What to look for in a website designer

aboutmeet In a recent article posted on the Network Solutions SmartBiz website, the author gave 8 signs that it may be time to fire a client.

If applied specifically to website design – those reasons could be condensed and rephrased to:

  1. The client undoes all your hard work by updating the site haphazardly, thus ruining the design.
  2. The client is never available to provide content or feedback and / or withholds content or vital information (including payment).
  3. The client asks you to do something illegal / unethical.
  4. The client is never satisfied (they ask for a lot of little changes, often, and therefore for free).

For me, an ideal website design client provides:

  1. Clear and timely communication of needs, wants, account info, content, updates, etc.
  2. Timely communication of feedback / changes needed prior to publish of site
  3. Timely payment for services rendered (once site is approved and published)
  4. A willingness to give a testimonial and referrals (post publish)
  5. Timely communication of any updates required (new content)

More importantly, the ideal freelance website designer provides:

  1. Prompt & courteous communication (replies to email / phone messages)
  2. Quality service (code, design, marketing, education) using quality tools
  3. Affordable rates (without sacrificing quality)
  4. Adequate experience / skill / knowledge (code, design, marketing)
  5. Post-publish support (timely updates, follow-up, support, monitoring)

A good website designer will always quickly return calls / emails, are willing to meet in person, and will listen for what you want and balance that with what you need. They will be available and willing to make changes as requested, quickly and affordably.

Balancing what you want with what you need, a good freelance website designer will design a site in a way that is visually appealing, user-friendly, search engine optimized, and most importantly – W3C compliant and do so using a tool that can be used to easily update the website and make changes quickly and affordably.

A great freelance website designer will not only do this at a rate that does not sacrifice quality for budget restrictions, but also provide ongoing support in terms of affordable and timely updates, marketing, and search engine optimization.

In the end, after the site is published, you should be able to own the website’s content in full as well as it’s domain name and hosting. The designer should not hold this information hostage in the event you should part ways.

A solid prior relationship can be key. Think of your seven degrees of separation. Who do you know that may know of someone who is good at website design? That fact that they know you, even through degrees of separation may mean the difference between warm collaborative working relationship and a cold transactional relationship.

If you don’t already know of a website designer that satisfies your requirements, and / or are looking to develop a new business relationship with a small business freelance website designer, give us a call. We’d be happy to connect the pieces of your online presence.

Rob Shurtleff

Integrated eMarketing Solutions

Website content – balancing too much against not enough

one-does-not-simply2By now, it should be common knowledge that content is king as search engines love good naturally written dynamic content that is relevant to the purpose of the website. Of course the “content” itself must also be relevant to the target reader, clear yet concise, and most importantly adequate (300 words minimum for SEO purposes some say) yet not overwhelming.

In today’s age of not enough time to read all of the valuable website content thoroughly, it has become habit by some to simply skim the text in an effort to quickly find what they deem as important. On one hand, if the visitor cannot find the information they are looking for (because it doesn’t exist), they will move onto the next site that does. On the other hand, if the visitor is overwhelmed with too much content, more than likely they won’t even stay to skim and search for this valuable information. So what can be done to find this balance between adequate content and yet not overwhelm the site visitor?

Various techniques include the following:

• Legible fonts

• Bold keyword paragraph titles

• Short paragraphs no more than 3 – 4 lines

Sparsely bold text to draw attention

• Bullet points

Quick side note – various on-page SEO techniques include the following:

Website page title meta tag – no more than 65 characters (include top relevant 2 keywords)

• Description meta tag – no more than 125 characters (include top relevant 2 – 5 keywords)

• Keyword meta tag – no more than 15 (include a handful of relevant 2-3 word phrases)

• H1 Meta Tags – page subtitles (include top relevant keyword)

• Avoid “keyword stuffing” – overly repeating a keyword in an unnatural way.

Anchor text – link each keyword to its relevant content.

Again, content must be written for the reader, not just for the search engine. Balancing adequate content with relevent content is key. Of course the design of the text (layout, font, color / contrast) must also coincide with the overall design of the site to ensure the message is delivered effectively and efficiently. It’s not just what is said, how it’s said matters also.

Robert Shurtleff – Integrated eMarketing Solutions

“No” v “Yes-And”

 no-v-yes-and2In today’s business, the old adage “the customer is always right” has never been more true. An aspiring entrepreneur wanting to offer a service, let along a product, needs to understand the importance of long-term relationships with their customers as the secret to sustainable success. However, does this mean we are obligated to simply deliver what the customer wants or are we allowed to exceed their expectations?

What about the situations where we want to meet and exceed expectations but cannot (due to lack of ability? What if there is an opportunity to suggest an alternative that is “better” than what the customer asked for? Are we obligated to simply tell the client “no we can’t” and risk the relationship or do we have the option to tell the client “yes and” offer an alternative that fulfills the root purpose even better? The later runs the risk of irritating the client because what was asked for on the surface (even though the deeper purpose is fulfilled with the alternative) is not being delivered.

I for one hate being told “no” and therefore hates to tell my clients no. However, I also know the limitations of my abilities (as it relates to what I find ethical to charge). If I cannot deliver exactly what was asked for or if I do not feel that what was asked for is in the best interest of the client, I don’t want to say “no”, I’d rather offer that alternative in an attempt to fulfill expectations.

Rob Shurtleff – Integrated eMarketing Solutions

Catching more bees with honey than vinegar

As a business owner, how you conduct yourself personally reflects who you are professionally, and vice versa, especially in terms of feedback. Communication should be honest, yet tactful. Feedback should be constructive, not destructive. Even though negative feedback can be just as effective, it comes at what cost? Lost opportunity.

More often than they should, product / service feedback posts simply include “I will never do business with this company again”. Such post leads me to two conclusions: 1 – what on earth did this company do to deserve such a lashing?, and 2 –  this person cannot be in their right mind to give such negative feedback without the hope and option of how to fix the issue, thus leaving the real issue unresolved for another customer to suffer through. On the opposite side of the coin, when we are giving feedback to our peers (the competition), I believe it to be professionally ethical to do nothing less than to give honest feedback with tact and courtesy. Again, the option to right a wrong must be made available. Doing so will allow you, as the professional, to look like someone others would want to do business with. Burning of such potential relationships is needless and furthermore, senseless. Be careful with what opportunities you let go for they may come back to haunt you.

Rob Shurtleff – Integrated eMarketing Solutions