The most important thing you must do before
signing anything is call for references. Contact
the clients from your potential designer's portfolio.
Find out about their experience working with the designer.


This is something we came across just this week, after
The Shopper Newspaper had gone to press.

There was a local Chesapeake Hosting company who listed 'The Shopper', in their 'Web Design' section, along with a thumbnail and link.

We emailed them, and they removed it, along with 4 other 'unsanctioned links' to sites designed by other companies.

They offered no excuse or apology for this deliberate deception.

This is not the first time our work has been misrepresented, and I cannot stress enough the need to check on your prospective designer.

It is only people without the expertise to create such sites who do this, and YOU will pay the price when they can't deliver.

Terry Young

After months, or sometimes even years of thinking about it, you have now made the decision to commission a web designer.

We all know that owning a hammer doesn't make someone a builder, yet almost everyone with a computer these days says they are a web designer, which makes the choice very hard, and the risks all the greater.

The web development business is no different from
any other professional service, you will get what you
pay for, and there is no substitute for experience.

As the prospective client, you have a responsibility to investigate the would-be designer's experience before you part with your hard earned cash. It is not enough that someone can place images and text on a page and upload it onto the Internet. They have to also be able to design it to be user friendly (see next month), and then they have to promote it on your behalf.

You need to gauge the experience of the designer(s) in an objective manner. This sounds very simple, yet is commonly overlooked amongst the awe of the designers apparent capabilities, or their tech-talk.

Here's what to look for:

If a designer only has less than 10 sites in their portfolio, they probably don't have the experience you need. Make sure that the sites in the portfolio have the technical capabilities that you want for your site. Can this designer meet all of your needs?

Be very observant when going through their portfolio, note the following:

If the sites they say they have created are only pictures of web pages, but are not clickable/navigable, they are fakes, so leave well alone.

Also, look in the address bar;
if the sites they have created are actually in folders on their site (, again, they most likely are not real, functioning client sites.

There are a few unscrupulous designers out there who profess to have created sites that they have not.

So, always look at their client's sites for copyright information (usually at the bottom). If the 'site designed by' doesn't match the web designer's business name, they may not have designed the site. See note in red at the top of this page..

Go through their client's sites. Follow links, make sure there isn't anything missing, pages, images. Also, look out for pop-up error messages. Note how long the page takes to load, especially if you are on a modem connection. If the pages take longer than 30-40 seconds, a prospective customer will most likely click away. Check to see if the site is easy to navigate. Can you smoothly find your way through the site? Chances are if you can't, neither can potential customers.

The final thing you must do before signing anything is call for references. Contact the clients from your potential designer's portfolio. Find out about their experience working with the designer. This cannot be stressed enough. If there is anything you have not been told, good or bad, they will tell you.

Did the development move along quickly?

Was the designer easily accessible?

Were they able to meet all of the technical requirements of the site?

Did they help with domain registration and hosting?
We welcome and encourage potential clients to call on our clients. All of our clients have said they would welcome calls or emails from people wanting opinions of us, or our services.

Once you are sure that the designer has the experience and credentials you need, it's time to sign on the dotted line, and start the design process rolling.

Next Month - Graphic Design Do's and Don'ts.

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