Back in the early days of the internet and websites, I got into web design out of necessity. I couldn't find professional web designers with solid businesses, who had good communication and design skills, and reasonable rates.
Now, happily, things are very different. There are many talented professional web designers with great skills, and there are options for collaborating and learning to update your website yourself (or not, as you wish).
Still, it can be overwhelming finding the one that's right for you. Here are six steps to help smooth out the process:
1. Do some thinking:
- Be realistic about your budget, not just for the website but for ongoing maintenance and updates. Most people are somewhere between "I have enough cash and zero time and need someone to do it all for me" and "My cash flow is tight, I want to do some of the work myself and learn to update it."
- If you see a friend's or colleague's website that you like, ask them about it. Was the designer easy to do business with, and did they work well collaborating? Did they follow-through on what they promised and got the work done on time and on budget?
- Visit other artist websites and make a list of what you like and why. Be specific. Copy/paste the url into your list so you can find it again.
- When browsing the web, view websites from the perspective of your customer. It's all about them and what they want and need.
- Make two wish lists: Must Haves, and Would Be Nice. Multiple image portfolios? A shopping cart? The ability to update it yourself? A blog? Private client areas?
2. Get some education on the basics:
You don't have to become a web designers yourself, but you should know the basics including what a domain name is and the difference between a website and web hosting.
Then, visit the websites of designers you're interested in. Spend some time getting to know them. Do you like their design style? Do they have sample websites to view? Are they communicating clearly about what they do? Have they been around for a while and give the impression of a stable professional business?
3. Communication counts:
A good web designer will be willing to talk to you on the phone and give you a comprehensive written quote.
During your initial conversation, notice how comfortable you are speaking with them. Are they listening to you? Are you able to understand what they propose? If you don't understand, ask them to explain.
Find out if they are knowledgeable about other forms of online marketing. As I like to say, "If you build it they will come" is not true for websites. You're going to be doing marketing to drive people to the website.
Do they stay up-to-date on technologies and understand that your website must support your other marketing efforts? Hint: Your 16-year old nephew who does cheap websites does not.
Ask about the process of working together. Is there an initial phone call? Follow-up calls? Will they give you design samples? How will you contact them with questions and concerns?
4. Make a decision:
Whom do you feel most comfortable with?
Think "best value for the money" not "cheapest quote." You do get what you pay for and if you've found a web designer that you like but the price is more than your budget, you can always scale down the features and functions and add them later in "Phase 2."
Get references and check them.
5. Get it in writing:
Know what you're paying for. Get a written quote/agreement detailing what's to be done, time lines and cost. Realize that anything not included in the document will probably cost extra.
Expect to pay a deposit, and the balance is usually due when the website goes live. Usually, once the website goes live, the agreement ends and changes and updates cost extra. The agreement should be clear on how that works.
6. Be prepared and ready to collaborate:
Before you start, gather all the info you think you'll use in the website and have a rudimentary site structure in mind. For example, Home Page, About, two Image Portfolios, Contact, newsletter signup, etc.
If you aren't happy with your current artist statement, bio, and resume, make sure they're updated before you send them to your web designer. Contact Aletta de Wal at Aletta@ArtistCareerTraining.com for writing and editing help.
Send it all to your web designer in as few emails as possible. The quickest way to drive a web designer crazy is to inundate them with dozens of emails.
Use only high-resolution professional-quality images of your work. Your web designer will size them appropriately for web use, but do start with great, large images.
If you have an opinion, speak up! Communication is good, nit-picking is not. If you don't trust that they know what makes for good design and a functional website, then you shouldn't be working with them.
Realize that sudden changes and do-overs take time, eat up your website budget and cost extra. Be clear about what you want. If you've done the necessary preparation, you'll be better able to stick by your decisions, which will save you time and money.
All my best to you and yours,