Hiring a web designer for your ecommerce website seems like the right thing to do - you know next to nothing about HTML or designing a site. All you really want is to get your website off the ground and hiring someone to help you do it seems like a good idea. Before you sign that contract or give the job to just anyone or any company you find online, make sure they answer a few important questions.
Investing in a web designer is a good move only if the designer can help you make your dream a reality and help you create a website customers can easily navigate and use. But how do you know you are not inviting a nightmare designer into your life? These basic questions can help you determine whether or not the web designer is any good and help you get your money's worth.
May I see your portfolio?
A portfolio is often what gets your interest peaked and a good web company or freelance web designer is often prepared to give you the best work they have. This can also give you a good idea of their capabilities. For example, you will easily be able to see if they have designed for ecommerce sites before and how they've done it.
A portfolio can also help you determine if they fit your vision and allow you to more easily assess the quality of their work.
Do you use only "off the shelf" applications or can you design a customized website for my company?
Templates driven by off the shelf systems are often cheaper in the short term - however, you may not get the look and functionality you are looking for and not to mention the sales you are after. For your ecommerce business, this kind of solution may be a quick fix for you and often means you can get your website up and running with minimal fuss. But will it last the disctance and be able to grow with you as a company?
Custom work often means that you get exactly the functionality and look and feel you want. Plus, your website will be designed in such a way that it will make you more sales and build a better customer base.
How do you test your websites?
This is an extremely important question to ask. Ask your developer if they test the site on different browsers so the layout retains its look regardless of which browser your customer uses to access it. Testing ensures that your website displays and works correctly no matter what. For many developers, this can mean hours of testing the codes so many skip this step, leaving you with a tangled mess of a website on your hands. Don't expect any joy with IE6 though.... let's just leave it to die a graceful death.
What are your packages? Do you have any?
Different web design companies offer different services, either separately or as package deals. This can contain for example: hosting, web development and content creation (meaning they will write all the content in your website too), logo and graphic services, link building and SEO services. Knowing what you need can help you get the best possible services for your money. If you are not as Internet-savvy as some people or if programming baffles you, make sure that their package includes maintenance or maintenance training.... this means that the company will either help you maintain and update the website in the future, or that they will teach you how to maintain and update it yourself.
How do you bill?
Some website designers bill by the hour, others by the project. Others bill for the project but will specify hourly rates for specific work, such as logo creation. As the savvy ecommerce business owner, you need to decide which model works for you.
Can you build a shopping cart online? (And help me set up payment gateways?)
Some web designers simply cannot. Or will not, or do not have the capability to. Make sure you work with one that can give you what you need, especially if you plan to use an online shopping cart as your main source of payment. Creatively made and easy to use shopping carts are the cornerstones of great ecommerce sites.
What do I need to give you?
This is often overlooked, but you, as the owner of the website, need to provide your web designer with what they need. This can include content, photographs, images and even videos. Think of it as designing a house. Your web designer can create the architecture and put in all the wiring, but you need to bring in the furniture.