How to Find a Good Website Designer
It's a buyer's market for web developers right now. You can get a good development company to do your site very reasonably. The hard part is figuring out which are the good companies.
One good way to choose a developer is to ask for a recommendation from someone whose site you admire. It doesn't have to be someone you know in real life. Most people are flattered to get an email telling them how much you like their site and would they please give you the name of the developer.
Alternatively, there are online directories that list web designers and programmers. Some of these directory sites give you the ability to request quotes from several developers who will respond to you online. If you find a developer on one of these directory sites, ask him or her for a list of sites they have done. Then call or email the webmaster or other contact person listed on some of those sites. Ask if those clients were satisfied with the quality and timeliness of the developer's work, and whether the developer showed an understanding of their requirements and a willingness to listen.
If you're willing to deal with people strictly by email, phone and IM, there are programmers in India and Russia who charge very little. Many of them frequent these online directories, so be aware that the person answering your bid request may be half a world away.
Some dont's in picking a website designer
DON'T yield to the temptation of hiring someone without a track record, just because they're cheap, or they're someone's nephew. You want someone who will complete the job when he says he will, and who will produce a professional looking website. Also, you don't want any hurt feelings if your friend's nephew does a rotten job and you have to tell him so. Nor do you want to be reticent about asking for changes because someone is doing the website for you as a favor.
DON'T be impressed by awards.
They're easy to get. Many of them are available to all comers. All you have to do is promise to link back to their awards site.
DON'T be impressed by a slick marketing presentation. If the firm is dominated by marketers, they may undervalue their technical talent. Some of the best companies are two or three person firms whose members are all actual designers and programmers.
Three other things to consider:
One: A marketer is overhead for a design firm. That means the firm that hires one has to charge you more to pay the marketer's salary.
Two: A marketer knows how to sell, not the nits and grits of how to make a website. You might as well start the process with the person who's actually going to make the website.
Three: You may love the marketer you meet with initially, but that's not the person you'll be living with during the creation process. You need to be sure you can communicate with the person who's actually going to do the work.
The final DON'T:
Don't authorize work with a handshake. Get a contract spelling out who's going to do what and how payment will be handled. It's for your protection as well as the developer's.
As an internet development manager, I've worked with all kinds of design companies. I know you will find, as I did, that a good designer can make the process of putting up a website a pleasurable and edifying experience.
About the Author
Irene Herz, the author of Having My Own Website, a free guide to all the practical steps involved in setting up a website, is the president of the website design and development company, Aunt Reenee's Websites. She was for many years a website designer and a manager of Internet Development for ITT Industries.