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Thursday, April 26, 2007

How to Hire a Web Designer for Business Women

Before Hiring a Web Designer...

By Cyndi Egbert

There are plenty of poorly done websites online for which a handsome price was paid. This problem is distressing for the small business owner as they often don’t have the funds to pay a competent professional to redo or repair shoddy work. Thus, it becomes of utmost importance to recognize quality work before hiring someone to create your site. The following tips can help you identify a competent web designer. (I would suggest reviewing three sites before hiring someone.) This list is important for recognizing which things don't reflect on the web designer and which things do.

Broken links- if the page is more than a few weeks old, it is probably not the web designer's fault if some off-site links are no longer working. The web changes very quickly and pages disappear. If the broken links are to other pages within the site, it's a red flag for shoddy work.

1. Special effects- many duffers have an impressive array of special effects on their websites. People are wowed by the tricks and don't notice that it's the only thing done properly on the page. This is important for two reasons. One is that these codes are available free on the internet. This means anyone with web access and a search engine can find and recreate these effects with very little time or effort (i.e. it's no big deal). Reason two is that these special effects damage load time significantly. If people surfing to your site can't quickly assess your page or get knocked offline because you have too much "stuff" on your site, it won't bring you any business or return visits. Each graphic, special effect, and audio file adds to your load time. If that’s not taken into consideration, the website is not useful to your audience or you.

2. Title bars- the title bar is the wording on the top line of the window. When someone marks a page, this identifies the page. If you see pages marked "untitled" or "new page 3" or " http://mysitesucks.com" you are looking at pages done by a duffer.

3. Backgrounds- it's feasible to overlook background choices and accompanying graphics. If they are poorly done, feel free to ask the designer if s/he created them before making a decision. Sometimes the client insists on backgrounds that are less than optimal and the designer has to work within those limitations. Even so, if every site you view by a particular designer has terrible graphics and overwhelming backgrounds, that may be the designer's personal style and needs to be considered.

4. Text- the text appearance is within the designer's realm to fix. If you can't read the text, you don't want this person designing your page. Some people leave the text color in default, which means the text appears in the color that is specified by your computer. This is acceptable if there’s no background or color, but it is sloppy otherwise. If one aspect of the page (i.e. the background) is changed all aspects of the page (i.e. the text color and link colors as needed) must be changed to ensure viewability.

5. Graphics- there are several points to assessing graphics. Alternate tags and size specifications mean attention to detail which is important. Less experienced web designers leave out size specs and alt tags, while more professional designers do so only by accident. The alt tag is the name that pops up when you place the cursor over a graphic. Occasionally this will not pop up even when it's specified, but you usually see something if there is a tag specified. There are two ways to tell if the graphic sizes have been specified (which is important to load time). One is that you will see a box in the proper size while the page is loading. If a size isn’t specified, you will see a very small box that flows into the proper size as the graphic loads. The second way is more complicated and requires knowing a little bit about HTML. If you right-click over a text area on a page, you can choose "view source" or "view page source" and view the HTML coding. Graphics files appear as IMG SRC="image.jpg" (or something similar) and then ALT=#, HEIGHT=#, WIDTH=#. If you don't find those last three attached to any of the IMG SRC codes, you might want to continue your search for a web designer. Also keep in mind that any designer worth the price will suggest keeping graphics (especially animated graphics) to a minimum, but again, sometimes a client has specific ideas and compromises are made.

6. Frames- multiple "windows" on one webpage are called "frames". Their purpose is to allow part of the page to reload as you switch from page to page. It is supposed to reduce load time by keeping graphics and links constantly on the screen while you are surfing the site. Poorly done frames may reload every window (doubling or tripling load time) with each page change. They can also "trap" you in the frames, making the next site you visit appear within the frame specified by the last site. Many people like frames because they look "fancy" but they reduce the viewable screen area, increase the initial load time and some computers don't support them and may shut down.

7. META tags- these are descriptive words and phrases that many search engines use to categorize your page. This is important and frequently overlooked by less experienced designers. The only way to check for META tags is to right-click on the page and select "view source" because they are invisible. They are clearly marked "META=" near the top of the HTML codes and the ones of concern say "KEYWORDS=" and "DESCRIPTION=" although there may be other tags listed. If your designer doesn't use them, your page will not be picked up properly by the search engines and no one will find your site.

I hope these suggestions are helpful to you. A bad choice can be VERY costly.

from here

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