lightly.

There's so many people out there claiming to be website designers, sifting through the many different 'experts' to find the right one can be a difficult and frustrating task. Websites can be scary things if you don't know anything about them, and all too often when it comes to decision time, people make the wrong choices based on poor information.

You don't have to understand the technical aspects of building a website, you just need to be sure you are receiving the best value you can afford. It's easier said than done, so here we shall try to save you a lot of time, stress and money by suggesting a few basic questions to put to your designer.

There are no golden rules or price guides available for the customer or designer for that matter, however it is reasonable to assume you get what you pay for. If you give your brief to three different designers you can expect to receive three completely different estimates. How confusing! How do you decide who to go with?

First, you should have a clear idea of what you can afford. Whatever the project value is, share it with your designer and ask them to tell you what they can do for you within this budget. With this approach you can make a fair comparison between one designer and the next.

Secondly, only after answering some searching questions will you find out who's really giving you good value for your money. We can virtually guarantee it wont be the cheapest price you receive, but money thrown at a poor website design because it was the cheapest is money wasted. 

So here's our Top Tips and questions to put to your prospective designers. They cover most bases and will help you weed out the inexperienced and the numptys without you having to know anything about websites! Brilliant.

Accessibility: Are they local? We ask all our clients to come in for at least an initial conversation, it helps us get to know you and you get to know us and how we work. If they're not local, can you communicate with them easily; do you have access to their address, email, mobile, landline, twitter etc? There's nothing worse than feeling abandoned because you can't get hold of anyone to see how your project is coming along.

Experience: What experience do they have and how long have they been in the industry? Are they up to date with all the latest technology and design trends? Can they guide and advise you on the best choices for your business needs as well as your customers needs? Check out what people say about them online and look to see who's endorsed them on LinkedIn. Ask them to provide case studies or references from previous customers, or at least show you some testimonials they've gathered. What qualifications do they have, what awards have they won, which associations are they members of? If they can't give evidence of their experience, they may well be telling porkie pies.

Portfolio: Check out their previous work, do they walk the talk. Look at the different styles of design they've used. Is their approach flexible or do they stick to a very similar layout every time. Does their work live up to your aspirations and compare them to other website designs you have looked at and liked. A good portfolio should evidence the designers level of skills and expertise and give you a strong indication of what they can do for you. If your still not sure if they live up to your expectations then walk away.

What other services do they provide? A professional website designer should be able to provide you with a full range of support services that are needed to ensure your project develops and is launched successfully. No matter how attractive your website design if the photo imagery and copywriting is poorly executed then you risk falling at the first hurdle. And once your project is completed how will people find you? Successful implementation of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a must as is Local SEO and directory listings. Inbound marketing, link building and maximising social media channels are all important steps towards a successful campaign. If there's nothing else on offer the chances of you ever gaining competitive advantage is minimal, so walk away.

How much do they charge and what do you get for this: Let's not beat around the bush, you need to know how much it's going to cost you and whether that's within your budget. Break it down even further so you can get a comprehensive idea of what everything's costing and get a quote, detailing exactly what you're paying for, in writing. It won't be any hassle at all for a proper web designer to get that to you but if they're being a bit evasive now, do you really want to start giving money to this person without any contract as to what their going to do with it?

Attention to detail: Ask to see a copy of their T&Cs and read it carefully. If they don't have written terms then walk on by. What level of indemnity insurance do they have in case something should go wrong? If they look at you with a blank expression... book someone else.

Trust: And finally, do you like them as a person because if you're not going to get on with them you wont have a lasting, trusting or loyal relationship. If there's no chemistry between you then when problems arise, or difficult decisions need to be made, you risk a major fallout that could be detrimental to the project and your business. Perhaps you'd better off saying “au revoir” now.

On the other hand if you trust them with your brand and business reputation, if you feel you're in safe hands and willing to bet money on it, then go for it!

So there you have it! If the designer happily takes the time to answer your questions and can evidence their answers without any issues, there's a good chance they have a strong track record with nothing to hide. If they struggle, appear evasive or start dodging the questions then think long and hard before making your final choice of website partner. After all, it's your time, money, reputation and customers who could be seriously affected.