It’s been my experience that most clients enter into a web design contract knowing no more about what they’re doing than they do about molecular biology. I wouldn’t hire a carpenter to build onto my house without some knowledge about what he was doing so I could know what I was paying for. Furthermore I wouldn’t go into surgery without reading up a little on the procedure first. It is generally true that an educated client is a happy client, and for every happy web design client there is a happy web designer. Therefore I present my list of 10 things you should know about web design.
- You get what you pay for
Your nephew said he can design your website for you. No doubt he can design that website, but it will most likely be like the Rolex that you buy from a guy on the street, it looks nice but later you find out it doesn’t work. The same goes for web design firms or freelance web designers with bargain basement prices. If they are offering to do it cheap, chances are they are not giving it the necessary time and attention to create a quality product, which leads me to my next point.
- Designing a good website takes a lot of time
A reasonably decent website today must do many things well. A website needs to work on all browsers and platforms, download quickly, perform well on search engines, meet current web standards, look great and be easy to navigate among other things. Getting all these items right will take any web designer a great deal of time. In addition a really good website won’t be done quickly partly because of the next point.
- There’s a lot of code behind a website
When you look at a website you are just seeing the end result of a whole lot of code that the web designer has written, try viewing a website’s source code sometime to see what I mean. And that is just the HTML portion, there may also be many additional files included in a web page such as scripts, style sheets and images. The point is, don’t judge a book by its cover, a web page has much more to do than just look pretty and chances are some web designer has spent many hours getting it all right.
- Your web designer has trouble with mind-reading
It’s helpful if you approach your web designer with some idea of what you would like in your website. Look at your competitors websites and make notes about what you like or don’t like. Some brief notes about features you would like to see, colors you would like to use and things you hate about other websites would be a big help. Your web designer will find it much easier to be creative with some initial ideas to work with.
- Every browser will render your website differently
There are more different web browsers available now then ever and each handles things a little bit differently. What your site looks like on your browser is not what it looks like on everybody’s browsers. There is no way your web designer can make your website render identically on every web browser. The goal is to make it look great on all browsers, not to make it look the same on all browsers.
- Every screen resolution, monitor and device will make your website look different
This is related to the previous point. Depending on the screen being used to view your website, the screen resolution, and a variety of other settings like color depth, your website will look very different from one device to another. It is often a game of compromises to make it look as good as possible on all and the best on the most screens.
- Fonts will look different on different computers
Windows and Macs handle fonts very differently, furthermore the individual fonts on a computer vary widely. So this is yet another example of what may look one way on your computer may look different on another. Your web designer looks for a compromise that looks the best on most computers.
- You need to play by Google’s rules
Google has about 65% of the web search market, its nearest competitor Bing has a mere 15%. This means that any website hoping to be at least mildly successful online needs to do well on Google which means playing by their rules for search engine optimization. The guidelines that Google offers provide some limitations to what you can do with your website, but the benefits of following these rules are many.
- Visitors will not flock to your site when it’s done
The road to internet success is littered with the remains of websites that have failed to make an impression in the market. The key thing to remember is that a successful website does not just happen. People need to be able to find your website on the search engines when searching for relevant keywords, for this to happen you will need at least some basic SEO services. You will need to promote your website to current and prospective clients, put your web address on all your marketing materials. And one other thing is required to make it successful, our next point.
- Your website will need to change… often
People will return to a website that changes often, but not to a brochure website. The most successful websites are those that are more than just static information about your company, consider incorporating a business blog, discussion forum, RSS news feeds, photo gallery or at the very least have the ability to go in and change things around occasionally.
Now that you’ve completed your crash course in web design basics you are ready to go out there and hire a web designer. You will be a better educated consumer and your web designer will be happy that you have done your homework and can carry on an intelligent conversation on the subject of website design.