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A search for "web design" on Google returns more than 325 million results. So how do we start eliminating all these so called designers? Here are a few of the most common shortcomings.
Watch out for:
Watch out for designers offering you a choice of templates. This not only means that they're doing no new design work for their fee but could also have an affect on your search engine ranking. If the search engine robots see the same layout, background images and styles over and over again they could penalise your site for being a copy of another site. Best avoided.
Watch out for design services offering you your own domain where the address still includes a reference to another company. You should have a domain in this form - www.yourcompany.com. Watch out for www.yourcompany.hostingcompany.com or www.hostingcompany.com/yourcompany. These forms mean that they are putting your site in a folder of their own site and it doesn't carry as much weight. It's an easy way of them saving money and giving you a lesser sevice.
3. DIY Hosting
Watch out for anyone who does their own hosting. If their server goes down it could mean that your site disappears. Servers can be left on for long periods of time but do need to be restarted occasionally. You don't want your site going down - there could be someone in the middle of using it. If they claim to offer hosting find out if they outsource it to a professional company. This is much safer.
4. High Renewal Costs
Watch out for hidden costs. It's quite common for design companies to offer you a full all singing all dancing site for a great price only for you to find that it will cost you half of that again the following year. There are always ongoing costs to a website, hosting and domain name renewal. If there are no ongoing costs quoted, monthly or annual, be wary.
5. Poor Coding
Watch out for poor coding. HTML, the language of web pages, is developing and changing all the time. In fact, HTML is on its way out to be replaced by an enhanced language called XHTML. Look at a page the designer has done or their own site. View the source code and look at the section between the head tags (the word "head" in between angled brackets). Any mention of "style" or a ".css" file is a good sign. Now look at the section between the body tags. If you see lots of tags in angled brackets like "font" or "td" then the page coding is showing its age.
6. Inaccessible Design
Watch out for inaccessible design. This is very similar to the last point. It's important that your site can be used not only by PC users but also by the visually impaired, people using palmtops, PDAs and mobile devices. You can't afford to reduce your audience by having an inaccessible design.
7. Advertising / Self Promotion
Watch out for the design company using your website as a means of marketing themselves. Whilst having a discreet link to their company site at the foot of the page is quite fair and reasonable, be wary of any additional links or advertising. They could be making money selling advertising space which you're paying for.
Chris Smith works as a web designer, developer and internet marketing consultant. For further information on high quality, good value web design please visit his site - Professional Web Design
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