Getting Your Website Redesigned: What to Look Out For and the Right Questions to Ask
Your website is your digital footprint, your companies' face in the online world; so it pays to make a good first impression. Look at your site and then your top competitors - view the best to be amongst the best. If you come to a realization yours is in need of a freshen up, a redesign, cause your competitors are out doing you, then you'll want to start looking around. However, it can be difficult to know what to look for in a web designer or agency, and even more difficult to ask the right questions when searching for the right fit.
All is not lost - read on to find out what you should be looking for when having your website designed.
Finding the Right Fit
When looking for a designer to create your website's look, it's important to find something that you love. Start by finding websites that you want to emulate. Those websites will usually have a link somewhere at the bottom in the footer to the designer's website. Begin making a shortlist of your favorite designs and designers/agencies.
Look at their portfolios and see each individual or agencies' styling and their main type of website design. You want to find a designer who matches closely what you want from your website.
The next step is to reach out to their previous clients and have a short chat, either via phone or email. Ask them questions such as:
- What was it like working with this designer/agency?
- Were they communicative, punctual and efficient?
- What did you like/enjoy about working with them?
- Was there anything that concerned you about them, or any way they could improve?
- Did the designer stay on-budget, on-time and could you recommend them to people?
You're trying to get a feel for how they work with people, and how well they connect with their clients.
The next step is to actually talk to the web designer or agency themselves.
The Right Designer for You
Once you've got all the information above, it's time to contact the designer themselves. This is where you'll definitely find out whether they're the designer for you.
During your conversation with the designer(s) you've shortlisted, you want to be looking for answers to these questions:
- How long have they been doing the job? When can the project get started? What's needed on their side before any work can begin?
- How do they interact with you? Do they make it easy to understand what they're doing, or do they confuse you with technical jargon?
- What is it going to cost? You may not have a huge budget, and the designer needs to present a clear breakdown of the total project cost. You don't want secret fees cropping up once the project begins. Get this down and clear before any work begins.
- What is their process when working? How communicative are they during projects? You may be a business owner who likes simply leaving people to get on with things, or someone who likes to be in touch regularly with people you're working with. So find a designer who fits you.
- Make sure it's clear what they can and can't do. Not every designer holds the same skills, so if a designer is simply saying "yes, I can do that. And that. And that...", that should be a red flag. Either they're lying to get the job, or they're simply mediocre at everything.
There may be rare cases of experienced designers who have thousands of hours of experience, but they will have a varied and detailed portfolio to back that up. So keep your eyes open for over-promisers.
Be sure to ask them more specific questions about your project; questions such as asking whether they can create mobile-friendly sites, do they use custom designs or pre-made templates, will retina screens/high resolutions be supported?
Once you've answered those questions, you'll have a very clear idea of whether you want to work with those designers/agencies or not.
Things to Consider
- Current Setup. You may need your IT guy or webmaster with you when looking for a new website design. They'll have specifics about your servers, hosting, and current domain setup which you'll need to relay to the website design team. Since your IT team will be working with their team, you will need to make sure a cohesive relationship is established since both parties are clear and understand their roles.
Example: Your IT team will need to give access and privileges to their website team in a reasonable timeframe to meet deadlines. Your designer team will have to know who is implementing the design. Some website designers many simply design the website and you'll need a website developer to implement the design. This can be your web designer or someone on their team. It has to be drawn out who is implementing design and it's important to know who to contact if there is a problem or emergency as well.
Definition Note: a web designer, designs the website similar to an architect of a new building - they design the new building. A web developer implements the design similar to a building contractor that coordinates the actual build of your new building. A proper design team should have both.
- Legacy. Let the design team know about legacy data or things that are connected to the website or domain ASAP. This is another critical reason for having your own IT guy with you when getting the initial consultation. Since they will be extremely knowledgable about what's currnetly going on with the organization.
- SEO and Rankings. Ask the design company how their potential changes will affect the website's SEO. A website design team familiar with SEO will try to keep the old URL names and structure for at least the pages with the most SEO traffic. Remember a redesign will mean Google will be reevaluating your site, and you may see an initial drop within your SEO rankings for a month or two as Google re-evaluates everything. If the design is better for SEO, you may see a bump in traffic after the "evaluation" period. However the exact opposite can happen where the design completely screws up old powerful backlinks or the website structure that was generating lots of SEO traffic, and you will take a hit.
If you are getting SEO traffic, it's important to ask and have the design team know what pages are important, and get an idea from them on their thoughts about how the new design will effect your SEO. If they look at you with a blank stare, they probably aren't the design team for you since their SEO knowledge is limited if it exists at all.
- Your Main Goals. The most important question you need to ask yourself is WHY do you want a new website? Knowing and understanding the reasoning and conveying that to your design team can help both of you stay on task and get the job executed to meet your main clearly defined goal.
- Psychology of Your Potential Customers. Describe your business and your ideal customer/clients to your designer as best as possible. In you have a SWAT analysis or even general market research done, give a copy to your designer so they can become immersed within your business. If your ideal customers are high-end people that drive Bentleys and Mercedes Benzes, having a whimsical website that offers coupons or discounts may turn off your ideal customers. The psychology of the sale needs to be convey to your design team before hand so they know how to build a proper foundation that will generate you revenue.
Finishing up - the next steps
If the designer or agency you've chosen is responsible for some great designs (particularly if they're for popular websites), they'll be very booked up, so the next step is to figure out with the designer when they're going to be available for your project, and how long the project will take.
Some designers can be busy for months in advance, so ensure you set the project date with the designer so as not to lose your place. While you may be in a rush to see your website finished, a rush job is not something to recommend, since rushed work breeds inferiority in the final product.
However, be prepared to adjust your time and money scales if none of the designers or agencies you want are available. You might have to wait longer than you'd originally anticipated or pay a little more, but if the designer is good enough, it's worth waiting/paying for.
So, now you know what to look for when looking for someone to design you a new website; follow the advice given above, and you'll have very few hiccups when it comes to a fresh new website.
Kelso Kennedy is the co-founder of Redstamp Agency. Redstamp is a full-suite agency that focuses on building businesses' profile with effective and creative marketing, design and development strategies. You can view our work and find out more here: http://redstamp.ca/