Most, if not all businesses today, can benefit from a web site. If you already have a site that is not working for your business, or you are starting the process of finding a web developer, you can save a lot of time, trouble, and most importantly money, by answering a few questions before choosing a web designer.
What is your budget?
Money and time are the two most important factors to consider before making your choice. In general most of the sites I've worked on, or been have asked to work on, fall into three cost levels.
Realistically, $500, is the minimum that should be budgeted for the design/redesign of any site. It should be easy to find a good designer for $300-400 to create a good basic web site. But you will most likely have a few changes and updates, especially the first month or two after you launch your online presence. So it is always a good idea to add 10-15% to your budget for any changes, etc. that will most likely come up.
Many businesses already have some sort of web site or online presence by now. If you or your organization fall under this category, and are looking to redesign and/or update your site, you probably have a better idea of what your budget will be. Most likely it will be more than $500. The web site or application redesign could even cost thousands of dollars. So for redesigns, finding a developer with the right combination of skills is going to be the next major decision made.
There are basic skills that you should look for in any web designer. For instance you want to make sure that they can truly produce a functional web site. This seems obvious. But there are professionals that specialize in developing templates, flash and or other products, that can be converted to web sites. But they are not truly a final product. These are valid and valuable services. Just make sure that your final outcome will be a published functioning website.
Other things such as communication, schedule conflicts, experience in your market area, and looking at their previous work to see if their design style is a good fit for your organization, are basic questions that must be considered when looking at your candidates for your web project. Beyond the basics skills it is also helpful to look at the exact skill sets of the various designers vying for your project.
Today, the title webmaster encompasses a wide variety of specialists and skill types. For instance, many webmasters have a graphic design background. If you or your organizations requirements call for animation, video and/or a graphic intensive design, you would want to specifically find a web designer with a lot of experience with flash, photoshop, etc.
Some other common backgrounds that webmasters come from are: Computer Science, Marketing, Copywriting and Sales. There are many more. The main idea is to have a good idea of what the internet developer specializes in and the way you want to promote your site. Matching your developers background to your requirements can make the process much smoother.
There are also quite a few, like myself, that fall into many of the categories above. Although, some webmasters have a strong grasp on multiple areas of expertise, they are few and far between. There are many though that will have all the skills you require. Most developers that work on many types of projects will be a 6-9, on a scale of 1-10, in the various competencies your project requires.
The upside to working with a web developer who is not a 10 in any area, but who has multiple areas of expertise, is just that. The entire project can be managed by one person or group. Having worked on projects where multiple developers are involved, I can say it automatically adds a new layer of complexity to the project. Since you will have several developers working on various aspects of the project, you will have to manage work flow, communication and eventually piece it all together in the end. For these and many more reasons it is always best to work with just one developer or web design company at a time.
If you are working with a company that may have many people working on your site, it is always a good idea to ask a few more questions. You still have the advantage of having the entire project managed by one entity, but the problems of communication break downs and lag times can still be an issue. Most likely the project will be handled by a project manager that will then delegate and relay requests to various people within their web design company.
A good practice is to always back up any communication in writing and make sure that deadlines are part of that communication. For instance, much of my communication is by phone. It is very helpful to type up an email that covers all the action items, issues, etc. that were covered in the phone or in person meeting. I simply ask that they respond to the email to verify what was covered, or clear up any misunderstandings before work begins on any given phase of a web project.
Written communication to verify that everyone understands what is expected, and when, is a best practice for virtually any situation. It is even more important when you are working with a company instead of directly with a single web developer.
If your budget is less than $300-500 range, try to find some extra resources somehow to allow more budget for the project. Otherwise, you will most likely need to out source it to a company overseas. You also have the option to do the site yourself; Or find a rookie designer or friend with some knowledge to help. The downside to this is that it will take a lot more time.
If you simply can not increase your budget, the best thing to do is seek out a developer on a web job board. Sites such as guru and elance have many low cost developers that will bid on your project. If you choose to go this route you can cut down on the amount of time lost by having a very clear idea of what your final site should like and how it should function.
Increasing your own technical knowledge can also save some time. Since you will mostly likely end up working with a web developer in another country and another time zone, any mis communication or diversion from the original request can leave you out of money with an incomplete web site. And as I said, will definitely cost you days, if not more, in time.