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How to Hire a Website Wizard

By Joe Dysart

How to Hire a Website Wizard
Not all Web designers are created equally. Do your homework before hiring. Is your website looking a little dog-eared these days? Or are you embarking on your first foray into cyberspace? Choosing the right website designer can be the most important decision you will ever make when it comes to building or improving your marketing presence on the Internet. The truth is that not all Web designers are created equally, according to Jan Zimmerman, author of Marketing on the Internet (6th edition, 2002, Maximum Press: Gulf Breeze, Florida; www.maxpress.com/ catalog/marketing.html. “Not all designers have the knowledge to build effective, order-taking mechanisms; not all are familiar with specific feature modules; and not all have business experience,” Zimmerman says. “You are likely to find people with excellent technical and graphic design skills. But few come to the process with a marketing background.” The secret to your website’s ultimate success is to know the tough questions to ask when interviewing Web designers; learn the best way to evaluate someone’s work; and become familiar with the technical specifications that will be covered in the final design contract.

find a link to a Web designer’s site at the bottom of the home page of a site you think is especially well designed. No matter how you find your potential group of digital Michelangelos, Zimmerman is adamant about evaluating each designer’s work online. “Always, always, always look at a designer’s work online,” she says. The reason: Websites showcased on laptop computers can often be “hotwired” to perform much more efficiently than they do in “real life.” On the Web, what you see is what you’ll get. Before signing any contract for a website design to be created from scratch, you may want instead to cut costs by finding a website template and then finding a local Web designer to customize the feel. Website templates are available at sites like All WebCoDesign(www.allwebcodesign.cm) and Template Monster (www.template monster.com). Other template companies can be found by searching the Internet using the key words “website templates.” “For a low-cost, high-quality compromise, identify a local graphic artist with the skill to customize,” Zimmerman says. “An experienced eye can quickly select colors, typefaces and buttons that add sophistication to an otherwise pedestrian design.” Once you’re ready to finalize the deal, Zimmerman suggests you nail down particulars, such as costs, site ownership, modification costs and timelines, promotion services, testing requirements, accountability and future needs. Here’s how.

cost significantly more. “Design costs may be lower if you select someone away from either coast,” advises Zimmerman.”Only you can weigh the factor of convenience versus cost.”

Specify Your Needs in Writing
One of the easiest ways to ensure that you get what you want and need from a website is to specify all of the details in writing in your request for quotes. Show your potential Web designer different websites you especially like, and focus on the particular features from those sites that you’d like to include on your own. Web designers will also want to know how many pages you’ll need, and how often you’ll want the site updated.

Specify the Web Designer’s Skills in Writing
Make sure any contract you sign details the programmer’s skills. For example, most Web designers have basic HTML programming skills. However, based on your needs, you’ll also want skills statements regarding graphic design and layout, copyrighting, CGI scripting (for interactivity like shopping carts), JAVA/Shockwave for animations and database programming, Zimmerman says.

Nail Down the Site Modification Rate
Realize going in that you’re going to need site updates in the future. Try to negotiate a per-page update rate if possible, rather than an hourly rate. Generally, a per-page rate allows you to cap the costs of the design from the start of the project, whereas the total cost of the site is openended if you negotiate an hourly rate. Keep in mind that some of the more sophisticated Web design software programs will enable you to post your own changes to your website–such as new press releases, new services you’re offering, product price changes and the like–without your needing to learn HTML or any other Web programming language. Ask

Know the Going Rate
“Some [Web design] companies offer an introductory package of $1,500

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