Ten tips for ordering a great website

by admin on March 18, 2009

One of the most difficult aspects of designing a website is actually trying to work out what the customer wants! I know that might sound a little silly, but most of the time, a website isn’t just built, it evolves. Whether you believe in Creationism or not, evolution for web developers really does exist, and it can be a long and frustrating process, fraught with problems that sometimes seem insurmountable.
Make sure you don't get a duck-billed platypus website!

Make sure you don't get a duck-billed platypus!

To make sure that you get Man, rather than a duck-billed platypus, you should try to have a complete overview of what you want in your site long before you get around to putting in the order.

Here are a few things you should bare in mind:

  1. What is the message you want your site to convey? You really need to have an idea of layout, design, colours, even text style to reflect your tastes. Although many websites have the fingerprints of their designer, the overall look should reflect your wishes. If a designer thinks this is not possible or might look terrible, then perhaps you should listen and revise your ideas, but you must always remember that it is YOUR site! You call the shots. If you are uncertain of what you want, it is useful to surf the net and come up with a list of sites of which you like the look. This always acts as a good starting point.
  2. Never let your designer boggle you with science. The art of web-building can be extremely difficult and there is a lot of jargon involved. However, jargon can be an effective tool for getting you to pay that little extra. Always ask what something your designer says means in laymen’s terms and insist you understand fully what the designer says. This will reduce the problems later.
  3. What sort of information do you want on your site? Is it a blog? A news’n'views sort of website? A commercial website? Always think about how many pages you are going to need and make it very clear for the designer. Sometimes, poor communication at this level can result in the designer having to scrap all his/her plans and begin again. This could, ultimately, cost you money (unless your designer is kind, as we are at Tactus Design).
  4. Add-ons: what do you think you will need as extras on the site? Will you want, for example, a picture gallery? How do you want it to work? Will you be using your site for commercial products? How do you want them displaying? What sort of payment processes do you want to use? If you are unsure about any of these, ask your designer at the outset, rather than at the end of the whole process, since by not doing so, you could ruin many hours of programming and design work.
  5. Ask your designer how big you think your site is going to be from the outset so that you can budget hosting accordingly. Quite often, people ask for the minimum allotment and find immediately that their site is too large or cumbersome to work effectively with this amount. Then an upgrade is required and, with some hosts (not Tactus), this can cost considerably. You should have at least double the amount of webspace that the site takes up, if only to ensure that backups can be made and upgrades effectively installed.
  6. Is your design concept really practical? I know this might sound a little strange, but often people have the most outlandish design ideas which, although wonderful, can make them terribly difficult to maintain. Not to mention the problems that can arise from having to use scripts that are not always stable. If your designer thinks your ideas are far off the mark and says so, you should trust his judgement. He is the one who has to make sure it is working for at least the next few years and, if it is constantly breaking, due to instability that cannot be avoided because of initial demands, he is not going to be happy!
  7. Always write down a detailed job description and give this to your designer. Make sure your description is clear, since this will avoid problems later on, and is produced point by point. This gives a good point for discussion, and always provides you with a safety net to fall back on, should your designer get carried away with his own thoughts and feelings.
  8. Always check your designer’s portfolio carefully to see not only that the sites are well designed, but that they also work properly. Some designers actually have just screenshots as their portfolio, which should beg an important question . . .
  9. NEVER decide that it is all going to cost too much and you will ask the boy or girl down the road instead. There are more websites on the Internet that look as though they were made by someone with a little knowledge than by someone with a lot! Although little Jimmy might be flattered, the chances are that his skills and taste are not quite as developed as you would want them to be. And since they are cheap, or even free, it is very difficult to say how you really feel.
  10. REMEMBER that your site reflects you. If you want to present a dynamic image to impress people, be specific to your web designer. If you don’t like what s/he produces, say so. We are all a little nerdish and very thick skinned, so it is easy for you to assert yourself!

Above all, you should ask your designer:

  • When the site is finished, published on the Net and working properly, what resposibility will you take for making sure it continues to work well?At Tactus Design, for customers using one of our hosting plans, your site is continually reviewed and, where poor formatting (on the part of the customer, since we never do that) occurs, or when new scripts or ideas arise that could be used, we go into the site and change things. We never charge for this, we see it as a part of our duty.
  • What sort of after-sales support will you get?At Tactus Design, we visit the customer where possible, or run telephone courses in maintenance. We also have help files that we send every customer, so that they are able to take care of things accordingly. And we never let a customer down.

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